Sunday, December 21, 2008

Katrina's Hidden Race War

Katrina's Hidden Race War

A.C. Thompson's reporting on New Orleans was directed and underwritten by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. ProPublica provided additional support, as did the Center for Investigative Reporting and New America Media.

The way Donnell Herrington tells it, there was no warning. One second he was trudging through the heat. The next he was lying prostrate on the pavement, his life spilling out of a hole in his throat, his body racked with pain, his vision blurred and distorted.

It was September 1, 2005, some three days after Hurricane Katrina crashed into New Orleans, and somebody had just blasted Herrington, who is African-American, with a shotgun. "I just hit the ground. I didn't even know what happened," recalls Herrington, a burly 32-year-old with a soft drawl.

The sudden eruption of gunfire horrified Herrington's companions--his
cousin Marcel Alexander, then 17, and friend Chris Collins, then 18, who
are also black. "I looked at Donnell and he had this big old hole in his
neck," Alexander recalls. "I tried to help him up, and they started
shooting again." Herrington says he was staggering to his feet when a
second shotgun blast struck him from behind; the spray of lead pellets
also caught Collins and Alexander. The buckshot peppered Alexander's
back, arm and buttocks.

Herrington shouted at the other men to run and turned to face his
attackers: three armed white males. Herrington says he hadn't even seen
the men or their weapons before the shooting began. As Alexander and
Collins fled, Herrington ran in the opposite direction, his hand pressed
to the bleeding wound on his throat. Behind him, he says, the gunmen
yelled, "Get him! Get that nigger!"

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