I recently emailed Scott McLarty on the Media Committee of the Green Party, the party whose ticket Cynthia McKinney is running for President on, regarding her provocative YouTube video of Sept 28 in Oakland, California. Today he replied, sending me an informative statement from John Judge, the McKinney-Clemente campaign's media secretary. Many of you have been asking for a follow-up reply either from Cynthia or the Green Party, so here it is. Happy reading.
This is from John Judge, the McKinney-Clemente Green Party presidential campaign's media secretary. Scott McLarty of the Green Party Media Committee tells me he does not know if Cynthia McKinney herself plans to speak again on this issue any time soon. Here, at least, is an official statement from her campaign:
The Unaccounted Deaths of Hurricane Katrina and its Aftermath*
While serving in her sixth term in the House of Representatives, Cynthia McKinney was one of only a handful of the Democrats who participated in the proceedings of the U.S. House Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, chaired by Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia. Democratic Party leadership claimed that the investigation would be partisan and biased, and therefore instructed Members not to join the Committee. Rep. McKinney chose to defy Speaker Pelosi's decision because she felt that the issues that would arise out of any investigation were too serious to ignore.
During the period of her participation, she attempted to bring forward a wide range of issues, facts and testimony regarding the flawed preparations and response to Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it caused.
She and her staff worked tirelessly with other legislators to craft an environmental bill that would address the damage, toxicity, homelessness, and safety for first responders and those involved in clean up and Katrina survivors trying to put their lives back together at home. McKinney and her staff worked long hours helping to write and promote the Congressional Black Caucus omnibus bill, a broad package designed to address the plight of the survivors, address the issues of housing and homelessness, provide funds for reconstruction, improve future federal responses to natural disasters, and that also included McKinney's initiative for a comprehensive clean-up program of the toxic materials left over from the storm surges of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. McKinney pushed for a Congressional delegation to New Orleans to witness the situation first hand.
McKinney also invited survivors and experts to testify before the committee at a hearing titled "Hurricane Katrina: Voices from Inside the Storm." This two-part hearing took place on Tuesday, December 6, 2005, at the Rayburn House Office Building, To see some of the written statements which outline the abuses of the National Guard and police, see: http://katrina.house.gov/hearings/12_06_05/witness_list_120605.htm.
Following the flood, Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco issued a state of emergency and issued "shoot to kill" orders to curb unrest and reported looting. Subsequently, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, backed by Blanco, declared martial law, even though there is no provision for that in Louisiana Law. The report also cited numerous national news media stories of civilians being shot by police. During the second panel of this hearing, Attorney Ishmael Mohammed questioned whether the "shoot to kill" order and the declaration of martial law were in accord with common sense in a situation where some of the law enforcement officers were "raring to go" and in a situation where everyone was a potential looter.
"Then you have statements being made by law enforcement officials and government officials . . . that all deaths are going to be identified as happening August 29th as the date and no identification is going to be made of what actually killed anyone." In fact, Frank Minyard, the Orleans Parish Coroner, told the Chicago Tribune that "If you murdered somebody in those days, you are probably going to get away with it."
(Chicago Tribune, 11/8/05). Muhammed stated before the committee: "then you have reports that over 10,000 people may be dead, and all of a sudden we have a body count of a little over 1,000."
These quotes were repeated in McKinney's 70-page report which her staff prepared, and which was included in its final report, titled "A Failure of Initiative." This report covers many of her findings and issues that remain unaddressed to this day. See: (http://archives.allthingscynthiamckinney.com/mckinney.house.gov/katrina.supplemental.pdf).
McKinney's Congressional office became a focal point nationally for complaints, reports, and local and national efforts to restore the community and homes that were lost to the storm. She was outspoken on behalf of the victims and their right of return. Upon hearing of the survivors who were shot at and dispersed by Gretna Police on the Crescent City Connection Bridge to Gretna, after being refused passage out of New Orleans, McKinney introduced legislation to deny funding to the Gretna Police for one year. She then led a march across the bridge with survivors and civil rights activists that highlighted the incident.
She continues to work closely with community organizers who have been demanding restoration of homes for victims and their families through formation of the Reconstruction Party.
During the course of Congresswoman McKinney's focus on the victims and their mistreatment, she and her staff received reports of illegal use of force and shootings against innocent citizens from multiple, unrelated sources, including reports of attempts to by law enforcement authorities to conceal the evidence of their crimes. Although a few of these informants were willing to testify in public or go to the press, most refused to go on record for fear of retaliation. Transcripts of the testimony of the survivors at the December 6, 2005 hearing reveal a common theme about military and police abuses of ordinary citizens in a crisis, including threats to kill. After that hearing, more reports were received that warrant further Congressional investigation.
Because these stories came from multiple, unrelated sources Congresswoman McKinney did not dismiss them out of hand. She attempted to verify them with limited resources, to speak out about them, and to get Congressional attention through the Katrina Committee hearings. Many aspects of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, despite numerous House and Senate committee hearings, remain unanswered and unresolved, including any final or reliable body counts.
The largest single wrongful death toll was reported by a woman who claimed that her son had been employed as a computer specialist to enter information about corpses into a database system for DMORT in Louisiana following the hurricane. The purpose was to collect as much information as possible on discovered bodies and remains for the purpose of later identification. This could include identification papers, address or location of discovery, gender, age, height and weight, clothing, identifying marks, hair and eye color, and other distinguishable features, as well as the probable or visible cause of death if these could be determined. Presumably, such a database could be used later, by families or authorities, to identify specific victims. She told the Congresswoman that her son claimed that 4 or 5 thousand bodies entered into the database showed bullet wounds in the head. Her son told her that the bodies were disposed of in swampland outside New Orleans. Her staff attempted to verify the account, but the young man would not speak to them or testify.
DMORT is in fact an agency that was involved in the rescue and identification of bodies in Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. DMORT: National Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (www.dmort.orghttp://www.dmort.org/http://www.dmort.org/http://www.dmort.org/, is part of the Disaster Medical System (NDMS).http://www.hhs.gov/aspr/opeo/ndms/teams/dmort.html - OFFICIAL PAGE http://www.hhs.gov/aspr/opeo/ndms/index.html - UNDER NDMS http://www.dmort.org/ - UNOFFICIAL SITE
For some of DMORT's history see:
http://www.dmort.org/DNPages/DMORTHistory.htm. This site reads:"In the early 1980's, a committee was formed within the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) to address disaster situations and specifically, mass fatality incidents. This group found that no standardization then existed and worked toward creating a national protocol for the formation of a proper response. Initially, they were concentrating on just the role of funeral directors, but it was soon discovered that funeral directors and no /_one_/ profession could handle all of the aspects of such an event. A multi-faceted nonprofit organization, open to all forensic practitioners, was formed by the committee to support…a national level response protocol for all related professions. This group formed, and led by Tom Shepardson <
http://www.dmort.org/DNPages/Tom_Page.htm> purchased the first portable morgue unit in the country and their equipment has supported DMORT missions in Illinois, Indiana, Guam, Michigan and Del Rio.
"Soon after this nonprofit group of volunteers had formed, government interest in this topic came to the forefront. Families who had lost loved ones in airline incidents felt that the treatment that they had received was inadequate and demanded a response from congress. As a result, Congress passed The Family Assistance Act in October of 1996 and required all American based airlines (and later all those operating in the US) to have a plan to assist families in the case of an accident.
DMORT is one federal team, which can be called in to help if needed.
"DMORT has grown from its humble beginnings in the early 1990's to the current group of over 1200 trained and capable volunteers who respond at a moments notice to assist those in need."
Additional related independent reports included:
A report from the friend of a Louisiana National Guard officer who was upset over the Guard's role in the shooting of between two and three hundred persons in the wake of the flood. Allegedly the victims' bodies were then taken to Mississippi and burned to dispose of them. The officer would not be identified, come forward to testify or send a statement to the staff or the Committee.
Red Cross employees who declined to be identified reported that survivors were being shot.
A reporter from a top television network told McKinney's staff that New Orleans Police Department officers claimed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Federal Marshals, among others, were involved in shootings of civilians during the "shoot to kill" period. The NOPD officers themselves bragged to this reporter about shooting dead up to about 150 persons, but would not go on the record.
A reporter at the New Orleans Times Picayune said he was baffled by all the rumors about police and Guard shootings, since the total number of shooting deaths reported by the coroner allegedly totaled only a handful of persons.
Some press reported that private security forces, like Blackwater, Dyncorps and others who were also present in the city after the flood, were using lethal force and indiscriminately shooting civilians.
As long as questions remain for the families and the survivors about how their relatives and friends actually died, and whether unlawful and unjustified use of firearms led to innocent people being threatened, harmed or killed, then justice and public knowledge have not been served. It is critical that the voices of the survivors be heard and that their questions and complaints are fully investigated and addressed. Rep. McKinney has persistently demanded further investigation and action to help the survivors and as mentioned, has consistently raised the issue of civilians being shot by law enforcement officials.
As a public official, it would have been remiss for Congresswoman McKinney to have remained silent.
It is increasingly clear that members of these same military, police and private organizations have been involved in illegal and indiscriminate killings of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, and here at home, and these situations have, at least some of the time, been investigated and charges brought. The people who died during Katrina and its aftermath deserve no less. DMORT, the NOPD, the National Guard and the private agencies like Blackwater should release all their databases and field reports on civilian deaths and the causes of death visible among the remains they discovered. Military and police officers are required to account for any expended ammunition as well. And immunity and whistleblower protection should be afforded anyone willing to come forward at this point with knowledge about any illegal deaths or destruction of bodies to conceal the facts.
See Cynthia's statement (of Sept 28, 2008, Oakland, Calif):