Revisiting Katrina Vigilantism: Never Solved, Barely Investigated


In a package of stories, The Nation describes vigilantism against blacks in New Orleans in the days following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, “when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed.” Reporter A.C. Thompson says at least 11 people were shot, including several in the Algiers Point neighborhood. The victims were black, the shooters all apparently white. He said most of the assaults have never solved–or even investigated. Thompson wrote, “A group of white residents…sought to seal off the area, blocking the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs. The newly formed militia, a loose band of about 15 to 30 residents, most of them men, all of them white, was looking for thieves, outlaws or, as one member put it, anyone who simply ‘didn’t belong.'”

Lance Hill, a Tulane University historian, said he isn’t surprised the Algiers Point gunmen have eluded arrest. Because of the widespread notion that blacks engaged in looting and thuggery as the disaster unfolded, Hill believes, many white New Orleanians approved of the vigilante activity. “By and large, I think the white mentality is that these people are exempt–that even if they committed these crimes, they’re really exempt from any kind of legal repercussion,” Hill said. “It’s sad to say, but I think that if any of these cases went to trial, and none of them have, I can’t see a white person being convicted of any kind of crime against an African-American during that period.”


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