An Archive of Jacob Appelbaum’s Post-Katrina weblog

My liveblog with Xeni Jardin

Posted in astrodome,houston,radio by jacob on September 8, 2005

I did a liveblog with Xeni Jardin while on the floor of the Astrodome as well as while walking around through the bleachers. Here’s the link to her post of it.

 I want to first state that I cannot possibly hope to prove any of these comments. The goal of this liveblog was to document in real time what was being said to me by people in the Astrodome. I cannot substantiate any of these comments but where possible people gave their names and where they were from. Many of the people I spoke with were just down right afraid to have their comments down on record.

 With that said I’m going to post the transcript as borrowed from Boing Boing:

  Here’s a rough partial transcript of an IM chat I maintained with Jacob Appelbaum throughout the day today. He’s inside the Houston Astrodome, and has been talking to Katrina evacuees and tech aid volunteers who are there to set up computer banks and a low power FM station (see bottom of post for reports that FEMA’s blocking that, despite FCC having granted the LPFM organizers a temporary license exemption).

I have no way of substantiating the statements of those Jacob spoke to, but I present them here as a snapshot of first-person accounts. While some misinformation may be circulating as rumor among evacuees, let’s also remember that reports of deaths and violence inside the New Orleans Superdome and Convention Center were dismissed as “rumor” in early days by authorities before reporters proved them to be true.

Joel Johnson, who’s traveling with Jacob, adds:

While much of the news sounds very dire — and nobody will argue this is a bad situation for the evacuees, no matter how well it is run — many of the people in the Astrodome complex were in very good spirits and were quick to offer praise of the people of Houston. There are plenty of issues that need to be discussed, but the evacuees are keeping the area very clean and equilaterally said they were happier to be in the Astrodome than stuck in the Superdome or elsewhere in New Orleans.

Chat transcript with Jacob follows. Times shown in Pacific. Image: a snapshot from Jacob’s mobile phone.

10:23: Joel just got removed. Almost arrested. Fox News is down on the floor. I’m in dome, hiding in seats. They’re allowing some media on the floor, not others.

10:31 Just met members of the Polish press, they are being stopped from entering floor. Says this is like the former USSR.

10:57 Raw transcript of comments by NOLA evacuee Clara Barthelemy: “The 17th street levee was bombed by the Army Corps of Engineers to save the more valuable real estate in the city… to keep the French Quarter protected, the ninth ward was sacrificed… people are afraid to speak out… everyone who was near there heard the bombings… they bombed seven times. That’s why they didn’t fix the levees… 20 feet of water. Gators. People dying in water. They let the parishes go, not the city center. Tourist trap was saved over human life. A six year old girl was raped in here.. 9 year old boy killed. A man in the shower beaten. No hot food. No help for elderly.”

Another evacuee: “Over 20 rapes per night happening inside this place. They bring in national guard for media purposes. Bush wants us to stay here to raise his ratings. Some workers are stealing the good stuff, like shoes.”

11:16: Rough transcript of comments by NOLA evacuee, male: “We are treated like prisoners here. Placed under mandatory curfew. We are citizens!”

11:22 Now I’m speaking to someone else, another woman, who says some people report having witnessed “bomb sounds,” believe 17th street levee and others were blown up to manage water flow and protect more valuable portions of real estate.

Evacuee Dianne Stafford: “They blew the levee to save the city…” Saying a barge broke the levee. She is from St. Bernard Parish. “More expensive places were saved at the expense of the neighborhoods that aren’t as valuable… Rebuilding Bourbon Street matters more to the government… that’s what mattered to Governor Blanco…”

11:36 I’m speaking to a man who’s been wearing the exact same pair of 2XL stretch pants since the storm hit. Some clothing is available for evacuees, but he is a large man and can’t find anything available to fit his body. He’s a diabetic but has good medical care. This so depressing. Its so hard to not cry when you hear this shit. The very large and very old have little help.

11:59 CNN have no problem getting in. Nobody’s stopping them from accessing the floor, but other credentialed press who already have press badges are being stopped.

12:09 Evacuees I’m talking to are all telling me about rapes, murders, beatings which are taking place inside the Astrodome.

12:24 Man I’m speaking to, Danny Smith, says he cannot get housing because he has a felony. Aid workers found him a house but he is a felon, so they turned him away. FEMA has agreed to pay for his apartment, but he cannot get one. “Everyone has a felony here,” he says. He thinks that people are going to riot

12:29 Evacuee Irvin Skinner: We have a curfew. We’re being kept inside after 11pm. Forced to stay inside. They threw guns on everyone. Said ‘come inside or your out of here’. Shoved guns, pointed them at adults. I’m a grown man, I have rights. This is an instituion to us, it’s like a jail. I’m a middle class man with a home being trated like a criminal because I’m black. If we were white, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

“We are not here by choice.”

13:03 Harris County will not allow any radio station inside without a FEMA form even if operator has FCC permission. Austin Airwaves says trying to get form now, been waiting 2.5 days. No radio station inside the dome until that form is filled out.


13 Responses to 'My liveblog with Xeni Jardin'

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  1. Chokey said,

    If you can’t prove anything, perhaps you should shut the hell up. Why are you promulgating clearly paranoid and illogical rumors and accusations you are incapable of backing up?

  2. Wow, this is some seriously fucked up shit.

    At the same time, there has to be some explanation as to why they’ve been treating all of the “refugees” as prisoners from the first moment they arrived at the superdome. If they somehow were privvy to information (like the bombing of a levee) that certain people don’t want public, this would be one plausible explanation.

  3. Pete said,

    Whether or not the stories are true, I think it was a fantastic idea to listen to the people in the dome, to hear what they have to say, their hopes and fears. Everyone is too concentrated on the management and methods, while so many people forget the fact there are people in there who appear to be scared out of their minds of what might happen to them if they stay, or worse, if they leave.

  4. Brenda VonAhsen said,

    confirmation here

    and here:

    and my diary at dailykos, where I get raked over the coals over your post

  5. jayrtfm said,

    I don’t understand, how can pre-emptivly breaking a levee save part of the city? Links to authorative sites (universities, civil engineering journals etc) would be appreciated.

  6. Jessica Perkins said,

    I thought you or some of the readers might be interested. I’ve been sceptical about alot of the stuff coming out of the press, but it’s not unbelievable anymore.

  7. Colin Fahrion said,

    I’m not completely skeptical about the violence among the evacuees — throw that many people together in a desperate situation and something bad is bound to happen. The bombing of the levees does sound suspect however. Just a few people hearing something like an explosion is not solid evidence. In any case, if something that big actually happened it would be next to impossible to cover up for long.

    Keep up the good work Jacob. Good luck cutting through the inventively respawning red tape.

  8. […] Our friend Jacob Appelbaum has made his way to Houston and has been interviewing and photographing people who are being housed in the Astrodome. His goal is to help setup an emergency radio station to help deliver news and information to those who are stying there. So far he has run in to some major roadblocks. You can follow his progress on his blog and view his amazing photos on his Flickr photostream. […]

  9. m3 said,

    Jacob… you’re gonna get a lot of people questioning the levees destruction.

    If it’s any help… you can point some people to paragraph #8 of the following Guardian article.,6903,1562415,00.html

    It indicates that they were intentionally flooding some areas to save others. The motive, the will and the actions are there. So what’s to say they didn’t go one small step further and intentionally breech levees in order to save other areas?

    I’m still not totally convinced about the alleged bombing of the 17th street levee, but considering what was done to save some areas… it’s certainly NOT beyond doubt. It’s plausible, it fits in line with what they have done already, it’s happened in the past too.

    Now we need to take this to a level beyond hearsay and circumstancial evidence. – What evidence is there of the 17th street levee being demolished?

    Has anyone gone down there to take samples? – Any residue from explosives? – Any signs of damage caused by explosion that couldn’t have been caused by the water breeching the levees? – Any footage of the alleged bombing?

    If I was in NO… I’d paddle my ass in a rowboat down there to try to obtain evidence. Unfortunately I’m several thousand miles away, so it’s beyond my abilities to gather such evidence.

  10. heatheranne said,

    This is absolutely disturbing. I sure hope that if it turns out they flooded some areas to save others, that it is a story that will eventually come to light. Then again, our news media has done a fantastic job of keeping stories under wraps from the public. It’s all censored, no matter what anyone says.

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