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The Second Battle of New Orleans

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April 25, 2006

The Second Battle of New Orleans

By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

The first Battle of New Orleans took place in 1814 and was pretty unambiguous—Andrew Jackson whupped the hell out of the British Army. The Second Battle of New Orleans took place during Hurricane Katrina, when Ma Nature whupped the hell out of the Federal, state, and local governments.

What we’re interested in here is whether the New Orleans Police Department took guns from beleaguered citizens who were cowering in their homes waiting for looters, rapists, and vandals to come crashing through their doors. According to NRA Executive Director Wayne La Pierre, this was done at the orders of then-Chief of Police Eddie Compass (who later resigned, possibly to go to work for Donald Rumsfeld).

According to La Pierre, when the NOPD denied the confiscations, “We brought suit and confronted them in court. When the federal judge ordered them to cease and desist, they denied it. After the judge pressed them, they admitted they did, in fact, have guns. Not just some guns, hundreds and thousands of guns.”

However, according to Superintendent Warren Riley of the NOPD, “We took guns that were stolen that were stashed in alleyways. If we went into an abandoned house and a gun was there, absolutely we took the weapons….I don’t know where they [the NRA] are getting this. We didn’t go around disarming citizens.”

According to the NOPD, about 700 firearms were seized during the storm. Far be it from me to imply that a public official is not telling the truth, but 700 firearms seems like an awful lot of guns to find stashed in alleyways and lying around abandoned homes. The NOPD seemed reluctant to take guns from looters, which could get them shot, and the odds on grabbing them from terrified citizens probably seemed a lot better.

It’s hard to say who would inspire more fear in the midst of a major disaster—an armed felon or a NOPD officer. More than 250 of them beat feet out of the Big Sleazy during the storm, calling to mind a statement from police-abuse expert Professor James Fyfe  that “Some cities’ police departments have reputations for being brutal, like Los Angeles, or corrupt, like New York, and still others are considered incompetent. New Orleans has accomplished the rare feat of leading nationally in all categories.”

Comments (9)

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from gordon hutchinson wrote 7 years 45 weeks ago

Now I know why I never get involved in this stuff...first off, I tend to get carried away, and start ranting.Secondly, I do what I absolutely abhor...I make stupid mistakes--and now I look like all the people that make ignorant comments.Apparently, I misread the signature lines. My above epistle should have been directed at whoever is sporting the nom de plume of "A.S. Moeggs" who is the real anarchist masquerading as a defender of our "boys in blue."Sorry Eric. You didn't offend me. Mr. Moeggs? Replace Eric's name in my piece everywhere it appears and substitute your own.I invite a reasoned reply. If such is possible.

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from Gordon Hutchinson wrote 7 years 45 weeks ago

I have never commented on a blog or internet group since I learned, many years ago, how to turn on a computer and get on the internet.But Eric deserves some sort of reasoned reply--since he is using half-truths and innuendo to further his arguments, just like he says the outraged gun owners are doing. He purports to be a police supporter, and offers the argument that New Orleans has a high murder rate, and police cannot determine who might shoot them when they come upon an armed citizen, so they had the right to disarm them all. I wonder, Eric, where you've been now that all the exposes are coming out that says that yes, there was the occasional incident of sniping. And yes, some cops were shot at, and one killed. But the stories of mass snipings, and all the rapes and murders in the Superdome and Convention Center were simply part of a media feeding frenzy incited by none less than Eddie Compass and Ray Nagin. If you would like a true, incisive look at the Katrina incident, read historian David Brinkley's new book, just out, "The Great Deluge." It'll open your eyes a bit about what actually went on--yes, there was incredible suffering. Yes, there was misery, incompetence, and outright callous disregard for human rights, and the looting was far, far worse than the media ever let on--but you didn't take your life in your very hands by putting on a uniform and walking the street or getting in a boat to rescue people. That was a perfect example of self-aggrandizement by law enforcement--trying to make their jobs seem life-threatening and dangerous--and Eric, this wasn't Baghdad, O.K.?Let's get something straight here, Eric. There was no martial law in New Orleans. There was a Mandatory Evacuation Order, a power available to the Governor or a mayor, assigned by the state constitution in which said order carries a vaguely worded statement about no sale or possession of alcohol, explosives, or firearms. Martial Law is a situation under which the FEDERAL MILITARY takes over a community or area, supercedes the legal civil authority, runs the entire local government, and assumes police powers--which means power of arrest.This did not happen in New Orleans. The Louisiana National Guard was there under the auspices of the State of Louisiana. They can assume powers granted by the state. But when the 82nd Airborne arrived on site, they had NO powers of arrest, or right to use deadly force. Under the Posse Comitatus Act (look it up) passed by Congress in the 1870's, the U.S. military may NOT be used in this country as police. This is the very reason the government has never been able to place the U.S. military on our borders--such an act violates the aforementioned act, and would require an act of Congress to do such a thing.And Eric, under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, citizens have the right to stay safe in their homes with no fear of intrusion by civil authorities without a warrant.The NOPD, their supporting agencies from around the country, and the Louisiana National Guard abused the power under this order, entered private homes without permission, and confiscated privately-owned firearms from citizens that they found in homes they forcibly and illegally entered.The Mandatory Evacuation Order does not give them the right to forcibly evacuate someone from their property. It might (and that's a big "might" that will have to be tested out in court) allow them to forcibly evacuate people they find outside their residences, off their property.Two Louisiana lawyers...one a specialist in civil law, and the other a noted expert on the Louisiana Constitution stated to me that this "Mandatory Evacuation Act" has some serious constitutional issues...and both said it is basically a way to cover the respective asses of both the state, and the local governing authority (i.e. New Orleans) from fear of legal retribution...In other words--the "we told you so" act...you stay, we warned you to get out...it's dangerous, you were warned, you get hurt, you can't sue us.Give me a break, Eric. This is the United States. One of the great freedoms of this country, envied all over the world, is to be completely stupid if you want to be. It's your life and your home. You insist on staying, don't come crying to us.I submit to you this link: www.gunowners.org/abcnews.mpg for proof the police and the LNG entered homes without permission and forcibly confiscated weapons.I would further submit to you that having interviewed numerous survivors of the aftermath of Katrina, the NOPD and LNG did NOT confiscate the weapons or forcibly evacuate anyone who stood up to them and told them if they came in, they would be faced with armed resistance...and yes, people stood their ground and told them this, and very pissed off, they moved on--frequently returning to harass these individuals and hope to catch them off their property.It would take too long, and too much space to relate all the stories I have gathered in interviews...and it would be a waste of time anyway because anyone with an outlook like yours is going to have a closed mind and justify any abuse...such as what happened at Waco, and Ruby Ridge. I'll bet you thought the government powers were squeaky clean there, too.Incidentally, I served 25 years as a reserve law enforcement officer, and 15 of them as a law enforcement firearms instructor. I also have been an outdoor journalist for 25 years. So not all cops agree with your anarchistic ideas. Bet you'd think an Aryan Nation would be really keen, wouldn't you.

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from Brian wrote 7 years 50 weeks ago

Getting into the weeds with law enforcement on he said she said stuff is making gun owners look paranoid and whiny. We don't have to make a case for owning guns; they have to make the case on why we should not. It's that simple. The N.R.A would better serve it's members by not fighting the unwinnable national fight of-" how 73 year old Bob so and so got his granddaddy's shotgun taken away"- That gets our blood up, but as a whole- the nation doesn't give two hoots. It's too complicated for the mass of society to sort out, so they don't. Instead of all the hoopla- we as a gun owning community should simply demand that no guns are ever confiscated during any national crisis. Thats a broad and basic issue Americans can sink their teeth into. Let the local and state government bring proof that any legitimate good was acheived by taking thousands of guns... as Wayne Pierre stands outside the police department- arm around Bob, trying to get back the gun that they stole. Let's make them account- not us. We're hunters and fishermen- lets start acting like it and start praying on the predators through superior knowlege and firepower.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Matt wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

Mike, I sure won't disagree about Bush being a major disappointment. Back to N.O. There WERE citizens who refused to give up their firearms. Many of them did so in a very public, very confrontation way and good for them. They DIDN'T have their life-lines stolen. If in the middle of a national disaster, with the place crawling with looters, if some pig showed up and said "Hand 'em over", I would tell him point blank he has ten seconds to get the f*** off my property or he will get my firearms, bullets first. Gun confiscation is the anti-Christ to the American way of life and our Constitution. Surrender it without a fight and you are dooming us all.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

I can't see how any citizen "deserved what they got" when NOPD disarmed them. Citizens pretty much get one choice when confronted by police: do what they tell you to do. When firearms are involved, it's comply or die.Maybe you can hold voters accountable for voting for the wrong official. But you can't know what a politician will be like in a crisis until one occurs. After all, we all collectively imagined (hoped) that Pres. Bush would be a fiscal conservative, tough on crime and on terrorism, and rational with the use of our armed forces. And we were terribly wrong on all three expectations.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

Dave, I‘m not certain if you’re questioning Law Enforcement or the overall New Orleans’s situation, either way you’re going where angels fear to tread. Good for you!I think the bottom-line on the New Orleans situation is matters don’t appear very egalitarian. I didn’t see race, ethnics, or religion being issues, but I did see the ugliness of a socio-economic Elite. The fact paid security of the upscale residents and businesses were left armed is indicative of this thought. Red Cross data has over 40% of the evacuated NO Residents having no intention of returning to New Orleans. There has to be a reason for such an unusually high figure.I find it very unusual G Bush had all those trips to NO’s yet the fed money isn’t released. I recall Louisiana officials were reluctant to allow the Fed’s in the state. I have a feeling with the unusual history of Louisiana politics; Washington said there’s no way they will allow federal funds be handled directly by state and city officials. I could be wrong, but I think unless Louisiana allows federal agencies and troops in NO…there won’t be the quick release of federal funds.This is a lot of speculation on my part, but I think the pieces fit. The firearms seizures were the last straw in many people’s mind. The scenes of law enforcement being turned into goon squads were very disturbing. Attitudes may be shifting to being more gun friendly and egalitarian. I believe the DNC will have a very difficult time pushing its truism of gun control much further after the NO Situation.Law Enforcement—some how too many states have decided a cop is a special class citizen deserving special gratis handgun privileges and power. In Upstate New York since 1985 I’ve not heard of one USPS person going “postal”, but I can name ten deaths and injuries within that same period of time by law enforcement officers going berserk. This is a matter of public record. So David isn’t alone questioning the notion putting so much trust and power in Elites, or creating an additional Elite.Later.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from A. S. Moeggs wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

I guess this blog is about gossip and monday morning quarter backing. It's very easy to make judgements as to how something should have been handled after the situation has occurred. Of course the big mean cops are to blame for being so mean and taking weapons away from completely "innocent" people. Did you not know or hear the cops and other rescuers were shot at as they attempted to help. Do you believe the cops had the time to ask each "innocent" armed citizen exactly what they inteded to do with their weapon. Hell no they didn't. Are you forgetting this city was the murder capital of the U.S. Do you really think the cops had time to be touchy, feely, and friendly with each "innocent" armed person they came into contact with. Hell no!GET REAL PETZAL! And remember each time one of you anti coppers out there reads or hears something by the press, they always- ok sometimes, leave out the facts that lead up to the justified ass kicking. If you think the job of a cop is so easy and you could have done a better job, then do it! Whats the next blog going to be about, how you guys could have done a better job than the weather man predicting yesterdays weather?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Eric wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

I tend to think had New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have had rock solid leadership to begin with, the utter chaos created by their agents would never have happened. The part that gets my gall is how quickly they were to blame FEMA for every single misfortune. I guess it's true....It is not a matter of what gets done in the premier elected positions, it is merely a matter of getting there and staying there.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Matt wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

There was an internet link from a local Louisiana news station that showed several California Highway officers (all built like line-backers) sacking an elderly woman and taking her handgun. Serve and protect my a$$! Of course they confiscated firearms from citizens! However, I really cannot feel sorry for anyone who would, in the middle of one of the worst natural disasters and states of anarchy to hit America, surrender their only means of defense to a force who clearly couldn't give half a damn about the situation on the ground. Serves 'em right in my book. There were many citizens who were on CNN promissing hot lead to anyone who tried to disarm them, police or otherwise. I don't recall any of THEM being disarmed. My point: if you are willing to surrender the most basic of all American rights during such a time of disaster as Katrina because some politician tells you to, you loose all right to call yourself an American. I now submit myself to the scorn and abuse of those who disagree.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from gordon hutchinson wrote 7 years 45 weeks ago

Now I know why I never get involved in this stuff...first off, I tend to get carried away, and start ranting.Secondly, I do what I absolutely abhor...I make stupid mistakes--and now I look like all the people that make ignorant comments.Apparently, I misread the signature lines. My above epistle should have been directed at whoever is sporting the nom de plume of "A.S. Moeggs" who is the real anarchist masquerading as a defender of our "boys in blue."Sorry Eric. You didn't offend me. Mr. Moeggs? Replace Eric's name in my piece everywhere it appears and substitute your own.I invite a reasoned reply. If such is possible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gordon Hutchinson wrote 7 years 45 weeks ago

I have never commented on a blog or internet group since I learned, many years ago, how to turn on a computer and get on the internet.But Eric deserves some sort of reasoned reply--since he is using half-truths and innuendo to further his arguments, just like he says the outraged gun owners are doing. He purports to be a police supporter, and offers the argument that New Orleans has a high murder rate, and police cannot determine who might shoot them when they come upon an armed citizen, so they had the right to disarm them all. I wonder, Eric, where you've been now that all the exposes are coming out that says that yes, there was the occasional incident of sniping. And yes, some cops were shot at, and one killed. But the stories of mass snipings, and all the rapes and murders in the Superdome and Convention Center were simply part of a media feeding frenzy incited by none less than Eddie Compass and Ray Nagin. If you would like a true, incisive look at the Katrina incident, read historian David Brinkley's new book, just out, "The Great Deluge." It'll open your eyes a bit about what actually went on--yes, there was incredible suffering. Yes, there was misery, incompetence, and outright callous disregard for human rights, and the looting was far, far worse than the media ever let on--but you didn't take your life in your very hands by putting on a uniform and walking the street or getting in a boat to rescue people. That was a perfect example of self-aggrandizement by law enforcement--trying to make their jobs seem life-threatening and dangerous--and Eric, this wasn't Baghdad, O.K.?Let's get something straight here, Eric. There was no martial law in New Orleans. There was a Mandatory Evacuation Order, a power available to the Governor or a mayor, assigned by the state constitution in which said order carries a vaguely worded statement about no sale or possession of alcohol, explosives, or firearms. Martial Law is a situation under which the FEDERAL MILITARY takes over a community or area, supercedes the legal civil authority, runs the entire local government, and assumes police powers--which means power of arrest.This did not happen in New Orleans. The Louisiana National Guard was there under the auspices of the State of Louisiana. They can assume powers granted by the state. But when the 82nd Airborne arrived on site, they had NO powers of arrest, or right to use deadly force. Under the Posse Comitatus Act (look it up) passed by Congress in the 1870's, the U.S. military may NOT be used in this country as police. This is the very reason the government has never been able to place the U.S. military on our borders--such an act violates the aforementioned act, and would require an act of Congress to do such a thing.And Eric, under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, citizens have the right to stay safe in their homes with no fear of intrusion by civil authorities without a warrant.The NOPD, their supporting agencies from around the country, and the Louisiana National Guard abused the power under this order, entered private homes without permission, and confiscated privately-owned firearms from citizens that they found in homes they forcibly and illegally entered.The Mandatory Evacuation Order does not give them the right to forcibly evacuate someone from their property. It might (and that's a big "might" that will have to be tested out in court) allow them to forcibly evacuate people they find outside their residences, off their property.Two Louisiana lawyers...one a specialist in civil law, and the other a noted expert on the Louisiana Constitution stated to me that this "Mandatory Evacuation Act" has some serious constitutional issues...and both said it is basically a way to cover the respective asses of both the state, and the local governing authority (i.e. New Orleans) from fear of legal retribution...In other words--the "we told you so" act...you stay, we warned you to get out...it's dangerous, you were warned, you get hurt, you can't sue us.Give me a break, Eric. This is the United States. One of the great freedoms of this country, envied all over the world, is to be completely stupid if you want to be. It's your life and your home. You insist on staying, don't come crying to us.I submit to you this link: www.gunowners.org/abcnews.mpg for proof the police and the LNG entered homes without permission and forcibly confiscated weapons.I would further submit to you that having interviewed numerous survivors of the aftermath of Katrina, the NOPD and LNG did NOT confiscate the weapons or forcibly evacuate anyone who stood up to them and told them if they came in, they would be faced with armed resistance...and yes, people stood their ground and told them this, and very pissed off, they moved on--frequently returning to harass these individuals and hope to catch them off their property.It would take too long, and too much space to relate all the stories I have gathered in interviews...and it would be a waste of time anyway because anyone with an outlook like yours is going to have a closed mind and justify any abuse...such as what happened at Waco, and Ruby Ridge. I'll bet you thought the government powers were squeaky clean there, too.Incidentally, I served 25 years as a reserve law enforcement officer, and 15 of them as a law enforcement firearms instructor. I also have been an outdoor journalist for 25 years. So not all cops agree with your anarchistic ideas. Bet you'd think an Aryan Nation would be really keen, wouldn't you.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian wrote 7 years 50 weeks ago

Getting into the weeds with law enforcement on he said she said stuff is making gun owners look paranoid and whiny. We don't have to make a case for owning guns; they have to make the case on why we should not. It's that simple. The N.R.A would better serve it's members by not fighting the unwinnable national fight of-" how 73 year old Bob so and so got his granddaddy's shotgun taken away"- That gets our blood up, but as a whole- the nation doesn't give two hoots. It's too complicated for the mass of society to sort out, so they don't. Instead of all the hoopla- we as a gun owning community should simply demand that no guns are ever confiscated during any national crisis. Thats a broad and basic issue Americans can sink their teeth into. Let the local and state government bring proof that any legitimate good was acheived by taking thousands of guns... as Wayne Pierre stands outside the police department- arm around Bob, trying to get back the gun that they stole. Let's make them account- not us. We're hunters and fishermen- lets start acting like it and start praying on the predators through superior knowlege and firepower.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Matt wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

Mike, I sure won't disagree about Bush being a major disappointment. Back to N.O. There WERE citizens who refused to give up their firearms. Many of them did so in a very public, very confrontation way and good for them. They DIDN'T have their life-lines stolen. If in the middle of a national disaster, with the place crawling with looters, if some pig showed up and said "Hand 'em over", I would tell him point blank he has ten seconds to get the f*** off my property or he will get my firearms, bullets first. Gun confiscation is the anti-Christ to the American way of life and our Constitution. Surrender it without a fight and you are dooming us all.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

I can't see how any citizen "deserved what they got" when NOPD disarmed them. Citizens pretty much get one choice when confronted by police: do what they tell you to do. When firearms are involved, it's comply or die.Maybe you can hold voters accountable for voting for the wrong official. But you can't know what a politician will be like in a crisis until one occurs. After all, we all collectively imagined (hoped) that Pres. Bush would be a fiscal conservative, tough on crime and on terrorism, and rational with the use of our armed forces. And we were terribly wrong on all three expectations.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

Dave, I‘m not certain if you’re questioning Law Enforcement or the overall New Orleans’s situation, either way you’re going where angels fear to tread. Good for you!I think the bottom-line on the New Orleans situation is matters don’t appear very egalitarian. I didn’t see race, ethnics, or religion being issues, but I did see the ugliness of a socio-economic Elite. The fact paid security of the upscale residents and businesses were left armed is indicative of this thought. Red Cross data has over 40% of the evacuated NO Residents having no intention of returning to New Orleans. There has to be a reason for such an unusually high figure.I find it very unusual G Bush had all those trips to NO’s yet the fed money isn’t released. I recall Louisiana officials were reluctant to allow the Fed’s in the state. I have a feeling with the unusual history of Louisiana politics; Washington said there’s no way they will allow federal funds be handled directly by state and city officials. I could be wrong, but I think unless Louisiana allows federal agencies and troops in NO…there won’t be the quick release of federal funds.This is a lot of speculation on my part, but I think the pieces fit. The firearms seizures were the last straw in many people’s mind. The scenes of law enforcement being turned into goon squads were very disturbing. Attitudes may be shifting to being more gun friendly and egalitarian. I believe the DNC will have a very difficult time pushing its truism of gun control much further after the NO Situation.Law Enforcement—some how too many states have decided a cop is a special class citizen deserving special gratis handgun privileges and power. In Upstate New York since 1985 I’ve not heard of one USPS person going “postal”, but I can name ten deaths and injuries within that same period of time by law enforcement officers going berserk. This is a matter of public record. So David isn’t alone questioning the notion putting so much trust and power in Elites, or creating an additional Elite.Later.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from A. S. Moeggs wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

I guess this blog is about gossip and monday morning quarter backing. It's very easy to make judgements as to how something should have been handled after the situation has occurred. Of course the big mean cops are to blame for being so mean and taking weapons away from completely "innocent" people. Did you not know or hear the cops and other rescuers were shot at as they attempted to help. Do you believe the cops had the time to ask each "innocent" armed citizen exactly what they inteded to do with their weapon. Hell no they didn't. Are you forgetting this city was the murder capital of the U.S. Do you really think the cops had time to be touchy, feely, and friendly with each "innocent" armed person they came into contact with. Hell no!GET REAL PETZAL! And remember each time one of you anti coppers out there reads or hears something by the press, they always- ok sometimes, leave out the facts that lead up to the justified ass kicking. If you think the job of a cop is so easy and you could have done a better job, then do it! Whats the next blog going to be about, how you guys could have done a better job than the weather man predicting yesterdays weather?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Eric wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

I tend to think had New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have had rock solid leadership to begin with, the utter chaos created by their agents would never have happened. The part that gets my gall is how quickly they were to blame FEMA for every single misfortune. I guess it's true....It is not a matter of what gets done in the premier elected positions, it is merely a matter of getting there and staying there.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Matt wrote 7 years 51 weeks ago

There was an internet link from a local Louisiana news station that showed several California Highway officers (all built like line-backers) sacking an elderly woman and taking her handgun. Serve and protect my a$$! Of course they confiscated firearms from citizens! However, I really cannot feel sorry for anyone who would, in the middle of one of the worst natural disasters and states of anarchy to hit America, surrender their only means of defense to a force who clearly couldn't give half a damn about the situation on the ground. Serves 'em right in my book. There were many citizens who were on CNN promissing hot lead to anyone who tried to disarm them, police or otherwise. I don't recall any of THEM being disarmed. My point: if you are willing to surrender the most basic of all American rights during such a time of disaster as Katrina because some politician tells you to, you loose all right to call yourself an American. I now submit myself to the scorn and abuse of those who disagree.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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