New investigations and reporting are painting a terrible picture of New Orleans post-Katrina. There was random violence, yes, but the outside world had a skewed idea of perpetrators and victims.
Today, a clearer picture is emerging, and it is an equally ugly one, including white vigilante violence, police killings, official cover-ups and a suffering population far more brutalized than many were willing to believe. Several police officers and a white civilian accused of racially motivated violence have recently been indicted in various cases, and more incidents are coming to light as the Justice Department has started several investigations into civil rights violations after the storm.
Spike Lee’s specials on New Orleans five years after sharply illustrated the shoot-to-kill-looters philosophy that guided much of the reaction to a majority black city where residents turned to looting stores for food and water a government was tardy in providing. A memorable moment is film of Gen. Russel Honore ordering arriving troops not to patrol the city with guns drawn, as if entering a country in rebellion.