Via Raw Story and the NewStandard.

When Robert Davis emerged from the temporary detention center in New Orleans, his eye was swollen nearly shut, his face was bruised, and he had a couple of stitches under his left eye. He told The NewStandard that police had beaten him and then charged him with public intoxication and battery, even though he had not had a drink in 25 years and had merely asked a police officer to leave him alone.


But what did not make it into the tape or national attention was that Davis is just one of more than nearly a thousand people who have suffered in a horrific place the police call “Camp Amtrak,” an improvised jail in what used to be the New Orleans bus terminal.

Is that really why Greyhound no longer goes to New Orleans?

Update [2005-10-13 20:56:35 by blksista]: The Associated Press has released an unedited version of the beating/arrest of Robert Davis. Click to AP Videos. A list on the right shows videos for viewing; it is the second or third video in the list. It is five minutes long. They said that he was resisting arrest; but if someone is pounding on you as well as threatening and you are trying to protect yourself from the blows…see what you think.
Reporter Jessica Azulay (who is conducting several reports in the coming weeks about the aftermath of Katrina on New Orleans residents) continued:

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans authorities are arresting hundreds on minor charges such as breaking curfew or public intoxication, housing them in brutal conditions and then pushing them through a court process that forces most into working on clean-up projects at police facilities, according to numerous interviews and documents obtained by TNS.

At the converted Greyhound terminal, which now serves as a different kind of way station, no passengers arrive with luggage. Instead, police bring people in and book them at what used to be a ticket counter. In the back, where travelers used to board buses, police now push detainees into wire pens where they sleep on the concrete in the open air.

In interviews both inside and outside of Camp Amtrak, people who had been through the process told harrowing accounts of police brutality and harsh conditions. Some of them, like Davis, had visible injuries. Many said police had attacked them or others in their cells with pepper spray. All recounted trying to sleep on the concrete floor of the bus parking lot with just one blanket – or in some cases no blanket – to protect them from the cold and the mosquitoes which swoop in on randomly alternating nights here. None was given a phone call or access to an attorney.

So when Davis was released from police custody, he was not leaving the Orleans Parish Jail.  He was leaving the converted Greyhound Bus Terminal.

If it had not been the Associated Press there, there would not have been this uproar.  Davis would have been just another victim of police harassment.

I am sure that if they had been offered minimum wage, as Anthony Fontenot and Mike Davis had suggesting their “24 Questions about the Murder of the Big Easy,” these people would have worked and gladly.  But no,  that is too good for black people.  Frankly, this mirrors white coercion during World War I, when most of the able-bodied white men from the South were at war and there were too few white men available to work. They forced blacks who already had jobs to work from sunup to sundown, even black women who were happy to be housewives. The same thing happened during the Mississippi floods of 1927, when blacks were pressed against their will into doing levee work for food and shelter, and were refused rescue.

Several witnesses spoke for the record, including the following:

Michael Resovsky was one of several men outside the jail yesterday waiting to be picked up for a shift of what the sheriff’s department calls “community service.” He recalled the night he spent inside: “They threw you a blanket and they gave you those MREs – you know, those meals in a bag – and they take the heater part out of it and the little bottle of hot sauce so you have to eat it cold. And you sleep on the concrete with a blanket, and the smell is not too nice.

“They were coming in there and macing people, and people were hollering and I couldn’t get no sleep, and you know, it was pretty bad,” said Resovsky, who is white.

Anthony Jack, another former detainee, added: “It was cold [inside]; I couldn’t sleep.” Jack, a black immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, said police had arrested him on his own property and charged him with violating curfew, which in most neighborhoods here is still in affect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“I was in my yard, and a young white guy came by the gate and I was talking to him and the police came and arrested both of us,” he recounted. “He was outside breaking curfew; I was inside… behind the gate. The police broke my gate down with a pick-ax. They broke it completely off the fence.”

Jack continued: “It makes me really angry, man. It made me realize that the law isn’t working the way it is supposed to.”

Even an aid worker from Wisconsin, Sandy Freelander, was caught in the police dragnet, along with two friends of his, one of whom had helped rescue dozens of survivors in the Seventh Ward.  New Orleans police had a field day with the man who was called Reggae:

“This middle-aged white [police officer] got real excited about kicking Reggae, Freelander said. “He came running across the parking lot and kicked [Reggae] in the hip while [Reggae] was down on his knees with his hands behind his head. [The officer] pushed [Reggae] on the ground and put his foot to the back of his neck and pointed his gun at him and said he was going to blow his fucking brains out if he moved again. This guy was really excited about beating up the first black guy he saw or something.”

Freelander maintained that he and his friends had permission from the owner to be in the parking lot.  Nevertheless, the police arrested them on criminal trespass charges.

Inside, Freelander said his friend was denied medical attention and that they witnessed police pepper-spraying other detainees police handcuffing a woman to a pole and leaving here for hours and other abuse. He, like all others interviewed by TNS said he was not permitted a phone call or legal counsel, even after repeated requests.

Unfortunately, Major Tony Poret, who was unapologetic about the macing, beatings and illegal detainings, and who helps run Camp Amtrak, is a former prison official from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, one of the most notorious prisons in the United States.

“These poor police officers are stretched out as far as they can be and yet you’ve got to mess with a bunch of gourd heads like we have down here and we have to make a jail for these kind of people,” he said. “That’s what’s really bad about this whole [situation].”

Gourd heads?

“Look up at the setup that we have,” he said. “It’s an old bus terminal. It’s keeping the bad guys off the streets from harassing the poor people of the New Orleans district from worrying about their houses being broken into or worrying about some drunk laying on their porch…”

Are these people really the bad guys?  But here is the money shot:

Freelander, Resovsky and Jack all said that in the mornings after their arrest, they were taken to a courtroom upstairs where most prisoners were pressured into pleading guilty and accepting between 40 and 80 hours of unpaid labor.

A visit to the courtroom yesterday confirmed their accounts. In a stark, second-floor room of the Greyhound station, police brought in about 20 inmates who had spent the night in the cages. When they entered the room, public defender Clyde Merritt briefly explained the options while the defendants strained to hear him. In most cases, he told them, they could plead guilty and they would be sentenced to about 40 hours of “community service.” If they wished the maintain their innocence, he said, they would be sent to Hunts Correctional Facility where they could wait as long as 21 days to be processed, no matter how minor or unsupported their charges.


Off to the side, the lone female defendant stood shyly in her pajamas and flip-flops. She later told the judge she had been arrested right in front of her house.

In the end, given the choice between unpaid work and continued incarceration, nearly all chose to plead guilty.

This has got to stop.

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