I am a native of Hathian. I was born in District Eight and left Hathian when I was eleven, returning only last year. I am Louisianan. I work at Lou’s Bar, and try and make it a welcoming place to local and newcomer alike. I’m not an educated person, though I have a GED. I had help from a college graduate friend and a spellchecker to write this. I know Gang Members and Police, and count them as friends. I know businessmen and whores. I’m one of y’all. I am Hathian.
Despite a difficult childhood with more WIC checks than Santa Claus, one time of year that I remember fondly is the Mardi Gras. I am not religious but the Festival is more important to Louisiana than Christmas and Easter combined. It’s our thing.
I was happy to have the chance to work the sidewalk selling beer this year. I had my outdoor festival vending permit and spent the morning happily moving red plastic solo cups up and down the street. After a break, I came back in the evening expecting to spend the prime waning hours of the festival selling Beer and greeting friends…walking down the street from Lou’s towars the Titty Twister Nightclub, I found a police line and a wall of Hathian’s finest conducting what was for all intents and purposes an assault on the club.
There was no enemy. No plausible threat. This is a letter to the editor, not investigative reporting, but not one witness was aware of any situation that warranted the response. There appeared to be no hostages, no wanted criminal, not even a serious threat of violence at this point. Perhaps someone had threatened them, perhaps they had gotten scared. But an SUV, barriers, and a half dozen uniforms were responding with brutality that makes the attacks on Occupy Oakland look like a garden party. They weren’t spraying the occupants. Tear gas, not pepper spray poured out of the location.
I saw one friend of mine on the ground having been smashed with a Riot Shield. Another, an pretty redhead who works with me at Lou’s was screaming “Help!…Help me PLEASE!” from inside the door. A few seconds later, I heard a policeman scream “Open fire!” and loose a shotgun blast, which I am told was a nonlethal round, at the door where occupants were trying to get away from the gas. I cannot say who gave the fire order because of the confusion and noise, but I am reliably informed the entire operation was under the command of Chief of Police Henrich Andel.
An officer who dealt with me, Allison Chase, was friendly and helpful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Another uniformed figure, who was accepted by [HPD Chief] Hendrich [Andel] and the others as part of their operation, identified himself as “Officer Rambo, Badge Number 1234, Star Command.” I’ll be surprised if such a person or command is a real person. In accordance with the law, which permits civilians to record video of police, (Glik v. Boston, 2011) I recorded some of the gruesome scene with a cellphone camera until that officer hit it with a baton and knocked it from my hands.
Maybe there was a reason for the police to descend on the TT. Maybe there was a reason to ruin Mardi Gras. I can’t say. There was a man running away who seemed to be being tasered. Maybe he was the reason. There was no reason for the police to be firing dangerous rounds and teargas into a confined underground space while people screamed for mercy. Absent a hostage crisis the level of harm to civilians was off the richter scale.
Operations like this are why people hate the HPD. They’re why it’s easy for gangs to get support just by citing the HPD. They don’t help the good officers, and keeping silent about these things, and the crimes that go on in Jail does not help the good officers. It endangers them and makes their jobs harder. After working for six months in Hathian, I can tell you. The reason the gangs have any traction at all is that anytime someone points out the shitty things they do, there is someone there to say “yeah, but the cops are worse.” That alone gives them the public support and traction they need. The HPD is the gangs’ best recruiting poster. If I were a gang boss, I’d stay up nights praying for incidents like this. I doubt that one of the people who saw this debacle will voluntarily ever approach the HPD again.
I’m not anti-police. I read about incidents of rape and miscarriage in jail and I’m skeptical. But when I talk to the off duty doctors and nurses drinking away their sorrows from treating the injuries…when I talk to the legal people who know the truth of what goes on…I’m sickened.
There are good Cops. There are Cops I’d trust with my life. I’m not anti Cop. But…without some clear and present public danger that everyone understands…and that couldn’t be handled by trailing a suspect and arresting them elsewhere…this sort of activity is terribly destructive. It makes the police look like brutal bullies. It doesn’t help, it hurts.
Officer Rambo informed me that “Americans don’t care.” They do. But their response isn’t constructive. It’s to form new gangs, vigilante groups, to fight violence with violence. This is too much even for Hathian. This is a plea. Clean up. Citizens are watching. People do care.
– Madison Lee Brynner,
Bartender, Lou’s Bar
Ed by Amberlynn Rain