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Heroic Activists in Louisiana Fight Back Against Corporate Greed

A small group of activists in the Gulf are pushing back against predators who try to profit from disasters.

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The most visible Gulf Coast activist has probably been Cherri Foytlin, an area resident, journalist and blogger who drew attention to the plight of the region by walking from New Orleans to Washington, DC last year. In her piece reacting to news of the settlement, she reflects the broader public frustration over the futility of lobbying our corporate governance for redress, while maintaining a steadfast posture:

“Although we fully support a complete trial, most of us have come to understand that we have few representatives within our government who have spirit enough, heart enough, integrity enough, courage enough, to stand before a corporation and demand justice on our behalf.

Therefore, we must, at the very least, have a full and open understanding of damages and truth. All information collected from the Spring of 2010 until now must be made available to the public -- how else will we ever stand a chance at true recovery?

How else will we learn from mistakes made?

In addition, we must have a Regional Citizen's Oversight Committee, so that we may do what the bureaucracy cannot or will not -- protect our children from those who would put their profit over our babies' lives.

Eighty percent of all fines collected must come back to the Gulf for restoration through the NRDA process and our fishermen must have first consideration of those jobs.”

As the serious health concerns of thousands of Gulf residents have gone unrecognized for two years, so too are there millions of Americans without medical care of any sort. As thousands of Gulf residents have lost their jobs and livelihoods, so too have millions of Americans been thrown into a permanent state of un- and under-employment. Meanwhile, Katrina has served as a precursor of the things that came, as the savage process of privatization of vital public assets has taken hold throughout the country, with the economic recession providing the cover the hurricane provided in New Orleans. The latest hospital cuts here will serve to further decimate an already ailing society, severing an essential lifeline for the city’s most vulnerable and marginalized people. 

In the face of all this, Cherri Foytlin is right to judge that the powerful cannot be expected to show signs of altruism. However, she is also right to recognize that persistent direct action is all that will change this system. The Gulf activists have proven this by finally gaining legal acknowledgement of the medical plight of afflicted residents, whilst ridding themselves of the scourge of Kenneth Feinberg. The small and committed group of activists can now broaden their focus and continue the long fight toward a just restitution of their ecosystem and livelihood.

Matt Reichel is a writer living in New Orleans. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at:!/mattreichel.

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