News & Politics

Passing the Buck as Corpses Rot

A tour of the streets of New Orleans reveals a body that has lain unclaimed for two weeks while every agency denies responsibility for removing it.
[Editor's Note: Democracy Now! is broadcasting from Baton Rouge, Louisiana today. This is a partial transcript of a tour of New Orleans by Malik Rahim, a veteran of the Black Panther Party in New Orleans.]

Malik Rahim: You could basically smell it from right here. You know, and the police, they pass by. They look at it and they ain't going to do nothing, you know, to pick it up.

Amy Goodman: Malik then walked us down the driveway next to the health center and lifted up a sheet of corrugated metal with an X revealing the dead body underneath.

MR: Now, his body been here for almost two weeks. Two weeks tomorrow. All right. That this man's body been laying here. And there's no reason for it. Look where we at? I mean, it's not flooded. There's no reason for them to be, left that body right here like this. You mean, just totally disrespect. You know? I mean two weeks. Every day, we ask them about coming and picking it up. They refuse to come and pick it up. You can see, it's literally decomposing right here. Right out in the sun. Every day we sit up and we ask them about it. Because I mean, this is -- close as you can get to tropical climate in America. And they won't do anything about it.

AG: Malik, do you know who this person is?

MR: No. But regardless of who it is, I wouldn't care if it's Saddam Hussein or Bin Laden. Nobody deserves to be left here, and the kids pass by here and they are seeing it. The elderly, this is what is frightening a lot of people into leaving. We don't know if he's a victim of vigilantes or what. That's all we know is that his body had been allowed to remain out here for over two weeks.

AG: We are standing right outside the health clinic. It's doors are chained. The building is not seriously damaged. Have you reached people there? What authorities have you talked to to pick up this body?

MR: We have talked to everyone from the army to the New Orleans Police, to the State Troopers, to - I mean, we have talked to everybody who we can. I even talked to Oliver Thomas, who is the councilman at large, yesterday, about this body. He said he was surprised to see that this body is still there. But it's been two weeks. Two weeks that this man has been just laying here.

AG: As Malik Raheem was speaking, as if on cue, every level of authority he mentioned drove by. There's a dead body right here. Is -- who are you with?

Soldier: We're with 5015.

AG: Which is?

Soldier: The cav.

AG: Army?

Soldier: Regular army.

AG: There's a dead body right here. Can you guys pick it up?

Soldier: You don't think we can pick it up, but we can call the local authorities to come pick it up.

AG: This gentleman who lives in the neighborhood said that they have been trying to get -- here, let me ask these guys, too. Excuse me. Excuse me. Hi. There's a dead body right here. Can Louisiana State Troopers, can you pick it up?

Louisiana State Trooper: You need to talk to the public information officer, Ma'am.

AG: It's been here two weeks. We have filmed it last week, and gentleman over here said he has been trying to get it picked up for two weeks. Louisiana State Troopers, the Police, the Army, no one has responded. We're looking right over at it right there.

Trooper: You need to talk to the public information officer and contact him at the troop.

AG: Your name is?

Trooper: You need to talk to the public information officer.

AG: Do you know about the body?

Trooper: You need to talk to our public information officer.

AG: Sir, do you know about the body over there.

Trooper: Ma'am, you talk with the public information officer.

[The full transcript is available on Democracy Now!'s website.]
Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!
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