On I-10’s ‘Trail of Tears,’ Conspiracy Theories Swirl

Sheldon Alberts and Richard Foot, Montreal Gazette, Sept. 7

It has become a modern-day Trail of Tears.

All along the 560-kilometre ribbon of concrete running west from New Orleans to Houston, thousands of cars and trucks carrying the Big Easy’s displaced masses exit Interstate 10 looking for a place to stay.

Inevitably, they are turned away and sent farther down the road because every hotel room is full.

Some of the refugees are white, headed for the homes of family members in other states.

But most are black and poor, flooded out of black neighbourhoods like the Iberville Projects, the 9th Ward and Algiers on New Orleans’s West Bank.

“We are going to Texas,” said Vanessa Butler, 29, who was stopped at an I-10 gasoline station in Henderson, La., 160 kilometres west of New Orleans.

“We don’t have no money, no nothing.

“We are all going to the welfare office and going to try to get some assistance. We’ll go to the shelter and try to get some help.”

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There have also been wild conspiracy theories since Katrina struck. Rumours swirled amid the squalour of New Orleans’s emergency shelters last week that the city’s levees had been breached deliberately to flood black communities and force their residents out of the city.

“We are here watching what happens to poor people in America,” said Geraldine Levy, who was headed down I-10 to destinations unknown after enduring hellish conditions at the New Orleans Convention Centre.

“I feel it is all a big cover-up. They want to take this city back from the blacks. They have perpetuated the lie of us as dangerous people.”

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Those kinds of comments confirm long-held suspicions among many blacks that white New Orleans would just as soon see many of them gone, believing that crime rates would drop and real estate prices increase.

“This hurricane was the opportunity to do Louisiana a favour of getting rid of everyone they don’t want—the non-wanted people,” said Terry Snider, 45, a black resident of the French Quarter.

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