Saturday, September 10, 2005

Just exactly what kind of camps are these?

I have just read an interesting first person account of a visit to a camp for evacuees being set up in a remote mountain church camp in Oklahoma. The author, who unfortunately is not identified, tells of a thwarted family effort to deliver supplies to the camp shortly before evacuees were scheduled to arrive.

Possibly I am being punked here, but it looks to me like the article is authentic--for one thing the author has a lot of pictures of the trip, including some of the Oklahoma Highway patrol guarding the gates, and seems familiar with the camp by virtue of being a member of one of the churches with cabins in the camp. ("Cabins" seem to be steel building dormitories, in some instances at least, perhaps one of the reasons the place was chosen.)

They ran into a lot of obstacles. In fact they were only allowed in only because of some confusion as to whether they were authorized charity workers. The family's offering of clothing was rejected, possibly reasonably, on the grounds that there was plenty of clothing. But milk, food (except pop tarts), and toys were disallowed also.

Apples were rejected for the following reasons:
It looks like you've got about 10 apples there. I'm about to bring in 40 men. What would we do then?"
My mother, in her sweet, soft voice says, "Quarter them?"
"No ma'am. FEMA said no...It could cause a riot. You don't understand the type of people that are about to come here...."

OK, part of this is just bureaucratic stupidity, to be expected, but the riot business is beyond stupid--it's racism, pure and simple.

Besides racism, or as an adjunct issue to is, is the question of whether this, in a remote area of the Arbuckle Mountains, is a de-facto prison.

He (the FEMA guy) then proceeds to tell us that some churches had already enquired into whether they could send a van or bus on Sundays to pick up any occupants of their cabins who might be interested in attending church. FEMA will not allow this. The occupants of the camp cannot leave the camp for any reason. If they leave the camp they may never return. They will be issued FEMA identification cards and "a sum of money" and they will remain within the camp for the next 5 months.

If what the FEMA guy told the author of the article is true, sounds like the occupants of the camp will, actually, technically, be allowed to leave, but on the condition that they not come back. Moreover--think about this--this place is in the middle of the Oklahoma mountains, 3 miles from the nearest house, and 8 miles from the nearest town, which itself has a population of 2000 people.

So even if the people _wanted_ to leave, how could they manage to do it? Walk down the road and thumb a ride? From who? So they walk 8 miles to town? Then what?

There is something basically wrong with this FEMA dispersal of the New Orleans population. I have also read about a relocation camp in Utah, of all places. Why can't the people evacuated from their homes be placed nearer to New Orleans than the Arbuckle Mountains, or Utah?

I know there are unused military bases closer to New Orleans than these places.
And no matter where they are sent, they should not be treated like prisoners, and kept behind guarded gates. The function of guarded gates, in this context is either to keep prisoners in, or keep reporters out.

Neither should be the case.

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