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katrina aftermath | police / legal

War Against the Poor Enters New Phase

"...officer Lusk (badge number 1811) ... and another off duty officer in uniform broke into the office without a warrant and took computers and files belonging to Common Ground." More recently, they have targetted volunteers who are aiding those left homeless in the wake of Katrina.
"Common Ground's mission is to provide short term relief for victims of hurricane disasters in the gulf coast region, and long term support in rebuilding the communities affected in the New Orleans area. Common Ground is a community-initiated volunteer organization offering assistance, mutual aid and support. The work gives hope to communities by working with them, providing for their immediate needs and emphasizes people working together to rebuild their lives in sustainable ways."

Here's one example

Common Ground and other grass-roots organizations that have worked to help the poor recover from the disaster of Katrina have had an uphill battle in their endeavors thanks to thugs and profiteers acting under the color of law. Most of the $110 Billion in federal aid has gone into the usual pockets of favored contractors and real estate developers who will continue to prosper in this extreme example of Disaster Capitalism.

Common Ground Volunteers Arrested While Aiding Victims

Seattle IMC
Jan 07, 2007 08:55

Three volunteers at Common Ground in New Orleans were arrested, including Aron Shimeles from Seattle, WA, age 18, were arrested in the evening on Friday, January 5th, by two New Orleans police officers. The three had spent the day at the Woodlands apartment complex in Algiers helping residents who were being evicted move out of their homes. One of the officers was previously involved in another controversial incident at the Woodlands.

"Common Ground is concerned that this incident represents a new trend in police harassment of Common Ground volunteers. The fact that the same police officer, Officer Lusk, was involved in both events is troubling and an unlikely coincidence," says Sakura Kone' of Common Ground Relief.

Common Ground volunteers Aron Shimeles, from Seattle, WA, age 18, Suncere Ali Shakur, from Washington, D.C., age 36, and Maryliz Van Nes, from Martha's Vineyard, MA, age 19 spent the day at the Woodlands helping residents move out of their homes. At about 5:15pm the three were sitting on a bench at the Woodlands waiting for a ride to the volunteer center across the river. Shimeles noticed a police car pulling up to them.

January 4th was the highly controversial eviction date for Woodlands residents. 18 families, including 40 children, remained with no place to go. Overcrowded and under funded homeless shelters seemed the best or only option for the majority of these families. Common Ground Legal had been in contact with Johnson Properties, the new owners of the Woodlands apartment complex, and at the last minute was able to negotiate a reprieve.

The next evening, two officers got out of the car and approached Common Ground volunteers. One of them, officer Lusk (badge number 1811) was involved in a previous incident where, he, Anthony Reginelli (the previous owner of the complex) and another off duty officer broke into the administration office of the Woodlands complex without a warrant and in uniform taking computers and files belonging to Common Ground. At the time the complex was under Common Ground management, and had been sold to Johnson Properties Group, LLC.

The evening of January 5th, officers told the volunteers they were in violation of a court order that prohibited Common Ground volunteers from being on Woodlands property without being lease holders. The police then handcuffed them and drove them to the edge of the property. A commanding officer arrived and lectured the three of them about the alleged character of Common Ground co-founder Malik Rahim. "It seemed to me that he was trying to give us a bad impression of Malik," says Shimeles, "but it didn't work."

The three were cited for trespassing, and will be arraigned in the coming days. The officers and the commanding officer acknowledged that the Johnson Properties' Group had issued a good faith extension of time for Common Ground to assist the remaining Woodlands residents in moving. It seemed the officers had a personal vendetta against Malik Rahim. Common Ground demands that all charges be dropped and that harassment and intimidation of its volunteers, as well as the residents it represents, cease and desist.

If you would like to help, call or email the Legal Coordinator, Soleil Rodrigue, to ask how you can help. Soleil's contact information is commongroundlegal (at) gmail.com or 504-717-7324

For more information about Common Ground: http://www.commongroundrelief.org/


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