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KATRINA: CAN LAW & ORDER BE RESTORED?

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 31, 2005 10:21 PM

***scroll down for 9/1 updates…gun defenses tracked…***

The mayor of New Orleans has declared martial law, reports the WWL blog. I’ve covered the uncertainties surrounding this question several times over the past few days. Mike Wiser at Brendan Loy’s blog writes:

We’ve had conflicting reports about martial law over the past few days, with some commenters stating that such a term has no legal meaning in the state of Louisiana, and others saying that it needs to be declared by various different officials…So, if the mayor has the power to declare martial law, it’s been done. Even if he doesn’t have the legal authority to do so, though, it’s possible that pragmatically it won’t matter–it may well be that the police department will take it for granted that the mayor is able to do this, and leave worrying about the technical legality of it to legal scholars.

If there any experts familiar with Louisiana law, please help out and shed light on these matters.

Donald Sensing
has been exploring what kind of law enforcement role the military might be able to play (limited if any), but seems to think the looting has subsided:

Probably there’s nothing left to loot and once the TV and stereo snatchers found they couldn’t eat or drink them, the glamour wore off pretty quickly. I’d be willing to bet that within a couple of blocks of stores there is a lot of snatched stuff sunk under the water. It’s hard to lug a set of Michelins through chest high sludge, I’m guessing.

Based on the latest reporting from New Orleans, I think it may be a little premature to write off the looters. Shawn Wasson at BareKnucklePolitics calls attention to this harrowing story filed in the last hour that details the carjacking of a nursing home bus driver:

Looters used garbage cans and inflatable mattresses to float away with food, blue jeans, tennis shoes, TV sets — even guns. Outside one pharmacy, thieves commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break through the glass. The driver of a nursing-home bus surrendered the vehicle to thugs after being threatened.

Police said their first priority remained saving lives, and mostly just stood by and watched the looting. But [Mayor] Nagin later said the looting had gotten so bad that stopping the thieves became the top priority for the police department.

“They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas — hotels, hospitals, and we’re going to stop it right now,” Nagin said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Another updated dispatch:

Looters also chased down a state police truck full of food. The New Orleans police chief ran off looters while city officials themselves were commandeering equipment from a looted Office Depot. During a state of emergency, authorities have broad powers to take private supplies and buildings for their use.

Managers at a nursing home were prepared to cope with the power outages and had enough food for days, but then the looting began. The home’s bus driver was forced to surrender the vehicle to carjackers.

Bands of people drove by the nursing home, shouting to residents, “Get out!” Eighty residents, most of them in wheelchairs, were being evacuated to other nursing homes in the state.

“We had enough food for 10 days,” said Peggy Hoffman, the home’s executive director. “Now we’ll have to equip our department heads with guns and teach them how to shoot.”

At one store, hordes of people from all ages, races and walks of life grabbed food and water. Some drove away with trunkloads of beer.

At one point, two officers drew their guns on the looters, but the thieves left without incident. One of the officers said he was not going to arrest anyone for snatching up food and water.

One young man was seen wading through chest-deep floodwater, carrying a case of soda, after looting a grocery store.

“It’s really difficult because my opinion of the looting is it started with people running out of food, and you can’t really argue with that too much,” Nagin said. “Then it escalated to this kind of mass chaos where people are taking electronic stuff and all that.”

Gov. Blanco finally mustered up some tough words for the thugs:

“We will restore law and order,” Blanco said. “What angers me the most is that disasters like this often bring out the worst in people. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”

Am praying that public officials can live up to their word. The heartache is too much.

***

Meanwhile, in Pascagoula, Miss., police have had to play catch-and-release with looters:

Many people stayed in their homes during the storm, including Nanette Clark, who lives several blocks behind the boulevard. She and her friend, Jayne Davis, spent the night and day of the storm moving furniture to a higher floor as water lapped, then pounded, at the front door. Some water did seep in, but the door held.

Davis was glad she stayed there; her own home was one of the St. Charles Condominiums in nearby Biloxi, where 30 people were killed by the storm surge on Monday.

On Tuesday night, Davis said, she and Clark shot at looters from the second-floor balcony of her pink house with gingerbread trim. Nobody was injured and the looters scattered, she said. Many hand-painted signs in that neighborhood warned looters that they were likely to be shot by armed homeowners.

Police said they had detained dozens of people for looting, but had to let many of them go because the city’s jail, and others in surrounding communities, could not be occupied because they lacked power and plumbing. “We treat each one on a case-by-case basis,” Ferguson said Wednesday. Most of the looters, he said, “are the unusual clientele we have even when there isn’t a storm.”

The “unusual clientele?”

And they’re letting them go?

In times of chaos, an armed citizenry is often the best, last, and only defense.

***

Firsthand blog accounts of chaos at local hospitals in Mandeville and Covington, La., at Punditeria.

Chris Regan updates his martial law post at Junkyard Blog; also has details from jail officials denying previously reported stories from the local ABC affiliate of attempted escapes and hostage-taking. No word from the governor’s office on that.

11pm EDT update: Blogger Pierre Legrand is trying to find out what happened to his mother-in-law, a pediatrician who volunteered to provide medical assistance at the Superdome. She has been out of contact since Sunday. Another doctor’s family provides an account of the continuing chaos in the stadium here. Please help if you can. Pierre’s in Baton Rouge.

9/1 morning update: Via Breitbart, this is out of control…

The evacuation of the Superdome was suspended Thursday because of fires and gunshots outside the arena, authorities said, as National Guardsmen in armored vehicles poured into New Orleans to help restore order across the increasingly lawless and desperate city.

An additional 10,000 National Guard troops from across the country were ordered into the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast to shore up security, rescue and relief operations in Katrina’s wake. That brought the number of troops dedicated to the effort to more than 28,000, in what may be the biggest military response to a natural disaster in U.S. history.

“The truth is, a terrible tragedy like this brings out the best in most people, brings out the worst in some people,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on NBC’s “Today” show. “We’re trying to deal with looters as ruthlessly as we can get our hands on them.”

Good.

***

Ted Frank at Point of Law on shooting looters. As noted, this has already moved past an academic debate: “You loot, I shoot.”

12noon EDT update
: Josh Britton is tracking reports of looting/crime outbreaks in Baton Rouge.

Tigersmack is on the scene and blogging from Baton Rouge.

4pm EDT update: Charity Hospital under fire. Superdome under siege. Hellish.

Donald Sensing: Time to leaflet.

Bill at PunditGuy with more on police looting.

6pm EDT update: Clayton Cramer is blogging cases of civilian gun defenses. Email gunblog@claytoncramer.com if you know of more he should track.

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