Journalists Begin to Fear for Their Own Safety in New Orleans

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By: E&P Staff

On Thursday afternoon in New Orleans, a Times-Picayune reporter and a New York Times photographer witnessed a deadly shootout, got roughed up by police, hid in fear, and now plan to flee the city to save their lives.

Elsewhere, a pair of photographers, one from Reuters and the other from Getty Images (* see correction below), had cameras, computers, and equipment stolen from a parked car while working near the convention center. Neither photographer was present during the break-in and no injuries were reported.

The following article was posted late this afternoon at the Times-Picayune Web site, under the apt headline, CITY NOT SAFE FOR ANYONE.

*

Across the city Thursday, the haunting fear of flooding was
replaced by a raw fear for life and public safety.

Navigating the St. Thomas area of the Lower Garden District in an SUV, Times-Picayune reporter Gordon Russell, accompanied by a photographer from The New York Times, described a landscape of lawlessness where he feared for his life and felt his safety was threatened at nearly every turn.

At the Superdome and Marc N. Morial Convention Center, Russell said throngs of hungry and desperate people displaced by the flood overwhelmed the few law enforcement or miliatary personnel present.

“There was no crowd control,” Russell said. “People were swarming. It was a near riot situation. The authorities have got to get some military down here to get control of the situation.”

Russell witnessed a shootout between police and citizens near the Convention Center that left one man dead in a pool of blood. Police, perhaps caught off guard by their sudden arrival on the scene, slammed Russell and the photographer against a wall and threw their gear on the ground as they exited their SUV to record the event.

The journalists retreated to Russell’s home Uptown where they hid in fear. They planned to flee the city later today.

Almost everywhere Russell went Uptown, one of the few relatively dry areas in Orleans Parish, he said he felt the threat of violence.

“There is a totally different feeling here than there was yesterday [Wednesday],” said Russell, who has reported on the aftermatch of Hurricane Katrina since the storm devastated the city on Monday. “I’m scared. I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m getting out of here.”

* CORRECTION: This story originally reported that a photojournalist from The Associated Press had equipment stolen in New Orleans. The photojournalists were actually Rick Wilking from Reuters and Mark Wilson from Getty Images.

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