Texas Wesleyan Law Review
Escape Denied: The Gretna Bridge and the Government’s Armed Blockade in the Wake of Katrina
The police officers who blocked the Gretna Bridge may have in fact violated several rights guaranteed by the Constitution. However, this Comment focuses on only one-the right to the freedom of travel. This Comment argues that the City of Gretna should be held civilly liable for its actions; and, that the individual police officers who blocked the bridge should be held both civilly and criminally liable for their actions. By blocking the bridge, the officers intentionally deprived New Orleans residents of their right to the freedom of travel. Part II contextualizes this argument by providing a history of the poverty and racism long faced by many New Orleans residents. To a large extent, poverty and health shaped New Orleanians' evacuation and survival strategies; and, examining the reasons behind the strategies employed by different sectors of the population is fundamental to understanding why so many New Orleans residents did not or could not evacuate. Racism further complicated these strategies. The history of police brutality in and around New Orleans indicates that routine abuse may have been an aggravating factor in Katrina's aftermath. In addition, both the media and government officials perpetuated negative stereotypes about New Orleans residents, which prolonged evacuation and rescue efforts and greatly exacerbated evacuees' suffering. The Gretna Bridge incident is just one illustration of how, in the wake of Katrina, poverty and racism collided to produce unjust consequences for residents who were simply struggling to survive. Part III reviews the fundamental right to travel under the Due Process Clause and discusses this right in the context of emergency situations. Part IV considers the possible civil and criminal consequences under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 18 U.S.C. § 242 for depriving individuals of their right to travel. Finally, Part V applies the fundamental right to travel and the remedies afforded under § 1983 and § 242 to the Gretna Bridge incident. This section argues that the City of Gretna should be held civilly liable for the officers' actions and that the individual police officers who blocked the Gretna Bridge should be held both civilly and criminally liable for their actions.
Escape Denied: The Gretna Bridge and the Government’s Armed Blockade in the Wake of Katrina,
Tex. Wesleyan L. Rev.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.37419/TWLR.V13.I1.5