In New Orleans, Gulf oil spill anger turns to Obama
Criticism of Obama for his handling of the Gulf oil spill, though still muted, sounds much like that of President Bush after Katrina.
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“It’s too weak and it’s too late,” said Ro Mayer, founder of the Dead Pelicans, an oil spill activist group – styled after a Mardi Gras krewe – with over 5,000
members on Facebook. Ms. Mayer, a 57 year-old real estate agent and costume designer, started it the day after the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up.
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“People are getting angrier every day here,” Mayer continues. “People are absolutely furious about the dispersants. I voted for [Obama]. I have mixed feelings about it. [The Obama administration] did not inform the public about the details of this disaster. They did not step up to the plate at the beginning and take it seriously. They’ve just stood back and let BP do what it wanted to do. BP is operating like a foreign government here.”
Beth Galante, director of the New Orleans office of the environmental nonprofit Global Green, is more circumspect with her criticism. “It’s a jaw dropping cataclysm, and we know [the administration is] working as hard as they can,” said Ms. Galante. “The most important task for Obama is coming after the well is capped, in making sure that BP is held 100 percent accountable for the spill, and pursuing an agenda of developing green energy.” This week Global Green is issuing a joint statement with 20 other nonprofits in Louisiana, calling on the Obama administration to revitalize Louisiana’s economy with alternative energy initiatives.
But Galante also recalled her recent trip to Grand Isle with a camera crew, where she was threatened with arrest if she violated the Coast Guard’s new directive banning the public and news media from within 65 feet of an oil containment boom. “We were told that the beach was a crime scene and told to turn off our camera, which was kind of scary,” Galante recalled. “We understand safety concerns, but we think the public should be given as much information as possible, and the press should be given good access.”
On the sidewalk in front of Jackson Square on Saturday evening, New Orleans resident Susan Woodruff vigorously offered her opinion on the administration’s response to the microphones of several news crews, as her husband and teenage son stood by. “Do you see anyone from our federal government here getting something done?” asked Woodruff. “They need to get out of the way and let our local officials do it. [Plaquemines Parish president] Billy Nungesser and Bobby Jindal are actually out there solving problems.”
After the protest, the Krewe of Dead Pelicans met at a bar on nearby Decatur Street, where the krewe’s volunteer jazz brass band played on the sidewalk and later led a second line parade through the French Quarter, raising awareness about the disaster in the Gulf.
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