Monday, March 06, 2006

Fascism Anyone ?

By Laura Parker, USA TODAY
Fri Mar 3, 7:57 AM ET

Ridiculing the Federal Emergency Management Agency is high art in the Gulf
Coast areas where Hurricane Katrina hit last year.

Many parade floats in New Orleans' Mardi Gras were decorated in themes that
skewered the relief agency.

George Barisich, president of the United Commercial Fisherman's Association,
has been selling anti-FEMA T-shirts since last fall, a reflection of his
frustration with the federal government's response to the storm that left him
homeless and unemployed.

But on Feb. 1, when he handed a shirt to a fellow Katrina victim as he was
picking up canned goods at a charity's relief tent, Barisich found himself in
trouble with the government.

He was cited by a group of Homeland Security officials for selling a T-shirt
on federal property - in this case, near a FEMA center in the parking lot of a
Wal-Mart in Chalmette, La.

Barisich, 49, says he didn't sell the shirt, which said: "Flooded by Katrina!
Forgotten by FEMA! What's Next, Mr. Bush?" He says he gave it away.

The government is sticking to its guns. "If we ignored this violation, you
could have potentially 20 to 30 people standing out in front of the (FEMA)
center, obstructing things
," says Dean Boyd, a Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) spokesman. "We've got a duty and a job under the law."

Boyd says the message on Barisich's shirt isn't the issue. Barisich says he
intends to fight the $75 ticket in court.

Word of Barisich's plight is circulating around battered St. Bernard Parish,
where 22,000 of the 26,000 homes were destroyed by flooding. Larry Ingargiola,
the local emergency operations chief, calls it "totally ridiculous."

"I've tried to work with them," he says of the federal government. "But some
of the rules they've got down here are unbelievable. For God's sake, everybody
knows George. They're pushing the buttons a little bit too far

Barisich says he was ticketed after six DHS officers gathered at his truck.
Boyd says he can't confirm the number. Barisich says he was told he would be
arrested if he did not take the ticket. "I said, 'Do you really want to arrest
me? Am I the only one here who thinks this is asinine? You're harassing a
person who just lost everything.'

Barisich's extended family lost 14 of its 17 houses in St. Bernard. Three of
his fishing boats vanished. Two other boats survived but can't get to sea
because they're in a canal filled with debris and silt. And he doesn't have
enough cash to rebuild his oyster beds.

He says he'll fight the ticket because "if you do something wrong, you pay for
it. If you didn't, you don't ever say you did.


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