Report from Newark, NJ

November 1, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper |


10-31-12. Striving to answer the latest call in Revolution newspaper, I and a few revolutionary friends in New York City decided to venture across the river to New Jersey and find out what we could about what is happening to people, connect with efforts to meet people's needs, and connect all this up with this movement for revolution. We decided, for this trip, to go to the area in an around Newark, NJ, which is a large concentration of Black people, as well as immigrants from Central America and Europe, and some white people. As far as we could tell, this area was not hit with serious flooding. The effects on people here are from strong winds and mainly the complete loss of electricity.

A large chunk of New Jersey has been without power for two days now, along with those coastal areas that were violently flooded by the storm surge. Electricity is beginning to be restored to some areas.

In a small town next to Newark called Harrison, where many people are from Central and South America, along with people from India and working class whites, the power in the whole town has been out for two days. We talked to people in a line outside a school waiting to get access to one half hour with an electric outlet (to charge their phones – the school has an emergency generator). The police are around, people told us how police drove through telling people about a driving curfew from 6 pm to 6 am, and we saw police driving by while we were there. We even saw a Blackhawk helicopter fly by. There is nothing in the roads to obstruct driving. But absolutely no authorities of any kind have made any attempt to tell people what the situation is or what to expect, what resources are available, let alone mobilizing anyone, including the authorities themselves, to meet people's needs. In both Harrison and Newark we talked with people who had no idea of what has happened outside of their immediate experience. Keep in mind there is no electricity, and with today's technology many people don't have battery-powered radios. A number of people we spoke with had literally not heard any news since Sunday, before the storm, and didn't know how bad it was outside of their area.

In Harrison, people told us it's like there is no authority, no communication of any kind except for curfew announcements. No one knows how bad things are or what to expect. No announcements about where resources can be found. They said the mayor has been nowhere to be seen. We saw a flyer from the mayor's office being passed out that told people to throw away food that has not been refrigerated for 24 hours. So people posed the obvious question, what are they supposed to eat after that? Food in refrigerators has started to go bad; food stores are closed. One guy told us people keep asking why we have to accept this, that the only time the authorities come is when they want you to vote, but when you need them to protect you they're nowhere. One guy who had heard the news said they could expect to be without power for 10 days, but nothing about what people are supposed to do in the meantime. Older people have no way to get outside, get supplies of any kind. The half hour charge for cell phone wouldn't last long. People from Central and South America have families that have no idea what's going on or how they are. One guy said this is the second Katrina, that the authorities have no plan and then they leave you alone.

One guy said somebody has to do something for the people, and that we have to make revolution, the only way to change anything. We talked with him and others about how the demands in the call to people from Revolution newspaper can and need to gain strength to deal with this, and their role in this. Throughout the day there were 30 copies of Revolution newspaper exchanged, as well as about 100 copies of Revolution's "Call to Those in the Areas Affected by Hurricane Sandy" that we printed up for this trip.

In Newark we mainly talked with Black people. Electricity did come on for the downtown area of the city on Tuesday night, and businesses and stores were open for business there. We drove around to take a look, and were struck by how deserted the streets were. People told us they've just been staying home, sitting with family and friends in the dark. People from one area of the city told us the police had announced a 4 pm curfew for Tuesday, to prevent robberies. Everyone we talked to said they and their neighbors are not in dire straits yet, and they're expecting the power to come on by the end of the week. One youth downtown, though, told us that he and his mom have started now running out of food, so what is he supposed to do?

In Newark there are city buses and private bus companies. People told us that the private buses have started running, but the city buses have not. We talked to people who walked from the outskirts of the city to downtown to get money and pay bills. One guy was there to pay his electric bill, though he has no electricity. He said it was his cut-off date so he had to get there to pay it.

The message from all authorities in terms of the answer to people's needs so far has, in effect, been "we will not help you, and stay inside."

We found that, right now at least, people are mainly waiting, with an expectation that the power will soon be on. In these areas that have no electricity, and as result many also have no heat (and the temperature dropped today into the 40s), they have had water and enough food to keep going... so far.

A storeowner in Newark said that Atlantic City, New Jersey, a gambling and resort town down south on the Jersey Shore, is completely closed, no one in or out. This place was badly hit with flooding as well as the rest of the storm. It had been evacuated, but not everyone left. The people telling us about this did not know what people inside that town were dealing with now.

Meanwhile, tonight, Wednesday, there was a report on CNN's "Situation Room" about a place in New Jersey called Seaside Heights, where the city government, including firefighters, apparently evacuated before the storm, leaving the residents to their fate. The report talked about elderly people who didn't want to evacuate because shelters wouldn't take their pets, and now they're in danger and only civilian volunteers are there to help, with no resources.

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