New Orleans has rubbed our faces into the obscene realities of class oppression and racism. At the core of this national outrage are roots that have been growing throughout America for far too many life times. Millions have moved from naïve wonder ("How could this happen in America?" ) to the sobering realization that New Orleans is a reflection of what has happened all over the US for the last quarter century. What is the Hunters Point PG&E plant or the West Contra Costa refinery complex if not slow-moving hurricane of sickness and premature death set against a background of racist poverty?

Indeed, class oppression and racism are so inextricably bound together that it is meaningless to think of fighting one without fighting the other. For it is always African-Americans, Latins, Asians, Native Americans, the poor, youth, elders and the disabled who are first to be left behind, left out, shut out, gentrified out, and cut out of budgets. Budgets are passed for the comfort and profit of the rich, never for the 37 million living in poverty.

We are outraged that Katrina's devastation was the direct result of institutional racism, gutting of social programs, and the criminalization of minorities by this and previous administrations:

* Not repairing the levees;
* Not preparing hurricane disaster and evacuation plans in advance;
* Not evacuating people by airlift, ship, or train before the storm struck;
* Holding tens of thousands captive at gunpoint with shoot-to-kill orders, while depriving them of food, water, medical care, protection, and information;
* Turning away offers of food, water, supplies, and medical care from individuals, cities, states, and even nations;
* Forcibly dispersing individuals to distant, random parts of the country, separating family and even infants, who may never see their loved ones;
* Slandering tens of thousands who could not leave by saying they "chose* to stay, and calling people "looters* who provided necessities for their families;
* Patrolling the streets of New Orleans with private mercenary armies just back from Iraq;
* Inviting rebuilding of expensive housing and business and discouraging rebuilding for residents; and
* Giving cronies lucrative no-bid contracts, while axing wage guarantees.

From its founding in the early 1970's, the Gray Panthers has demanded a total reordering of society and a reversal of its priorities. Our 1978 Organizing Manual called for a new economic system with universal housing, healthcare, guaranteed income, and employment, to be financed by massive cuts to the military budget and heavy taxation of corporations and the rich.

San Francisco Gray Panthers seeks to work others to demand:

(1) A massive government-funded program for jobs, environmental clean-up, and re-construction of housing, schools, hospitals, and other facilities for the entire Gulf Region:

* Construction of safe, affordable housing, especially for low-income African-Americans, seniors, and disabled, with access to schools, health facilities, shopping, transportation, and workplaces;

* Reconstruction jobs for chronically unemployed and underemployed residents at un-ion level wages, integrated with skills training in union-authorized programs for the 150,000 people below the poverty level, one-third of whom are seniors;

* Funding provided by immediate reversal of the tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations; raising the estate tax; ending funds for war and occupation; and an excess war profits tax on Halliburton and Bechtel;

(2) Provide Immediate Measures:

* Provide food, water, clothing, medical supplies, other necessities for people uprooted from their homes.

* Provide emergency relief funds to tens of thousands who have lost their livelihoods due to the devastation.

* Make all available spaces, i.e. vacant homes, apartments, office complexes, etc. as emergency and long-term housing.

* Create immediately an independent national data base by which people can locate family and friends, find temporary housing, shared housing etc. near affected areas so families can be reunited, and provide free transportation to re-unite families.

(3) An immediate halt to reconstruction plans in New Orleans neighborhoods and other destroyed Gulf Cities that will further gentrify them, alter their class or racial balance, or further move their economies away from stable productive jobs and toward service or entertainment jobs. Immediate and full disclosure of such reconstruction plans;

(4) Dismiss any looting charges and erase the debts incurred by needy people forced to pay for emergency expenses. Repeal the Bankruptcy law;

(5) Complete toxic clean-up and restoration of the wetlands to be done by residents needing jobs and provided with effective protective equipment and practical training; no contracts to Bechtel, Halliburton, KBR or subsidiaries;

SF Gray Panthers, 1182 Market St., SF CA 94102, 415-552-8800 ,