Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan accused the US government of
"criminal neglect" for its slow response to the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina, during a rally on Sunday marking the 10th anniversary of the Million
Speaking to thousands of African-Americans gathered on the National Mall, he
also urged minorities and the poor to work together to improve their lives.
In his speech, the highlight of the daylong event, Farrakhan asked why the
government did a better job helping the citizens of Florida last year, and why
so few lives were lost, when the state was hit by four major hurricanes.
"I believe that we can charge the government with criminal neglect,"
he said. "I firmly believe that if the people on those rooftops (in New
Orleans) had blond hair and blue eyes and pale skin, something would have been
done in a more timely manner. We charge America with criminal neglect,"
he said from the steps of the US Capitol.
There has been renewed attention on race relations in recent weeks, after Hurricane
Katrina ripped through New Orleans and devastated the lower Ninth Ward, which
was largely populated by black and poor residents.
Farrakhan also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the
Department of Homeland Security should be sued.
"I think we need to look at a class action (law)suit on behalf of the
citizens of New Orleans who have lost everything, and the government is not
acting responsibly to give them back what they have lost and return them to
their homes," he said.
This year's event, known as the "Millions More Movement", was a stark
contrast to 1995, when only black men were invited to participate to promote
black self-reliance and responsibility. On Saturday, women and other minorities
were invited, attended and spoke to the crowd.
"For a few years it was good for the men to come out for themselves -
to atone - but now we need to come together," said Jamillia Lawrence, 35,
of Atlantic City.
"This march, particularly, it was for families. It just came from a need.
This is what the need is, to have more unity in our families," she said,
citing gang violence and black children going astray, with no structure in their
Farrakhan, who organised the 1995 event and has made controversial statements
in the past, told the crowd that African-Americans should work together to improve
"The more we are organised, the more we can generate power to change reality.
The more we unify, the more power we can generate to change reality," he
Farrakhan also urged other minorities and the poor to unite.
"The time has never been more ripe for a strategic relationship between
the black, the brown, the Native American and the poor of this nation and the
world," he said.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, a former Democratic presidential candidate who also
addressed the crowd, called for a move away from violence and for millions to
fight against poverty, illiteracy and the kind of suffering that befell the
poor in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
"Don't imitate the violence, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism, gay
bashing," he told the crowd. "We need ... millions more to build a
multiracial coalition, we need not battle alone to fight poverty and greed and
The event appeared smaller than the Million Man March, with crowds dispersed
between the US Capitol steps across to the grassy Mall. A decade ago, hundreds
of thousands stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.