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UPDATE ~ New Orleans mayor declares "martial law", pulls police from rescues to halt looting

[JURIST] Furious at a rising tide of lawlessness in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Wednesday evening reassigned 1,500 New Orleans police from search-and-rescue missions to halt widespread looting [JURIST report] in the battered and flooded city. Declaring "martial law" in a dramatic invocation of his civic emergency powers, he directed officers to do "whatever it takes" to restore order, saying they could stop looters without regard to their civil rights and Miranda rights. CBS New Orleans affiliate WWL-TV has more. Earlier Wednesday, a Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness spokesman said that contrary to earlier local reports and some statements by officials [JURIST report], martial law - technically, emergency government by military authority - was not in effect anywhere in the state [Bloomberg report]. The Louisiana Attorney General's office insisted late Tuesday that martial law is not recognized in Louisiana state law [JURIST report], although state statutes and declarations of emergency give civic officials - the governor, heads of parishes and mayors - broad powers to restore order after disasters.

In another law-related development Wednesday, Louisiana Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder dismissed reports circulating late Tuesday that there had been attempted escapes and hostage takings associated with the transfer of some 7,600 prisoners from jails in the New Orleans area. In a briefing, he told jouranalists "We cannot find any credible intelligence that the kinds of things that had been reported have happened." WWL-TV has more.

10:30 PM ET - A spokesman for Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco said in a briefing late Wednesday that military police, Louisiana state troopers and police from other states were being deployed to New Orleans, and that pursuant to a request by the Governor federal troops would be assigned to search-and-rescue to free Louisiana National Guard personnel for law enforcement in the city.

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