Dictatorship in Michigan: Flint Water Warriors expose the truth

Flint resident Sarah Truesdail holds her daughter Gabriella Venegas, 5, as she screams out with tears rolling down her face while a health official pricks her finger with a needle for a free lead test on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 at Carriage Town Ministries in Flint. PHOTO/JAKE MAY, MLIVE.COM

Flint resident Sarah Truesdail holds her daughter Gabriella Venegas, 5, as she screams out with tears rolling down her face while a health official pricks her finger with a needle for a free lead test on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 at Carriage Town Ministries in Flint.
PHOTO/JAKE MAY, MLIVE.COM

 

Dear Readers,

On this page we present the voices of those in Flint, Detroit, and Benton
Harbor, Michigan, and across the nation, who are waging a determined struggle for the lives of the people of Flint—and the lives of us all.

The poisoning of the people in Flint shows what happens to workers who are no longer needed. As robots replace workers, our democracy is going by the wayside to protect the profits of a corporate ruling class as it coldly discards anything that won’t make a profit, including people. The Emergency Manager system of rule set up in Michigan to privatize public assets, including water, is a corporate dictatorship. It is a form of fascism. It is coming to all of America if not stopped.

The positive side of this story is the determination of the people of Flint. Without their perseverance, the truth would never have been told. There has also been an unprecedented groundswell of solidarity from people across the country who, in the face of government inaction, are embracing the people of Flint.

The People’s Tribune has been reporting on the Flint water struggle since 2014 when the EM switched the water to the toxic Flint River. Contact us at 800-691-6888, info@peoplestribune.org or peoplestribune.org. Send your story. Order bundles of papers to share with others.

— The People’s Tribune

 

From left: Detroit resident Elmarie Dixon and Flint resident Tammy Brewer join hands with others in prayer in front of the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 in Washington D.C. Two bus loads of residents traveled from Flint to Washington D.C. for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Flint's water. The group also held a prayer vigil and attended a news conference after the hearing. PHOTO/CONOR RALPH, MLIVE.COM

From left: Detroit resident Elmarie Dixon and Flint resident Tammy Brewer join hands with others in prayer in front of the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 in Washington D.C. Two bus loads of residents traveled from Flint to Washington D.C. for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Flint’s water. The group also held a prayer vigil and attended a news conference after the hearing.
PHOTO/CONOR RALPH, MLIVE.COM

 

Excerpts from LeeAnne Walters Testimony to U.S. House Panel in Washington. LeeAnne was critical to bringing the poison to light.

“In a city with no democracy, forced under an emergency manager hand-picked by Governor Snyder, a decision was made to switch the water source without the proper testing and enforcement of regulation. The citizens in Flint were assured for 18 months that the water was safe . . . I started doing independent testing with Virginia Tech, and 30 tests were done. My average was 2500 ppb, my highest was 13,500 ppb; hazardous waste is 5000. Regardless of this information and the fact that my son had lead poisoning, the city and the MDEQ still continued to tell everyone the water was safe as the EPA sat by and watched in silence . . . “The citizens in Flint are relying on each of you because we have no choice, we trust no one but Virginia Tech. There are people in Flint today still not being assisted during this crisis: immigrants, disabled, and shut-ins. Broken policy and procedures are smothering the outcry of an entire community suffering financially, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I urge you to help restore some of the trust lost, and protect all the citizens in the U.S. by never allowing this to happen again. We need this to happen now, not ten years from now.”

 

Claire McClinton, Flint, MI

After nearly two years, the fight for safe, affordable water by the long-suffering people of Flint, MI., has finally been brought to national and international attention. Coverage of the crisis by publications such as “TIME” magazine and “National Geographic” and more have shocked the nation.

‘It’s like we’re living in a third world country’ is a common refrain in the community here. But the toxic water comparison doesn’t end there. Under the notorious Emergency Manager law, several municipalities and school districts in Michigan have been denied the ability to control or make decisions about their communities, and were touted as “fiscal martial law” when the law was enacted in 2011—another eerie reminder of some so-called third world countries. Emergency Managers (EMs) sell off public assets and privatize public services. Since it’s passage, EMs brought massive water shutoffs in Detroit, Highland Park, and Flint. They infamously stole a beachfront property from Benton Harbor residents. In Pontiac, local Fire and Police Departments no longer exist and the public water source is privatized. Furthermore, EMs totally destroyed public school systems in Highland Park, Hamtramck, and Muskegon Heights and wrecked havoc on Detroit’s school system. In their zeal to transfer the Flint water system to bondholders and other corporate interests—a Michigan city was poisoned.

We have to publicize and shine the light of day on the fascist offensive going on in Michigan. There is nothing to duplicate this model in the country, where you have one individual who can write an order and do all these things.

The backdrop is that Flint is the home of GM, and also the home of the great sit down strike that established collective bargaining with GM. Flint was a game changer within the labor movement and the acceleration of unionization nationwide. As technology advanced and GM began to shift jobs overseas for lower labor costs, the workforce went into rapid decline. The problem is we no longer build cars and trucks and so we have become a throwaway disposable class—a class where people’s lives don’t matter anymore.

Our future is up to us about what kind of a society we want to have, what kind of life we want to live. We don’t want to pass on lead to our children and grandchildren. We want to pass on a good life to them—one where this new technology being developed every day can make life better for all of us. That’s the kind of future that I as a retired GM worker want to pass on to my children and grandchildren.”

 

Ten people stand in silent protest against the change to limit public speaking to three minutes during Flint city council meetings on Friday, April 4, 2014 at Flint City Hall. Emergency Manager Darnell Earley made the change April 1, also moving the public speaking portion at the end of the meetings. PHOTO/JAKE MAY, MLIVE.COM

Ten people stand in silent protest against the change to limit public speaking to three minutes during Flint city council meetings on Friday, April 4, 2014 at Flint City Hall. Emergency Manager Darnell Earley made the change April 1, also moving the public speaking portion at the end of the meetings.
PHOTO/JAKE MAY, MLIVE.COM

 

Ariana Hawk

“That apology {of the governor] ain’t going to help these kids,” said Ariana Hawk, a mother of 3 who is pregnant. She doesn’t know what her children may face because of their exposure. “That apology’s not going to help the families that’s suffering,” she said. (freep.com) [Editor’s note: This is the governor who once referred to Flint as “Murder Town.”]

 

Shea Howell and Tom Stephens, (March, 2015, People’s Tribune)

“The Flint City Council, recognizing the obvious hazards from consuming water too contaminated for GM to use, voted to reconnect to the regional Detroit water system. Flint EM Gerald Ambrose said that Flint’s water is safe to drink and, “incomprehensible to me that seven Flint City Council members want to spend $12 million a year to the system serving southeast Michigan.” So money is more important than human life and health. This is the predicted result of having despotic, unaccountable power-tripping political leaders like Snyder, Ambrose and their EM colleagues.”

 

Mary Johnson, Flint, quoted in National Geographic

‘I’m devastated. Because they told us lies after lies and I believed in my government. Flint is not rich, it’s minority. Poor whites, poor blacks… and they knew about it? That hurts.’

 

On the imprisonment of Michigan’s Rev. Edward Pinkney

“We must push for immediate suspension of all Emergency Managers. They symbolize the destruction of democracy by corporate power,” said Rev. Edward Pinkney as early as 2012. Later, Rev. Pinkney and others from the Benton Harbor community exercised their democratic right to oust officials who serve these corporate dictators. For this, Rev. Pinkney was arrested with phony vote fraud charges. He was convicted without any evidence and sentenced to 2 ½ to 10 years. A precedent has now been set.  Other activists in Michigan can receive the same treatment. Meanwhile, the corporate criminals who have taken over Michigan and poisoned the people of Flint are free.
People’s Tribune

 

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Melissa Mayes, founder and activist at Water You Fighting For?

“My DNA is so damaged, the antibodies are attacking my joints, brains and liver. I have seizures now. My liver is starting to fail, and I have the beginning of cirrhosis. When’s the last time you heard of someone getting cirrhosis of the liver from drinking water? I’m 37, and I hurt every time I move.… I try to keep the severity from [my kids] so they’ll stay positive. But I can’t lie when they ask why they’re so sick and hurt so much. They know that people did this to us, but I try to enforce the fact that we’re fighters, not victims. I feel betrayed by my state government, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and every single person put into place to protect us from exactly what they did to us. I am furious that they took away our voice with the undemocratic Emergency Manager Law. But I also feel proud of the citizens who banded together and did all the protesting, marching, rallying, researching, and testing.” (Excerpts from Huntingtonpost.com)

 

Lucia

“I got close to see what they were giving out, and it was water. And the first thing they asked me for was my license,” said as told by Lucia to ABC. Lucia who has been living in Flint for more than a decade. Local groups are trying to distribute water to the undocumented workers but say they are scared to open the door for them.

 

W. Morales, 10 years old, Highland Park

“People are scared their water will be cut off. You need water to survive. You die without it. And if they cut your water off, they can take your kids away. Why? Because they want to get the poor people out and bring the rich people in. They will make a lot more money with rich people. They also cut off some people because they think they’ve been a thorn in their side, like my Dad. He made the water sign: “I believe water is a human right.” It makes me sad. I think about Flint. Making people drink the poison. People could die and get diseases to make some people rich. They are even trying to make it illegal to use rain water. First they privatize water, then air, and we die. We have to tell the people so they know. Without that they end up lost.  And, don’t buy Nestlés!”

 

Miracle Martin, 3, cries out as her mother Dawnell Martin, both of Flint, gives her a kiss to calm her nerves during a free lead testing event on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 at Carriage Town Ministries in Flint. Molina Healthcare provided children up to six years of age with free lead testing, as well as water filters for families to take home and install. PHOTO/JAKE MAY, MLIVE.COM

Miracle Martin, 3, cries out as her mother Dawnell Martin, both of Flint, gives her a kiss to calm her nerves during a free lead testing event on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 at Carriage Town Ministries in Flint. Molina Healthcare provided children up to six years of age with free lead testing, as well as water filters for families to take home and install.
PHOTO/JAKE MAY, MLIVE.COM

 

Excerpts from a MWRO statement by Maureen D. Taylor

“The crisis flowing through the streets of Flint has galvanized the soul of the country. Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) is very engaged as we look at and react to what has occurred, and we find ourselves in turmoil about what is to be done.  Members of MWRO search for the deeper meaning of events as we try to anticipate political trends in an effort to expose the true nature of capitalism, the economic system we live under that is not good for any of us.

The rise of robotic manufacturing changed forever the profile of Flint. Industrial manufacturing accounted for upwards of 80,000 Flint residents in 1978, and by 2000 – fewer than 8,000 were still connected to factory work.  Today, fewer than half of that number is still actively employed in the one auto factory left.  The city was relegated to the “unimportant sector” because they were no longer part of the active workforce, so their quality of life fell fast.

In 2011, Flint residents, along with several other cities in Michigan, lost the right to vote, stripped of democracy because, “Flint lives don’t matter.”  Democracy was destroyed while America stood by and watched, not understanding the significance of what that meant. The governor authorized a series of EMERGENCY MANAGERS over Flint, who decided it was cost-effective to switch from clean water to river water.

We now face a systemic disaster that calls for a systemic solution. The political call must be adjusted to fit what is needed.  We must continue to deliver water but also consider these steps: demand that residents be temporarily relocated into nearby communities where the water is clean and accessible.  Mobile homes, state-county-city owned houses, vacant apartments, unused military housing—a decent system would have activated use of these and more, offering residents immediate relief and distance from danger.  Clinics offering 24/7 access should be constructed near those sites so that round-the-clock health monitoring can take place since the damage done is permanent. While residents are away from their permanent homes, repairs and replacement of all involved pipes, which should have started within days of discovering what happened, start.  All of these steps should have taken place along with a team of investigators who’s task should be to indict those who caused this crisis.

MWRO hopes we might one day construct steps to unite us as we fight these devils who would destroy humanity, poison children, challenge our collective futures, and harm mother earth all in the name of profit.”

 

PHOTO/VALERIE JEAN

PHOTO/VALERIE JEAN

 

Marian Kramer, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization

“Water is today’s gold.  The corporations want the Great Lakes.  If they get Detroit and Highland Park water they get the key to privatize the Great Lakes. This is just the stomping ground for what they want to do nationally. They are moving to privatization—we’ve got to move to nationalization of the water, the opposite of privatization.  We keep the water public for the benefit of the people and under our control—not for the corporations or the banks (like they did with our monies in the bail out.)”

People’s Tribune Discussion Groups! Call or email us to find out if there is a group in your city. 800-691-6888  or info@peoplestribune.org

 

For more information on the water crisis in Flint see:

 

Poisoning the children of Flint

Nationwide solidarity with Flint

Why are they poisoning our children?

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One thought on “Dictatorship in Michigan: Flint Water Warriors expose the truth

  1. Flint Water, Money and the Roots of Evil
    By Frank X Murphy
    Just when you think you’ve heard it all about Governor Snyder’s poisoning of Flint, via his emergency mismanagement of its municipal water system, a couple reporters “follow the money” and things get even more interesting. Also criminal.

    On February 27, Metro Times investigative reporter Allie Gross wrote a blog post, “Docs reveal Flint’s EM agreed to buy $1M worth of extra water from the KWA — this was never about saving money”
    (http://www.metrotimes.com/Blogs/archives/2016/02/27/em-kurtz-agreed-to-spend-over-1m-per-year-more-than-flint-needed-on-water-from-the-kwa-pipeline).

    A few days later on March 2 Paul Egan wrote an article in the Free Press, “State blocked Flint return to Detroit water” (http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/flint-water-crisis/2016/03/02/dems-say-state-blocked-flint-return-detroit-water/81199076/).

    Gross revealed that the new Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA), whose services were (and maybe still are) intended to supply Flint and its environs with water after it finishes its new pipeline to Lake Huron, got a sweetheart contract from Snyder’s Flint emergency manager Kurtz. The EM agreed that the cash-strapped city would buy (and of course, pay for) way more water than it needed from KWA.

    Knowledgeable watchers of Snyder’s relentless hydraulic genocide in Flint will recall how state officials and emergency managers intended to make the People there drink brown, smelly water contaminated with lead, legionella, carcinogenic chemicals and fecal coliform bacteria (just the stuff we know about so far) for a couple years or so, while they waited for the KWA to come on line. (See Bridge Magazine’s chronology: (http://bridgemi.com/2016/02/flint-water-disaster-timeline/)

    Egan then reported that in April 2015, with public outrage at Flint’s disgusting water quality boiling over and the City Council voting to reconnect to the Detroit Water and Sewerage system’s clean water, Snyder’s men made refusing to return to the Detroit system, and staying with the KWA’s empty promises and temporary poisoning, a mandatory condition of a $7 million emergency loan the city needed to stay afloat. (pun intended)

    This is what’s called a “conditionality” when International Monetary Fund loan sharks impose it on Third World People as a requirement for access to credit and participation in the modern world economy, i.e., for survival. Want to be able to make payroll at City Hall and keep the cops on the beat? Better agree to whatever austerity measures the banks demand to make the rich richer, no matter how much brutal and racist collateral damage. So what do we learn from these latest financial/political reports?

    As Allie Gross concludes, “saving money” had nothing to do with it. On the contrary, Snyder and the commercial, white supremacist political interests he represents were milking Flint, forcing its impoverished, disproportionately African American People to buy and pay for way more water than they need, to benefit the KWA suburban and Chamber of Commerce businesses who were greedily eyeing the immense profit and political potential of running their own water system, subsidized by Flint courtesy of Snyder’s emergency managers.

    Paul Egan adds the cutthroat casino capitalist cherry on top: Snyder and his thugs were so determined to profit by poisoning Flint that they made the continuation of the contamination a mandatory condition of desperately needed municipal finance. Awful, but true. Using Flint simultaneously as a sacrificial lamb and cash cow was apparently a crucial part of the “business case” for the KWA. Just another example of daily life under conditions of austerity in places like Flint, and the fabulous excess profits it generates for Evil Mother Fuckers (EMFs) like Snyder and his political and business cronies.

    The documents coming out of Lansing so far demonstrate a few important things about this almost unbelievably horrible example of Rethuglicans’ inhumanity to Other People, especially black ones and workers:

    1. Snyder and his crew knew exactly what they were doing. They are smart businessmen and this was about money, which they care about. A lot.

    2. The big mistake they made was in underestimating the chances they’d get caught. For decades since the Iran/Contra scandal in the late 1980s, thru continuing campaigns of voter suppression, Bush v. Gore, Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL), and the generous taxpayer-funded bailout of Wall Street in the Great Recession, the Rule has been total impunity for the powerful. Stealing the commons and robbing the public blind worked so well for so long for Thatcher, Reagan, the Bushes, Snyder’s predecessor Michigan Gov. John Engler, and the Too-Big-To-Jail banks who make up Snyder’s class and con-stituency. Who know fate would turn so fast on them after a Virginia college prof and a Flint pediatrician scientifically proved they’ve been poisoning thousands of kids for a year and a half? It’s called running government like a bankrupt, out of control business, and they figured it was just the way things are done, because it is.

    What else do we want to know that would make a difference? A) What to do now, and B) Name the names of Snyder’s cronies who hoped to benefit from this atrocity.

    There’s been a lot of anguished dialog about whether Snyder should merely resign, be recalled or prosecuted. When we know exactly who he and his secret NERD Fund (“New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify”) – run by his close Flint crony Dick Baird – were carrying water for while they poisoned Flint’s People, their run will be over. For good.

    Frank X Murphy is the pen name of a Detroiter who salutes Flint activists for their courage, brilliance and determination, and thanks “Ed” for his Metro Times LTE that inspired this rant: http://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/weekly-reader-responses/Content?oid=2399326

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