by Jay Syrmopoulos, December 7th 2016
After seemingly tipping the scales of justice in favor of the Standing Rock Sioux, the “Veterans for Standing Rock” are now taking their community activism to Flint, Michigan.
“We don’t know when we are going to be there but we will be heading to Flint,” U.S. Army veteran Wes Clark Jr., who helped organize veterans who went to Standing Rock, told the Flint Journal. “This problem is all over the county. It’s got to be more than veterans. People have been treated wrong in this county for a long time.”
Flint resident Arthur Woodson said the military veterans’ presence in Standing Rock was an important factor in ending the standoff between the Oceti Sakowin and Energy Transfer Partners – the company behind the DAPL.
“I feel that by the veterans coming out and leading up to it all the media attention,” Woodson told the Journal. “All the media attention that was there brought more attention to Standing Rock. The government had a change of heart.”
Woodson was one of the thousands of veterans that traveled to Standing Rock on Dec. 3, along with another Flint resident and military veteran, George F. Grundy II, who noted the overwhelming traction the Flint water crisis had gained with supporters of the Standing Rock fight.
“These are people who have been just as oppressed and in some other forms more oppressed than black folks and to hear these people speak the name of Flint and know that Flint is in duress too and say that we are in their prayers that just does a lot to me,” said Grundy. “It just shows me that the human spirit is larger than any corporate entity and you can believe in your fellow person because it’s worth it.”
It’s estimated that 4,500 came to Standing Rock as part of “Veterans for Standing Rock,” and Both Woodson and Grundy talked to community activists, veterans and Native Americans about the Flint water crisis, stressing the importance of keeping Flint in the national spotlight until solutions are formulated and implemented.
As we previously reported, a Virginia Tech professor, after filing a FOIA request, discovered Michigan state officials knew the city of Flint’s water supply was giving children lead poisoning while falsely assuring residents that the water was safe.
Although the government had been aware of the increased levels of lead poisoning since July, they continued to lie to the public until a Flint pediatrician published a study in September that found lead exposure in children had doubled citywide and nearly tripled in high-risk areas.
Agreeing to temporarily switch from Detroit’s water supply to the Flint River in April 2014, residents in the city of Flint immediately noticed their tap water appeared cloudy while emitting a pungent odor. After testing the water supply on August 14, 2014, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) discovered the water tested positive for fecal coliform bacteria, also known as E. coli. Although the city issued several boil advisories to kill the bacteria, the CDC has found that heating or boiling water only increases the lead concentration in the water.
According to a report from US Uncut:
Scientists discovered that water from the water people had been drinking since 2014 was 19 times more corrosive than the Lake Huron water the city had been purchasing from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department.
The corrosive elements in the city’s new drinking water supply further eroded the city’s aging water infrastructure, and fragments of the lead pipes supplying water to homes within the city made it into residents’ homes. A class-action lawsuit alleges the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality didn’t treat the river water with an anti-corrosive agent, which would be a violation of federal law.
Community activist Jay Ponti noted that much of the focus on Flint had been diverted and that it’s crucial for journalists to continue to cover the continuing water crisis in Flint.
“The flow of information is very low because the media has been concerned with covering…the presidential election,” Ponti, a community activist and founder of the website Revhub.org, told the Flint Journal. “It’s a great disservice. You cannot have a healthy democracy if the citizens are not informed. When there is no information…the citizens cannot make decisions…Our people are suffering. They are suffering in Standing Rock. They are suffering in Flint. They are suffering in Louisiana.”
Ponti called out the city of Flint and the state of Michigan for spewing propaganda rather than fixing the problem.
“People can’t drink water in Flint, Michigan,” Ponti said. “They can’t take baths. They are poisoned. They are spending more money on propaganda instead of fixing pipes.”
The fact that the veterans have decided to organize, as a powerful protest force, can in many ways be looked at as a catalyst for needed change. But as Wes Clark Jr. noted, “It’s got to be more than veterans.”
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