Michigan United members and supporters from across the state, gathered in Lansing for its annual ‘Capitol Day’, lashed out at a legislature hesitant to help Flint recover from a tainted water fiasco and a governor who has reneged on a promise to protect the air. After meeting with lawmakers to discuss the Flint Water Crisis, the Clean Power Plan, Elder & Child Care, reducing Mass Incarceration and allowing immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, the group formed a bucket brigade that extended from sinks inside the Capitol building to a water barrel outside.
Gina Luster, a Flint resident who along with a young daughter have suffered from the effects of toxins in her water, addressed the protesters after the barrel was full. “This is going to be a long battle. We’re still experiencing ill effects on our mental, developmental and reproductive health. This will affect us and our kids for generations. We don’t need to just fix the pipes, they need to be replaced. Our lawmakers need to act now.”
After the protesters were finished with the legislature, they turned their focus on the Governor and the march continued across the street to the Romney building.Luster was one of a dozen people from Flint who expected to meet with Rep. Cotter’s office to discuss a supplemental appropriations bill but were turned away when they got there. A staffer for the Speaker of the House instead met with just five of them in a conference room surrounded by dozens of empty seats. In that meeting, he told the group that Rep. Cotter had no intention of addressing SB777, the supplemental Senate appropriations bill that would immediately provide Flint with $123.5 Million for health and infrastructure. Instead, Rep. Cotter will put this issue off for the rest of the summer and wait until the next fiscal year to deal with the crisis in October at the earliest.
Last year, while the EPA was constructing a set of rules for energy production called the Clean Power Plan (CPP), Governor Snyder said Michigan would come up with its own plan, an option the EPA gave states that didn’t want to use the new federal guidelines. But when the CPP was challenged in court, Snyder halted the process for coming up with a CPP for Michigan. Earlier this year, the Michigan United Environmental Justice Team requested a meeting with Snyder’s office that has yet to materialize. So on Capitol Day, they returned in greater numbers.
The demonstration filled the lobby of the Governor’s office. Some protesters filled balloons while others chanted. “We can’t leave it up to the market to decide whose neighborhood gets cleaned up first.” said Vicki Dobbins, a Detroit resident living in the shadow of the Marathon refinery. “We are on the frontlines and our lives depend on the Clean Power Plan being implemented and implemented now!”
Representatives from the Governor’s office came downstairs to tell the crowd that they needed to fill out a formal request to get a meeting but were informed that the group had submitted one the last time they were there. With that, the protesters sat on the floor of the lobby and began chanting “No more forms!” as a contingent went up to the Governor’s office to negotiate with the constituent services director for a meeting with a Snyder environment official to discuss the CPP and ultimately meeting with the Governor in person.
The protesters then left with their balloons full of air they took from the governor and crossed the street to retrieve the water they took from the legislature. As they did, they walked past a truck delivering bottled water to Snyder’s staff. The irony was wasted on no one.