Friends of the Earth and partnering organizations deliver peitions to the DNC on March 2, 2016.

80,000+ people demand Flint debate focus on justice

by Jenny Bock, economic justice campaigner

On Wednesday, March 2 Friends of the Earth, along with 17 environmental justice, racial justice and environmental groups stormed the Democratic National Committee headquarters to let them know that more than 80,000 people demand justice for Flint. With the devastating water crisis in Flint, Michigan making headlines and the Democratic presidential candidates holding their next debate in Flint, we demand the DNC and CNN start a much needed national discussion about the racial and environmental injustices our country faces. We’re asking that they focus this Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate in Flint exclusively on discussing race, economic inequality and the anti-environmental policies that harm our nation’s most vulnerable communities.

Right now, in Flint, thousands of people are being denied access to clean water — and the Governor knew about it! But that’s not the whole story. The truth is, the people whose water is being polluted are disproportionally low-income and people of color. And we know that Flint isn’t an isolated case. It’s long past time to shine a light on racial and environmental injustices like this all over the country. And the good news is, the upcoming Democratic debate in Flint is an opportunity to do just that. Presidential debates have covered topics such as the economy, healthcare, national security and immigration at length. We need to make sure that the debate focuses on racial and environmental justice rather than brushing these issues — which have never been the main topic of a debate before — to the side.

The water crisis in Flint didn’t start as an environmental problem — it started as a decades-long financial crisis. The city’s emergency manager made the decision to switch the city’s water source to the more corrosive Flint River purportedly to save money. Flint’s residents and local leaders sounded the alarm, but they were ignored by state officials. The result? They were exposed to lead-tainted water. The state government is now being investigated by the Department of Justice to determine whether or not activities that led to Flint’s water crisis involved criminal conduct.

It’s not too late! Sign our petition to the DNC and CNN here.

This is an issue of basic human rights. It is unacceptable that children are being poisoned by water that is supposed to be managed for and by the people. From polluted water to toxic air, low-income communities of color are disproportionately impacted. On top of that, these same communities are being disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. If we truly want to protect our climate, our air and our water, we have to fight to protect it for everyone, and not just the wealthy few. That means we need to know how our next President will advance racial and environmental justice. The upcoming debate is our chance to make that happen.

Friends of the Earth’s Vice President of Programs, Michelle Chan, discusses the importance of having this dialogue as we get deeper into the 2016 presidential election, “The water crisis in Flint has brought into stark relief an interconnected set of problems, including racism, environmental degradation and market fundamentalism, which undermines government and fails to provide for the common good. As a society we must pull together to tackle these problems, and voters deserve a robust debate on these issues in Flint.”

As the Democratic presidential primary heads to states where voters of color comprise a significant portion of the electorate, both presidential campaigns are relying on minorities to turn out to vote for them. However it will take more than a visit to show voters racial and environmental injustice is an issue that our next president will take seriously.

Friends of the Earth’s Jenny Bock and partnering organizations talk to Eric Walker, DNC Communications representative, who received the petitions. March 2, 2016.

By staging our demonstration in front of the DNC’s headquarters we were successfully able to meet face to face with a DNC official. We delivered our petition, signed by more than 80,000 people from across the country, to Eric Walker, a Communications representative from the DNC who said he will pass on our demands to the CNN debate moderators and his bosses at the DNC who include Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the DNC.

As a follow up to our interaction, Mr. Walker continued the conversation on Twitter:

It was inspiring to partake in this demonstration with our partners Environmental Action, Honor the Earth, Climate Hawks Vote, ColorofChange, Daily Kos and Food and Water Watch. It was also deeply humbling share this moment with our volunteer Tiziana Bottino, who came to our action with her infant daughter Adriana. If our future is coming out to speak about #JusticeForFlint, it’s only right that the Democratic Party do the same.

Tiziana Bottino and Adriana at the DNC Flint rally. March 2, 2016.

It’s not too late to make sure they hear our message loud and clear. Sign our petition to the DNC and CNN here.

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