The Black Lives Matter National Network on Jan. 22 issued the following statement of solidarity with the people of Flint, Mich. It has been lightly edited.
The Black Lives Matter National Network stands in solidarity with the people of Flint, Mich., and demands that the Obama administration and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder designate Flint a federal disaster zone indefinitely or as long as it takes to remedy the man-made water crisis.
For [over] a year, Gov. Snyder and other state and city officials sat idly by as the people of Flint were poisoned. A man-made disaster, the water crisis is an explicit and egregious form of state violence, one that impacts low-income Black people hardest. Flint is more than 50 percent Black. More than 40 percent of the residents in the Vehicle City are living below the poverty line — making it the second most impoverished city of its size in the nation.
The right to clean drinking water is a matter of health and dignity, and for many Black residents in Flint, it is also a matter of life and death. Residents living with autoimmune disorders like lupus and HIV are at especially high risk. Additionally, pregnant people, elders and children are all exceptionally susceptible to lead poisoning — the most critical concern for Flint residents who rely on tap water for drinking.
For what it is worth, Resolution 64/292 of the United Nations General Assembly recognizes the human right to water and sanitation. However, like other fundamental human rights, Black people in America — especially those living in rural and poor areas — have long been denied the same access to clean water for drinking, bathing and sanitation as everyone else. The crisis in Flint is not an isolated incident. State violence in the form of contaminated water or no access to water at all is pervasive in Black communities.
The people of Detroit have fought tirelessly against unlawful shutoffs, where in 2015 over 10,000 households were without running water and more than 27,000 homes had their water shut off.
Government officials who promised to earmark money to connect homes that once relied on wells to local water systems have let down rural residents in Mississippi time and time again — some waiting as long as seven years for water their families can rely on.
Black small-scale farmers and agriculturists in California, who since the early 20th century have relied on crops to sustain their families, are facing bleak circumstances because of California’s drought. While the drought is not entirely man-made, for more than half a century Black families living in the Central Valley experienced systemic racial discrimination by the state that excluded them from buying land in towns that had access to reliable water sources. The land on which they could settle, where they live today, still doesn’t have access to reliable sources of water.
Stop state-sanctioned racist violence
The water crisis in Flint is one of many ways state agencies and elected officials have sanctioned violence against Black people. In solidarity with the people of Flint, Mich., the Black Lives Matter National Network demands the following:
- Gov. Snyder request Flint be named a federal disaster zone
- A moratorium on all water shutoffs
- Removal of all water liens on property taxes
- Immediate replacement of all water public infrastructure including service lines at no cost to residents and business owners
- Refund for all water bills since the switch to the Flint water system
- Creation of a fund to repair all property damage from the toxic water such as appliances, interior plumbing, water heaters and furnaces
- The lifting of executive immunity from the Governor’s office and the immediate release of communications related to the Flint water crisis
- An independent state and federal investigation into the Flint water crisis
- Creation of a Flint Citizen Civilian Core to train local workers to repair the infrastructure
- Creation of a holistic medical care facility in Flint to treat residents that will offer chelation therapy as treatment for lead poisoning
- Installation of whole home reverse osmosis systems in all homes and businesses to protect residents and businesses from all contaminants in the water
- Creation of a medical monitoring fund for treatment of Flint residents
- Return of Flint to home rule
- The immediate resignation of Gov. Rick Snyder
Additionally, we urge the Environmental Protection Agency, which, with the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, is charged with oversight, funding and development of water systems, to develop a comprehensive plan to address the violation of Resolution 64/292 of the United Nations General Assembly that recognizes the human right to water and sanitation.