The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has inspired an unlikely partnership: a local militia group is coordinating with outspoken liberal filmmaker Michael Moore to demand accountability and clean water for residents.
Moore, a Flint native who first gained notoriety for his his documentary on the town’s economic hardships, has spoken out against the state and local government’s negligent handling of the disaster. The high volume of lead in public water supplies has contaminated children’s blood and led Flint’s mayor to declare a state of emergency.
The crisis has drawn widespread attention and outrage.
At a rally on January 16, Michael Moore said, “I am standing in the middle of a crime scene. Ten people have been killed … because of a decision to save money.” The city’s water supply was changed from Detroit’s water supply to the Flint River in 2014, in spite of the new source’s reputation for being filled with contaminants like raw sewage and tires.
Further, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality has admitted its failure in not requiring that non-corrosive additives be added to the water during treatment to counteract the lead that seeps into water from old pipes. Authorities at the state level reportedly belittled concerns from Flint’s local community about the quality of their water. The national EPA has also been criticized for its involvement (or lack thereof) in the water crisis.
These examples of incompetence and corruption, along with the residents’ ongoing suffering, led Moore to speak out. Meanwhile, the Michigan militia, known as the Genesee County Volunteer Militia, has been working with the Red Cross to deliver clean water door-to-door, making stops that include a senior living facility and an elementary school. The Detroit Free Press reported that in a news release, the militia said, “It is nothing less than shocking that our elected officials would try to hide the hazards that residents are being subjected to just by drinking a simple glass of tap water!!!” Further, the group demanded more information from the government on who was “involved in the cover-up.”
Details have emerged that suggest Governor Rick Snyder and his administration ignored warnings about the looming crisis — and that Snyder has since tried to hide this prior knowledge. He released emails this week that were largely redacted, and Michael Moore has called for his arrest.
The militia is planning a rally for Sunday at 2pm at the City of Flint Municipal Center, and is working with Moore to ensure voices of dissent are continually heard.
“We’re trying to coordinate so the protests don’t stop,” Dave McKellar, a member of the right-wing armed force said. He owns a tree service business in Flint.
McKellar expressed his willingness to work with More in spite of differences of opinion on other matters. “We don’t see eye-to-eye on many things,” said McKellar. “For him to step forward and say something good… this time I agree with him.”
As McKellar said of the militia, “What we are is a constitutional defense force. We protect people who can’t protect themselves in time of disaster, be it man-made or other.” Still, the militia has made it clear its focus is not on weapons, but on the crisis at hand. The group posted on Facebook about its upcoming Sunday protest, noting, “We ask that you only wear side arms and not long rifles, this is not about our 2nd Amendment, this is about the infringement on the good people of Flint.”
The alliance between the militia and Michael Moore is admittedly unlikely. One of Moore’s most successful films, Bowling for Columbine, focused on the negative effects of guns in America, and the left’s reaction to the Oregon standoff — including calls to drone strike the so-called “domestic terrorists” have highlighted contentious, long-running divisions between armed protest movements and liberal causes. Animosity between left and right in the United States has reached fever-pitch on countless issues, from healthcare to police brutality to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Nevertheless, the two seemingly conflicting parties have placed the health of their fellow citizens above partisan hatred. Though they do not appear to have established a permanent relationship, Moore and the militia’s collaboration suggests that, perhaps, Americans can share a common cause.
Indeed, a wide variety of groups have stepped up to help residents of Flint. In addition to Michael Moore, the militia, and the Red Cross, an Islamic charity, local activists, and a Native American tribe have committed to helping the struggling community, along with countless Americans across the country.