The nearly 4,000 veterans that arrive in the last two weeks to the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota already have their next destination in mind – Flint, Michigan.
Wes Clark Jr., who organized the thousands of veterans that went to Standing Rock to provide human shields and stand in solidarity with the water protectors, is also planning the mobilization to Flint. Clark says, “The problem is all over the county. It’s got to be more than veterans. People have been treated wrong in this country for a long time.”
Although the camps at Standing Rock received the good news over the weekend that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied the permit for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, veterans are remaining vigilant with the water protectors and have not yet decided on a date to make their stand in Flint.
Flint has received relatively little media and public attention in the last few months, but residents there are still without clean drinking water and have been for years now. Flint resident Arthur Woodson, a veteran and supporter of the Standing Rock water protectors, hopes that veterans going to Flint will revive the media attention and hopefully create enough public pressure to make changes.
“All the media attention that was there brought more attention to Standing Rock. The government had a change of heart,” says Woodson.
Another Flint resident and veteran making a stand at Standing Rock, George F. grundy II, told the Flint Journal:
“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. 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.”
Flint’s water problems began when the city decided to switch the public water supply in 2014. After the switch the water pipes leached lead into the water supply, causing a massive public health crisis. Initially, city and state officials denied that there was a serious problem, even after hundreds of Flint residents complained about the small and color of the water. In August of 2014 E. coli and total coliform bacteria were detected in the drinking water. The following February high lead levels were found, causing hundreds of people we be diagnosed with lead poisoning, and 4.0 percent of children ages 5 and under to have elevated blood lead levels.
A state of emergency was declared, followed by the EPA issuing an emergency order for action on the crisis. Several officials have been seen criminal charges brought against them, but lack of funding governmental red tape has kept serious solutions from being executed. In April of 2016, the water was still deemed unsafe.