Nearly 100 protesters gathered outside Hutchins Hall and marched to the Diag on Tuesday afternoon, calling to recall Gov. Rick Snyder (R) in light of the Flint water crisis. The protesters marched across campus shouting multiple chants including “Flint Lives Matter” and “Black Lives Matter.”
A coalition of organizations including the Ann Arbor-Flint Solidarity Network and the Ann Arbor Alliance For Black Lives initially organized the protest in response to a panel on Detroit’s bankruptcy hosted by the University’s Law School that was set to feature Snyder, however, The Law School indefinitely postponed the event last week, but protestors still decided to have the protest.
LSA senior Cassandra Van Dam, an Ann Arbor-Flint Solidarity Network organizer, said she believes pressure from protesters motivated the Law School’s decision.
“Snyder is humiliated,” she said. “It is clear that, had the event gone on, it would have been disrupted and he would have had to answer to the human rights violations that he and his administration have committed against the people of Michigan.”
“The Detroit bankruptcy event was postponed because its organizers don't wish to distract from efforts devoted to higher priorities in the state,” the Law School's communcation director Shelley Rodgers wrote in an e-mail to The Michigan Daily.
The Flint water crisis began in April 2014 when the city, under state emergency management, switched its water supply from Detroit city water to water treatment centers connected to the Flint River, which resulted in contamination after the more corrosive river water caused lead from the pipes to leak into the water. The water supply was not switched back until October 2015. Though Snyder issued a formal apology last month, and has declared a national state of emergency in the city, protesters have alleged that the governor knew about the issues earlier than October, and should have taken action sooner. The governor's office has maintained he learned about the issue in October.
Ann Arbor Alliance For Black Lives representative Rebecca Ahmad-Robinson, a Public Health graduate student, said Snyder should be held accountable not just for Flint, but also for deplorable conditions in the Detroit Public Schools and mass incarceration in state prisons. At multiple points during the event, attendees linked #BlackLivesMatter to Flint.
“We can’t breathe under Snyder, but we also can’t drink water,” Ahmad-Robinson yelled during the march.
Besides students and other citizens upset with the current state in Flint and state politics, the National Lawyers Guild from the University’s Law School sent some of its members. NLG is a national organization that aims to unite various people from the law force that seek to change the ill-structured components of the political and economic systems in the country. Law School student Reid Murdock, a member of the University’s chapter of NLG, said they attended the protest to raise awareness about human rights.
“We are here to ensure that people’s civil rights are protected. Everyone here is using their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” Murdock said. “We are here to make sure things go smoothly and to be a resource and possibly a liaison with the police should they come.”
Other groups present included the Socialist Equality Party. Lawrence Porter, assistant national secretary of the SEP, said he believes the water crisis is not only a crisis but also an attack on the working class people of Flint.
“It’s a crime, without question. It is a monumental crime that is being carried out,” Porter said. “We believe that it’s not just by Snyder; it’s been carried out by both issues. It is a bipartisan attack.”