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Kamryn, Payton, and Tra'Vaughn Lightfoot tested positive for lead, and the family has now joined a class action lawsuit to hold local and state officials responsible. (Photo: Courtesy Lightfoot Family)

Knowing "Spotlight Will Pass," Community Seeks Answers for Flint's Future

"It's an atrocity, what's happening here. It shouldn't be happening in America, but it is."

Deirdre Fulton

After fresh calls for Gov. Rick Snyder's resignation emerged from Sunday night's Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, local and national activists came together Monday morning to bear witness to and demand concrete solutions for the city's ongoing lead-poisoning crisis.

"It's an atrocity, what's happening here," actor and environmentalist Mark Ruffalo said at a press conference at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Flint, where he was flanked by Flint Rising community organizers as well as representatives of national groups like Green for All and NextGen Climate. "It shouldn't be happening in America, but it is."

"It goes against the very nature of American democracy to subject citizens to the mistreatment that the residents of Flint have borne the brunt of for years," added Van Jones, former green jobs advisor to President Barack Obama and founder of Green For All, who joined Ruffalo in calling for Obama to declare the situation a national disaster. "Situations like Flint don't develop overnight; they are the result of long-standing neglect from all parts of our society."

The event marked the launch of the Support For Flint's Future bus tour, which will make visits across the beleaguered city in order to "provide a megaphone for the community leaders and organizations working to address the crisis in Flint," according to Vien Truong, director of Green For All. 

"Residents have gone through some of the worst years in recent history and now deserve the best the country has to offer—in expertise, support and resources to help Flint make a comeback," she said. 

Specifically, the campaign will support and highlight three key demands from local group Flint Rising:

  1. Reimbursements for residents that have been forced to continue paying for contaminated water;
  2. New pipes that deliver clean drinking water, with the jobs going to local residents; and
  3. Long-term infrastructure investments in Flint to counter the brutal financial impact of the crisis.

Indeed, such support is critical as the community prepares to inevitably move out of the public eye. "This has been a spotlight here...that will pass," said organizer Art Reyes on Monday. "That's why it's critical that we're building local power."

Snyder, for his part, used the occasion of the debate to blame government bureaucracy for the public health emergency in Flint.

Meanwhile, seven Flint families filed a class action lawsuit on Monday against Snyder as well as government officials and corporations. Seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages, the suit—one of several to have been filed over the last few months—alleges that tens of thousands of residents have suffered physical and economic injuries and damages as a result of the water crisis, while officials failed to take action over "dangerous levels of lead" in drinking water and "downplayed the severity of the contamination."

People are tweeting about the Flint's Future campaign under the hashtag #FlintRising:

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