Saturday, August 20, 2022

Finally: Some real journalism regarding the Benton Harbor water crisis

 Addressing Benton Harbor’s Lead Water Crisis Took a Village—and Years

As in Flint, Michigan, severe lead contamination in Benton Harbor illustrates the obstacles environmental justice communities face, and why the fight for stronger federal protections continues.


Kyler Sumter   Aug. 9, 2022


Even before elevated lead levels in Benton Harbor’s water were official, there were already rumblings in the Michigan community. Reverend Edward Pinkney recalls that the daughter of a longtime resident, who was visiting from Texas in 2018, ran the bath water and noticed it was yellow and had particles in it. She asked her mom how long it had been this way. The mother’s response: Months.

This is when residents with similar concerns formed the Benton Harbor Community Water Council (BHCWC). Then Pinkney, the organization’s president, sent the water to a public lab. Results showed lead at a concentration of more than 300 parts per billion (ppb), which severely exceeded the federal action level of 15 parts per billion.

Later that year, Cyndi Roper, NRDC’s Michigan senior policy advocate, Nick Leonard, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and Elin Warn Betanzo, a water safety consultant, began separately analyzing Michigan’s water data.

After the infamous water crisis in Flint, and the poor governmental response that followed, they’d been part of a coalition seeking to revise the state’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), which attempts to limit lead and copper in drinking water. And while their work helped ensure Michigan’s LCR became the strongest in the nation, these advocates also wanted to confirm that water utilities were adhering to the new requirements.

“In most instances, nobody is watching those compliance reports,” says Roper.“These utilities and state agencies aren’t used to anybody paying attention.”

That fall, when the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)—the state agency responsible for regulating issues like water contamination—released the compliance report for Benton Harbor, the results were troubling. The small, majority-Black city had its first official lead “action level exceedance.” It wasn’t the last one either. More exceedances followed, in 2019, 2020, and 2021. “We were getting increasingly concerned because there’s no safe level of lead exposure, yet this community was having very persistent elevated lead levels,” says Betanzo.

The lack of aggressive action by state and local agencies in response to this ongoing crisis meant an entire community was left vulnerable to lead levels that posed extraordinary health risks. It also became the impetus for water experts, community leaders, lawyers, and advocates to come together and demand justice for the people of Benton Harbor.

Continue reading:   https://www.nrdc.org/stories/addressing-benton-harbors-lead-water-crisis-took-village-and-years

New Benton Harbor Community Water Council Website!

 Benton Harbor Community Water Council

Check out the wealth of information! Under the "Take Action" tab, you can: 

 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

ACLU and Coalition Partners Condemn the Grand Rapids Police Killing of Patrick Lyoya

 April 13, 2022


ACLU and Coalition Partners Condemn the Grand Rapids Police Killing of Patrick Lyoya and Call for Transparency, Accountability  


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
  
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Following the Grand Rapids Police Department’s (GRPD) release today of several horrific videos documenting the police killing of Congolese father Patrick Lyoya, 26, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU), Greater Grand Rapids NAACP, LINC UP, and Michigan Immigrant Rights Center together grieve with the family and community, and condemn the brutal disregard for Mr. Lyoya’s life. Enough is enough. It is time to put an end to the systemic indifference to Black lives that pervades police culture throughout Grand Rapids, the state, and nation. Accountability requires not just full transparency, but a commitment to fundamentally changing policing so that no more lives are lost. The City and GRPD must listen to the voices of Mr. Lyoya’s family and those at the forefront of this struggle about what they need in this time of crisis. We urgently call on the City of Grand Rapids, GRPD, and government officials to take the following immediate steps:  

  • The name of the officer involved who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya must be disclosed;  
  • A prosecutor outside of Kent County, who does not work regularly with the GRPD, must be appointed to handle this case, as is legally required in many states and is widely acknowledged to be best practice;  
  • A federal investigation must be immediately launched into this killing along with the history and culture of the GRPD;
  • The community must have a seat at the table in the ongoing negotiations over the GRPD police union contracts, which have for far too long shielded officers from accountability and which do not reflect the community’s priorities for how to achieve public safety in our City; 
  • Both the Civilian Appeal Board and the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability must be given the authority, resources, and funding to provide true civilian oversight and be able to affect real change; and 
  • The City and GRPD must respect the constitutional right of all people to protest this tragedy and exercise their freedom of speech without violence, threats or intimidation.  

Loren Khogali, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, has this statement:  

“The brutal and senseless death of Patrick Lyoya is the result of a police interaction that unnecessarily escalated to violence, the reflection of a policing culture that relies on enforcement and tolerates violent responses to nonviolent situations. The community waited nine days for the release of this horrific video showing the death of Patrick Lyoya at the hands of a GRPD officer. The video evidence raises more questions, and the City must be absolutely transparent throughout this investigation. For years, the community has been calling for an end to racist policing practices and for a public safety model based on community reinvestment. The GRPD and City’s lack of response has now resulted in Mr. Lyoya’s killing. This must end. A meaningful and impactful response to the community’s call for change is long overdue.” 

Cle J. Jackson, president of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP has this statement: 

“Rage and hurt do not begin to express the depth of despair that we are experiencing at the site of another Black man killed at the hands of a police officer. When will the killing of Black people stop? We must stop it. We must ensure this senseless loss of life is not in vain. We demand accountability and full transparency. We demand the full release of every document related to the killing of Patrick Lyoya. We demand a police department that can truly be trusted to protect and serve all people. Patrick, his family, and the greater community of Grand Rapids, deserve nothing less.” 

LaKiya Jenkins, executive director of LINC UP has this statement: 
 
“I am deeply saddened by the violent murder of Patrick Lyoya. Our current policing structure continues to fail us and intentional change must happen now. We stand in solidarity with the family and local community in the call for justice. To our community, justice is the immediate arrest of the officer involved and the full cooperation of the other officers on the scene. Justice is ultimately an indictment brought down by an independent prosecutor who will pursue this case with clear eyes. Anything less will be a failure by our city's leaders.” 

Susan Reed, attorney and director of Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, has this statement: 

“Like all immigrants, Patrick Lyoya deserved to find freedom and safety in our country. The Grand Rapids police broke that promise. We mourn with the family and community as we call for justice for Patrick.” 

Know your rights while protesting information and booklets available to download and print are at: https://www.aclumich.org/en/know-your-rights/know-your-rights-when-you-protest


https://www.aclumich.org/en/press-releases/black-life-ended-patrick-lyoya-father-son-should-be-alive-today



Friday, April 08, 2022

Stop the State Police Harassment and Targeting of Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor

Stop the State Police Harassment and Targeting of Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor

April 7, 2022

To Governor Gretchen Whitmer, State Police Director Colonel Joseph Gafper, and DHHS Deputy Director David Knezek:

We are greatly alarmed that Michigan State police are being sent to target and harass Rev. Edward Pinkney, the noted community activist in Benton Harbor, Michigan. On March 25, 2022 Sgt. Hayward of the Paw Paw State Police post and another officer went to Rev. Pinkney’s home. They raised several ridiculous allegations that Rev. Pinkney was selling (donated) water in South Bend, Indiana and that Rev. Pinkney might be tampering with water test results in Benton Harbor. When Rev. Pinkney asked about why the State of Michigan had not paid him for the use of two rooms in his church contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to store filters and water for the past months, the officers accused him of “holding the supplies hostage.” On another recent occasion state troopers came to the church and watched while water was being distributed to community members.

We cannot help but recall that Rev. Pinkney has been the victim of persecution for his community service. He was imprisoned for literally quoting the Bible in an article. This case was thrown out upon appeal but only after Rev. Pinkney spent one year in prison.

On another occasion Rev. Pinkney was arrested, tried and convicted for petitioning to recall the Mayor of Benton Harbor. He spent two and one half years in State prisons. Only after those long years Rev. Pinkney’s case was overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court which found that he had not broken any law. We believe that without the mass public support and pressure Rev. Pinkney would have been killed by the guards in Marquette Prison.

So we take it very seriously when State troopers start harassing the Reverend and when spurious charges start to be floated against him. 

We demand that you take immediate action to stop the harassment, apologize to Rev. Pinkney and ensure that all officials under your direction cease and desist from any and all further actions that target and endanger Rev. Pinkney.


Sincerely, 

David Sole Abayomi Azikiwe Yvonne Jones

Moratorium NOW Coalition


Take Immediate Action:

Call and express your concern or email a message to

  • Governor Gretchen Whitmer 

517-335-7858

Michigan.gov/Whitmer/contact, click Contact the Governor, fill in the information and type in your message


  • State Police Director, Colonel Joseph Gafper

517-332-2521

Msp_webmaster@michigan.gov


  • David Knezek, Deputy Director for Administration, Department of Health and Human Services

313- 864-0161 (cell phone) 

or 517-241-3740 DHHS state office headquarters


Friday, March 18, 2022

Corporate Crime Continues in Benton Harbor

 ~Occupy the PGA ~ May 2022, Benton Harbor ~ Details forthcoming~


Greetings to all,

The struggle that has taken place in recent years in Benton Harbor is a case in point, and one that holds a number of lessons for all Americans. The fight in Benton Harbor is a war, not a conflict.  It's a war over whether or not we (and all Americans) will have clean, safe water.  And after many years, it’s still about whether we will continue to live in poverty under the heel of open corporate rule.

The attack on democracy in Benton Harbor shows that the corporate power structure is determined to crush anyone who stands in its way.  It's part of a process under way across America in various forms.

Let's make this struggle a victory for all.  Let's confront not only the corporation destroying Benton Harbor, but all American corporate crime.  Hope to see everyone at Occupy the PGA 2022!
 
Rev Edward Pinkney