Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was charged yesterday for “willful neglect of duty” following the lead poisoning of tens of thousands of people in the city of Flint. The misdemeanor charge carries a possible prison sentence of up to one year.
For six years, Flint residents have fought hard for justice. Although the charge itself is not nearly enough considering the magnitude of Snyder’s crime, this marks the first time in Michigan history that a governor has been charged for acts committed during their tenure.
In 2014, the state of Michigan appointed an ’emergency manager’ for Flint, a majority Black and deeply impoverished city, with dictatorial powers over city government. Bypassing all elected officials, the emergency manager unhooked the water supply for the residents of Flint from the Great Lakes and switched to the Flint River in an effort to cut costs regardless of the impact on human life.
Mass poisoning direct result of Snyder-imposed dictatorship
The untreated, corrosive river water caused lead to leak from old pipes, which poisoned the water for the entire city. Lead poisoning, which is especially toxic to small children, can lead to permanent brain damage and even death. When residents started to complain about the discolored and foul-smelling water, entire sections of the local and federal government went into action to cover up and defend their crime.
General Motors at this time complained about the lead in the water, and under Snyder’s order the corporation’s plant was reconnected back to Lake Huron. To this day the GM factory is the only Flint address with Lake Huron water. By January 2015, the state was delivering bottled water to government employees in Flint while still actively covering up the high levels of lead in the drinking water.
In addition to lead poisoning, the toxic river water contained a bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, a form of lethal pneumonia. At least twelve people died from the sickness and 80 more were afflicted.
Rick Snyder is the man who signed the laws, appointed all the officials and oversaw all the basic decisions that led to the mass poisoning. Flint is a 45 minute drive away from Lake Huron, part of the Great Lakes, the largest source of freshwater on the planet. Thousands of children have been disabled by lead poisoning because of Snyder’s monstrous cruelty. In a just society, Snyder and all of his accomplices would have been immediately arrested and sent to prison for the rest of his lives.
The people of Flint have organized and fought for years, and will continue to fight for justice. Their struggle is an inspiration to all working people.