Stop Governor Snyder and his new Emergency Manager Rhodes from Poisoning Detroit’s Children

BAMN May 14, 2016 Featured, Fighting Racism, Public Education, Social Justice Comments Off on Stop Governor Snyder and his new Emergency Manager Rhodes from Poisoning Detroit’s Children
Stop Governor Snyder and his new Emergency Manager Rhodes from Poisoning Detroit’s Children



  • Test for contamination in ALL schools in Detroit and across Michigan NOW
  • Medical screening conducted in the schools for all students
  • Find and remove the sources of contamination — fix the problem rather than use it as an excuse to close schools
  • Declare a Federal Emergency to make additional funds available
  • Emergency Manager Steven Rhodes must go — No more authority for Gov. Snyder to manage dictatorial regimes — End all state takeovers
  • Stop the attacks on public education
  • Restore democracy in Detroit — End the New Jim Crow


Sign and circulate the petition to “Restore the Democratic Rights of the People of Detroit Now.” Contact BAMN for more information.


Tuesday, May 17, at 5pm

St. Matthew’s & St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church,

8850 Woodward Ave

Detroit, MI 48202

Join BAMN’s class-action lawsuit to win justice against the lead and copper poisoning crisis.

If your child has tested positive for lead or copper poisoning, contact BAMN immediately. Not all schools have been tested for contamination; check local listings.

Lead and copper poisoning flows through the plumbing of Detroit schools. The contaminants cause permanent brain damage, kidney problems, retardation of physical growth, and are toxic to every organ in the human body. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects. Medical science has found no cure.

The recent discovery of this public health crisis revealed during the ongoing scandal of lead poisoning in the Flint water supply now marks the most appalling chapter of the state takeover of Detroit. Ever since the state takeover has closed more than 100 schools, purged over 100,000 students from the district, created a blight of abandoned buildings and neighborhoods, and did all of this under the pretense of resolving a debt that the takeover  has only made worse. Now, lead poisoning threatens the developing minds of Detroit’s children, and yet Governor Snyder’s takeover regime still only concerns itself to avoid spending any money and to avoid taking any responsibility.

No Children in Detroit is safe while Governor Snyder commands the city with unchecked, dictatorial power. Detroit faces the most critical civil rights struggle in its history- a struggle for the lives and wellbeing of Detroit’s children.

End all “Emergency Manager” regimes. Stop the destruction of our community.

The water contamination in Detroit and Flint are the result of an extraordinary abuse of power, and that same abuse is now preventing any effective emergency response. The Synder administration suspended democracy in numerous Michigan cities (Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Highland Park), assuming dictatorial control through a previously-obscure “Emergency Manager” law, and proceeded to decimate the schools and the public health conditions in Michigan’s predominantly black, Latino, and poor communities. The immediate aim of these measures was to cut spending on public education and social services, diverting the money towards charter school companies and other private contractors, instead. The results became national scandals. The EAA “Snyder Schools” have consistently ranked among the very worst in the country, and made headlines last year when various EAA authorities were indicted on charges of corruption. The entire Flint water supply has become a poison delivery system, as lead contamination spread throughout the  city- Synder’s administration refused to warn the public or even acknowledge the problem until higher authorities intervened.

And now Detroit is facing its own lead contamination crisis, as well. The escalating numbers of

The escalating numbers of takeover-related catastrophes were not accidents- they were the direct result of the policy to slash and redirect funding away from essential services. Likewise, the failure of the takeovers to manage these catastrophes is not accidental, either.

When news of the scandal emerged that Detroit’s children have been subjected to lead contamination in the schools, the response of Governor Snyder and Emergency Manager Stephen Rhodes was both equally predictable and shameful. Their practical “remedies” were to take only such measures that cost virtually nothing: after turn off the water in the most contaminated schools, the district administration granted the provision of only three shot-glass-sized containers of clean water for each student to drink per day. The water contamination test was funded through an outside grant. No medical screening in the schools, no professional assessments to detect impairments in brain function, and of course no building repairs to remove the contaminants. The public statements of the Snyder regime were similarly empty- they could barely maintain any posture of real concern because their primary objective of their statements were to make the problems sound minimal and to avert any outburst of public discontent. The “Emergency Manager” was largely preoccupied with downplaying the severity of the emergency and avoiding any expenditures for managing it.

Any decent, responsible leadership would have and should have taken immediate action to remove the contaminants from the schools and to provide a safe and healthy learning environment. However, because the Snyder regime only prioritizes how to avoid spending money on Detroit’s children, there is the additional danger that the takeover could initiate a new round of school closings rather than pay to keep the buildings safely operational. Students not only face the threat of permanent brain damage from lead poisoning, but also the threat of losing their schools, altogether.

Even in the face of a humanitarian crisis, the Snyder takeover regime does willingly make any exceptions to its destructive agenda. This is the plainest expression of the New Jim Crow, a regime in which the profits of the Governor’s business partners take priority over the very lives and wellbeing of every black, Latino, poor and working class child in the state.

The state takeovers must be abolished, democracy must be restored, and the enemies of public education must never again place their hands upon the students of Detroit

Build the new civil rights movement to restore out democratic rights now.

The accumulation of scandals- lead poisoning, financial mismanagement, and the destruction of education- have combined to weaken the Snyder administration severely. The months of teacher and student sickouts and walkouts put the takeover on its knees and succeeded in the previous Emergency Manager, Darnell Earley. These factors have even created a situation in which the Governor cannot pass any legislation in pursuit of his larger agenda, because the members of his own party are attempting to dissociate themselves from the long list of catastrophes that he has precipitated.

But these fact by themselves are not enough to restore the democratic rights of the people of Detroit. They simply prove that we can.

Tyrants never give up their power without a fight. in 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate can never be equal”, this was a truly momentous event- but it did not stop any of the Southern segregationists from continuing to impose their Jim Crow laws. To realize the promise of integration and democratic rights for America’s black communities, it was necessary to build a mass civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led that movement on the basis of direct action and community organizing. Only when that movement became powerful enough did it then become possible to break the resistance of the old, racist Southern states. The federal government did not and would not have enforced its promises of civil rights without King’s struggle.

The movement led by Dr. King was the real source and real practice of democracy for millions of black Americans- the formal rights arrived belatedly. After King’s death, when the movement began to diminish, the formal rights began to diminish, as well. A democracy “of the people, by the people , and for the people” does not truly exist without the direct, mass assertion of power by those people. Democracy can only exist in the Detroit  schools insofar as the students, teachers, and community can impose our own will and our own interests against the powers who seek to rule otherwise. No one can give democracy to us- we must create it for ourselves.

The great task of the next period is for the disenfranchised community of Detroit to become the single, commanding power guiding the direction of the city. Not the corporate “reformers”and their predatory vision for a “new” Detroit, not the petty bureaucrats and careerists who only interested in advancing their own positions, but just us fighting together for our community and for the lives of the students who are now in real danger. There has never been a more urgent time to fight.



There is no “safe” level of lead.

Even the smallest amounts of lead can cause serious harm (see below). But politicians and the news media are creating a false impression to the contrary, by referring only to “action levels” at which the government is required to remove the contaminants. These are arbitrary, legal standards—not medical standards. If anyone tells you that the amount of lead in a school or in a child’s bloodstream is “safe” because it is below a certain threshold, that is a lie. The only relevance of those thresholds is that there are levels below which the government has decided to do absolutely nothing—regardless of the health risk.

Authorities can do much more than they claim.

While there is no cure for the damage caused by lead poisoning, there are medicines that purge lead from the body to prevent further damage. Also, medical screening for lead in the bloodstream is available for free—there is no reason why this cannot be done in the schools.

It is necessary to replace the old plumbing lines.

Even in brand new buildings, there can be old lead pipes underneath that connect to the city water supply. That is why some of the most toxic schools are actually new. That is also why school closures solve nothing. Without replacing the pipes, the problem just continues. Additionally, some contaminated schools have only blocked off the particular water fountains that tested positive. This is a terrible mistake—all the water must be presumed unsafe until the source of the toxins is found and replaced.



A Caucus Fighting for Civil Rights and Public Education in the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers
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About The Author

BAMN is a mass, democratic, integrated, national organization dedicated to building a new mass civil rights movement to defend affirmative action,integration, and the other gains of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and to advance the struggle for equality in American society by any means necessary.

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