Flint, Michigan (TFC) – By now, most know the newspaper facts behind what happened in Flint over the Memorial Day weekend. A group of activists, some armed, traveled from over twenty states to bring water to a community poisoned and abandoned by those who should be protecting them. The water was distributed, a rally was held, activists took over the streets, and contacts were made. What happened in Flint was far more significant that that simple storyline.
First, it was an all-star cast of attendees. From high-profile activists like retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis to activists whose activities are a little more controversial in nature and who only go into print under aliases; “Yellow Laces” from my coverage of the Ferguson riots was there. They were men and women I recognized from many other news stories over the years and from across the country. There were veterans of the Ferguson and Baltimore riots, peace activists, an activist I was subpoenaed to defend in an assault on an LEO case, militiamen who stood their ground at Bundy Ranch and the Sugar Pine Mine, Anonymous activists who have outed pedophiles and shut down DC, even the crew who literally tortured me on the Statehouse steps in Ohio was there. Those who attended were very active activists. This ensemble crossed all ideological lines. The crowd spanned from the far-right to the far-left. Constitutionalists, socialists, anarchists, communists, Republicans, Democrats, and just about every other “-ist” were there in support of Flint. All of that was set aside. In front of City Hall, a local activist wanted to close the day with a prayer. Sam Andrews, a right-wing Constitutionalist, led the prayer. People in the crowd who I personally knew to be atheists bowed their heads, not out of conformity but in unity. Earlier, when a speaker referred to centralized government as “unnecessary”, the Constitutionalists (many of whom see the Constitution and The Bill of Rights as ordained by God) didn’t heckle.
These are small acts, but they were visible symbols of the actions that were going on between the various groups. A plan was hatched between militia members, veterans, and anarchists to engage in an act of civil disobedience that would bring new infrastructure to the city without the government’s involvement. Sadly, due to the nature of the plan, that’s all I can write at this time. This was just one of the many actions that occurred by placing all of the resources in one spot and allowing national and local activists to work together without concern for their various ideologies.Second, local law enforcement in the community was more than cooperative. They have to drink the water there, too. One of my hobbies at events is to identify law enforcement surveillance and bring them a gift of some kind. I’ve brought pizzas to surveillance vans, sandwiches to plainclothes cops in crowds, and coffee to guys in cars. It’s a way to remind them they aren’t as slick as they think they are. It’s an arrogant and inflammatory move on my part, but I’ve done it dozens of times. Flint was no exception. One of the local militias identified two surveillance vehicles across the street from the park. I grabbed some bottled water and walked over to the vehicles, escorted by a number of other activists who came to watch the fun. As the windows rolled down, I flashed my “gotcha” smile. That’s when an odd thing happened. They smiled back. Being outed as surveillance normally causes officers to act like a child who just had his balloon popped, but Flint’s Police Department didn’t seem to care. They accepted the water and seemed to consider joining us over at the park
Later, the department said nothing as groups of armed men and women shut down streets during the march. I rode on a flat bed trailer with a group of men carrying AR-15s down city streets. It was a scene more fitting Fallujah than Flint. Officers who will remain unidentified provided information about the state police and federal activities in the area. In short, the police department in Flint is not operating in support of the plan to abandon this community.
Third, the hostility levels are high. The people in this community have nothing left to lose. Their children are being slowly poisoned, their property values have plummeted. They can’t simply sell their homes and move. They have realized the government is not coming to help. They know that corrupt government officials are looking out for each other and that nobody will face real justice for their crimes. Flint is a powder keg.
Without water, it isn’t a question of if Flint explodes, it’s a question of when. The stage is set, however this will differ from both Ferguson and Baltimore. In other riots, the police had a vested interest in quelling the revolt as soon as possible. They were the target. In Flint, it wouldn’t surprise me if officers participated. The support the community has from activists all over the country won’t disappear when a riot breaks out. They will arrive by the truckload, just as they did over the weekend. The difference is that they won’t come with bottles of water to drop on people’s doorsteps, they’ll come with bottles of styrofoam and gas.
I gave a speech at the rally. I spoke of the need for restraint and calm. I decided what I was going to say on the drive to Michigan, prior to seeing the community and listening to their concerns. My message is still the same. Your local activists have made some new contacts, let them continue to try to act in a peaceful manner. They have new resources and fresh troops. The cause of maintaining my advice to remain peaceful isn’t peace for peace’s sake. It’s because, given the factors involved, a riot in Flint will make the violence of Ferguson and Baltimore look like a middle school fistfight under the flag pole. Once it starts in Flint, it will destroy the entire town.
It’s easy for me to say to remain calm. I’m sitting hundreds of miles away and my children aren’t being poisoned. If this riot occurs, people all over the country should remember the government had years to fix this problem. They’ve done nothing. Children are being poisoned. What would you do if it was your kid drinking water that is slowly destroying them? I can’t honestly say I would take the advice of some guy who rode into town for a weekend when I’d been living under those conditions for years. If the community riots, the government created it.