Veterans who organized to support water protectors at Standing Rock have now set their sights on Flint, Michigan. Organizers Wesley “Wes” Clark Jr. and Michael Wood Jr plan to draw media attention to the plight of Flint citizens whose drinking water has been severely tainted by lead. The over 4,500 strong coalition of military veterans from all branches has not yet set a date of arrival for their second civilian deployment. However, Wes Clark Jr. unequivocally told the Flint Journal “we will be heading to Flint.”
The son of 4-Star General and former supreme commander of NATO’s military forces, Wesley Clark Sr., Wesley Clark Jr. is an Army veteran who served from 1992-1996. His interest in activism is by no means recent. He has spoken out against special interest groups and military actions that serve to protect corporate interests rather than the interests of humanity. He has been a guest host on the progressive online political commentary broadcast “The Young Turks.” Clark organized the mobilization against the Dakota Access Pipeline because he considers protecting the environment to be a human issue that should concern all citizens and was appalled by the brutalization of citizens committed to protecting water.
Co-organizer and former Marine, Michael A. Wood Jr gave up his badge at the Baltimore Police Department in 2014 to focus on national police reform efforts. He has voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement and tirelessly advocates for equity in the criminal justice system. As a veteran, Wood recognizes that Native Americans have served the United States military in disproportionately high numbers compared to other ethnic groups. Wood is disturbed by the sanctioned use of U.S. police and military forces as essentially private security goons allowed to terrorize American citizens.
The shift in focus from the Dakota Access Pipeline to the lead contaminated water of Flint, Michigan represents a continuation of the group’s commitment to combat the exploitation of America’s most vulnerable citizens for the sake of profit. In 2015, without citizen input, emergency managers decided to cut costs by using the Flint River as the city’s water source. The corrosive metals in the water caused lead to leach from old pipes into the drinking water supply. The local government was slow to act, even after they were made aware of the problem.
Flint resident Arthur Woodson, a veteran who supports the Standing Rock protestors, is grateful for the media attention the veteran’s group can bring to Flint’s tainted drinking water dilemma. The story has largely fallen out of the news cycle because of the election. The problem has hardly been addressed, much less solved. Only 550 of the 40,000 inhabited homes in Flint have had their pipes replaced. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed, including several class-action suits.
George Grundy, a Flint resident and veteran, is also heartened by the news that the veteran’s group is coming to Flint. “It just shows me that the human spirit is larger than any corporate entity and you can believe in your fellow person because it’s worth it.” Grundy told the Flint Journal.