Activists brave the cold for 'Tri-County Environmental Justice Solidarity Rally'

January 23, 2020 | Jena Brooker

Rally participants at Dad Butler Park Pavilion. Photo by Jena Brooker

Residents from Macomb, Wayne, and Oakland counties came together on a chilly evening Thursday, January 23 for a "Tri-County Environmental Justice Solidarity Rally" at the intersection of the three counties. About 60 people met on Dad Butler playground in Detroit to voice their concerns about environmental justice issues. 

Lauren Schandevel of We The People of Michigan and Justin Onwenu of Sierra Club organized the rally to "to stand in solidarity against a number of incidents of environmental injustice" according to a press release issued prior to the event.

“The idea is that this rally is a launchpad into some ongoing, sustained solidarity work between Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties, and also statewide because we know that other communities across the state are facing the same thing,” said Schandevel. 

Participants gathered under a pavilion to hear from residents from each of the three counties, as well as from three environmental organizations. Sean McBrearty, Michigan Legislative and Political Director for Clean Water Action also spoke, as well as Heather Chen, a student at Bloomfield Hills High School, representing Oakland County. 

Antonio Cosme, a southwest Detroit resident and Education Coordinator at the National Wildlife Federation said, “It’s these sorts of multi-racial, multi-class coalitions that are going to be required to actually make a real difference.” Cosme noted that he lives three miles north of US Steel in a heavily polluted area. 

Along with Cosme were two students who are part of the Detroit Leadership and Environmental Education Program that he leads. After learning about these issues in their class, they said the rally was a good experience “We got to hear everybody voice their opinions,” said Nevaeh Jackson, 16. 

Detroit Public Schools teacher Kerry Williams said that “events like this are absolutely essential for teaching our kids how to stand up, how to get together with people who are active, and how to do something because our mistakes will be their future.”

“The irresponsible actors putting our Great Lakes, families and public health at risk need to pay. Michigan needs strong polluter pay legislation now,” Jamesa Johnson-Greer from Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition said in the press release. 

This event followed an “Ooze cruise” event hosted last week by Bridget Quinn, a Macomb County resident, and Schandevel where community members gathered to tour the site of the green ooze contamination in Madison Heights, after which they gathered to watch the Michigan House Appropriations hearing on the contamination at Max Dugan bar in Hazel Park, home of the infamous Green Ooze shot (rumored to taste like green Jolly Rancher).

Sunrise, Frontline Detroit, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, and other environmental organizations are planning to host another rally on Earth Day.