On Thursday, “Mississippi activists joined a federal lawsuit against the City of Jackson for violating standards for clean drinking water,” reports local NBC news outlet WTVA.
This occurred after Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign and People’s Advocacy Institute had filed papers with the court the day before, requesting “to intervene in the federal government’s lawsuit against Jackson,” Associated Press reports.
The activist groups want to officially join the federal lawsuit so that community groups in Jackson will have a more “institutionalized role in settlement negotiations.” Their demands include installing water filters in homes and for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to convene open meetings, among other requests.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the activists maintained they were speaking on behalf of the residents in the majority Black city of Jackson, who would like to have more say over the reforms to their drinking water system.
NBC News writes that “Jackson has one of the oldest water systems in the country,” and has been under the scrutiny of the federal government for more than a decade.
The city’s water crisis reached a crescendo during the summer of 2022, where approximately 150,000 residents were forced to endure days and even weeks without potable water. In the wake of this tragedy, some media outlets began referring to Jackson as the new Flint.
Organizer Danyelle Holmes of the Mississippi Poor People’s campaign said, “We feel like our lives are on the chopping block here in the city of Jackson,” continuing, “We could no longer sit by idly as government agencies allow residents to be told that it’s OK to drink unclean water.
U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate, who is Black, said in a July 21 ruling that the Black activists who have raised concerns lacked merit.
Wingate wrote, “They have no experience in water management, and no logical rationale why an African American would be better suited to fix a lingering problem which has gone unsolved for decades by past African American leadership.”
Holmes struck back at Wingate at the press conference, saying “When the judge made his statement that we just want someone Black to fix our water, that is very disingenuous. That’s a disgrace.”
“You have a judge who is pitting Black against white, poor against the wealthy, and it’s totally unfair. Whether you’re Black, white or brown, we’re all consuming the same water unless you’re wealthy and have purchased a filtration system, which many of the residents who are predominantly Black cannot afford,” added Holmes.
Fellow activist Brooke Floyd, co-director of the Jackson People’s Assembly, also spoke up. “I think it’s just unconscionable that it was even brought up,” Floyd said. “The race stuff was ridiculous, and it’s also ridiculous to say that because we are upset our water is not safe to drink, that we should just go sit down and be quiet and take what is given to us.”