Detroit Raw by Sam Riddle
Stop the pollution, block the trucks
Mind snacking in the Clique with Michigan National Action Network (NAN) president Rev. Charles Williams II, we were kicking it about the petroleum coke dumping on the banks of the Detroit River by Marathon Oil and the Koch brothers.
What a duo that is – aided and abetted – as they use land provided by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge.
Billionaires gone wild!
Joined soon by NAN supporter Mary Waters, a former state representative with a 100 percent approval rating by environmentalist; Waters is a breast cancer survivor with very strong feelings about anyone that might be spewing poisonous material anywhere.
We decided that we would ride together to a site where a coalition of protectors and advocates for a healthy environment were protest camping near the entrance to the pet coke dumping site off of Fort and Rosa Parks in Detroit.
I was immediately impressed with the sincerity of this mostly white relatively young band of environmentalists determined to end the dumping of the dusty petro sludge that was blowing in the air to the extent that filtration face masks were issued to we NAN neophytes.
After the obligatory denunciation of billionaire wilding we agreed that more direct action would be needed to stop this pet coke dumping by the privileged 1%.
Mary Waters sporting a mask to deflect the dusty black particles walked to the entrance gate of the storage facility noting the soot like substance was coating her shoes.
As large double trailer tractor trucks entered and departed the facility Mary looked on with disgust.
“I don’t want anyone to go through what I endured when I underwent chemo,” Waters said shaking her head in disgust. “We must shut this down,” she declared as she trudged back to the protest camp site.
Suddenly a long rope was produced giving birth to a spontaneous “stop the trucks” effort by what was initially only a handful of individuals that held the rope taut as we locked unto one another and blocked the roadway stopping one of the trucks from entering the pet coke storage facility.
It was on.
We felt our people power as we declined to move when a green and white border patrol officer demanded that we move.
Rev. Williams unleashed one of our NAN protest chants that was picked up by the human truck blockade “What do we want? Clean air! When do we want it? Now! No Justice! No Peace!”
Enter the Detroit police. No major obstacle, the truck went nowhere as the coalition of those that simply want a clean environment held their ground. Do note, this was a majority young white folk effort that refused to budge when police advised them to move in America’s Blackest and poorest city that has become a dumping ground for polluters and democracy destroyers.
The power of direct action does not always flow smoothly but without the confrontation we will go meekly to the slaughterhouse of catatonic inaction. Our children and communities deserve better. Organize, confront power and build coalitions as we identify friends and enemies by behavior not race, gender or sexual preference.
We must never let haters cause us to lose hope or dislike ourselves and never let haters make you weak in your faith. Keep the faith. Stay on the battlefield.
Sam Riddle is political director for the National Action Network.