Detroit, Michigan - Recurring power outages have become a fact of life in Detroit and Southeast Michigan. The most recent mass outage left hundreds of thousands in Metro Detroit without power following a brief windstorm on August 29th. Four days on, tens of thousands were still unable to run their medical devices and prevent their food from spoiling. With outages becoming more severe and more frequent as the climate crisis worsens, profit-driven utilities want to take more out of the pockets of working people struggling to afford their unreliable energy service. Even before the most recent outages, the frustration in Detroit and surrounding areas was palpable. On Monday, August 22, hundreds demonstrated and turned out to a public hearing held by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to denounce DTE’s latest exorbitant electricity rate hike amid soaring inflation and perennial outages.
Lansing, Michigan - A Chipotle restaurant in Lansing, Mich., voted Thursday to unionize, making it the first of the chain's nearly 3,000 locations to do so. The employees are seeking improved schedules and higher wages, and first filed for a union election July 5. "Today's victory is an amazing moment for our team that has worked so hard and spent many months organizing," said Samantha Smith, 18, a crew member who has worked at the location for over two years. "We set out to show that our generation can make substantial change in this world and improve our working conditions by taking action collectively. Employees at the location first filed for a union election July 5. They are being backed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union with 1.2 million members across professions such as warehouse workers, pilots, public defenders and more.
Elnora Gavin is a lifelong Benton Harbor resident and currently works as the West Michigan organizer with We the People Michigan. In this interview, she talks about her love for Benton Harbor, the challenges facing ordinary people there, and how they’re fighting to address everything from school closures to a disastrous human-made water crisis, and ultimately create a Benton Harbor where everyone flourishes. Eli Day, a Detroit-based writer and We the People Michigan communications director, interviewed Gavin for Convergence.
Patrick Lyoya, 26, an African immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was shot in the back of the head by patrolman Christopher Schurr on April 4. This act of police violence was met with widespread shock and mass demonstrations demanding that Schurr be terminated from the Grand Rapids police department and charged with murder. There was an announcement made on June 15 saying that Schurr had been fired from the Grand Rapid Police Department. This came less than a week after his indictment on second degree murder charges in the death of Lyoya. Despite the national attention focusing on the killing of Lyoya, it would take more than two months for Schurr to be indicted for second degree murder.
Over two weeks after Patrick Lyoya, 26, was stopped, chased, tackled and shot in the back of the head by a Grand Rapids patrolman, killing him instantly, there still has not been any punitive action taken against the white officer responsible for the death of the Congolese immigrant. The City of Grand Rapids has refused to even release the name of the officer since he has not yet been charged with a crime. This incident in a major midwestern municipality clearly illustrates the systematic refusal by the local, state and federal government agencies to address the ongoing deaths at the hands of the police. Two years since the brutal shooting deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many others, the relevant authorities responsible for the funding and oversight of law-enforcement have refused to take any action to reform the operational culture of the police.
When Governor Whitmer signed the bipartisan Building Michigan Together Plan, she chose to allow a $50 million subsidy to Michigan Potash Company to remain in the bill. MCWC and other concerned groups and citizens learned about this gift to a poorly conceived start-up project only days before the bill came out of the legislature for signature. We have been investigating and opposing this unnecessary and potentially destructive scheme for the last 6 years. Clearly neither the legislature nor the Governor took the time to investigate this venture before slipping it into the otherwise decent infrastructure bill. The people of Michigan deserve a better deal.
A crowd of hundreds marched to the Grand Rapids City Commissioners meeting, April 12, to demand both the release of the raw video showing the murder of Patrick Lyoya and the arrest of the still-unnamed killer cop. Lyoya was a 26-year-old Congolese immigrant executed by the Grand Rapids Police Department last week. In the days after his death, citywide mourning and protests against the police have increased and are expected to surge after the release of the video this Wednesday. The police department has continued to stall the footage, while the city insists it is acting in full transparency. Patrick’s father, Peter Lyoya, said the video shows his son murdered “execution style” on the ground. The family has said the narrative of the department, that there was a “struggle,” runs counter to the facts.
Ever since Nestle applied for the permit to increase pumping at the White Pine Springs well (PW 101)in Evart for its bottling operation in Stanwood in 2016, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has been contesting this outrageous water grab. We have argued in public forums, educated across the state about the injustices this grab represents to the people and ecosystems of Michigan, and worked with organizations and citizens who submitted thousands of comments opposing the more than 200,000 gallons a day increase. Failure of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to deny this increase has left two former trout streams badly damaged. We have had a few victories along the way, but without strict enforcement by EGLE, the damage will continue.
Vassar, MI - On Tuesday morning, an unidentified Michigain Water Protector turned a valve on Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, stopping the flow of oil through the line which has been operating illegally since May 12, 2021. The water protector called Enbridge so that they could safely halt the flow of oil before reading a statement and turning the valve to halt the operation of the pipeline. Governor Whitmer has stated in a press release, “Enbridge has imposed on the people of Michigan an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes that could devastate our economy and way of life.” The valve turner echoed this urgency, stating, “Enbridge has no legal right to operate this pipeline and the continued operation of Line 5 is an imminent threat to my life, and the lives of an untold number of other people and living beings.
The City of Highland Park, a predominantly Black city surrounded by Detroit, Michigan, has had most of its residential streets in the dark for the last 10 years. In 2011, the city owed $4 million to utility company DTE Energy. An agreement was made between DTE and city officials to remove roughly 1,200 streetlights to settle the debt. Reports suggest the repossessed lights were sold for scrap. Since then, Highland Park remained in the dark figuratively and literally. Residents had no clue what happened. “And it was just really a sad day actually seeing the poles, the trucks came to take the poles out, and it just left these stumps,” says Shamayin Harris, a lifelong Highland Park resident. “So they’re basically all around our city right now. It just looks like a graveyard of cement stubs where lights used to be on the residential street.
On Tuesday, May 18, roughly 200 people gathered to march in front of the Ford Motor Company plant in Dearborn, Michigan where Joe Biden was speaking. Dearborn is home to the largest Arab American and Palestinian populations in the United States. Speaker Jae Bass, a Black Detroiter and a leader of Detroit Will Breathe (DWB) --- a militant, politically independent organization created last year in the midst of the uprising against police brutality --- connected the experiences of the daily fight against police brutality here with the brutality of the Israeli military in Palestine. Noting that both struggles are linked, he asked those present to continue fighting to free Palestine and make sure Black and Brown lives matter in Detroit.
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) has filed a Petition for Judicial Review of the Final Decision and Order issued by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and its Director Liesl Clark in which the Department illegally dismissed a Contested Case challenging the highly controversial permit granted to Nestle Waters North America in 2018. The petition for review was filed in the Circuit Court for Ingham County, and in it, MCWC requests that the Court reverse Director Clark’s inaccurate determination that her Department didn’t actually have legal authority to hold a contested case related to the Nestle permit.
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who ran the state at the time of the devastating 2014 Flint water scandal, has been charged in the crisis that led to the Legionnaires' disease outbreak that killed 12 people. Snyder pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to two counts of willful neglect of duty, before a judge set bond at $10,000. The former governor was ordered to not leave the state ahead of his next date on Tuesday. He faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. "We believe there is no evidence to support any criminal charges against Governor Snyder," defense attorney Brian Lennon told The Associated Press on Wednesday night, adding that state prosecutors hadn't provided him with any details.
On Thursday, with five days remaining before the US election, the FBI conducted two additional raids in Michigan and arrested Justen Watkins and Alfred Gorman, leaders of a neo-Nazi group called The Base. Watkins was arrested when agents raided a farm in the town of Bad Axe, in the Michigan “thumb,” which members of The Base used as a training grounds and “hate camp.” Gorman was arrested in the Detroit suburb of Taylor. The two neo-Nazis, aged 25 and 35 respectively, are charged with threatening to murder a left-wing blogger in late 2019, though the timing of the raids indicates the FBI believed The Base’s training camp was related to preparations for election violence.
The spread of COVID-19 through Michigan’s K-12 schools is rapidly accelerating, with the number of new outbreaks rising for the third week in a row, according to data released by the state yesterday. Last week, there were 29 separate outbreaks affecting 107 students, teachers and school workers, making it the most infectious week in Michigan since the school year began. The 29 new outbreaks last week are in addition to 70 other “ongoing” outbreaks, defined as outbreaks that have been reported more than a week ago, but which have at least one new associated case in the last 28 days.