An informational town hall in the city of Flint, Michigan yesterday (January 11) erupted into a series of chants as residents gave voice to their anger.
The meeting included a panel of representatives from local, state and federal agencies who have been watching the city’s water quality data, as well as non-governmental researchers like Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards and Hurley Medical Center pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, who both helped expose the lead contamination. They had gathered to present their latest findings to the city.
The event was initially planned as an invitation-only event, MLive-The Flint Journal reported, but was opened to the public. However, attendees were unsatisfied that the meeting did not include a segment for public comment, according to local news site WDIV ClickOnDetroit. Instead, people had to write down their questions. When the time came to address the question cards, one Flint resident began yelling at the panel, causing security to almost escort him from the meeting. The man was allowed to remain after other residents chanted, “Let him stay.”
Mayor Karen Weaver explained his actions by saying:
“People in Flint are mad. People in Flint are angry. We’re angry, and we’ve been waiting for this, and we’ve got some issues that we got to deal with, and one of the things we’ve talked about is that people have to allow us to have the feelings that we’ve had because it’s been bottled up for a while … And while we’re angry, and we’re scared, and we’re anxious, and we’re confused, and we sure don’t trust, if we don’t work through those things and move forward, then we’re missing an opportunity, and we have an opportunity now.”
During the meeting, Flint Police Chief Tim Johnson addressed the public to say that his officers would remove anyone who disrupted.
Besides the occasional outbursts from residents, The Detroit News reports that attendees would crumple plastic bottles whenever they’d hear speakers say statements with which they didn’t agree. Officials told residents that they should continue using filters for their tap water; it will take about three years for the city to replace all its water service lines; and they still have not yet secured all the money needed to replace the lines.
Watch the full livestream of the event below.