Bernie Sanders picks up Detroit endorsements

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Flint resident Danielle Green was an undecided Democrat until a private meeting with an attentive U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders won her vote, she said.

“The compassion they showed for the situation,” Green said of what persuaded her during the Feb. 15 meeting with Sanders and his wife at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. “He didn’t make any promises, which I can respect.

“But he did say he would come to Flint, which he did. So Sen. Sanders has my vote. He’s my guy.”

Sanders held a Flint rally last week, 10 days after his meeting with Green. At the rally, he reiterated his demand for Gov. Rick Snyder to resign over the city’s lead-contaminated water crisis.

The call was echoed by a handful of local politicians, activists and community members endorsing the democratic socialist from Vermont Monday at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit.

“Gov. Snyder ignored our voices by not allowing us the opportunity to remove the emergency manager,” Green said, demanding Snyder’s “immediate” resignation.

“Clean water is not an option. It’s a necessary element to every human being. To take away water is to take away life.”

The Detroit endorsements, mostly from African-American activists and Detroit leaders, came two days after Hillary Clinton on Saturday enjoyed a lopsided primary victory in South Carolina, fueled by an overwhelming advantage among black voters, a key Democratic constituency.

“He has the right policies for our city and our nation,” former Wayne County Commissioner Bernard Parker said of Sanders. “He has shown great judgment calling for Snyder’s resignation, and he did it early.

“We are here today to say the people of Michigan will no longer stand by idle while Snyder forces poison down our children’s throats. We need a new approach to government that only Sen. Sanders can provide.”

Former State Rep. Betty Cook Scott of Detroit also linked Flint’s water crisis to her endorsement.

“Whether he was fighting for civil rights as a young man in Chicago, or voting against the war in Iraq, or promoting criminal justice reform, he has shown he cares about those who have no voice,” Scott said of Sanders. “We can no longer overlook an entire community in this country because they don’t fit a convenient demographic or profile.”

Detroit school board members Elena Herrada and Tawanna Simpson also backed the presidential candidate.

“I am an elected member of the Detroit school board, in exile,” Herrada said. “(Snyder’s) actions have taken away the quality of life and the future of Flint residents.

“Today we say, enough is enough,” she said, also calling for Snyder’s resignation. “This is not a request, but a demand of the people. But I believe this is only the first step. We must also vote for Bernie Sanders.”

Green, the Flint resident, said her vote was won after she witnessed Sanders’ facial expressions and body language during their meeting at EMU.

“He just really wanted to sit with us and see what progress was being made,” she said. “You have to gather information and he was doing that.”

Sanders and his wife visibly flinched when shown a picture of dirty bathwater used by Green’s mother, the woman said.

“They were in shock,” Green said. “The concern and compassion that he has for the situation is amazing.”

Clinton has won the endorsement of Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and visited the city earlier this month.

Green on Monday welcomed the national spotlight on her city.

“We needed that because without that we wouldn’t be getting the help that we’re getting. We have people donating water from all over, from all over the country,” she said. “But the water donations are going to dwindle. Then what are we going to do?”

Green contrasted her perception of Sanders’ compassion against the fallout in Flint.

“I never would have thought that in America we’d be going through something like this, like third world counties do. There’s no excuse,” she said. “And (the state government) knew. They knew the consequences of switching over the water supply. It was definitely a lack of care.”

The water switch has left a population in crisis, she said.

“People are in survival mode and they’re scared,” she said. “There’s no trust for the government. Snyder, he ruined that. We need a sign of hope.”

That sign comes in the form of a Sanders presidency, although the candidate hasn’t yet offered concrete solutions for Flint, Green said.

“He did talk about what he hoped would happen, and one thing that stood out was calling for Gov. Snyder’s resignation,” she said. “That was huge. That’s hope for people like us.”

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The Associated Press contributed.