Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Press Statement on Dropped Charges Against 13 Defendants for MDEQ Arrests

News from Michigan Poor People’s Campaign

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sylvia Orduño, 313-964-0618, smorduno AT
Victory for Michigan residents and grassroots groups!

‘In the Interest of Justice’ Charges Dropped, Activists Press on for Change
Human health, dignity must take precedence over profit, bottom-line mentality

MICHIGAN – Members of the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) celebrated their latest legal victory by continuing to push for changes that prompted them to put their bodies on the line in the first place. In a press conference, they and their legal counsel detailed the group’s nonviolent civil disobedience at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (now the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy or EGLE). They also noted that the Ingham County prosecutor dropped all charges against 13 activists “in the interest of justice.”

“The prosecutor in Ingham County dropped charges against all 13 members of the MI Poor People’s Campaign who last Spring were part of 40 days of action,” said Sylvia Orduño of the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.“ The problems the group was protesting—MDEQ’s roles the in the Flint Water Poisoning, the oil spill threat of Enbridge’s Line 5, permitting the massive waste treatment expansion by US Ecology, and Nestlé’s exploitation of the Great Lakes — were all far worse than nonviolent action by those arrested.”

This latest legal victory follows Michigan PPC members being found not guilty by a Detroit jury a few months ago and a three-year legal ordeal, prior to the PPC, when the City of Detroit dropped charges against the “Homrich 9” for protecting Detroit families by blocking water shutoff trucks. In all cases, defendants asserted the “necessity defense,” proclaiming their nonviolent actions were justified by the harm caused to families by bad state department and corporate policies and practices.

The MDEQ, now the Michigan Department of Environment and the Great Lakes and Energy, needs to be sure to change more than its name. It needs to change its priorities and the way it operates,” said Rev. Bill Wylie Kellermann of the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign. “It’s obvious that the old MDEQ needed to make public health the priority, not corporate profit. The poisoning of Flint, the oil spill threat from Enbridge’s Line 5, and Detroit’s Georgia Street Collective having to defend themselves against the massive expansion of the US Ecology waste facility are all problems powered by greed.”

Read more Defendants statements
ALANA ALPERT, Rabbi, Director Detroit Jews for Justice; Congregation T’chiyah, Detroit, MI.
“Being a faith leader today means not just caring for our congregants and neighbors through personal joys and sorrows, but standing alongside them -- and for them if they can't. Our congregants and neighbors need clean, affordable water -- we all do. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to practice this kind of moral leadership with such an amazing group of spiritual warriors.”

CAROLYN BAKER, Coordinator, General Baker Institute, Detroit, MI.
In quoting her father, General Baker, Jr., “Poor people don't have but a couple of avenues to fight in. We got the legislature, the court, and the streets. We hope for the days where we can organize ourselves, where we got a contingent of people that control the legislature, a contingent of people that control the courts, and a contingent of people that control the streets! ‘Cause that's all we got!"

DEB HANSEN, Reverend, Chaplain, Board Member, Michigan Interfaith Power & Light; Spokesperson, Concerned Citizens of Cheboygan and Emmet County, Levering, MI
“The threat to the Great Lakes from Enbridge's Line 5 is understood, the connection to climate is not.  Climate breakdown is a global undeclared state of emergency that may put our kids on the endangered species list. To enable a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac, a massive investment in a dirty energy past, is perverse. The solution is clear: #shutdownline5  #cleanenergyNOW!!!”

(Click below for more photos)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Press Advisory - All Charges Dropped on 14 Activists Arrested at MDEQ in June 2014 Who Called for State Health and Environmental Protections

For Immediate Release

Michigan Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
***Media Advisory***

Monday, May 13, 2019
Contact: Sylvia Orduño smorduno AT 734.846.946FIVE

ALL CHARGES DROPPED: Protestors Still Demand Changes to Environmental Policy
Michigan Poor People’s Campaign to continue calls for justice after being freed by Ingham County judge

MICHIGAN – In the wake of their third legal victory after civil disobedience arrests, members of the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) will hold a telephone press conference to demand changes to Michigan environmental policies. The group will call for the same changes in environmental policies that they highlighted during their protest outside the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (now the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.)

Last week, “in the interest of justice,” the Ingham County prosecutor chose to drop all charges against 13 defendants arrested for blocking the entrance of the MDEQ. Community leaders asserted that harm caused by MDEQ’s role in the Flint Water Poisoning, the oil spill threat of Enbridge’s Line 5, permitting massive waste treatment expansion by US Ecology and Nestlé’s exploitation of the Great Lakes were all far worse than nonviolent action by those arrested.

This follows Michigan PPC members being acquitted by a Detroit jury a few months ago and a three-year legal ordeal, prior to the PPC, when the City of Detroit dropped charges against the “Homrich 9” for protecting Detroit families by blocking water shutoff trucks. In all cases, defendants asserted the “necessity defense,” proclaiming their nonviolent actions were justified by the harm caused to families by bad government and corporate policies and practices.

Telephone Press Conference – Michigan Poor People’s Campaign’s legal victories show the need to protect Michigan Families
Nonviolent protestors from the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign recently freed of all charges
Supporters of Michigan PPC
Counsel for protestors

When: Tuesday, May 14, 2:00 p.m.

Where: Dial (605) 313-566NINE Access Code 85463SEVEN -- PRESS ONLY PLEASE!

Read: Court Exhibits from National Lawyers Guild Attorneys

See: 30 second facebook video of protest photos


More information:

Facebook page

Michigan Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is the Michigan Chapter of the PPC. Initially envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago just before his assassination, the Poor People’s Campaign aims to combat the “four evils” of American society: poverty, systematic racism, the war economy and environmental devastation.

Read: Updates on the arrests and court actions from 40 Days of Direct Action

Read: Press release: MI PPC water activists' press conference 1/16/19
Michigan residents from across the state rally at the State Capitol against public health and environmental problems that are not being properly addressed by the MDEQ, especially against low income and vulnerable communities (6/4/18).
(R-L) Defendants Rev. Liz Theoharis of NYC and National Co-Chair of the Poor People's Campaign and Claire McClinton of Flint block doors at Constitution Hall in protest of MDEQ criminal actions on Flint water crisis (6/4/18).
A Michigan resident connects the harmful and very concerning connection between Flint water contamination and the real potential of a large and damaging oil spill in Lake Huron from Line 5 (6/4/18).
Dozens of protesters surround Constitution Hall -- home of the former MDEQ (now EGLE) -- in crime tape and march outside all four exits in protest of the state environmental agency's failure to protect and be accountable for public health and environmental catastrophes across the Great Lakes state. In total 30 people where arrested on misdemeanor charges of civil disturbance (6/4/18).
(In blue shirt) Defendant Deb Hanson being warned of arrest by MI State Police if she doesn't stop blocking parking lot at Constitution Hall in protest of MDEQ's inactions on Line 5 (6/4/18).

Photos are Creative Commons with attribution to Valerie Jean, MI PPC photographer, or Truth Dig.

Monday, May 13, 2019

30 Days of Prayer and Action begins this week

Hello MI PPC Community,

Join us as faith leaders and communities across the state RISE UP for Justice. Each week will focus on one of four evils and the association of distorted morality as the fifth evil beginning this week with Racism.

RISE UP for Justice calls for faith leaders and community to deepen the message for justice and commitment to come together in conversation, prayer, and action to irradicate the five evils.  

We are inviting you to be a part of uplifting the energy of the movement.

Ways of Participation

~ Contemplating the Distorted Morality (included in the calendar) associated with the evil conditioning prior to prayer.

~ Join in united energy by offering a prayer each day at noon (or a time convenient for you);

~ Take some action individually and inviting others. Actions (not all inclusive) are listed in 30-Day Calendar. We invite you to add your input to the calendar;

~ If you are a faith leader offer one or more sermons on the five evils during the 30-Days;

~ Place the attached printable PPC window sign in your home and place of worship.

~ Spread the word within your organizations, place of worship and your networks.

The 30-Day Calander is designed to offer a brief overview. There are examples of prayers and actions as well as some resources included with open access for additional responses. We welcome your input. We will be adding content for the other evils.


Last June during 40-days of action hundreds of MI PPC members stood against the immoral and criminal negligence of the MDEQ. RISE UP for Justice was a gathering bringing faith leaders and community together to raise legal defense funds for the 13 defendants who in nonviolent action put their bodies on the line to risk arrest and continued outreach for the MI PPC.

Update: Victory! The Lansing trial against the MDEQ scheduled for May 14th. Judge ready to grant necessity defense. Recognizing the strength of the case the prosecutor dropped all charges. Funds raised for legal defense will go toward expenses occurred. The Detroit trial was also a victory. Thank you to all those who contributed. We are moving the needle of justice.

RISE UP for Justice was also part of the kick-off for the 30-days of Prayer and action.

May 2, 2019, was National Day of Prayer. The Poor People's Campaign (PPC), in collaboration with Voices for Earth Justice, celebrated the day with an interfaith prayer breakfast.

RISE UP for Justice on May 4, 2019, was part of the kick-off to the 30-Days of Prayer and action across the state. A panel of speakers spoke on the five evils and water. We gathered in circle to ground ourselves with prayer and sent that energy out into the community. Flyer for that event may be viewed by clicking on:

One Step Forward, not one step back.

Thank you for all you do.

Peace and Blessing,

PPC RISE UP for Justice

Friday, May 10, 2019

Climate Defense Project Statement on Michigan Dropped Charges Against MDEQ Protesters

Michigan Prosecutor Dismisses Charges Against Poor People’s Campaign Activists

Climate Defense Project
May 10, 2019
Contact: Kelsey Skaggs, (510) 883-3118;

A Lansing, Michigan prosecutor has unexpectedly dropped charges against 13 protesters who were poised to argue the climate necessity defense at a trial initially scheduled for this month.  
The defendants, activists with the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign, were arrested in June 2018 following a protest at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) headquarters in Lansing. The protest involved several hundred people.

The activists had initially faced felony charges of resisting and obstructing a police officer, though the prosecutor later downgraded the charges to a misdemeanor (disturbance of a lawful meeting).

The activists had planned to present the necessity defense at trial, arguing that their actions were justified by MDEQ’s pattern of ignoring threats to public safety and local water quality from oil pipelines and industrial facilities. As examples, they cited the agency’s role in allowing and covering up the Flint water poisoning and in permitting Enbridge’s Line 5 project, which threatens the Great Lakes. The activists also sought to bring attention to the climate crisis.

This week, the defense team filed a brief on the necessity defense and argued at a hearing that the activists should be permitted to present necessity evidence. At the hearing the judge postponed the trial from May to June and extended it to a full week, noting that she would take the issue of necessity under advisement. Two days later the prosecutor informed defense counsel that she would be dropping all charges against the activists.

This outcome furthers a trend in which prosecutors have dropped or downgraded charges against political activists — particularly climate activists — following revelation of their plans to present a necessity defense at trial. In this case the defense team had sought to present expert witness testimony from environmental law professor Nick Shroeck on the harms ignored by MDEQ, and from philosophy professor Gail Presbey on the effectiveness of civil disobedience in creating social and political change.

The defendants were represented by Michigan attorneys Julie Hurwitz, Stephen Milks, and Allison Kriger, a team coordinated by and through the National Lawyers Guild. Climate Defense Project provided advice to the local defense team.