An African American blog of politics, culture, and social activism.
By Ron Fonger | Flint Journal
May 25, 2010, 3:49PM
Former state representative Vera Rison said Tuesday that help is needed immediately, and during a meeting of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners today, Brenda Clack quizzed Sheriff Robert Pickell about the potential for getting help from guardsmen as well.
Current state Sen. John Gleason, D-Flushing, said he will also deliver a letter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm by noon Wedensday, asking that she use “any and all powers” at her disposal to help end increasing violence here.
Although a Gleason aide said he will not ask Granholm for troops, the governor has the authority to issue an executive order to activate the National Guard. Her office has no immediate comment when contacted today.
Violence and shootings have exploded in Flint during the last 30 days, including more than 100 reported assaults and nine homicides.
(UPDATE: Flint Mayor Dayne Walling authorized additional police patrols overnight, hours before fourth deadly shooting in five days.)
“This is civil unrest,” said Clack, currently a county commissioner representing part of Flint. “Criminals feel like they have the freedom in this city … (and) people feel like they are prisoners in their own homes.”
Rison said she has been in discussions with Gleason’s office and also plans to ask Granholm to bring in the National Guard.
“It’s out of hand,” Rison said this morning. “I’m asking for the National Guard. That’s what I want.”
Flint Mayor Dayne Walling on Monday introduced a program called Cease Fire that he said will involve comprehensive training for community police officers who will be deployed Thursday, training for volunteers and partnerships with church leaders.
But just hours after Walling spoke at a press conference about the new program, there were several more shootings Monday night, one leaving a 19-year-old dead and at least two other victims in critical condition.
“We don’t have time for training,” Rison said of Walling’s response so far. “It’s time to take care of business.”
The Flint Journal could not immediately reach Walling for comment today, but some residents shouted when he spoke about recent shootings at Monday’s City Council meeting and one man told the council that citizens are arming themselves because they don’t believe police can protect them.
Public Safety Director Alvern Lock said he doesn’t think the National Guard is needed in the city, and said no one has contacted his department or the mayor’s office about bringing the Guard into Flint.
“We’re not at that point,” Lock said.
Walling said Monday that the number of assaults during the past month is higher than the same period last year and called every violent death in the city a tragedy. There have been 21 homicides in Flint so far this year. In all of 2009, there were 35 homicides, according to preliminary numbers issued by the FBI this week.
Lock said the city has it’s own police force, mayor and city council and said county officials like Clack shouldn’t offer extreme advise without communicating with Flint officials.
But Clack, a longtime city resident, said violence is rising to “unbelievable” levels.
“For the first time in my lifetime in Flint, I’m concerned (for people’s safety),” Clack said during a county commissioners meeting this morning.
Clack asked Pickell to help the city in whatever way he can and asked about circumstances under which Granholm might issue an executive order, calling the National Guard to help keep peace in Flint.
Clack said she doesn’t like the thought of seeing guardsman on street corners, but prefers it to seeing victims gunned down in the street and families living in fear.
Pickell said the National Guard was called into Flint during civil disturbances in the late 1960s and said said the governor would likely not make such a move unless there was “civil disorder” in the streets.