Showing posts with label Jackson Mississippi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jackson Mississippi. Show all posts

Saturday, April 22, 2023

NAACP Files Lawsuit in Response to Passage of Unconstitutional Legislation in Mississippi

The NAACP Office of General Counsel and Covington & Burling LLP filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on behalf of the NAACP, the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, the Jackson Branch of the NAACP, and a number of Jackson residents and civil rights activists to challenge two new Mississippi statutes. The counsel team includes former Attorney General of the United States Eric H. Holder, Jr., Senior Counsel at Covington & Burling. 

Lawmakers and Jackson residents have opposed both bills throughout the legislative session, citing outside attempts to increase policing without adequate training, silence dissent from Jackson residents, and strip residents of their voting power to elect judges and district attorneys who serve their interests.

Taken together, the two bills represent a state takeover of Jackson, MS. The first statute, S.B.  2343, which was signed by Governor Tate Reeves on Friday, April 21st, significantly expands the Capitol Complex Improvement District to bring the entire predominantly Black city of Jackson under control of the state-run Capitol Police. The bill will also significantly restrict Mississippi residents' ability to protest and hold demonstrations in and around buildings considered property of the state, requiring written approval from the Chief of the Capitol Police or the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety before "any event" occurs.  

The second bill, H.B. 1020, creates a new court with an unelected judge appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court, which will have the ability to hear and determine all preliminary matters and criminal matters within the District. The bill also continues a court packing plan by appointing unelected Circuit Judges to the Seventh Circuit Court District in Hinds County.  

NAACP President & CEO, Derrick Johnson released the following statement condemning the Mississippi legislature's move to infringe on the rights of Jackson's predominantly Black residents: 

"As our country continues to face the reality and consequences of our broken law enforcement and criminal justice systems, passing legislation to increase policing, install undemocratically appointed judges, and infringe on the constitutional right to protest is simultaneously irresponsible and dangerous. To be clear – this legislation is nothing new. The people of Jackson have been silenced and have faced years of discriminatory disinvestment and neglect from the state government which led to the major water crisis they are still dealing with to this day. If elected officials in Mississippi want to help address the results of their negligence and improve the lives of Jackson residents, they should start with completing improvements to Jackson's water system, not undermining the constitutional rights of their citizens. 

Black Jacksonians need real investment in their infrastructure and complete control over the future of their city. The NAACP will do whatever it takes to protect Jackson residents from the elected officials that continue to fail them. We will continue to collaborate and mobilize with the people of Jackson to ensure their voices are heard and rights are protected."

The NAACP encourages concerned members of the public to sign a petition asking the Mississippi state legislature and Governor Tate Reeves to protect the rights of Jackson residents to control their own resources, such as their water system, elect local judges, and ensure that residents continuing the fight for safe drinking water will not be unconstitutionally silenced.

Former Attorney General of the United States and Senior Counsel at Covington & Burling L.L.P, Eric H. Holder, Jr., released the following statement in support of NAACP's continued advocacy:

"Mississippi House Bill 1020 and Senate Bill 2343 represent a disturbing regression, rolling back decades of progress by stripping Jackson residents of their fundamental right to democratically elect leaders, undermining the authority of those they have elected, and severely restricting their first amendment right to freedom of speech. This Legislative body has proven that they are uninterested in upholding their sworn oath to protect the constitutional rights of their constituents, including the majority Black residents of Jackson. 

Once again, the responsibility has fallen on us - Black advocates and citizens - to hold state lawmakers accountable and fight back against this dangerous legislation. I am proud to work collaboratively with the NAACP to force these undemocratic lawmakers to answer for their brazen, historically resonant actions in the public sphere – and in a court of law." 

Over the past year, the NAACP has worked closely with leaders and residents in Jackson to address the State of Mississippi's gross mishandling of the water crisis and the history of inequities that caused it. In September, the NAACP filed a Title VI Complaint for Investigation of the state's discriminatory allotment of federal funds which resulted in a federal civil rights investigation. NAACP Director of Environmental and Climate Justice, Abre' Conner also testified before Congress, providing expert analysis of the neglect and disinvestment in Jackson and the broader, national implications of infrastructure failures. NAACP leaders continue to monitor the recovery process in collaboration with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and EPA Administrator Michael Regan and ensure that the community is aware of the progress and decisions made.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

United States Reaches Agreement on Proposal with City of Jackson and State of Mississippi on Interim Solution to Jackson Water Crisis

The United States filed a proposal in federal court that — if approved by the court — would appoint an Interim Third Party Manager to stabilize the city of Jackson, Mississippi’s public drinking water system, and build confidence in the system’s ability to supply safe drinking water to the system’s customers. The city and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) have signed this order and agreed to its terms. At the same time, the Justice Department, on behalf of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a complaint against the city alleging that the city has failed to provide drinking water that is reliably compliant with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to the system’s customers. 

The proposal, which was called a “proposed stipulated order” in court filings, is meant to serve as an interim measure while the United States, the city, and MSDH attempt to negotiate a judicially enforceable consent decree to achieve long-term sustainability of the system and the city’s compliance with the SDWA and other relevant laws.  

“Today the Justice Department is taking action in federal court to address long-standing failures in the city of Jackson’s public drinking water system,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Department of Justice takes seriously its responsibility to keep the American people safe and to protect their civil rights. Together with our partners at EPA, we will continue to seek justice for the residents of Jackson, Mississippi. And we will continue to prioritize cases in the communities most burdened by environmental harm.”

“Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege to spend time with people on the ground in Jackson – many who’ve struggled with access to safe and reliable water for years," said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “I pledged that EPA would do everything in its power to ensure the people of Jackson have clean and dependable water, now and into the future. While there is much more work ahead, the Justice Department’s action marks a critical moment on the path to securing clean, safe water for Jackson residents. I’m grateful to the Attorney General for his partnership and commitment to this shared vision.”

“Every American — regardless of where they live, their income, or the color of their skin — deserves access to safe, reliable drinking water,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “For many years now, the people of Jackson have lived in uncertainty — uncertainty about whether, on any given day, the water that flows from their taps will be safe to drink. With our court filings today, we have taken an important step towards finally giving the people of Jackson the relief they so desperately deserve.”

“It is vital that providers of drinking water comply with federal and state laws designed to ensure the safety of the water,” said U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi. “Through this litigation, we will act to ensure that the city of Jackson’s water system will be compliant with the Safe Drinking Water Act and other state and local regulations so that those serviced by the system can have confidence that the water they are consuming is safe. The proposed agreed interim order is a critical first step.” 

The proposal seeks the court’s appointment of an Interim Third Party Manager that would have the authority to, among other things:

  • Operate and maintain the city’s public drinking water system in compliance with SDWA, the Mississippi Safe Drinking Water Act, and related regulations;
  • Take charge of the Water Sewer Business Administration, the arm of the city responsible for billing water users;
  • Implement capital improvements to the city’s public drinking water system, in particular, a set of priority projects meant to improve the system’s near-term stability, including a winterization project meant to make the system less vulnerable to winter storms; and
  • Correct conditions within the city’s public drinking water system that present, or may present, an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of the city’s residents. 

This court filing marks the latest efforts to address Jackson’s drinking water crisis, but there is much work still to be done to solve the myriad problems plaguing Jackson’s public drinking water system. On July 29, MSDH issued a boil-water notice for Jackson’s public drinking water system. The next month, the city proclaimed an emergency after excessive rainfall and extreme flooding prevented the system from delivering any water to the approximately 160,000 persons living within the city and in certain areas of nearby Hinds County who rely on the system. That meant that many of those residents had no running water to drink, or to use for basic hygiene and safety purposes like washing hands, showering, flushing toilets, fighting fires, or washing dishes. The water pressure was not restored until Sept. 6, and the boil-water notice remained in effect until Sept. 15.

Learn more information about EPA’s efforts in Jackson to date here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

NAACP President Derrick Johnson’s Statement on Jackson, Mississippi Water Crisis

NAACP President Derrick Johnson released the following statement on the Jackson, Mississippi water crisis:

Somehow, in the year 2022, equality and justice remain out of reach for Black communities across America. The disparities facing our community are stark - just look at the catastrophe unfolding in my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. More than a hundred thousand people, the majority of whom are Black, are without safe access to drinking water for the foreseeable future.

This crisis is the direct result of the failures of politicians who have put party and politics over the issues that will help people in communities like Jackson, Mississippi, Flint, Michigan, and the many other majority Black cities that have been left behind for too long. We need elected officials who will put people over politics and will address issues that impact Black communities.

While the NAACP continues to mobilize volunteers, clean water distribution efforts, and collaboration with local, state, and federal administrations, we remind elected officials that those seeking to win our vote must show they are with us, and they will fight for us.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Jackson, Mississippi mayor has 'encouraging call' with Biden on water crisis

Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said at an afternoon news briefing that he had received a pledge of support from President Joe Biden, who the previous night approved Mississippi's emergency declaration, freeing federal resources to bolster the state's response.