Flint feels the Bern for Sanders

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Sanders supporters Jeremy Ellwood and Allison Barrett at work in his new campaign office in Flint.

Sanders supporters Jeremy Ellwood and Allison Barrett at work in his new campaign office in Flint.

Clinton, Sanders debate in Flint on March 6

By Sheena Marvin
MI First Election
Article and photos

Flint—The headquarters for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign in Michigan now calls at 140 E. Second Street home.

Ryan Hughes is director for the Sanders campaign in Michigan. While he says they don’t want to politicize Flint’s water crisis, Hughes admitted the city’s lead-tainted drinking water is drawing attention to Flint.

The support in Flint is similar to many Sanders movements around the state and country, Hughes said.

“The great thing about this movement is it’s a growing organic grassroots structure that’s continuously growing,” he said. “Thousands and thousands of volunteers are out supporting Bernie’s ideas. The main job of or volunteers is to provide resources to support and reach as many people as possible.”

Flint campaign coordinator

One of those voters is 28-year-old Flint resident William Balcer, who has been actively involved in the Flint4Bernie group in Michigan.

Balcer, a volunteer phone operator, was among the group of people who set up the Flint campaign headquarters on Feb. 4.

“Bernie is the best nominee for president,” Balcer said. “He speaks for the majority of Americans in the U.S. and our interests. The man has marched with Martin Luther King and has steadily fought against the big banks and Wall Street. He is the real deal. No other candidate can say that.”

The support in Flint is similar to many Sanders movements around the state and country, Hughes said.

Volunteers paint signs, phone citizens, and hand out pamphlets to the community. Finding ways to support the Flint community is also an important part of their campaign office, Hughes said.

Allison Barrett is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders and has been involved in the grass-roots campaign since September. To her, the campaign is a huge part of her life.

“We are here making signs and calling up people to get the word out about Bernie,” Barrett said. “We are here every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.”

The campaign office also serves as a resource for anyone in need of water. All of it was donated by Sanders supporters from across the country.

“We want to support the people here, help the people here. For most of us, it is not about just politics, this is our community.” Barrett said. “We gave water to a Hillary supporter earlier today. Everybody is struggling to make ends meet. We are just trying to help the community as a whole.”

Jeremy Ellwood, social media coordinator for the Flint4Bernie group, has very high hopes for the campaign in Flint.

The effort in Flint has received nothing but positive feedback, Ellwood said. The campaign office plans to offer other resources to improve the Flint community. Currently the group has filled in potholes, cleaned parks, and hopes to create community events that do not just revolve around politics.

Flint resident William Balcer, 28.

Flint resident William Balcer, 28.

Ellwood expressed concern for not reaching enough African-American citizens in Flint.

“Quite a lot of the African-American population in our community does not know who Bernie is,” Elwood said. “A big challenge for us is gaining traction and spreading awareness to voters in Flint.”

The recent announcement of a Democratic presidential debate in Flint on March 6 did not surprise the campaign staff. The national spotlight has been on the city since the water crisis became pubicize. They all look forward to the chance to be a part of the debate and possibly meet Sanders, said Ellwood.

Balcer is curious to see the candidates’ responses to the Flint water crisis.

“It is really frustrating dealing with the water problem. I use bottled water for everything except bathing,” Balcer said. “I am excited to know what the plan is to take care of this problem and what the candidates have to say about that.”

Clinton and Sanders will debate in a Democratic presidential debate in Flint on March 6.

One thought on “Flint feels the Bern for Sanders

  1. I don’t know who to contact. Please spread the word to the Sanders campaign: Hillary’s record in Arkansas shows her support for Flint’s water problem is questionable. In 1992 I was a volunteer for Jerry Brown who was running vs. Bill Clinton for president. I fielded a number of calls from Arkansas environmentalists who accused Hillary of using her influence with the wife (her sorority sister) of Tyson Chicken’s CEO to give Tyson a pass with their pollution of the Arkansas rivers. The Clinton governorship was under criticism at the time for favoring the meat polluters over the health of the citizenry. Look into it. Hillary’s law firm was also accused of supporting the anti-environmentalists.