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Within Sequoia National Park is Mineral King, the splendid mountain wilderness in which Earthjustice took its first steps. 40 years later, we are as committed as ever to the legacy that started there: using the law to protect the wildlife and landscapes that shape our nation's character. Welcome to Mineral King Valley.
When the town's toilets flush, guess what ends up in African-American yards
Nine residents of Rochelle, GA are suing their city government for discharging the city's raw sewage onto their properties.
Alisa Coe and Bradley Marshall—attorneys in our Florida office—took off on a two-hour drive last month and ended up 60 years away in the rural Georgia town of Rochelle, where black people live on one side of a railroad track and whites on the other.
You’ve heard of this place if you pay attention to news; last weekend the national media was reporting on the local high school’s first interracial prom … ever.
But even as the media focused on the prom, Alisa and Bradley faced up to the town’s mayor and chief of police, who bullied the two attorneys as they investigated claims that the city’s sewer system routinely dumps raw sewage into the streets and yards of the black community (but not the white community). The mayor used his car to block the attorneys’ car when they drove into a black neighborhood, and then screamed and threatened them with arrest. The chief of police pulled up with his lights flashing and told the duo to call him before coming back to Rochelle.
Those fellas obviously didn’t know who they were messing with.
Alisa and Bradley are members of a legal team led by managing attorney David Guest, who is famous in Florida for such things as ignoring alligators as he wades through the Everglades investigating environmental offenses. The whole team’s infused with that spirit.
Monica Reimer, along with residents of Rochelle, investigate a manhole from which raw sewage flows into neighborhood backyards. View photo slideshow »
So—without calling the chief of police—Alisa and Monica Reimer, another attorney in our Florida office, went back to Rochelle a few days ago, armed with cameras to record evidence of environmental injustice and to document any more intimidation tactics. The bullies stayed away this time, letting the attorneys sign up, as clients, nine African-American residents who are tired of raw sewage bubbling up through manholes and pipes into their lives. After decades of living like this, they want it to end.
It’s nothing more complicated than that. Rufus and all his friends and neighbors just want the simple comforts of the white community—not the raw sewage. They want nothing more than to flush away sewage, not use shovels to clear it off their properties.
Sixty years ago, folks in towns all over the South were fighting and dying for the unfettered right to vote, the right to sit in the front of buses, to eat in restaurants without checking their skin color at the door, and even for the right to use the bathroom without having to read racial directions on the door. As a very young boy in that bad old South, I saw bathroom signs that said, “White Only” or “Negro Only". Today, so many decades later, those printed signs are gone, but other signs of discrimination persist … all over the yards and streets of folks who asked Earthjustice to help force the ruling system to fix the sewage system on the black side of the railroad tracks.