Organized by local leaders of United We Stand, the Tax Day Rally for Economic Justice was attended by over 500 people calling for the release of the president’s taxes and for economic justice in the distribution of our tax dollars.
While topics at the rally ranged from education and war to injustices in incarceration and policing, Communities United For Action speakers Robert Miles and Rev. Sil Watkins focused on environmental justice. The two addressed problems with the Metropolitan Sewer District and disproportionate impact of pollution on poor and minority communities.
Economic and health impact of lack of investment in public infrastructure
Mr. Miles opened with a powerful statement. “I am a ticking time bomb,” he said, referring to repeated sewage backups in his basement. Miles is concerned that not only have the backups cost him thousands in damages, but that they are a threat to his health and the safety (and sanity) of his family.
Miles says it isn’t right that due to the extreme increase in cost of the sewer bill – 173% increase in the past ten years – low income people or people on fixed incomes sometimes have to choose between paying for sewer and other essential items like food and medicine. He says that his family had to forego any extra expenses when he had to replace items damaged by sewer backups in his basement.
Miles called for an investment in green infrastructure to deal with the burden of sewer overflows causing backups like his, for a fair distribution of sewer rates for everyone using the system and for good, local jobs to address these issues.
Disproportionate burden on minority and low-income communities
Rev. Sil Watkins took to the stage after Miles, calling for unity among oppressed populations to address environmental and economic injustices, like disproportionate pollution in low-income communities and communities of color compared to wealthier neighborhoods.
The data backs up what Watkins asserts – according to a 2013 study from the Hamilton County Health Department, people in low-income communities die 20 years earlier than their counterparts in wealthier communities.
Watkins says it is time to set aside our differences and stand together against these injustices.