Sometimes, the best way to get attention is also the most basic: crowds, picket signs and chants. The Project On Government Oversight rarely organizes rallies—so you can know that when we do, it’s because something particularly outrageous is happening, and it’s imperative that more people know about it.
This morning, POGO was joined by like-minded supporters, including the Environmental Working Group, famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich and Ret. Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger to demand justice for the victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Marines, their families and civilians who lived and worked at the North Carolina military base were unwittingly exposed to toxic, disease-causing chemicals in their water. All the while, the government tried to cover up the pollution, rather than fix it.
The federal government has a commitment to take care of those it harmed. As one of the signs at the rally pointed out, the Marine Corps motto Semper Fi, which means always faithful, is a two-way street. A case argued today at the U.S. Supreme Court, CTS Corporation vs. Waldburger, however, could set a precedent that would keep Lejeune victims from making claims under federal law. Alarmingly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has sided with the corporate polluter in favor of statute of limitations on how long victims have to file a claim.
Dozens of activists gathered at Upper Senate Park to hear remarks from Brockovich, and three men who lived at Camp Lejeune—Ensminger, Mike Partain and Kris Thomas. Some at the rally carried pictures of lost loved ones or signs recounting their own stories of sickness.
“I absolutely believe it is the responsibility of every citizen and every government to uphold the very values that they teach the service members and their families,” Brockovich said. “That is honor, that is integrity, that’s the value of their family…We've had service men and women come home from bullets to chemical poisoning to having to bury their children."
Ensminger’s daughter, Janey, was born on base and passed away from childhood leukemia when she was 9-years-old.
“I hope the Supreme Court Justices sees this for what this is. It is a complete flip-flop from what the Department of Justice is supposed to be doing,” Ensminger said. “They’re supposed to be supporting and upholding the laws that are passed by our Congress and here they’re joining forces with a known polluter to cheat us out of our rights.”
After rallying in front of the Capitol, supporters marched to the Supreme Court. A decision is expected in a few months. Hopefully the Justices will give Camp Lejeune victims the justice they deserve. You can help by telling President Obama he must stand by Camp Lejeune victims by signing our petition here.