Article by: Ned Ward (correspondent) and Sam Caldwell (editor/proofreader)
East Palestine, Ohio – Wednesday night, party staff and activists of the pro-White organization, the National Justice Party, attended a town hall Meeting held to discuss the effects of the now infamous train derailment overseen by Norfolk Southern. The derailment, which has been labeled an “environmental disaster” by some, has become synonymous with images of rising black mushroom clouds and hellish plumes of fire circulated across the internet nationwide.
Founding central committee members of the National Justice Party, independent journalist, Joseph Jordan, and U.S. Armed Forces Veteran, Michael McKevitt, arrived to ask local and state officials questions related to relief efforts for citizens of East Palestine, Ohio. But after being met with hostility from local lawmakers and even armed law enforcement, their questions, it seemed, were beginning to go unanswered.
“I thought I was basically burned; the security forces there were telling everyone to ‘watch out, this guy is a heckler, these guys are out of town, and they’re coming here to stir the pot.’ I thought at that point they would ignore [us].”Joseph Jordan, National Justice Party
Hundreds of people—from media pundits to concerned locals—gathered in line at the East Palestine High School in anticipation of the 7 pm town hall meeting. Before the audience was seated, people could interact with various government agencies via strategically placed kiosks around the room, including one set up for Ohio Congressman, (R) Bill Johnson.
Residents gathered to discuss what specific remedies would be granted to a growing population of those personally affected by the disaster. The train derailment and subsequent burn-off, spewed toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride, into the local environment last week. The plume of black clouds could be seen by passing aircraft in the upper atmosphere.
Joseph Jordan approached the Congressman about the relief efforts planned for East Palestine, but before Jordan could ask his question, Congressman Johnson became overly fixated on the fact Jordan wasn’t a resident of the town. He immediately became dismissive.
“My issue here is where is the federal response?” Asked Jordan to Congressman Johnson. “Where is FEMA?”
Johnson, a Republican, responded by saying that “FEMA is not supposed to be here…This is not a tornado, this is not a hurricane.” The Congressman continued by stating that his responsibility tonight was to address the “questions and concerns of the people,” and that Governor Mike DeWine, who was not present, would have to declare a state of emergency for action to be taken.
“I’m not going to politicize this,” Johnson replied. “We’re not going to have a political discussion.”
Jordan asserted that the “lack of a federal response here is political.” Immediately after this exchange, Johnson called for officers of the Ohio State Highway Patrol to confront Jordan. An aide for the Congressman also stepped in, confronting Jordan in an attempt to intimidate him, stating “This is a personal matter for people who are affected here. He’s from New York, he’s not here for this.”
After a number of highway patrol officers surrounded Jordan, a local resident spoke out, saying “He was just asking a question, I thought this was supposed to be a forum.”
Shortly after, the town hall began with Mayor Trent Conaway introducing the event as an open Q&A session with local and government experts present to answer questions from the concerned public. Shortly before the meeting was set to begin, however, Norfolk Southern, whose largest shareholders include the Vanguard Group, BlackRock, and JP Morgan, announced that its representatives would not attend the meeting due to “incoming threats against their safety.”
Various attendees—overwhelmingly White—then began asking questions ranging from the aftermath of the train derailment to the safety of their homes after returning from a five-day evacuation. One resident bravely pointed out that the contaminant evaluation radius was a staggeringly short one mile wide, and didn’t cover nearly enough area to survey other houses affected by the derailment.
Early into the meeting, Conaway claimed that he has maintained communication with the CEO of Norfolk Southern. He said, “he guaranteed me anyone living in the 44413 area code will now receive a $1,000 check.” This was met with mixed reactions from the audience. “How about he go to jail?” Jordan yelled in response.
One resident complained that he cannot return to his house because of the heavy concentration of pollution caused by the derailment. The valid concern was met with EPA experts claiming they couldn’t detect any harmful level of contaminants in the town.
The Congressman then took the megaphone to state platitudes about how he “works for you,” and “I’m not done working until you’re satisfied. It’s my job to hold them accountable, and you better believe I’m going to do that,” Johnson said. Jordan rebutted the Congressman saying, “Stop taking the railroad’s money, how about you start doing that?”
Throughout the crowd of White citizens—many donning flannel shirts and “Make America Great Again” sweaters—one resident was concerned about the image of her town and how residents were being portrayed. Her plea to the media was for the people affected to not be labeled as “victims” and that it was the town’s sole responsibility to solve this crisis.
“When you’re reporting, please do not report that we are some poor community thatAttendee, Town Hall Meeting
wants payouts. We just want answers.”
Another resident asked the EPA experts what killed the fish in a nearby stream, which has been a widely reported topic in both social media and the mainstream press. “I can still smell it,” one resident claimed. “There are still dead fish. There are still schools of them. These officials are telling us everything is fine and the fish will repopulate, but yet we are seeing other things that are completely contradictory. How are we supposed to trust these people?”
Though news and reports on the death of local wildlife quickly followed the train derailment, EPA experts came out to staunchly defend the results of water samples they received and claimed that they did not show evidence of contamination. Instead, they claimed that the compound that actually killed fish and other animals was not toxic for human consumption.
One local pointed out that her family members reported having rashes, headaches, and other sudden symptoms after the derailment. She shared her frustration with how the hospitals she visited have no “way of testing for chemical toxicity which may cause some of these symptoms.”
Other residents echoed this sentiment, only to be met by Congressman Johnson repeating the same message numerous times, asking locals to contact his office after the town hall was over and he’ll address questions one-on-one. Residents then appeared frustrated over the bureaucratic nature of this response.
“We are told everything in the air and water is fine, but everyone is getting sick. This is why people are getting frustrated. We get told to call another number, another number, and another number, and it circles back. If I call the number on your card, with all due respect, you won’t be able to answer my question.”Attendee, Town Hall
Johnson continued to dish out the same answers, and stated “come back to me if you’re not getting help from anyone else and we will elevate the issue for you to try and find an answer for you.” Many families took the megaphone to raise concerns about the tap water, finding it unsafe to give to their children, while others raised awareness about how dangerous it is for them to access their well water.
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EPA experts answered many growing concerns from locals, but it quickly became apparent that they were not being received well. Instead, officials begged residents to fill out applications on a website so the EPA could collect samples and test their water. Unfortunately, some were instructed to call a number to be added to a queue for air and water sample collection. They were eventually recommended to drink bottled water until their wells had been tested.
At one point in the evening, a child approached Trent Conaway and asked if they should be worried by odd smells still lingering in the streets of East Palestine. Health experts reiterated their response about how, if they smell something odd, it doesn’t mean it’s toxic. Congressman Johnson offered a patronizing response.
“Have you ever peeled an orange?” He said. “You know how when you peel an orange, and you smell the rind? That doesn’t hurt you.” He continued, quipping that “many chemicals” like propane can have a residual smell, “they have a perfume,” and the odor emitted has toxicity levels lower than “what can hurt you.” This is despite the fact that one would not inhale propane for nearly as long as one would inhale air from outside, and that exposure to substances like propane is toxic.
Some attendees in the crowd had commented that they felt as if the child who had asked the question was planted by Congressman Johnson to appear relatable. The Justice Report could not verify the claim.
Toward the later part of the meeting, a mother approached the megaphone and shared her story of how she finally received some compensation from the now-disgraced railroad company, Norfolk Southern. She claimed that after persistently hounding the company, Norfolk Southern sent a toxicologist to test the river water close to her home and also pay for her rent.
She used this story to highlight how a majority of others in the community weren’t as fortunate as her to receive such quick testing and compensation for their suffering. “They said that my house… I should not go back to it. They talked to me today and offered me a settlement. My question is: why doesn’t everyone else deserve that same treatment? If I went home with my daughter, I might not be standing today.”
She stressed the importance for everyone to “speak up for yourself or no one else will.” Another mother joined in, expressing her concern about returning home with her newborn children. In a now predictable fashion, Congressman Johnson advised the mothers to fill out the necessary paperwork to file their complaints with his office for later investigation.
Another resident went on to ask the experts why the trains were traveling at double the speed of the 25 miles-per-hour standard, however, since representatives from Norfolk Southern had backed out just before the meeting, the question was left unanswered. Experts, on the other hand, deflected, saying, “this would be best for Norfolk Southern to respond.”
Later on, Michael McKevitt raised a question to the Mayor from his seat in the stands, asking, “Why is it not considered a problem when there are now hundreds of thousands of gallons of petroleum product now in the water and soil?” Despite Conaway taking multiple audience questions from their seats that night, he claimed he couldn’t hear McKevitt and totally ignored the question.
Jordan remarked that it was great for representatives from the NJP to attend, claiming that people in East Palestine are “way too patient” with the responses of Johnson and local officials. He felt the town hall was hastily organized to “give people the runaround, bore people to leave, and not answer people’s questions.”
McKevitt, on the other hand, commented on how bizarre the answers that were being supplied to residents sounded to the greater public. He also focused on the congressman’s comparison of toxic gasses to the aroma of orange peels.
“Are you telling me that huffing paint and inhaling second-hand smoke is healthy?” McKevitt asked. “He was trying to say that just because you smell an orange, it doesn’t mean anything. But an orange isn’t going to kill you. I can eat an orange. What I can’t eat, is vinyl chloride.”
Joseph Jordan stated that, if the opportunity presented itself, the National Justice Party would absolutely go to another town hall meeting held in East Palestine. Members of the NJP concluded their presence at the meeting by donating numerous cases of bottled water to those in need. While the future of the disaster-ridden East Palestine, Ohio is still unclear, the NJP’s commitment to White Americans and their plight appears to be nothing short of dogged.
The National Justice Party has made its physical presence known multiple times in recent memory. In January, a contingent of NJP activists protested an all-ages drag show in Cookeville, Tennessee. As a result of the political pressure, the brewery hosting the event was forced to shutter its doors. In 2022, the NJP marched in Akron, Ohio twice to demand Justice for Ethan Liming, the White teenager savagely beaten to death by three black killers who were issued lesser charges.