UPDATE 2/18/23: The citizens of East Palestine, Ohio, the majority-White town suffering from the catastrophic effects of a derailed Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic materials, have finally been approved for aid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The news stems from a press conference held by Ohio governor, Mike DeWine Friday evening and comes less than one week after claiming the town was ineligible for FEMA aid.
“FEMA and the State of Ohio have been in constant contact regarding emergency operations in East Palestine,” said DeWine alongside FEMA regional director Thomas Sivak. “U.S. EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and Ohio EPA have been working together since day one,”
The kind of aid or what that aid might look like is still unknown. Additionally, on top of confirming that FEMA will now be involved in assisting the disaster-ravaged region, DeWine also confirmed his willingness to go after Norfolk Southern for playing a role in the disaster.
“We’re gonna continue to represent them, to make sure that Norfolk Southern does not get off the hook in any way, shape, or form.”Governor Mike DeWine
The news of FEMA aid and a promise to hold corporate interests accountable coincide with a town hall meeting held in East Palestine on Wednesday night. During the meeting—which was originally slated to host representatives from Norfolk Southern before they unceremoniously bowed out—activists and committee members of the National Justice Party arrived to put pressure on Congressman, Bill Johnson.
During the town hall, Congressman Johnson was confronted by NJP Committee member, Joseph Jordan in a viral video shared on social media. Despite fleeing a confrontation and calling the Ohio Highway Patrol to squash the confrontation, Congressman Johnson reversed course the following day by formally requesting aid for East Palestine.
East Palestine, OH – Republican Congressman Bill Johnson is now urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide federal assistance to East Palestine, Ohio, following a train derailment that resulted in a chemical fire on February 3, 2023.
Johnson’s request comes after he was confronted by National Justice Party activist, founding central committee member, and independent journalist Joseph Jordan at a town hall meeting in East Palestine Wednesday night.
During the meeting, Jordan questioned Johnson about the lack of federal response to the disaster and demanded to know why FEMA had not provided assistance. Johnson dismissed Jordan’s concerns and stated that FEMA was not supposed to be involved, as this was not a natural disaster. He also seemingly passed the buck by claiming that the Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, would need to declare a state of emergency for any action to be taken. However, Jordan persisted, asking why the federal government couldn’t do more to help the affected community.
Johnson ended the conversation by calling for officers of the Ohio State Highway Patrol to confront Jordan. However, the next day, Johnson apparently changed his stance and led the Ohio U.S. House and U.S. Senate delegation in a letter to FEMA, urging federal assistance for the community of East Palestine.
In the letter, Johnson highlights the severity of the wreckage, the release of toxic chemicals, and the disruption to the lives of local residents. He expresses concern that Ohio apparently does not meet the eligibility threshold for FEMA assistance and calls on FEMA to provide a detailed response as to why the residents of East Palestine do not qualify for assistance. Johnson urges the agency to use any available federal resources to help the suffering residents of the small majority White community.
It also appears that Jordan’s activism has spurred a response from the Republican governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine. On Wednesday morning after the East Palestine Townhall, Governor DeWine took to Twitter to claim that he purportedly asked for federal support and was turned down because a chemical disaster apparently does not cover a traditional FEMA remit.
“I spoke w/ the White House early this morning to address the need for federal help in East Palestine,” said DeWine. “As a result of this conversation, I have requested assistance from the U.S. Dept of Health/Human Services, Health & Emergency Response Team, & CDC to provide direct support.”
The statement, however, does not appear to be the case, as he has yet to make an official request for FEMA assistance in the same manner as a request recently issued by the governor of California in the wake of “atmospheric river systems.” FEMA also has multiple documents (1)(2) outlining their response obligations and guidelines for hazardous materials and chemical-related disasters.
The derailment has caused widespread concern in the local community and the majority White region, with images of rising black mushroom clouds and hellish plumes of fire circulating nationwide on the internet. Johnson and DeWine’s responses to the National Justice Party’s persistent questioning and pro-White advocacy demonstrate the power of grassroots activism in holding institutions accountable and securing much-needed assistance for affected communities.