October 14, 2020 | News | No Comments
Thousands of people are expected to rally in Detroit Friday afternoon to demand a moratorium on the city’s mass shut-offs of water to households, which they say has unleashed a public health emergency.
Dozens of local, national, and international organizations and unions are backing the march, which will call for an immediate renewal of water services to thousands of residences that have already been disconnected, with tens of thousands more slated to be next. “The more attention we can bring to this moment, the more likely we are to get action to alleviate a crisis that doesn’t have to happen,” Shea Howell of the communications working group for Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management and the People’s Water Board told Common Dreams.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) announced last month it is implementing a plan to escalate the disconnection of water to households that have fallen behind on their bills to 3,000 a month. Nearly half of all residents are behind on their water payments—a pool that is likely to expand further as the city continues to increase its water rates and cut public services, including welfare and public pensions.
“Cutting off water to community residents is a disgraceful attack on the basic human right of access to safe, clean water,” —Jean Ross, National Nurses United
As a result, thousands of Detroit residents are going without water, despite its close proximity to the Great Lakes—which account for over one-fifth of the surface fresh water in the world.
The disconnections have been condemned as a “violation of human rights” by a UN panel, with the UN expert on the right to adequate housing warning they “may be discriminatory” against African Americans. Many residents suspect the shut-offs are part of a plan to get rid of bad debts to privatize water services, and ultimately, drive residents out of this majority-black city to make way for gentrification and corporate profits.
But organizers say Detroiters are finding creative ways to resist the water shut-offs and help each other get by.
Friday morning, residents blocked the entrance to Homrich Inc., the company contracted by the city to shut off water to homes. According to Howell, the civil disobedience is still ongoing, with a standoff between protesters and police. The direct action follows a similar protest earlier this month, which led to the arrest of ten residents.
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