[News] Water Resistance Trial Underway in Detroit

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Fri Nov 20 11:20:52 EST 2015


November 20, 2015


  Water Resistance Trial Underway in Detroit
  <http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/20/water-resistance-trial-underway-in-detroit/>

by Bill Quigley <http://www.counterpunch.org/author/bill-quigley/>

*http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/20/water-resistance-trial-underway-in-detroit/*

A jury trial is underway in Detroit 
<http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2015/11/18/detroit-water-shutoffs/75978900/> 
for human rights activists arrested for blocking trucks which were going 
to cutoff water to low-income families.

On July 18, 2014, dozens of people successfully blocked the trucks of 
the Homrich Inc., a private wrecking company that the City of Detroit 
contracts with to carry out water shutoffs. The trucks were leaving to 
cutoff water for Detroiters who were more than $150 past due on 
payments. After an eight hour blockade nine people were arrested 
<http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/10/detroit-water-protests.html>.

Those on trial said civil disobedience was their only option to address 
the grave public health crisis of mass water shutoffs, since the City of 
Detroit was under emergency management, which effectively strips all 
elected officials of decision-making power. One of the people on trial 
is Bill Wylie-Kellermann, pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in 
Detroit. He told The Detroit News 
<http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2015/11/18/detroit-water-shutoffs/75978900/> 
“It was, at the time, the last vestige of democracy in the city.”

Defendant Marian Kramer of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and 
Highland Park Human Right Coalition highlighted what she sees as the 
irony of the City criminally charging and prosecuting defendants for 
nonviolent defense of Detroiters’ right to water. “The true crime is 
that thousands of people who are struggling to pay their water bills are 
being deprived of a basic necessity of life.   Instead of implementing 
the Water Affordability Plan, which would tie water rates to income and 
which Detroit City Council supports, the Mayor chooses to shut off the 
water of thousands of Detroiters. Who is the real criminal?”

Detroit announced last month it has already cut off water 
<http://www.dwsd.org/downloads_n/about_dwsd/director/directors_report_2015-10-29.pdf> 
to more than 16,000 residences and warned another 49,000 that their 
water will be shut off soon. People whose water has been shutoff 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/21/detroit-water-shutoff-life-or-death> 
are living in homes using buckets of water from neighbors and family.

In October 2014, two United Nations experts insisted Detroit restore 
water to people unable to pay their bills saying failure to do so is a 
violation of the human rights 
<http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2015/11/18/detroit-water-shutoffs/75978900/> 
of residents. The City’s response to the UN was dismissive. “This is the 
same organization that’s trying to achieve world peace – it’s not going 
to happen.” 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/21/detroit-water-shutoff-life-or-death>

A coalition of organizations has created The Peoples Water Board 
<http://www.peopleswaterboard.org/> which advocates to place a 
moratorium on the water shutoffs, restore service to those whose water 
has been cutoff and to implement a Water Affordability Plan. The WAP was 
created by economist Roger Colton and the Michigan Welfare Rights 
Organization who run a Water Rights Hotline: (844) 42WATER 
[844-429-2837]. People interested in providing help to families facing 
cutoffs can contact We The People of Detroit 
<http://wethepeopleofdetroit.com/>.

There is widespread resistance to these human rights violations. There 
is good news. The Legislative Policy Division staff of the Detroit City 
Council recently issued a legal opinion 
<https://www.scribd.com/doc/288997048/Legality-of-Water-Affordability-Plan-10-21-2015> 
saying a water affordability ordinance which would adjust water rates 
based on income levels can be legally created.

/*Bill Quigley* teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be 
reached at quigley77 at gmail.com <mailto:quigley77 at gmail.com>./

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