AFRICANGLOBE – Detroit police on Thursday arrested eight people, including religious leaders, who were protesting controversial water shutoffs for overdue bills in Detroit, Officer LaShawn Peoples of the Public Information Office confirms.
He said the arrests were for misdemeanor disorderly conduct and the ages of the arrested ranged from 28 to 70.
According to activist Justin Wedes, an activist and co-founder of the Paul Robeson Freedom School, he and nine others were arrested during the protest.
Detroit police could not immediately be reached for arrest count verification Friday afternoon.
Watch police detain some of the protesters below.
Nearly 50 picketed in Detroit outside of and blocked the gates of a company contracted by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to shut off water to delinquent customers beginning at 6:30 a.m. .
The issue of Detroit customers, many of whom live below the poverty line, losing access to water has been call a civil rights issue and garnered national attention.
Detroit congressman John Conyers sent off letters Friday to Pres. Barack Obama, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Director and Chief Executive Office of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department Sue McCormick requesting “immediate federal action” in the form of funding for the problem.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department on Wednesday announced plans to use $1 million from its Detroit Residential Water Assistance Program to help low-income customers avoid shutoffs.
In May, about 46,000 notices were delivered to non-paying customers and water was cut off to about 4,500 of them. In total, officials report 90,000 city residents and businesses are behind on their water bills.
The water department is reportedly responsible for about $6 billion of Detroit’s $18 billion debt.
By: Gus Burns
MORE: Detroit Residents Block Company Disconnecting Water Services
The Council of Canadians condemns the unwarranted arrests this morning of Detroit residents who blocked the entrance to Homrich Wrecking Inc., the company contracted to shut-off residential water service. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “We are outraged to hear that residents acting to make sure their neighbours have drinking water were arrested this morning. We stand in solidarity with the Detroit residents asserting one of their most basic human rights.”
The Detroit Free Press reports, “Detroit police arrested an estimated 10 people, including several clergy members, during a protest of city water shutoffs this morning. Protesters carried signs and blocked, at least temporarily, the entrance to a dispatch center for the company that facilitates Detroit’s controversial program to shut off water service for nonpayment.”
InterOccupy.net notes, “Among them were a retired religious sister, two pastors, a member of Detroit School Board, a veteran journalist, a building manager, and a local seminary professor. Several were grandparents of children in Detroit.”
“With a banner that read, ‘Stop the Water Shut-offs’ they blocked the 2660 East Grand Boulevard entrance to Homrich Wrecking Inc., the private corporation contracted to shut-off residential water service. Homrich is under at $5.6 million two-year contract. The group appealed to Homrich workers to honor the international human right of access to water. They delivered copies of the June 1, 2014 complaint filed with the United Nations on behalf of Detroiters, along with the response of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Water and Sanitation…”
The Detroit Free Press article adds, “The Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, pastor of St. Peter Episcopal Church in Detroit, was among those arrested. He said the group of a few dozen protesters arrived about 6:30 a.m. and began blocking the gates to the facility on East Grand Boulevard about 7 a.m. today. He said that police tried to ‘move us forcibly, and we sat down’. Then officers began arresting protesters. ‘We’re here to appeal to the workers to stop shutting off the water’, he said, speaking from the rear window of a police car.”
You can follow this story on Twitter at the Detroit Water Brigade and by searching the hashtags #WageLove, #DetroitWater and #watershutoffs.
For the raw video of the arrests see below.
Detroit Water Shutoff Protesters Arrested