A group of ordinary Detroit residents acted early Thursday morning to intervene in the continuing shut-off of water at city residences. 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 which reads in part, “Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”
Bill Wylie-Kellermann, one of the pastors said, “We act today in honor and memory of Charity Hicks, Detroit food and water activist, who urged us to ‘Wage Love.’ When her water was shut-off, her resistance sparked the current actions of the water movement. We act in solidarity with all the Detroit water groups who are calling for an end to shut-offs and the restoration of services, a revival and implementation of the Water Affordability program, a halt to privatization, and a recognition of water as a human right.”
“This is what emergency management looks like,” said Denise Griebler, a UCC pastor, “The Water Department, under the current rule of the Governor and Emergency Manager has described this violation of rights as a ‘commercial success,’ but we see the cost to our neighbors, the cost to Detroit. We say reconnect the people.”
Detroit School Board member, Elena Herrada, said simply, “First they came for the schools…” Jim Perkinson, one of the group from Ecumenical Theological Seminary, said, “We believe these draconian cutoffs are designed to facilitate privatization, but all the evidence indicates that would lead only to vastly increased rates and bills. The vision of a city whose neighborhoods are culled of poor people of color, first by foreclosures and now shut-offs, is not the city which we believe in.”