On Friday, Detroit citizens protested downtown near the COBO convention center. They then marched to the renowned Hart Plaza on the riverfront. Netroots Nation 2014 attendees comprised a very large number of the protesters in solidarity with the cause. A few weeks ago the Detroit water department began shutting off the water for those citizens that owed $150 or more. Most of these people are unemployed, poor, or disabled. It has even drawn criticism from the United Nations.
There was an explosive exchange recently between community activist Maureen Taylor and Detroit reporter Hank Winchester on MSNBC as the reporter used dog whistles in describing those that have been unable to pay their bills. Interestingly, many corporations owe thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Their water is never at risk of being shutoff.
After the protest, a very insightful young woman, Atpeace Makita, spoke to me. Inasmuch as Detroit has been an exploited city for decades, her hope is for a resolution somewhere in the middle. She believes it is time for people to come together, not forgetting the past, but leaving the past behind.
Makita speaking in those terms expresses the viewpoints of many. Many people that I have talked to simply want the city to be given an opportunity to rebound from a long-term wound that is of no fault of their own. The extraction of labor and human capital from cities like Detroit is a systemic problem that affects our entire economy. This is unsustainable. Asking the aggrieved masses to bear the brunt of the corporate pilfering will ultimately lead to nationwide unrest, riots, and likely much violence.
Please read below the fold for more on this story.
People are people. Ultimately they react when pushed beyond some threshold. Unrest in other countries should be probative. A few more Detroits could make that unrest a soon visitor of our shores.
Before the protest several Detroiters were arrested as they blocked the entrance to Homrich Wrecking Inc., “a private contractor that has executed some of the turnoffs, for more than six hours, holding large signs with photos of children using water and a banner reading “Stop the Water Shut-offs.”
According to the Detroit News:
State officials on Friday disputed that water shut-offs in Detroit constitute a public health crisis, despite protests in the city that drew large crowds and led to at least nine arrests.
A group called National Nurses United, which led a march and protest downtown Friday near Cobo Center, said the shut-offs pose a public health emergency and demanded an immediate moratorium on them. The group’s co-president, Jean Ross, has called the shut-offs an “attack on the basic human right of access to safe, clean water.”
But a state Department of Community Health spokeswoman indicated a public health emergency does not exist in Detroit.
“Based on our understanding of the number of residents impacted by the shut-offs, we do not feel there is a public health crisis as we are confident that the assistance programs in the community can serve the actual number of residents being impacted,” Angela Minicuci said in a statement.
The water department’s attempt to crack down on widespread delinquencies amid the city's financial crisis has led to at least 42,000 shutoffs since July 2013. That has prompted a wave of criticism, including from the United Nations, celebrities — actor Mark Ruffalo spoke at Friday’s protests — and even the city's bankruptcy judge.