On Thursday afternoon, around 50 individuals gathered in the parking lot of Homrich, a Detroit company contracted by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to shut off the water supply of customers that are over two months past due on their bills. At least nine of the protesters were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for stopping the company’s trucks from leaving the parking lot; they were later released on bail.
Protesters claim this is just the first in what will be a stream of resistance should the city not show more leniency to its residents. They argue that with the city’s high poverty rate of 44% and water bills that are higher than the national average, alternative means of lowering the municipality’s $175 million unpaid bills amount should be explored.
For example, while the average resident behind on their bill by two months owes $150, the state of Michigan owes $70,000 and a local large golf course owes over $400,000. Protesters believe that these entities should be the ones hounded for repayment, while residents should be allowed to enter some type of repayment plan, allowing them the continued use of what should be a basic human right, water.
The protest has prompted the water provider to announce a fund to help struggling customers, although shut-offs are likely to continue for some of them.
Read more at Al Jazeera.