Originally published June 2 2015
Detroit citizens launch Detroit Water Brigade as battle looms with corporate monopolization of water supply
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) The "little people" have had enough in Detroit, and they're not taking it anymore.
Scores of residents behind on their bills have had their water shut off by city water department officials, even as corporate slackers continue to have service despite being behind on their water bills, too.
As reported by MintPress News, the service cancellations are part of a package of "reforms" by the city government, including a push to privatize services that were once managed by the city government.. Since the city filed for bankruptcy in 2013, trash collection has been handed off to a private firm, and there is an effort to further privatize water and sewage services.
According to the Detroit Free Press in a March 2014 report, then-city emergency manager Kevyn Orr appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to steer Detroit through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, saying that the city government had a duty to its creditors to look at all options for service. Privatization has been increasingly viewed as better than having the city and its depleted coffers running services that governments traditionally handle.
Corporate cheats get away with itToday, much of the dwindling population -- which is down from a peak of 1.8 million in 1950 to under 700,000 today -- is struggling in a downtrodden economy to pay for basic services and rent. Tens of thousands of city residents have fallen behind on water and sewage bills.
In an effort to pare down the red ink, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, which is not yet privatized, has begun a campaign of shutting off water service to individual families and users who are delinquent.
As reported by MintPress News:
In April 2014, the City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department announced it would be disconnecting 140,000 residents from their water services. Led by bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr, the city shut off water services to homes owing $150 or more to the department. The disconnections were hitting up to 3,000 a week by June.
The decision to disconnect the water to Detroit's remaining residents stirred controversy both at home and abroad, leading to questions about corporatization and whether access to water is a basic human right.
Water a "basic human right"DeMeeko Williams, co-founder, political director and chief coordinator of the Detroit Water Brigade, a group he helped found to end water service cancellations after his own water was shut off, noted that while ordinary citizens were losing their service, local corporations and even some churches that owe millions of dollars are still allowed to keep their service.
He said he thinks there is collusion between local politicians and corporations allowing the latter to keep their lights on and their water flowing. To that end, Al Jazeera America reported in October that the Detroit Red Wings' hockey arena owed the city some $80,000, while the Detroit Lions' stadium, Ford Field, owed $55,000. In sum, commercial and industrial users owe $30 million in unpaid water bills.
Williams says his activist group is raising awareness about the disparity between corporate water cheats and local residents who are just struggling to get by. He and other Detroit Water Brigade volunteers have put their bodies on the line, forming blockades to prevent local water officials from shutting off water to some homes.
"The 'Water Warriors' put their bodies on the line to protect Detroiters. Five hundred shut-offs were prevented," he said recently.
The issue has now become one of international human and civil rights. Officials with the United Nations have called the shut-offs inhumane, arguing that water is a basic necessity.
"Disconnections due to non-payment are only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying," said Catarina de Albuquerque, the U.N. expert on the human right to water and sanitation.
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