Detroit's effort to shut off delinquent water customers led to additional arrests as more than 1,000 protesters rallied against Michigan's largest city ending service to thousands who have unpaid bills, which include nearly half the troubled city's customers.
The plan to shut off water to get delinquent customers to pay their bills, and the protests that followed, brought new national attention Detroit, which is going through the country's largest municipal bankruptcy ever, according to the Detroit Free Press
Detroit police arrested protesters Friday who blocked trucks leaving the water department's dispatch center to disconnect additional residences. Protesters complain that shutting off water to so many creates a public health and human rights issues.
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"This is a humanitarian crisis in the making," Michelle Mahon, 42, of Cleveland, told the Detroit Free Press. Mahon told the newspaper she is a field organizer for the National Nurses United union. "As nurses, it's our duty to act when we see a community in danger."
The Wall Street Journal reported
that Detroit has 175,000 active residential water accounts, including about 80,000 past-due customers owing $43 million, averaging $540. Some 15,000 accounts have been shutoffs because of nonpayment.
The city's emergency manager Kevyn Orr, appointed to run in the city by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, told the Journal that the shutoff plan was an effort to run the city in a more responsible manner than the past.
Detroit water department spokesman Gregory Eno said that despite the protest, the public is getting the message and those signing up for water-bill payment plans have increased from 11,000 to 17,000. Eno added that the city also created a new assistance program for poor customers.
"There is no rethinking of the strategy," Eno told the Journal. "It's working."
Actor Mark Ruffalo, who appeared at the liberal leaning Netroots Nation event in Detroit on Friday, appeared with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren to support the protesters, according to the Huffington Post
"What's happening in Detroit is a model for what can be happening to the nation," Ruffalo told the protesters. "Instead of a nation for the .01 percent, it's a nation for all of us. Resistance and resilience. Water is a right."
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