Detroiters say, ‘End water shutoffs!’

Protest at Detroit Water & Sewerage headquarters, June 6.WW photo: Kris Hamel

Protest at Detroit Water & Sewerage headquarters, June 6.
WW photo: Kris Hamel

Detroit Freedom Friday 5 gathered in front of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department building on June 6. Activists opposing rule by the banks and their Emergency Manager, plus city retirees facing steep cuts to their pensions, environmental advocates and other concerned people, demanded an immediate end to mass water shutoffs that started in May. Any residential customer with an outstanding bill over $150 is subject to cutoff at any time. An estimated 1,500 to 3,000 shutoffs per week are being done by private contractors.

According to the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, businesses and other large entities are being let off the hook for their water bills. Palmer Park Golf Club owes $200,000, which is the same amount owed by the Veterans Administration Hospital. Joe Louis Arena, a professional hockey and concert arena, is $80,000 in arrears, while Ford Field, a football stadium and concert venue, owes the city $55,000.

After picketing the DWSD headquarters, chanting “Water is a right! We’re going to fight, fight fight!” and other slogans demanding water for the people, protesters marched against a “blight report” issued May 27 by EM-appointed blight czar Dan Gilbert, owner of Quicken Loans and multiple properties in downtown Detroit.

Activists marched through Gilbert-policed Campus Martius Park to Chase Bank and Quicken Loans, taking private security off guard as they boldly asserted their right to protest downtown. Workers and community members watched as militant picketers in front of the bank chanted loudly, “Who caused the blight? The banks caused the blight!”

The 177-page blight report contains not one mention of the role of the former “Big Three” automobile companies and the banks in causing the very blight the commission is tasked with overcoming.

A Moratorium NOW! leader told Workers World: “The banks should pay for the $850 million cost for residential blight removal, since it was the banks that destroyed vast areas of our city with racist, predatory foreclosures and mass evictions. But the report doesn’t mention this. Neither does it talk about the role of the auto companies in causing industrial blight, which would cost an estimated $1 billion to remove.

“The report cited approximately 30,000 owner-occupied homes facing tax foreclosures, but made no mention that the state of Michigan refuses to release hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Helping Hardest Hit Homeowner funds, which could prevent these foreclosures.”

The protest demanded that the banks and corporations pay not only for the blight they have caused but also for an immediate moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions.