In an effort to calm the storms related to the massive water shutoffs in Detroit, corporate Mayor Mike Duggan issued a so-called “10-point plan” at a press conference on Aug. 7. Included in Duggan’s plan were steps to give residents a (mere) one-week notice before shutoff; to reduce the down payment required on arrearages from 30 percent of the amount owed to 10 percent; and to waive late penalties and turn-on restoration fees through the expiration of the shutoff moratorium on Aug. 25. In addition, Duggan claims the customer service staff at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will be increased by 50 percent by Aug. 18.
The issue of an indefinite moratorium was not discussed, and neither was the role of the banks and the drive toward privatization of the DWSD. Duggan’s rhetoric feigned concern about the way in which the shutoff campaign by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr was handled, but did not criticize the outright terror being inflicted on the people in this majority African-American city.
It was an activist from the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs whose testimony July 15 objecting to the “plan of adjustment” brought the issue of water shutoffs into the city’s federal bankruptcy case. The ensuing publicity and a mass march on July 18 helped win a temporary moratorium and then an extension.
Detroit activists are not letting up the pressure on a number of fundamental issues, including the right to water services and the role of the banks in the crisis. The Moratorium NOW! Coalition stresses the connection between U.S. domestic policy against the nationally oppressed and the working class here and war and economic exploitation of people in developing countries around the world.
Another Freedom Friday
Freedom Friday 13 on Aug. 8 started at the DWSD headquarters, where a picket line was held. Participants then marched to the Chase Bank in the financial district for a picket and rally. Attention was drawn to Chase and the interest-rate swaps terminated in 2012, where the water department paid out $537 million to Chase and three other criminal loan shark banks — United Bank of Switzerland, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. Speakers also condemned the role of Chase in the home mortgage and municipal fraud that has helped shape the dire economic conditions in Detroit.
The Freedom Friday demonstration then headed to the federal courthouse where a Gaza solidarity protest was taking place. Palestine solidarity activists cheered as the Freedom Friday marchers joined them. This is the same courthouse where numerous protests have taken place against the emergency management and forced bankruptcy of the city.
The two groupings demonstrated in support of the rights of the peoples of Detroit and of Palestine. The link between the siege of Gaza and the emergency management and the drive to privatize services in Detroit was made, including access to water.