Detroit’s decision to cut off water to thousands of residents this month has provoked an international outcry. Yet, while it’s encouraging to hear U.N. experts say the shut off policy “constitutes a violation of the human right to water,” their remarks certainly don’t take the pressure of local residents to hold the Emergency Manager-backed water department accountable.
Fortunately, Detroiters aren’t backing down. In fact, a local group called the Detroit Water Brigade is sponsoring a Water Week in Detroit and Highland Park, which started June 29, to organize community members around the issue of water cuts.
Backed by the People’s Water Board Coalition, which includes local community groups like the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, EMEAC and Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, Water Week aims to educate residents facing shut offs about their rights and is pushing for a water affordability plan so all Detroiters have access to water. DBC is also reaching out Highland Parkers who have been dealing with similar issues due to systematic problems that have left some residents without water bills for more than a year.
Justin Wedes is a founding member of the Detroit Water Brigade. He told Critical Moment that many members of the group, which launched earlier this month, are veterans of Occupy Sandy and other disaster relief projects.
“We saw the city of Detroit shutting off water for thousands of residents as the definition of a humanitarian crisis,” he said. “When you shut off water, a whole cascade of problems can take place: everything from cooking, cleaning and sanitation problems; to children being taken away by Child Protective Services; to tax liens, tax foreclosures and eviction.”
Water Week kicked off on Saturday in Highland Park with a informational tent and BBQ, offering food provided by the Wobbly Kitchen and other supporters. On Sunday, June 29, activists will continue sharing food and talking with community members at their tent from noon to 5 p.m. The tent is located at 24 Avalon Street in Highland Park. During the rest of the week, activists will be canvassing different neighborhoods in Detroit and Highland Park to speak with local residents about the shut offs.
In addition to education and advocacy, DBC is also working long-term to stockpile bottled water, collect rainwater, develop distribution hubs and create a network of volunteers to deliver resources to those affected by the shut off crisis. Wedes says people can help out by volunteering and donating water and other resources to the effort. More details are available at detroitwaterbrigade.org.
“We’re here to protect residents from getting their water shut off,” said Wedes. “We want people to know Detroiters are organizing to fight back against the water shut offs and to create a mutual aid network of our neighbors and friends, as we work to end these destructive policies.”
Photos courtesy of Detroit Water Brigade