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Forum Post: Direct Action to Survive in Detroit

Posted 8 years ago on July 22, 2014, 1:45 a.m. EST by LeoYoh (115)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Direct Action to Survive in Detroit

Monday, 21 July 2014 11:47
By Marina Sitrin, Z Communications | Op-Ed


Israel has cut off all water to Gaza. Detroit has shut off the water to over 4,000 families, with another 140,000 up next. It is summer. It is extremely hot in both places. I should not even have to write that people need water to live. To deprive people of water is not only a human rights violation, it is an act of aggression. It sends a clear message that those who have power, and the power to cut off water, not only do not care if you survive, but do not want you to survive. How else can this be interpreted?

The mayor of Detroit apologizes that he was not “sensitive” enough in the process of doing this. Israel of course would never apologize – but it does not matter. Deprivation of water is deprivation of water.

You will, I imagine, be reading this and thinking, yes, it is horrible, but Israel is not the same as Detroit. And you will be right. Israel sees itself in an endless war with Palestine and is clear about its attempts to destroy an entire people. The government of Detroit and the water companies do not say this. They apologize and then back up what could lead to death for thousands with a legal argument. Non-payment for services provided. Oh, that makes it different. Intentionality of result. So if you feel badly and have a legal argument, then if cutting off someone’s water causes death it is different. In Detroit if you are more than two months overdue with your bill then it makes sense your children should not have any water to drink or bathe with – of course – non-payment should lead to possible death. Again, you may read this and find me extreme. I am extreme. I am so angry. I am furious. Cutting off a families water source – and during the hottest part of the summer – should make everyone furious.

I do not believe we are represented in the United States. I believe this is what people in the over 1,000 towns, villages and cities were saying with Occupy Wall Street and the idea of the 99% and 1%. We are not represented, the people do not decide the things that matter most in our lives – corporations, with the support of governments, do. If there was any doubt about this, ask someone in Detroit who decides who gets to have water – the most basic necessity to live. If a corporation is deciding and not a person or the people – well, clearly, this is not a democracy.

I could continue with my fury, but fortunately there are people in Detroit, and supporters from around the country, who also believe the people should decide things that matter most in their lives, and so together they are keeping people’s water on and preventing shut offs. How are they doing this? Petitions? Lobbying? Asking or protesting? No. They have been doing that for years with no result. Just as with Occupy and similar movements around the world, people are taking matters into their own hands. Thousands of people are now involved in the Detroit Water Brigades, a project that supports those who have or might have their water cut off. They do this through democratic assemblies, deciding together what to do, and then making sure no one is without water. In other words, using direct action and direct democracy. Forms of action and decision making that have taken off around the world as the crisis gets worse and government after government refuse to support the people. Worse, governments take it out on the people, evicting them, cutting off their water, electricity and laying them off work. Depriving people of their most basic rights and means to survival.

Detroit, while joining the world governments that make war on people, such as Israel, is also joining millions of people from around the world in their power from below – horizontal and direct action power. Similar to Greece, where now over 40 percent of the population refuse to allow their electricity to be cut off, and organize together in neighborhoods to chase out those from the electric company who come to try and do it – or if somehow the electricity is cut off then together reconnect it … sound familiar? In Detroit it is 40% of the population that is slated to have their water cut. And people together are blocking and chasing away the trucks that come and try and disconnect the water. They are also reconnecting water once disconnected.

In Spain, similar to Greece, when people are threatened with evictions they no longer ask or plead with banks or government agencies, they instead first go to their local assembly of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Movement of Mortgage Victims – PAH). There are over 160 PAHs in Spain, and what they do is use direct action to keep people from being evicted. They do this organizing in directly democratic assemblies and then following the lead of what people want, find ways to keep them housed. Sometimes this takes the form of a human blockade of neighbors, not allowing the police to carry out an eviction. Most recently, if families are evicted, they have begun to collectively take over abandoned buildings so people stay housed. Again, the same as Detroit, meeting people’s needs however possible, and doing it collectively and democratically.

So, while the government of the US goes along with policies that mirror Israel at war with an entire people, We, the people of the United States, led by Detroit, are joining our sisters and brothers from Greece and Spain, creating real democracy and showing that real power is from below.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



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[-] 6 points by Renneye (3874) 8 years ago

"It sends a clear message that those who have power, and the power to cut off water, not only do not care if you survive, but do not want you to survive. How else can this be interpreted?"


It's a perverse twist of human nature that people are kept from a life-necessity by a select few people who have no right to own it.

Detroit has woken up first in the US, and exactly as I always suspected...people always wake up when they are finally sufficiently uncomfortable...and it doesn't get more uncomfortable than dying of dehydration from lack of water.

The elite intentionally keeping water from the people is an act of war. It is Democide...and it IS intentional.

The US public has woken. They're angry...and have every right to be. They're staying longer and stronger at protests.

Who'd have thought the US revolution would start in Detroit? Three years ago, I would have guessed New York.

Thank you for this post, Leo...and all the other information sharing you do here.

Solidarity...to you, Detroit, and all of our global brothers and sisters.

[-] 5 points by beautifulworld (23615) 8 years ago

"After 3 days, you need water or you'll perish."

From: "How Long Can a Person Survive Without Water?"


That is posted for anyone too dumb to already know that. President Obama, are you too dumb?

[-] 5 points by beautifulworld (23615) 8 years ago

Where are you President Obama? Why aren't you bringing in the military to turn the water back on in Detroit?

This is an all time low for America and you are President. Do something.

[-] 3 points by turbocharger (1756) 8 years ago

You are better off talking to your dog, at least then when it licks itself afterwards you know its not meant as an insult.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

Where are you President Obama?

[ edit ] ummm too busy sanctioning war crimes against humanity ? ( drone war for those who might be wondering ).

edit-> further busyness ? - https://occupywallst.org/forum/dnc-2016-should-be-held-somewhere-else-not-nyc/#comment-1039145

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (23615) 8 years ago

I think if Obama takes no action to turn the water back on in Detroit then that is a reason for impeachment.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

Yes - I can see that - as - being - another - good reason for impeachment - as it is ( Detroit water turn off ) very definitely a crime against humanity - and a clear cut demonstration of DEMOCIDE. But that does not diminish the fact that he and others in government should be impeached for the earlier and on-going crimes against humanity = the Drone wars = a war "OF" terror.

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (23615) 8 years ago

Absolutely right. Every word you say. And well put. Turning off the water supply to citizens is a crime against humanity! Nothing less!

Where should they go for water? McDonald's? Any American who thinks it could never be them in that position is a fool.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago
[-] 5 points by beautifulworld (23615) 8 years ago

Water is a human right. End this madness.

[-] 2 points by turbocharger (1756) 8 years ago

At what point do the people- keep in mind this is suppose to be a "public" utility- decide that its enough, the rules dont matter, get the hell out of the way we are going to run this?

[-] 5 points by beautifulworld (23615) 8 years ago

They better start soon because these bozos are not going to stop actions like this. This is just the beginning of what is not going to be a party for the American people.

[-] 4 points by turbocharger (1756) 8 years ago

Cut the pipe back from the lock, cap it, remove the locking section, and reattach. Take the meter, break it, and reinstall it. When they come through to do the inspection, it wont be spinning and onto the next one they go.

If the city officials are so fucked up that this is going on, chances are their inspectors aren't too bright either.

[-] 4 points by LeoYoh (115) 8 years ago

Thousands March for Water Rights in Detroit

Monday, 21 July 2014 10:15
By Ruth Conniff, PRWatch | Report


On Friday, July 18, thousands of people marched through downtown Detroit to call attention to a major public health crisis as the city shuts off the water for residents who are behind on their bills.

Chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight! Water is a human right!” and “Whose water? Our water!” about 5,000 Detroit residents and allies from across the country—including many who were in town for the annual Netroots Nation blogger conference—marched from the Cobo convention center to Hart Plaza near the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Old R&B tuned blared from a mobile sound truck hired by National Nurses United, as a large, multiracial crowd gathered, carrying signs that said “Water is a human right” “Turn on the Water” and “Tax Wall Street”.

Actor Mark Ruffalo jumped onto the flatbed truck to address the crowd as the march began.

“The reason I’m here is for you,” Ruffalo told the crowd, praising Detroiters’ “resistance and resilience.”

“What’s happening in Detroit is a model for what’s happening in the nation,” Ruffalo declared. “Instead of a nation for the 0.1 percent, it should be a nation for all humanity.”

Located near two great lakes and the Detroit River, Detroit has access to the largest fresh water supply in the nation. But thousands of the city’s poorest residents no longer have water for drinking, bathing, cooking, or flushing the toilet, since the city’s unelected emergency manager began seeking to reduce the Water and Sewerage Department’s debt, cutting off residents who don’t keep current on their payments.

Meanwhile, General Motors and the city’s two sports arenas, which owe millions in unpaid water bills, have not had their water turned off.

The United Nations has called Detroit’s actions “a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”

One marcher, Janice McKinney, described herself as a “pissed-off grandma.”

“We’re not under democracy in Detroit, we’re under dictatorship,” she said.

McKinney said she got involved in the water battle after she received a $600 water bill for one month, she said.

“I saw four different representatives of the water and sewer department, and each gave me a different story,” she said.

(Detroit residents’ water bills have gone up dramatically since emergency management was imposed on the city, and many residents have complained about overcharges and wrongful cut-offs.)

McKinney joined the People’s Water Board, which is fighting to wrest back democratic control over the water supply.

“If you don’t pay your water bill, there’s a lien put on your house,” McKinney explained. “In my exercise class, four seniors received $300 water bills. They were all told it was because of a January bill that was past due, which means they could be shut off. If it’s happening in a small group like my senior exercise class, how many others are there?”

“They are finding a way to steal money and bully you,” she added.

One of McKinney’s biggest concerns was represented on her hand-made sign by a picture of a little girl holding up an empty cup. The city has begun removing children from households that have had their water cut off, she explained.

In a flyer handed out at the march, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization accused Detroit officials of “torture” designed to drive poor people out of the city.

“My children left the city when they started ruining the schools, so their children could have an education,” McKinney said. “We used to have a great school system before emergency management . . . my children all graduated from college summa cum laude.”

As the march reached Hart Plaza, police confiscated the sound truck, leaving 85-year-old Congressman John Conyers to climb gingerly up the pedestal of a park monument, where speakers perched to deliver their remarks by passing around a bullhorn.

“We’re all in this together,” Conyers rasped into the bullhorn. “My message to Detroit Water and Sewer is: ‘Keep your paws off the water!’ Water is a human right.”

The crowd booed when organizers announced that the sound truck had been taken, and that nine protesters were arrested.

Maureen Taylor, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization state chair, told the crowd: “We live in the Great Lakes. All around us is water. We are not going to let their tricks take it away.”

“We are under occupation here,” said Abayomi Azikiwe of the Moratorium Now Coalition. “They’ve taken our homes, taken our public institutions and privatized them, and now they’re taking our water. Soon enough, it will be coming to a city near you.”

The nine people arrested were trying to form a blockade in front of Homrich, a private contractor being paid over $5 million to turn off water to Detroiters whose overdue bills exceed $150.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is a public asset valued at $6.4 billion. Forty-five percent of the utility's annual budget goes to Wall Street banks to service its debt —a debt the emergency manager has the power to re-negotiate.

Detroit activists worry that their water utility, like other public services, will be privatized.

Members of the crowd were asked to text the word “Detroit” to the phone number 69866 to sign a petition asking the Obama Administration to declare a public health emergency in Detroit and turn the water back on.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago