At least eight people were arrested yesterday in Detroit for protesting water shutoffs in a city where almost 40% of residents live below the poverty line. Dozens picketed in front of a facility affiliated with the city's Water and Sewerage Department to try to stop what activists call a “human rights violation,” reports Al Jazeera America. Police tell MLive that the individuals charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct range in age from 58 to 70 and include members of the clergy. (Watch video of the protest and arrests here.)
The Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, one of the arrested protesters, tells the Detroit Free Press that police tried to "move us forcibly, and we sat down. … We [were] here to appeal to the workers to stop shutting off the water." The coordinator of a local activist group says "police officers should be arresting rapists and murderers instead of arresting peaceful people." A Detroit Police rep counters that protesters still have to follow rules: "You cannot impede pedestrian or vehicle traffic." The Free Press counts 7,210 shutoffs in June, up from 7,556 in April and May combined, as part of what Al Jazeera reports is an effort to recover $175 million in unpaid bills. As of March, nearly half of the city's 323,900 DWSD accounts were delinquent; activists have asked the UN to intervene.