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Protest Of Water Shutoffs Leads To About 2 Dozen Arrests In Detroit

June 19, 2018 - 1:36 pm

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - About two dozen demonstrators were arrested for blocking the Qline in downtown Detroit to protest the treatment of poor people including water service shutoffs.

Monday's protests by the Michigan chapter of the "Poor People's Campaign" temporarily halted light rail service along Woodward Avenue, and blocked the entrance to an office building. No injuries were reported. 

The Michigan chapter has been holding rallies weekly leading up to a national demonstration in Washington, D.C., this week. According to the group's website, the goal is "Uniting tens of thousands to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation's distorted morality."

The Rev. Ed Rowe, pastor emeritus of Central United Methodist in Detroit, said: "We're seeing a crucifixion of the poor."

Detroit Deputy Police Chief Elvin Barren told The Detroit News the arrested face misdemeanor charges for trespassing or obstructing the Qline. Names and other details about those in custody were not immediately released. 

Updates on the Qline's Twitter account show that rail service was fully restored by around 2:45 p.m.  

Water service shutoffs for those who haven't paid bills have taken place in Detroit, Flint and elsewhere, prompting earlier protests.

Detroit made national headlines back in 2014, when more than a thousand people marched the streets of downtown calling for an immediate moratorium on water service shutoffs -- and raising the question of whether access to water is a basic human right. At that time, officials said more than $90 million was owed to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department by residents and businesses combined. 

Officials say many of the residents affected at that time have received assistance and are on payment plans today.

To quality for assistance, water customers must have an income at or below 150 percent of the poverty threshold, be able to provide proof of residency and income, and stay current on monthly bill payments. Participants may continue in the program for up to 24 months but must reapply annually.

Need help? Low-income Detroit residents seeking more information about the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) can visit this link or call 313-386-WRAP (9727).

[Detroit Free Toilet Program Helps Reduce Water Bills>

The Associated Press contributed to this report