Hundreds march against Detroit water shutoffs

Hundreds march against Detroit water shutoffs, actor Mark Ruffalo among them

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DETROIT (WJBK) - The outcry and outrage over Detroit's water shutoffs seemed to reach a crescendo Friday as at least one thousand protesters took to the streets of downtown Detroit, demanding the shutoffs be stopped.

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined in the protest, along with hundreds of people from the Netroots Nation Conference at COBO Center where Vice President Joe Biden spoke the day before.

The water department has shut off water to thousands of residents in the past few months for bills more than $150 and six months past due. In June alone, 7,210 were shut off while 3,118 were turned on.

"Let's not cut off anybody's water for non-payment except the corporations that are owing a lot of money. They 'oughta pay up, because they can," says Congressman John Conyers. He is among those calling for Detroit to stop the shutoffs to residents and, instead, make arrangements for payment.

Federal bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes has told the city to come up with a better plan and that this is a national embarrassment.

Dozens of nurses from National Nurses United also marched, calling this a health and safety issue especially for children and the elderly.

"If my patients were to call me and tell me they didn't have access to water, my first thought would be, 'How were they going to live?'," says registered nurse Julia Morrissey of the Michigan Nurses Association.

Over at Homrich, where the trucks normally roll out each day to shut off the water and turn it on, workers were sidelined as a smaller group of protestors blocked the entrance for hours.

Ninety-three shutoffs for nonpayment were scheduled for Friday but 41 residents were also waiting for water to be turned on. So, eventually, Detroit police moved in.

"I have a prisoner bus coming. If you so choose to go to jail, I would ask that we do this systematically. I don't want anybody to get hurt," says Detroit Police Cmdr. Elvin Barren.

The bus rolled in and the protesters were taken away. A Fox 2 crew at the scene says nine people were arrested.

"Unfortunately, the protesters here decided to block the entrance which caused the Detroit Police Department to effect those arrests," Barren says.  

The bankruptcy judge has asked the city to come back on Monday with a plan. A spokesperson for Kevyn Orr tells Fox 2's Amy Lange they will be outlining their improved customer assistance outreach on Monday.

The city says no one is being turned away if they are in need, and they've helped 17,000 people to get their water to stay on with payment plans.


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