Detroit Water Crisis: The Dangers of Putting Profits Before People

We celebrate this year, 50 years since the signing of a Civil Rights bill that gave Blacks access to public accommodations that were segregated by race. Now, 50 years later we are marching to maintain public services that are human rights, but being segregated by class.
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Rev. Charles E. Williams II, interviews on MSNBC's All in With Chris Hayes, discussing the Detroit Water Crisis
Photo Credit: Joe Jones

I pulled up to my church a few months ago when the water shut offs started, I noticed there was a car in front of the church. I looked inside saw some children and a mother who was startled when she saw me. As I approached closer I notice that there was a man in front of the water faucet thats directly in front of the church filling up a bucket of water. Instantly, I thought to myself he must have been in need. Although perplexed, I dismissed it with the thought that the family must have been homeless and in transit. However, he explained to me quickly in these words "Rev, I don't mean no harm. Our water has been shut off. Do you mind if we fill up this water jug?" I told him to please use as much as he needs and be sure to cut the faucet off so the water didn't leak. At that moment, I didn't think much of it. The area in which my church is located is quite depressed, and I figured they may have been squatting in an abandoned house.

King Solomon Baptist Church doors are always open to those who are in need, but then a few weeks after that day, it became even more of an issue when a church member brought me an exceptionally low bill, complaining that her water had been shut off. She further explained that her children had gone a few days without showers, but were taking basin wash ups at a neighbor's house.

After reading a report from a local media outlet called the Michigan Citizen, in a column called Detroit Raw, it all clicked there was a concerted effort to cut people off of water who had bills that were delinquent at the rate of $150 or more. Sam Riddle, Political Director of the National Action Network Michigan Chapter spoke at our weekly NAN meeting explaining the inhumanity of this practice, and spoke on the importance of the organizations filing a complaint with the United Nations. Then committed activist Charity Hicks was assaulted and accosted by Detroit Police Department for trying to alert neighbors that the militaristic water soldiers/contractors were shutting off water on the block. Michigan Welfare Rights and peoples water board a host of organizations along with National Action Network began to go to work.

So here we are, United Nations Human Rights officials have slapped the hand of Kevyn Orr and Governor Snyder with an official statement. While, thousands upon thousands are getting disconnected from water daily. Governor Snyder has yet to make any declaration or take action to avenge those who are in need. Judge Rhodes the federal bankruptcy court justice demanded recently the City of Detroit water department stop its practice and focus on working with people who are in need. Meanwhile, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr just gave all of the city of Detroit appointees who typically make over one hundred thousand dollars a year a five percent pay increase.

The question on everyone's mind is why they are doing this. It's simple. Governor Snyder and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and those who are in control are not focusing on providing public services. They are laser-beam focused on bottom lines and profitability. The problem with this new national agenda to focus government on bottom lines and balance sheets is that it removes the motive of government from providing services, to making profits. I pastor a church, and I run another non-profit organization. My job in both those scenarios is to try to break even or go broke providing the service that I sought to provide while raising the money.

These right-wing, agenda-focused Conservatives spend more time focused on profitability and how they can provide more tax breaks for the rich. For example the city of Detroit and State of Michigan just gave over a 400 million dollar tax break to build a brand new stadium and guest what, the owner happens to have a past due water bill. So cutting off water, privatization, cutting unemployment, cutting welfare, not passing infrastructure bills are all apart of an agenda to further the gaps between the class divide.

We celebrate this year, 50 years since the signing of a Civil Rights bill that gave Blacks access to public accommodations that were segregated by race. Now, 50 years later we are marching to maintain public services that are human rights, but being segregated by class. Detroit's water crisis should remind us that this is class warfare, that's waged on those who are at the bottom. In Detroit we will march and we will fight not just for those who are losing water daily, but for those who are being shut out and driven into poverty across the nation.

Rev. Williams II and National Action Network Michigan will lead a National demonstration on Friday July 18th, 2014 to call for a moratorium on water shut offs in Detroit. Join the movement to level the playing field for all by going to

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