Steps away from the glitz and the glamour of the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards, held Monday for the first time in Newark, New Jersey, hundreds of protesters vented their frustration at the ongoing water crisis in the city.
“We don’t need no MTV. We want our water free!” demonstrators chanted as celebrities including Taylor Swift, Cardi B and Lil Nas X arrived at the award show. About 200 people attended the protest outside the Prudential Center in Newark’s business district, NJ.com reported.
The protest came hours after officials announced an ambitious $120 million plan to expedite the replacement of thousands of old service lines that are leaching lead into Newark’s drinking water.
Mayor Ras Baraka said the city aims to replace 18,000 service lines in the next 24 to 30 months. According to The New York Times, the effort will the largest water line replacement project ever attempted by New Jersey.
“We are going to do this as swiftly as humanly possible,” Baraka said at a news conference. The mayor added that bottled water would continue to be distributed to residents as more tests are carried out to determine the safety of the city’s drinking water.
Outside the VMAs, Newark residents said they were “ready to fight for clean water.”
“We have been suffering for years, many years, crying out for help to our elected officials who have not stepped up to save us,” resident and demonstrator Shakima Thomas said, according to NJ.com.
Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose told the news outlet that five protesters were arrested after attempting to enter a secure area.
Videos circulating on social media showed a man being pinned to the ground by several officers outside the Prudential Center.
Refinery29 said the protester was reportedly arrested after descending from a traffic light pole.