Matt Vespa

On the second day at Netroots, which was held in Detroit, Michigan, about 300 attendees at this liberal conference took to the streets to protest the proposed water shut-offs. The city has begun cracking down on residents who haven’t been paying their water bills; 42,000 have seen their water turned off since July of 2013.

The Atlantic reported on July 17 that residents are paying plumbers $30 to turn their water back on illegally. Although, while Netroots participants were there to be the voices for these people, the folks affected are remaining quiet:

Residents targeted by the shut-off campaign have been reluctant to speak up. Some have stayed quiet because they’ve resorted to illegally hiring plumbers, and others—who are without water and relying on neighbors and friends for drinking water and showers—are afraid child-protective services may intervene, as a lack of running water is grounds for social services to immediately take children out of parents’ care.

Even those without children remain reticent. Some feel tarred by a general notion of shame and culpability for not being able to meet such a bare necessity as water.

According to a leaflet handed to me at the rally by the Detroit Workers’ Voice, which describes itself as a “Marxist-Leninist Study Group” below its header, the water shut-offs are a concerted effort to hurt the poor.

“And while [Kevyn] Orr tries to tighten the noose around city workers, the water department authorities, with his blessings, have launched a new phase in their attacks against the poor, the leaflet read. “In the past couple of months, the city has cut water service to over 11,000 residents and threatens cuts to tens of thousands more. The main victims are those with financial hardships who may owe as little as $150 dollars for a 60 day period.”

Kevyn Orr is Detroit’s emergency manager who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, to handle Detroit’s awful financial situation. Last July, he recommended the city file for bankruptcy. In an interview with Michigan Live, he said “I am not gonna miss the public scrutiny.” Detroit is projected to be out of bankruptcy by October.

Nevertheless, we hit the streets, with actor Mark Ruffalo giving a brief speech to rally the troops, which was inaudible from my vantage point since a woman with a megaphone kept shouting right next to me “Fight! Fight! Fight! Water is a human right!”

As the water protest commenced, one protestor from behind me facetiously said that she was “so f**king thirsty,” while marching towards City Hall amidst the chants of “we got sold out, banks got bailed out.”

According to some folks, the real reason Detroit residents are having their water shut off is because of Wall Street, or something.

Hard-core liberals have every right to say that, but it could also be the exodus out of the city, government mismanagement, corruption, 13th month bonuses to city workers, seemingly endless tax increases, failures to get the pension and health care benefits in line, and borrowing more and more money to close budget shortfalls.

UPDATE: Digitas Daily was able to film Rep. John Conyers (D-MI 13th District) at the protest warning the head of Detroit's Water and Sewage Department, Sue McCormick, to "keep your paws off the water!"

UPDATE: RedState's Dan Spencer was able to film Mark Ruffalo's speech before the march.


Matt Vespa

Matt Vespa is the Web Editor and Community Manager at Townhall.com. He previously worked for CNS News and was the recipient of Americans for Prosperity Foundation's 2013 Andrew Breitbart Award for Excellence in Online Activism and Investigative Reporting.