- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A class-action suit has been filed against the city of Detroit for water shutoffs, claiming the stoppages are racially motivated.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department stopped service to about 7,200 buildings with overdue bills in June, compared to 1,570 in the same month last year. The issue gained national attention last month after activists appealed to the United Nations for help.

There are concerns the shutoffs are “being done in a discriminatory fashion,” the Defense Fund’s Veronica Joice told a local CBS affiliate. “They should at least take a look at whether there’s a better way to do this that doesn’t affect the most vulnerable citizens — the majority of whom are African-American here in Detroit.”

Attorney Alice Jennings, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Detroit residents, said the shutoffs were a racial issue.

“These companies are basically Caucasian companies,” she told the station. “The folks who are being cut off are almost one hundred percent African-American.”

Detroit announced Monday that it would suspend its aggressive policy of cutting off water for the next 15 days, but the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a press release Monday that it’s not enough. They also want the financial aid program for Detroit’s neediest people to be reformed.

Disclosure of the 15-day moratorium was made in bankruptcy court — three days after an estimated 2,000 people took to downtown streets to protest the shutoffs. “Avengers” actor Mark Ruffalo made a surprise appearance at the rally, hoping to “shed a little light on what’s happening” in Detroit.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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