Trial of Detroit water warriors Homrich 9 takes dramatic turn at the eleventh hour


Moments before going to trial, members of the “Homrich 9” — so-called because they intentionally blocked the entrance of a company that performs water disconnections for the city of Detroit, Homrich Inc. — held an early-morning press conference Wednesday to discuss their nonviolent resistance to massive water shutoffs. Two of the nine, Marian Kramer and Bill Wylie-Kellermann, arrested for blocking the trucks of the Homrich Inc. water shut-off crews for more than eight hours last summer, went to trial before Judge Ruth Garrett in 36th District Court. But other members of the group had their participation in the trial delayed at the eleventh hour by a prosecution appeal to deny their use of the “necessity defense” (a legal defense which demonstrates that breaking a law may be justified in order to prevent an imminent harm). The two spoke out about the necessity defense, the need to defend Detroiters’ right to water, and the need for affordable water.

“The necessity defense means that we were working to keep people --children, pregnant women, the elderly and most vulnerable -- from being harmed by having their water shut off,” said Bill Wylie-Kellermann, pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. “We believe Detroiters know massive water shut-offs are devastating and inhumane. That’s why the prosecutors separated Marian and me from the rest and moved to deny us use the necessity defense. Now, they are trying to delay the other five defendants’ trial and also preclude them from using this defense. It’s clear they don’t want a jury to hear all the facts in this case. Everyone knows water is a very basic necessity.” 

The defendants also spoke about what they see as the irony of being put on trial for nonviolent defense of people’s right to water.

“The true crime is that thousands of people who are struggling to pay their bills are being deprived of a basic necessity of life,” said Marian Kramer of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Highland Park Human Rights Coalition. “Instead of implementing the Water Affordability Plan, which would tie water rates to income and which Detroit City Council supports, Mayor Dugan chooses to shut off the water of thousands of Detroiters. Who is the real criminal?”

About a decade ago, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization worked with economist Roger Colton to draft a Water Affordability Plan that would bill residents for water based on income.  A recently released legal opinion developed for the Detroit City Council verified the lawful and constitutional feasibility of such a plan.

Homrich Inc., along with Mayor Duggan, is currently under investigation for inflated demolition costs. As the prosecution goes forward, shut-offs by DWSD continue.

The People’s Water Board advocates for access, protection, and conservation of water. We believe water is a human right and all people should have access to clean and affordable water. Water is a commons that should be held in the public trust free of privatization. The People’s Water Board promotes awareness of the interconnectedness of all people and resources. Water is life.

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