They came to offer advice, but ended up impressed by the military-like precision, including an improvised "command and control" post, which a community has been using to prevent Irish Water contractors laying meters.
Members of the Detroit Water Brigade (DWB) toured Cobh, Co Cork, yesterday as an act of solidarity with its residents.
DWB members have been fighting a battle with what they term “aggressive water shut-downs” in their city and swapped notes with the Cobh Says No To Austerity Group.
DWB have blockaded water company depots, but the group in Cobh use different tactics.
Every day for the past few months at around 6.30am surveillance teams drive out to Belvelly bridge and the cross-river ferry terminal — which are the only two entrances to the area.
They wait until Irish Water contractors arrive and then issue group text alerts to their 300 members detailing what direction the trucks travel in.
Bryan Walsh, the group’s spokesman, said his compatriots then text each other information on which estate is likely to be targeted by the contractors.
“At any one time we can mobilise six to eight people from any of the 37 housing estates which have joined our group. They then converge on the estate targeted by Irish Water contractors and prevent them from putting meters into it,” Mr Walsh said.
Three of their members were arrested by gardaí on October 31 for peacefully obstructing contractors.
“We won’t bring in people from other areas because we don’t know what they might do. We have a good relationship with the local gardaí and we don’t want to ruin that,” he said.
Garda sources confirmed protesters have been very disciplined and peaceful to date.
DWD member Justin Wedes said he was very impressed by the operation, especially the “command and control centre” — a horse box — set up in an estate in Ballynoe, which is equipped with heating and a gas cooker.
His colleague, Domeeko Williams said that privatised water companies had shut off 15,000 households in his city, even if many owed as little as €150.
“They didn’t shut down the big commercial businesses though which owe them huge money,” Atpecie Makita said and told local protesters water services should be delivered through direct taxation.
“Don’t let them put in a meter because it will just become a cash register for companies,” she added to wild applause.
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