Gwen Mingo (center) speaks during large protest against Detroit bankruptcy May 1, 2014.
Judge refuses to honor letter from bank saying homeowner owes nothing
Hearing in Judge Robert Colombo’s court at CAYMC Fri. Aug. 22 9 a.m.
By Ron Seigel
August 19, 2014
One of the major reasons for Detroit’s economic crisis, which has led to domination by a state appointed emergency manager and the prospect of bankruptcy, is the mass of foreclosures by banks.
So far most critics of the banks have been content to accuse them of making predatory loans. However, one case may lead us to question how many of the debts they are calling in are fraudulent.
Protesters at May Day march against bankruptcy took over Chase Bank lobby.
The giant banking firm, J. P. Morgan Chase, has issued foreclosure proceedings on the home of Gwendolyn Mingo, the former head of the Brush Park Citizens District Council and also the Coordinating Council of all Detroit district councils.
Mingo, however, has shown this reporter a past letter from the exact same bank saying she does not owe them a cent.
When asked about this, the bank refused to comment.
Protesters carry large sign with Chase CEO Jamie Dimon depicted as robber banker.
Unless the bank is able to give a satisfactory answer, we may well wonder if JP Morgan Chase may have a huge case of financial fraud and violations of the law.
If so, one must wonder if Mrs. Mingo was the only victim or whether there were other false foreclosure suits. If there were others, J. P. Morgan Chase may face today a financial scandal comparable to the ones that faced Charles Ponzi and Bernard Madoff.,
Judge Patricia Fresard.
Right now though the bank does not have to explain a single thing, thanks to Wayne County Circuit Judge Patricia Fresard.
In her foreclosure case, Mrs. Mingo was not allowed to submit the bank’s letter stating she did not owe them any money because the letter was on paper. Recent court rules declare judges in Wayne County foreclosure cases will not look at any documents no matter how relevant unless they are e-filed. Higher court officials admit that often grassroots people like Mrs. Mingo may not be able to afford to e-file or understand how to use such machines. These oficials claim they have solved this problem by allowing those in such situations to use court clerks to e-file under certain conditions.
Mingo says in her case the court clerks refused to e-file her document unless they got an order from the chief judge. When she got this court order somebody in the clerk’s office rejected it. As a result the e-filed document was never seen in court. Judge Fresard refused to consider Mingo’s paper document, even though she was given the copy and awarded Mingo’s home to the bank.
If there was wrongdoing by the bank, Judge Fresard’s rulings may be intentionally or unwittingly aiding a cover up.
Judge Robert Colombo.
It is interesting that the original rules forbidding paper documents were not officially applied in all counties in all cases. One of the areas where it was first applied, in what the court officials called an experimental basis, was inWayne County civil cases, which just happened to be the one place most convenient for banks issuing foreclosures and taking people’s homes. Was this a complete coincidence?
Mrs. Mingo has conducted a long appeal, which Friday will be taken up by Chief Judge Robert Colombo. One hopes this will be a real moment of truth, where the chief judge will rule getting the facts is more important than court technicalities on how they are presented.
More than one woman’s fate may be decided that day. If it it is a common practice to issue fraudulent debts and to deny people the chance to present proof of this in court, how many people, who do not have Mingo’s knowledge and experience as a community leader, can wage an effective resistance?
In the chief judge’s courtroom, our own homes, our cities, our very right to due process may be on trial. If you can, come to Judge Colombo’s court, 7th floor of the the Coleman A. Young Building or the City County Building, 9 a.m. Friday August 22 and hear what is going on. The home you save may be your own. The rights you save may be your own.
EASTSIDE DETROIT RESIDENTS REBELLED, CITING THE EVENTS IN FERGUSON, AFTER DETROIT POLICE WOUNDED A MAN NEAR BERKSHIRE AND NOTTINGHAM AUG. 13, 2014.
A near-rebellion took place on Detroit’s east side Aug. 13 after officers shot and wounded one man at Berkshire and Nottingham, according to various news outlets. Police claimed first that two men opened fire on police with an AK-47, then retracted the statement to say the men tried to run them down after police allegedly interrupted an “illegal” gun purchase.
Arnetta Grable of the Original Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality: “YOUR SILENCE WILL NOT PROTECT YOU.”
A third man was arrested after allegedly crossing a yellow police line and attacking an officer. An “unruly crowd” gathered, invoking actions in Ferguson, and more police units came to the scene.
The next night, Detroiters were called to Hart Plaza to hold a “silent” vigil in memory of Michael Brown, but were warned by organizers not to antagonize police by spilling into the streets. Arnetta Grable, the mother of Lamar Grable, one of three separate victims of Detroit killer cop Eugene Brown, who conducted a 10-year struggle for justice for Brown’s victims, has always said, “Your silence will not protect you.”)
By JIM SALTER of Associated Press
(Photos below from St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
August 16, 2014
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Police and about 200 protesters clashed again in Ferguson, Missouri late Friday after another tense day in the St. Louis suburb that included authorities identifying the officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager and releasing documents alleging the young man had been suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars from a convenience store in a “strong-arm” robbery shortly before he was killed.
Police, protesters clash for a sixth night in Ferguson, MO Aug. 15, 2014, angry at attempts to criminalize Michael Brown.
Several hundred people congregated on a busy Ferguson street Friday night as protests continued nearly a week after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. It was peaceful until about midnight, when a large crowd broke into the convenience mart that Brown allegedly robbed the day he was killed.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said some in the crowd began throwing rocks and other objects at police. Police used tear gas to disburse the crowd but no arrests were made. One officer was hurt, but information on his injuries was not immediately available. No protesters were hurt.
Police Chief Thomas Jackson earlier Friday said the officer who shot Brown did not know the teen was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and stopped Brown and a companion “because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.”
Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white officer, has patrolled suburban St. Louis for six years and had no previous complaints filed against him, Jackson said.
Brown’s relatives said no robbery would justify shooting the teen after he put his hands up. Family attorneys said Brown’s parents were blindsided by the allegations and the release of a surveillance video from the store.
Youth continue protests in Ferguson August 15
“It appears to be him,” attorney Daryl Parks said, referring to the footage, which he said was released without any advance notice from police.
The police chief described Wilson as “a gentle, quiet man” who had been “an excellent officer.” He has been on the Ferguson force for four years and served prior to that in the neighboring community of Jennings.
Wilson, who was placed on administrative leave after the Aug. 9 shooting, “never intended for any of this to happen,” Jackson said.
Protesters storm Ferguson store where Michael Brown accused of stealing cigars.
According to police reports released Friday, authorities received a 911 call at 11:51 a.m. on the day of the shooting reporting a robbery at the Ferguson Market. An unidentified officer was dispatched to the store, arriving within three minutes. The officer interviewed an employee and customer, who gave a description of a man who stole the cigars and walked off with another man toward a QuikTrip store.
Descriptions of the suspect were broadcast over the police radio. The officer did not find the suspects either on the street or at the QuikTrip, the reports said.
The robber took a box of Swisher Sweets, a brand of small, inexpensive cigars. The suspects were identified as 18-year-old Michael Brown and 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, according to the reports.
Ferguson protesters take the streets Aug. 15.
Separately, Wilson had been responding to a nearby call involving a sick 2-month child from 11:48 am until noon, when he left that place. A minute later, he encountered Brown walking down Canfield Drive. The documents contained no description of what happened between Brown and Wilson.
Johnson has told reporters that the officer ordered the pair to move onto the sidewalk, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He said Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times.
Protesters in Ferguson appear to be largely youth, mobilized into action by cold-blooded murder of Michael Brown.
Another family attorney, Benjamin Crump, noted that police did not release a photo of the officer but released images from the security video that they say show Brown grabbing a man inside the store. Crump said he had not seen the photos.
Police “are choosing to disseminate information that is very strategic to try to help them justify the execution-style” killing, said Crump, who also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder.
The Aug. 9 video appears to show a man wearing a ball cap, shorts and white T-shirt grabbing a much shorter man by his shirt near the store’s door. A police report alleges that Brown grabbed the man who had come from behind the store counter and “forcefully pushed him back” into a display rack.
Cops, under control of State Police, attack protesters August 15 using same military equipment as before despite national exposes.
Police said they found evidence of the stolen merchandise on Brown’s body. Authorities determined that Johnson was not involved in the robbery and will not seek charges against him, Jackson said.
Brown’s uncle, Bernard Ewing, said the shooting was unnecessary, even if his nephew was a robbery suspect.
A robbery “still doesn’t justify shooting him when he puts his hands up,” he added. “You still don’t shoot him in the face.”
Protesters under hail of projectiles from police.
Brown’s death ignited four days of clashes with furious protesters. The tension eased Thursday after the governor turned oversight of the protests over to the Missouri Highway Patrol. Gone were the police in riot gear and armored vehicles, replaced by the new patrol commander who personally walked through the streets with demonstrators.
On Friday night, the Rev. Jesse Jackson linked arms with protesters as they marched to the site where Brown was killed. Jackson bent over in front of a memorial cross and candle and sighed deeply. He urged people to “turn pain into power” and to “fight back, but not self-destruct” through violence.
Angry youth among Ferguson protesters August 15.
The scene was eclectic Friday night as hundreds gathered for a sixth straight evening. A man on a bullhorn called for a revolution. A young man waved a Bible while citing scripture. Some took selfies in front of a convenience store that had been burned by looters Sunday. Boys tossed a football, and horns and loud music blared. At a nearby shopping center, about 100 police cars were on hand.
To Vida Weekly, 51, it was still a somber occasion. She walked through the crowd holding high a sign that read: “The police killed Michael Brown and now they are trying to kill his character.”
Ferguson Police line up to confront protesters in the street Aug. 15.
U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat from St. Louis, took a bullhorn and spoke to people gathered at the QuickTrip.
“They have attempted to taint the entire investigation,” Clay said to a cheering crowd. “They are trying to influence a jury pool by the stunt they pulled today.
Also Friday, the Justice Department confirmed in a statement that FBI agents had conducted several interviews with witnesses as part of a civil-rights investigation into Brown’s death. In the days ahead, the agents planned to canvass the neighborhood where the shooting happened, seeking more information, the statement said.
Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street during a routine patrol. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car before the struggle spilled onto the street.
Associated Press writers Jim Salter and Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.
Below is video from NYC march for justice for Michael Brown Aug. 14, 2014. Here, unlike in Detroit, protesters took the streets.
Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower at reception in Whirlpool HQ.
ST. JOSEPH/BENTON HARBOR, MI — Berrien County Judge John Dewane ruled the Benton Harbor recall election against Mayor James Hightower can be held. This is a major victory for the people against fascist county and city governments, directed by the Whirlpool Corporation.
The Benton Harbor mayoral recall election will now be held on Nov. 4, 2014. The order was issued Tuesday, August 12 by Judge John Dewane after the Aug. 7 civil trial.
Judge Dewayne ruled that County elections administrator Carolyn Toliver removed more than 100 good petition signatures to attempt to prevent the mayoral recall election organized by Benton Harbor and Benton Township residents.
The decision to schedule the election hinged on Judge DeWane’s decision that the practice of the Berrien County Clerk’s office to disqualify both signatures, (instead of just one) if a person signed a recall petition twice, violates First Amendment free speech rights.
Rev. Edward Pinkney speaks at rally against Emergency Manager law May 26, 2012 in Benton Harbor.
[VOD: According to a report from ABC57 News, “The judge allowed some signatures that were previously disqualified to be reinstated. The judge did not discount all signatures that were [allegedly] altered, just those that appeared to have been collected prior to November 9, 60-days from the date the petitions were submitted to the clerk’s office.
The judge also found the clerk’s office disqualified both signatures if a person signed twice. After adding 21 of those back into the count, the judge counted 407 signatures by qualified, registered voters. The petitoners needed 393 signatures for a recall election to happen.
The judge wrote the clerk should hold the recall election on the next election date, November 4, 2014.”
However, Rev. Pinkney informed VOD that despite Dewane’s findings that there were sufficient valid signatures, the Benton Harbor Sheriff’s office is still pursuing felony charges against him, claiming without direct proof that he altered dates on the petitions. His trial is proceeding.]
$85 Million Whirlpool HQ in Benton Harbor, recently bullt despite the fact that they have moved all their plants and jobs for residents out of the city. They have also taken over large swaths of land adjacent to Benton Harbor’s beautiful lakefront Jean Klock Park, to build condos for the wealthy and a golf course for PGA tournaments.
What you’re about to read is absolutely true.
County clerk Sharon Tyler filed a lawsuit against herself in order to prevent the recall election. (She had originally verified the petition signatures.)
Whirlpool most likely directed her to take this action, probably a first in US election history. Whirlpool was desperate because their man Hightower was losing by a large margin in the absentee ballots. (Those were sent out before the powers-that-be called off the election.
This is a tremendous victory for people all around the country, with all the corruption not just in Benton Harbor.
(VOD note: Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler has indicated her desire to appeal Judge Dewane’s decision, based on verbal encouragement given from unspecified personnel in the Bureau of Elections and the Attorney General’s office. She is disputing the inclusion of names of those who signed the petitions twice; Judge Dewane held that one signature of each voter could still be counted.)
BREAKING NEWS: POLICE REVEAL OFFICER’S NAME IN TEEN’S DEATH
8 min ago | By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER of Associated Press
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Police in Ferguson have revealed the name of the six-year veteran accused of fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb.
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Friday the officer’s name is Darren Wilson.
Jackson said earlier this week he wasn’t naming the officer due to death threats.
Police have said 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot Saturday after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his car, then physically assaulted him and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times.
Witnesses say the officer fired on Brown as he ran away.
Many people drove down the street honking their horns, raising their arms, and holding signs on W. Florissant in Ferguson on Thursday evening, Aug. 14, 2014, as some demonstrators stood in the middle of the street. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
The Missouri town of Ferguson looks like a war zone as police fire tear gas, stun grenades and smoke bombs to break up a fifth night of protests over the police shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. At least 10 people were arrested on Wednesday, including St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been posting video online of the protests and who appeared on Democracy Now! earlier this week.
Police paramilitary occupation of Ferguson, MO continues.
An earlier protest faced a heavy police response, with police in riot gear stationed by a massive armed vehicle in the street. Journalists from The Washington Post and Huffington Post were also arrested last night and then released without charges. They were detained while filing reports from a McDonald’s restaurant. Ferguson police have refused to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, citing fears for his safety. They have also called on demonstrators to limit their protests to daytime hours.
Ferguson police sniper
We go to St. Louis to speak with Patricia Bynes, Democratic committeewoman of Ferguson township. Bynes has been out in the streets of Ferguson every night documenting the protests on Twitter.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We go now to Ferguson, Missouri. [footage from Ferguson, Missouri] That was the scene in Ferguson, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis last night, as police fired tear gas, stun grenades and smoke bombs to break up a fifth day of protests following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. The unarmed African-American 18-year-old was shot dead on Saturday. Police say Brown assaulted an officer and tried to reach for his weapon, but eyewitnesses say Brown was shot with his arms up as he tried to flee an officer’s fire. Local police have still not released the name of the officer who shot him.
Several Facebook pages “Justice for Mike” are up
Earlier this week, police said an autopsy confirmed Brown died of multiple gunshot wounds, but they refused to say how many times he was shot or to release any more details, pending toxicology results, which could take weeks. An attorney for Brown’s family said the teen’s body has been turned over to them, and they plan to seek a second autopsy. On Wednesday, officials confirmed the Justice Department had opened a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting.
Last night police arrested at least 10 people, including St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been posting video online of the protests and who appeared on Democracy Now! earlier this week. Journalists from The Washington Post and The Huffington Post were also arrested last night and then released without charges. They were arrested while working on stories at a McDonald’s restaurant.
Sole Ferguson teen confronts police.
AMY GOODMAN: At times the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, looked like a war zone this week, as police patrol the streets in armored vehicles. News photographers captured a striking image earlier this week of a team of police officers dressed in military gear pointing their high-powered guns at a young African-American man who has his hands in the air. Yahoo News reports the Defense Logistics Agency has confirmed the Ferguson Police Department is part of a federal program in which the Pentagon distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to civilian police forces across the country.
For the latest on Ferguson, we go now to St. Louis, where we’re joined by Patricia Bynes, Democratic committeewoman of Ferguson township. She’s been out in the streets every night documenting the protests on Twitter.
Patricia Bynes, thank you so much for joining us. Can you describe what took place last night?
PATRICIA BYNES: Hi, Amy. Good morning.
Last night, it started—well, first, tensions are continuing to rise. It’s been a very volatile situation going on in the community. There had been tear gas prior to the two nights before. And even—what was it—Tuesday night, there was another officer-involved shooting that happened. So things continue to escalate. There were peaceful protests during the day. I know that there was a call to ask people not to demonstrate at night. And I just don’t see how that is not going to happen. The protesters and residents who support this cause are not going to be forced to stay in their houses when they want to show just how unjust this really, really is.
Lesley McSpadden, center, and Michael Brown Sr., left, the parents of Michael Brown, listen as attorney Benjamin Crump speaks during a news conference Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Jennings, Mo. Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed in a confrontation with police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo, on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Last night, it got very chaotic very quickly. This was the most, I guess, visceral response that I’ve seen by the police so far. They had the armored cars out, you know, a lot sooner than I expected. You had police in military uniform sitting on top of the trucks with, you know, snipery-looking rifles pointed at people—in the daylight. People were out protesting in the day. Even a church group had come down on a flatbed truck and was playing gospel music, and they still had this type of artillery-looking equipment out on the street. It was pretty scary even in the daylight. And as it started to get dark, things got a lot more out of control.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Patricia—
PATRICIA BYNES: Tear gas—I’m sorry.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Patricia Bynes, what about this whole issue of the police chief refusing to release the name of the officer or even any details about how many times Michael Brown was shot? What’s been the impact of that reticence to provide basic information in the community?
PATRICIA BYNES: Well, this just adds to the level of mistrust that people have been saying and discussing for quite some time. People in the community know who the officer is, because he shot Mike Brown in broad daylight in the morning. And so, for the people in the community, they know the police officer. We think it’s right to release his name. That way, there can be other people—
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us his name?
PATRICIA BYNES: I’m not going to do that. But we know that there are people in the—
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead with what you were saying.
PATRICIA BYNES: We know that there are people in the community who may have been harassed by this officer, and if we make his name known, they might have a chance to come forward and tell other things that he may done to other people. But this is the type of thing—it’s aggravating the community, and it’s really, really making things worse.
Demonstrators rally on West Florissant Rd in front of the burned QuikTrip on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson. Photo by Robert Cohen@email@example.com
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to the reporters who were arrested at McDonald’s.
PATRICIA BYNES: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN:Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were both arrested Wednesday after police in SWAT gear entered a McDonald’s, where they were working, and ordered everyone to leave. Reilly said the police asked him for an ID after he started taking photos. He spoke to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
I am out here to stand up for my children,” said Terrell Williams El of Ferguson, who holds his daughter, Sharell, 9, close as he confronts police officers in riot gear during a protest along West Florissant Rd. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Ferguson. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
RYAN REILLY: And the worst part was he slammed my head against the glass purposely on the way out of the McDonald’s and then sarcastically apologized for it. They essentially acted as a military force. It was just incredible.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly, who was arrested along with Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery. Lowery said the police, quote, “slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser.” Later on, Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce tweeted, quote, “Ferguson chief tells me @WesleyLowery and @ryanjreilly’s arresters were ‘probably somebody who didn’t know better.’” And then I heard a debate this morning, Patricia Bynes, on CNN, where the person defending the police officers was saying, “You don’t know. Don’t rush to judgment. They might have arrested the reporters to protect them.” Patricia Bynes?
Ferguson residents, including a young man who declined identification, shoot video of police officers as they clear Ferguson Avenue on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. Photo by Robert Cohen, email@example.com
PATRICIA BYNES: Oh, wow. That’s the type of protection we need these days? It’s adding fuel to the fire of a community that already does not trust them. So now we’re seeing escalated cases of asking media to stop filming. There was a tear gas thrown at a Al Jazeera crew last night, and police came and took down their cameras. So, if they’re concerned about looking thorough, it’s just not looking fair. And so, when the community is calling for a fair and thorough investigation, and St. Louis County thinks that they can do that, this type of quasi-military activity and trying to come down hard on the media doesn’t help that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk somewhat about the town of Ferguson and the history of the development of racial tensions with the police force, a now overwhelmingly majority black community, yet the police force is almost totally white? Could you—
“I was arrested because I didn’t listen,” said Alderman Antonio French on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, after spending the night Ferguson jail. French was pulled out of his car while taping shortly after tear gas was shot into the crowd. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
PATRICIA BYNES: Right, right. So, we have a history of certain municipalities in the St. Louis County that the majority of the population that live there are black, but due to socioeconomic reasons, they don’t participate in the political process. And it tends to be a little bit more complicated in St. Louis County, because you have a level of municipal government, then you have a level of county government, you have a different political body for school boards, in certain areas you have a different political body for fire boards. And so people who are worried about, “Can I get a job? Can I get to work? Can I put food on the table?” when Election Day rolls around, they don’t really think about that. They hardly participate at the level of presidential elections; we know that that might be what they vote for. So, the people in the community who tend to be in a much better socioeconomic status, who also might tend to be white in those committees, they vote. And unfortunately, the school boards and the municipal, aldermatic or the council boards or the mayors sometimes look nothing like the community that’s actually there, but they look like the people who continue to vote. And it gets frustrating, because they pass laws that are actually working against the majority of the population there and only help protect a small few. It’s sad, and it’s frustrating. It’s been going on for quite some time, and it just seems like this has just been bubbling up for a long time.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Patricia Bynes, this issue of the Ferguson Police Department being part of this federal program in which the Pentagon distributes hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of surplus military equipment from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? I mean, it’s interesting because it certainly looked like that yesterday. Were there MRAPs in the streets?
MRAP military vehicle, among thousands supplied to police forces across the U.S.
PATRICIA BYNES: I don’t know what an MRAP is, but I know that we did—
AMY GOODMAN: The military vehicles.
PATRICIA BYNES: I’ve just been seeing them say “St. Louis County SWAT” on it. That’s what I’ve seen. I haven’t seen necessarily tanks. I have not seen that. But they have been in the military garb. What usually has been tending to happen at the protest level, first police during the daytime are out in their regular plainclothes police; as things escalate, they might start putting on the riot gear with the clear shields and the masks, holding the billy clubs; and then, as the night proceeds, there seems to be a change, a shift in change, and then you’ll see the more military—the trucks come out, as the sun starts going down.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what’s been the impact of some national African-American leaders, like the Reverend Al Sharpton, who’s been out there this week trying to urge calm and also to make ties between what’s happened there in Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner here in Staten Island also at police hands, another unarmed African-American man? Has this helped the situation there or made it worse?
Marchers move south on S. Florissant Road in downtown Ferguson on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 as they demonstrate at police headquarters against Saturday’s police shooting of Michael Brown. Photo by Robert Cohen, email@example.com
PATRICIA BYNES: I think, for a certain part of the community, it certainly has made—it’s made it better. I actually went to a very brief portion of the meeting that Reverend Al Sharpton was supposed to be at. It was a very nice gathering. People were singing church songs, I mean, feeling good, because many people in the community need that feel-good sense of this is going to be OK, we’re going to pray our way through this. But as I sat in church and I started looking at my Twitter feed, I saw that things were escalating out on the streets. So, that evening, I left the church and went down to the QuikTrip, which has become the symbol of this movement, and that’s where I decided to stay. But after that large peaceful event that Reverend Al Sharpton hosted, they even sent people down to bring them from the QuikTrip to come to this rally in the church. And they had a peaceful walk down to the QuikTrip afterwards. So, in certain aspects, it’s making things better. But I think that there are things that are going on, like they won’t release the autopsy reports for the young man and then the other officer-involved shooting the night before—those are things that are adding to a very volatile situation here in St. Louis County.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Patricia Bynes, of course, we’ll continue to cover this. The group Anonymous has released a name of a police officer, but we cannot confirm this. Patricia Bynes is Democratic committeewoman of Ferguson township, joining us from St. Louis. Before we go to break, I want to share a remarkable photo taken on Wednesday by students at Howard University, the historically black college in Washington, D.C. The photo shows hundreds of students with their hands in the air. Students posted it online with the hashtag #DontShoot.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. It’s the first anniversary of a massacre in Egypt. We’ll go to Cairo, and we’ll speak with people here in studio. What does this all mean? Stay with us.
Download Bankruptcy Claims Chart for figures on DWSD and retiree payments under proposed Detroit Bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment at Voting claims chart
FROM MIKE MULHOLLAND, AFSCME DWSD OFFICIAL, WWTP RETIREE:
News media should look into the mismanagement of Detroit’s sewage plant by the consultant corporation EMA. They have under-maintained and under-staffed this vital facility in order to rationalize the $48 million they are ripping off from the rate payers to bust the unions and cut staff by 81%. EMA took control of Toronto’s water & sewerage system some years ago, and when heavy rains hit the subway tunnels were flooded. Workers blamed lack of maintenance on pumps. Pumps at the Detroit facility are also in bad shape. Coincidence? Or are we being robbed? DWSD’s slogan for workers is “Embrace the Chaos.” Really? Really!
THE VIDEO ABOVE WAS POSTED ON YOU TUBE BY A GROUP CALLED “ANONYMOUS,” SHOWING MICHAEL BROWN’S BODY IN THE STREET.
“My grandson was lying on the pavement. I asked the police what happened. They didn’t tell me nothing.- Desiree Harris”
“He (the officer) shot again and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air,” said Dorian Johnson, a friend Brown’s. “He started to get down and the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots.”
“THIS is an epidemic. Cop killings of unarmed citizens have exploded under Holder …. and the victims are youth (black and white), women, children and minorities, overwhelmingly – it appears that cops are now being trained to use deadly force at what they perceive to be resistance.”
By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER of Associated Press
August 10, 2014
Angry crowd of hundreds confronts police in St. Louis, MO suburb after officer shot unarmed teen Michael Brown to death Aug. 9, 2014. His grandmother, who he was going to visit, saw Brown walking down the street then came upon his body. He was about to start college.
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — The fatal shooting of a black teenager by police sent hundreds of angry residents out of their apartments Saturday in a St. Louis suburb, igniting shouts of “kill the police” during a confrontation that lasted several hours.
A St. Louis County chapter of the NAACP called for the FBI to look into the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb a few miles north of downtown St. Louis. Brown’s grandmother, Desiree Harris, said she saw him running in her neighborhood Saturday afternoon when she passed him in her car. Just minutes later, after she returned home, she heard a commotion and went outside to check on it. Less than two blocks away, she found Brown’s body. “He was running this way,” she said. “When I got up there, my grandson was lying on the pavement. I asked the police what happened. They didn’t tell me nothing.”
Several distraught relatives were outside talking with neighbors, including Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, and stepfather, Louis Head. Head held a sign that read: “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son!!!”
Lesley McSpadden is comforted by her husband Louis Head after their son Michael Brown was killed by police.
A spokesman with the St. Louis County Police Department, which is investigating the shooting at the request of the local department, confirmed a Ferguson police officer shot the man. The spokesman didn’t give the reason for the shooting. St. Louis County police said a large crowd confronted officers following the shooting, yelling such things as “kill the police.”
John Gaskin, a member of the St. Louis County NAACP, said the FBI should get involved “to protect the integrity of the investigation.” He alluded to the 2012 racially-charged shooting of a 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was subsequently acquitted of murder charges, as well as the death of a New York man from a police chokehold after he was confronted for selling individual cigarettes on the street.
(Huy Mach / St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Lesley McSpadden, center, drops rose petals on the bloodstains from her son, Michael Brown, 18, who was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Mo.
“With the recent events of a young man killed by the police in New York City and with Trayvon Martin and with all the other African-American young men that have been killed by police officers … this is a dire concern to the NAACP, especially our local organization,” Gaskin said.
Michael Brown’s father Louis Head
Gaskin said officials in the organization spoke with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, who told them teenager had been shot twice.
By early Saturday night, dozens of police cars remained parked near the shooting scene as mourners left votive candles, rose petals, a large stuffed animal and other remembrances at a makeshift memorial in the middle of the street. At the height of the post-shooting tensions, police at the scene called for about 60 other police units to respond to the area in Ferguson, a city of about 21,000 residents, about two-thirds of whom are black.
Harris said her grandson had recently graduated high school and was looking forward to the future, including possibly attending college.
“My grandson never even got into a fight,” she said. “He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.”
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told the Post-Dispatch that the officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave.
“We are hoping for calm and for people to give us a chance to conduct a thorough investigation,” Jackson said.
Gaskin said the angry crowd was reacting to a “trauma.”
“Anytime you have this type of event that’s taken place, emotions are going to run high,” he said. “But for 600 people to gather around an area to see where a man is lying in the street, that means something happened that should have not happened.”
Associated Press writer Maria Sudekum contributed from Kansas City, Missouri.
FROM KMOV TV (excerpt)
Witnesses tell News 4 that Mike Brown, 18, was unarmed and had his hands in the air when he was shot multiple times by the a Ferguson police officer. Police have not confirmed those claims and they have not released any details of the incident other than an officer was involved and that he has been placed on administrative leave.
Esther Haywood, Pres. St. Louis County NAACP
Dorian Johnson tells News 4 he was walking with Brown when the officer confronted them and drew his weapon.
“He (the officer) shot again and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air,” said Dorian Johnson, a friend pf Brown’s. “He started to get down and the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots.”
St. Louis County NAACP President Esther Haywood told News 4 that Brown was shot once by the officer and then an additional nine times as he lay in the street. Police have not confirmed that account.
Angry crowd confronts police with dogs after they killed Michael Brown, 18 in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis, Aug. 9, 2014
Hundreds of people gathered in the street outside an apartment complex in a St. Louis suburb on Saturday, screaming obscenities and “kill the police” after a police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old man.
The victim was identified by relatives as Michael Brown, who was scheduled to begin college classes Monday, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Brown’s grandmother, Desiree Harris, told the Associated Press that she was driving through the neighborhood Saturday afternoon when she saw her grandson running a few blocks from her house.
“He was running this way,” she said. “When I got up there, my grandson was lying on the pavement. I asked the police what happened. They didn’t tell me nothing.”
A spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department confirmed to the Associated Press that it was a Ferguson police officer who shot the man, but did not identify the officer and did not immediately give a reason for the shooting.
Calls by The Times to the police were not returned.
Louis Head, Brown’s stepfather, held a sign that said “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son!!!” the Post Dispatch reported. And Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, said the shooting was “wrong and it was cold-hearted.”
By early Saturday night, dozens of police cars remained parked near the shooting scene as mourners left votive candles at a makeshift memorial in the middle of the street.
At the height of the post-shooting tensions, police at the scene called for about 60 other police units to respond to the area in Ferguson, a city of about 21,000 residents, about two-thirds of whom are black, the AP reported.
The crowd eventually dispersed and police scheduled a news conference for Sunday morning.
“We are hurt to hear that yet another teenaged boy has been slaughtered by law enforcement especially in light of the recent death of Eric Garner in New York who was killed for selling cigarettes,” St. Louis County NAACP President Esther Haywood said in a statement. “We plan to do everything within our power to ensure that the Ferguson Police Department as well as the St. Louis County Police Department releases all details pertinent to the shooting.”
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told KMOV, the St. Louis CBS-affiliate, that St. Louis County Police have taken over the investigation and the officer involved in the shooting has been put on paid administrative leave.
Comment: “THIS is an epidemic. Cop killings of unarmed citizens have exploded under Holder …. and the victims are youth (black and white), women, children and minorities, overwhelmingly – it appears that cops are now being trained to use deadly force at what they perceive to be resistance or…” Reader of above story
REBELLION CONTINUES IN MISSOURI VS. POLICE MURDER OF TEEN
Vandalism, looting after unarmed Missouri teen is shot by police
Teen killed in police shooting, outrages community: A Missouri teenager is dead and a community outraged after a police officer opened fire during a shootout.
By Jim Salter The Associated Press
8:30 AM, August 11, 2014
Protesters confront police in Ferguson, MO after fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18 and unarmed.
FERGUSON, MO. — A day of anger over a fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in suburban St. Louis turned to mayhem as people looted businesses, vandalized vehicles and confronted police in riot gear who tried to block access to parts of the city.
The tensions erupted after a candlelight vigil Sunday night for 18-year-old Michael Brown, who police said was shot multiple times Saturday after a scuffle involving the officer, Brown and another person in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb of the city.
Protesters raise hands, imitating Michael Brown’s stance while a Ferguson, MO police officer shot him to death, causing outrage in the community,
Several businesses near the shooting scene were looted, including a convenience store, a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store. People took items from a sporting goods store and a cellphone retailer, and carted rims away from a tire store.
TV footage showed streams of people walking from a liquor store carrying bottles of alcohol, and in some cases protesters stood atop police cars or taunted officers who stood stoic, some carrying shields and batons. Video posted online by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed a convenience store on fire.
Witnesses reported seeing people vandalize police cars and kick in windows. Television footage showed windows busted out of a TV station van.
Sunday vigil at site of Michael Brown’s killing.
Police struggled to catch any looters because crimes were happening at several locations in Ferguson and spilling into neighboring communities, Mayor James Knowles told KTVI-TV. It wasn’t immediately clear how many arrests were made. Authorities set up blockades to keep people from the most looted areas.
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said there were no reports of injuries as of about 11 p.m. But there were scattered reports of assaults into the early morning. Pat Washington, a spokeswoman for Dooley, said tear gas had been used. There were scattered media reports of gunfire but authorities did not immediately confirm any.
Rebellion surges in the streets of Missouri Aug. 10 after police killing of Michael Brown, 18 and unarmed, the day before.
“The small group of people are creating a huge mess,” Knowles said. “Contributing to the unrest that is going on is not going to help. … We’re only hurting ourselves, only hurting our community, hurting our neighbors.”
Earlier Sunday, a few hundred protesters gathered outside Ferguson Police headquarters. Some marched into an adjacent police building chanting “Don’t shoot me” while holding their hands in the air. Officers stood at the top of a staircase, but didn’t use force; the crowd eventually left.
County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the shooting occurred after an officer encountered Brown and another man outside an apartment complex in Ferguson.
Protest outside police station in Ferguson, MO
Belmar said one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car and a struggle began. (VOD: and so the cover-up begins.)
Belmar said at least one shot was fired from the officer’s gun inside the police car. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said authorities were still sorting out what happened inside the police car. It was not clear if Brown was the man who struggled with the officer.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar (left) talks about the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Broown as Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson listens during a news conference Sunday in Missouri.
The struggle spilled out into the street, where Brown was shot multiple times. Belmar said the exact number of shots wasn’t known and that all shell casings at the scene matched the officer’s gun. Police were investigating why the officer shot Brown, who police have confirmed was unarmed.
Jackson said the second person has not been arrested or charged and it wasn’t clear if he was armed.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told KSDK-TV there’s no video footage of the shooting from the apartment complex, or from any police cruiser dashboard cameras or body-worn cameras that the department recently bought but hasn’t yet put to use. (VOD: Detroit police were cited by the Justice Dept. for deliberately having inoperable dashboard cameras in their cars.)
Jackson said blood samples were taken from Brown and the officer who shot him. Toxicology tests take weeks to complete.
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said she didn’t understand why police didn’t subdue her high school graduate son with a club or stun gun, and that the officer involved should be fired and prosecuted.
“I would like to see him go to jail with the death penalty,” she said, fighting back tears.
The killing drew criticism from some civil rights leaders, who referred to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was acquitted of murder charges.
John Gaskin of St. Louis County NAACP, also member of national board.
“We’re outraged because yet again a young African-American man has been killed by law enforcement,” said John Gaskin, who serves on both the St. Louis County and national boards of directors for the NAACP.
St. Louis County Police Department is in charge of the investigation, and Dooley said he will request an FBI investigation. The U.S. Justice Department said Attorney General Eric Holder instructed staff to monitor developments.
The race of the officer involved in the shooting has not been disclosed. He has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Associated Press writer Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.
Michael Brown, a “gentle giant.”
MICHAEL BROWN: A GENTLE GIANT
Michael Brown posted a haunting message on Facebook last week as he prepared to enter a new phase in his life — college.
“if i leave this earth today,” he wrote to a friend, “at least you’ll know i care about others more then i cared about my damn self.”
Brown, 18, died Saturday after a Ferguson police officer shot him multiple times outside an apartment complex as he walked to his grandmother’s home. Brown was two days from starting class at Vatterott College. Close friends had been packing up and departing for schools such as Kansas State University and Arkansas Baptist University on sports scholarships.
“Everyone else wanted to be a football player, a basketball player,” said Gerard Fuller, who had known Brown since second grade at Pine Lawn Elementary School. “He wanted to own his own business. He’d say, ‘Let’s make something out of nothing.’”
Brown graduated from high school at the predominately African-American Normandy High School, a high-poverty school in a district that has been at the center of legislative battles and a string of politically charged decisions by the Missouri Board of Education.
Teachers described Brown as a “gentle giant,” a student who loomed large and didn’t cause trouble. Friends describe him as a quiet person with a wicked sense of humor, one who loved music and had begun to rap. He fought an uphill battle to graduate.
Friend attends McBride’s funeral wearing “Justice for Nisha” T-shirt. She was a graduate of Southfield High School and an employee of Ford Motor Company.
A jury convicted a suburban Detroit homeowner of second-degree murder and manslaughter Thursday in the killing of a drunk (see comments below story) unarmed woman on his porch last year, rejecting his claim that he was afraid for his life and had acted in self-defense.
Theodore Wafer, 55, shot Renisha McBride through a screen door on Nov. 2, hours after she crashed into a parked car a half-mile from his house. No one knows why she ended up at the Dearborn Heights home, although prosecutors speculated that the 19-year-old woman may have been seeking help.
The jury convicted Wafer of second-degree murder and manslaughter after deliberating for about eight hours over two days.
Funeral program showed the real Renisha McBride, not the hoodlum racist defense attorneys tried to portray.
Wayne County Judge Dana Hathaway warned that she would lock people up for any outbursts, and the courtroom was silent after the verdict was read.
McBride’s mother, Monica McBride, cried and clasped her hands as if praying when the jury’s decision was announced. She gave long hugs to prosecutors as the courtroom emptied.
Renisha’s mother Monica McBride and sister weep in joy and sorrow after preliminary exam of Theodore Wafer.
Wafer, who had been free on bond, was ordered to jail to await his sentence. He faces up to life in prison on Aug. 21, but it’s likely his punishment will be much shorter. (VOD: see comments below.)
“He was a cold-blooded killer. … People have a right to bear arms, but you need to do it with reason and responsibility,” McBride’s father, Walter Simmons, told reporters.
During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Patrick Muscat told the jury that McBride “just wanted to go home” the morning she was killed.
“She ended up in the morgue with bullets in her head and in her brain because the defendant picked up this shotgun, released this safety, raised it at her, pulled the trigger and blew her face off,” Muscat said, holding the gun.
Theodore Wafer on the stand.
The Wayne County jury heard eight days of testimony before starting deliberations Wednesday.
Wafer, an airport maintenance employee who lives alone, said he was roused out of sleep around 4:30 a.m. by pounding at his front and side doors. He testified that the noises were “unbelievable.”
“I wasn’t going to cower in my house,” Wafer said.
He said he thought there could have been more than one person outside of his 1,100-square-foot home near the Detroit-Dearborn Heights border. Wafer said he pulled the trigger “to defend myself. It was them or me.”
Theodore Wafer’s house in Dearborn Heights, with thoroughly secure, solid front door and picture window through which he could observe anyone on his porch. Testimony at the preliminary was that there was a streetlight on the corner; there is also a porchlight on his house.
“He armed himself. He was getting attacked,” defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter told jurors. “Put yourselves in his shoes at 4:30 in the morning.”
But prosecutors said Wafer could have stayed safely in his locked home and called 911 instead of confronting McBride.
“He had so many other options. … We wouldn’t be here if he had called police first,” Muscat told the jury.
VOD was not able to be present at the trial of Theodore Wafer, although we thoroughly covered his preliminary exam and pre-trial hearing, as well as protests, as noted in links below. But we celebrate his second-degree murder conviction today, noting as did Black Twitter the insulting reference in the AP article above to Renisha McBride as a “drunk woman.” Ed White of AP also inexplicably made the statement, with no substantiation, that Wafer is likely to get a less severe punishment than life in prison.
Michigan law defines the penalty for second degree murder, which is considered a capital offense, as follows:
750.317 Second degree murder; penalty.
Second degree murder—All other kinds of murder shall be murder of the second degree, and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life, or any term of years, in the discretion of the court trying the same.
An earlier editorial by Brian Dickerson in the Detroit Free Press, outrageously headlined, Why Renisha McBride is not Michigan’s Trayvon Martin, said in part,
“The principals appear to have been strangers to each other; there is no reason to believe that either had any idea who or what was waiting behind the wooden door that separated them until Wafer flung it open and fired through his front screen door, obliterating a phantom whose gender and approximate age he insists began to register only after she was falling backward from the impact of the single shotgun blast.
Under police interrogation hours after the shooting, he remained uncertain about the dead woman’s race or ethnicity. “Dark-complected is how I would describe her,” he told his interviewers, adding that “my neighbors are whites, Mexican, Arabic and African American.”
The population of Dearborn Heights is 86.1 percent white, according to U.S. Census data. Blacks make up only 7.8 percent of the population. VOD thoroughly respects the views of Renisha McBride’s parents, who implied they did not believe race was a factor in their daughter’s murder, as least with regard to Wafer, although we question whether his statement that his victim was “dark-complected” was not in itself racist.
However, Dearborn Heights police did not charge Wafer the night of the murder, never made him spend a day in jail, never tested HIS blood alcohol level although he has a record of drunk driving convictions, and never searched his house the same day for alcohol bottles or other related evidence.
Cheryl Carpenter brandishes tainted evidence at trial of Theodore Wafer, the screen door through which he blasted Renisha McBride with his shotgun.
They were forced by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to do a second investigation of the scene nine days afterwards. That investigation produced the screen door through which he slaughtered Renisha McBride, a key piece of evidence he had hidden away in his basement, which defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter brandished at the trial, although it was clearly tainted goods.
Evidence allegedly defaming McBride’s character, not allowed into testimony by Judge Dana Hathaway, was however described in detail in local media accounts, a clear attempt to prejudice the jury against McBride.
Race was clearly an issue, including the racial attitudes of the surrounding society, the Dearborn Heights police, and the local media, as well as Detroit police chief James Craig, who has virtually given “homeowners” license to shoot anyone who even approaches their properties.
“The bottom line is race does play a role,” Senior Pastor Willie J. Rideout of “All God’s People Ministries” in Detroit, a prominent civil rights activist, said earlier. “If that had been me killing a white American, right away from day one I would have been arrested. But because he is white in Dearborn Heights, he has never even seen the inside of a jail cell. This shows me we need to continue pushing for this man to be convicted on all three counts. This was nothing but a terrorist attack in the state of Michigan, in the U.S. It actually seems like premeditated murder to me. It seems like the family has grounds to sue not only Wafer, but the Dearborn Heights and Detroit Police as well.”
VOD fears that the local media may attempts to pressure Judge Dana Hathaway to give Wafer the lighter sentence Ed White of the AP referenced without substantiation, and agrees with Pastor Rideout that the charge should actually have been murder one, premeditated murder. The pressure must be kept up to sentence Wafer as Renisha’s father Walter Ray Simmons asked, to LIFE IN PRISON.
Some of main retiree leaders against bankruptcy takeover of Detroit at press conference.
DERAIL THE BANKRUPTCY NOW!
Sixth Circuit suspends hearing on appeals until after plan trial, received letters from unions, retiree groups pledging to dismiss appeals
Retirees outraged, question validity of “Yes” vote and procedures
Aleem, Williams pepper court with more objections
Legal, other alternatives under consideration
By Diane Bukowski
Aug. 5, 2014
DETROIT – City workers and retirees, relieved that unions and retirement systems did not outright withdraw their bankruptcy eligibility appeals at the Sixth Circuit Court July 31, now are angered that the appellants, abetted by the “City” (Kevyn Orr) and the state, have pledged to nix the appeals after the plan confirmation trial is concluded. The trial, during which arguments regarding the city’s “Plan of Adjustment” of its debts, is set to begin Aug. 21, after several delays.
DWSD’s Lake Huron water treatment plant. DWSD is the third largest water utllity in the country. It provides water service to almost one million people in Detroit and three million people in 126 neighboring Southeastern Michigan communities throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb St. Clair, Lapeer, Genesee, Washtenaw and Monroe counties. It had 2,000 employees, 1,000 of whom are represented by AFSCME. The numbers have been drastically cut through lay-offs and attrition as Detroit EM Kevyn Orr, bankruptcy judge consider privatization/regionalization. Detroiters built and paid for the entire system through bond proposals.
Retirees picketed AFSCME Council 25’s headquarters July 31, after Council 25 President Al Garrett told VOD that AFSCME would definitely withdraw its appeal. The plan includes drastic pension and health care cuts for retirees and active employees. Combined with proposals that could privatize the City’s largest asset, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, among others, the plan could actually cause the collapse of the retirement systems. It is also likely to cause a severe reduction in services to Detroit residents, such as recent water shut-offs, plans to reduce street lighting by 40 percent, and elimination of services in areas sparsely populated after massive foreclosures over the last decade.
In a July 31 letter to the Sixth Circuit, nine attorneys wrote, “Appellants accordingly will dismiss these appeals . . . if and when there is final confirmation of the City’s proposed plan (which will incorporate the settlements and the outside funding commitments known as the ‘Grand Bargain.’) Most of the Appellants already have settled and support the City’s proposed plan, and have agreed to dismiss their appeals at that time. The Appellants that have not yet settled hope and expect to do so soon. Their settlements would involve similar agreements regarding dismissal of their appeals after confirmation of the plan.”
Tom Sheehan, president of the DGRS, also sits on the board of the DRCEA.
The signers included attorneys for the 32,000 member city retirement systems, AFSCME Council 25, the Official Committee of Retirees, the Retiree Association Parties, the Detroit Police Command Officers Association, the Detroit Firefighters Association, the Detroit Police Officers Association, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the state, and the city.
The letter added “ . . . a decision by this Court on the merits would unnecessarily resolve important questions of federal and state constitutional law. The Court likely will not have to decide these issues if the Court gives the parties additional time to finalize their settlements — because, as already stated, Appellants will dismiss their objections to eligibility once the settlement and plan are finalized. It would be extraordinary for this Court to reach out and decide the meaning of a state constitutional provision protecting pensions — a decision that will have ramifications well beyond this case — with the parties on the eve of finalizing a consensual agreement.” Click on COA letter 7-31-14 re holding bankruptcy appeals in abeyance to read entire letter.
That “consensual agreement” as embodied in the Plan of Adjustment would negate the validity of Article 9, Section 24 of the Michigan Constitution, which protects public pensions. Twenty-four states have similar protections, with Michigan’s among the strongest.
UAW International Headquarters in Detroit.
In a separate letter, David DeChiara, an attorney for the UAW, proposed an alternate resolution.
“The UAW proposes that the Court simply remand this case back to the bankruptcy court, with instructions to the bankruptcy court to decide, in the context of the confirmation trial . . . .whether Michigan Governor Snyder had the power to authorize the federal judiciary to set aside the protections afforded by . . . the Michigan Constitution . . .”
DeChiara said the UAW would withdraw the remainder of its Sixth Circuit appeal if the Court remanded the case to Rhodes. Click on UAW 7-31-14 Letter to Sixth Circuit for full letter.
Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood.
Chad Livengood of the Detroit News first broke the story.
He reported July 31,“Five major Detroit creditor groups representing pensioners joined the city and State of Michigan on Thursday in asking a federal court to delay action on appeals or risk jeopardizing the bankruptcy “grand bargain”. . .The coalition of attorneys asked for a delay of the appeals proceedings pending the outcome of a crucial trial next month over the city’s plan to shed $7 billion in debt.” http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140731/METRO01/307310058#ixzz39dyax2Ke
VOD obtained the actual copies of the letters to analyze why the retirement groups and unions would join with the city and state in asking the Sixth Circuit for the stay.
Hassan Aleem (l) and Carl Williams (r) at DCCAER meeting.
At the meeting of the Detroit Concerned Citizens, Active Employees, and Retirees, (DCCAER), held Aug. 4, Hassan Aleem, a legal analyst for the group as well as a City of Detroit retiree, said he hoped the court’s subsequent agreement to delay the proceedings as referenced in Livengood’s article might mean it felt there were cogent, important issues to consider in the appeals.
However, the actual letters dashed those hopes.
Carl Williams, Aleem’s co-analyst, told the meeting angrily, “Our people fought and died for our Constitutional and voting rights. It is unbelievable that those numbers voted ‘Yes’ on the plan and gave up those rights.”
Bankruptcy protester calls for an end to the Emergency Manager law, PA 436, which has taken over Michigan’s majority Black cities.
The DGRS ballot said, “By accepting the Plan AND if the Initial Funding Conditions are satisfied or waived, you will be forever releasing any rights you may have against the State and other nondebtor parties for matters described in the Plan and you will be forever barred from suing the State or other nondebtor parties for matters described in the Plan. Specifically, this release would release all claims and liabilities arising from or related to the City, the chapter 9 case (including the authorization given to file the chapter 9 case), the Plan and exhibits thereto, the Disclosure Statement, PA 436 and its predecessor or replacement statutes, and Article 9 Sec. 24 of the Michigan Constitution.”
Retirees at the meeting raised other objections to the validity of the vote. Members of the Police and Fire Retirement Systems allegedly voted 82 percent “Yes,” while members of the Detroit General Retirement System voted 73 percent “Yes.”
KCC President Bryan Butvick. KCC has no Black officers.
However, only 16,524 ballots were included in the count, although the two systems have 32,000 members. Many at the meeting asked whether everyone had even received a ballot, saying they doubted half the membership would not vote at all. Only 1400 ballots were listed as “invalid” by Kurtzman Carson Consultants, LLP, the balloting agent.
At two retiree meetings held by the DGRS, canned presentations recommending a Yes vote were given, and response from the retirees limited to questions submitted on cards.
Retiree representatives including Shirley Lightsey of the Detroit Retired City Employees Association, Al Garrett of Michigan AFSCME Council 25, and Attorney Michael VanOverbeke of the Detroit General Retirement System (DGRS) had said they would follow the wishes of the voters.
DRCEA Pres. Shirley Lightsey
The vote count was conducted by Kurtzman Carson, LLP in El Segundo, California, with no challengers present. Ballots were mailed with “Yes” vote endorsements by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Lightsey of the DRCEA, and Don Johnson of the Detroit Retired Police and Firefighters Association.
The DGRS individually mailed its endorsement of a “Yes” vote to its membership, while Dentons LLP, paid $4.6 million by the court to represent the “Official Retiree Committee,” sent out a letter endorsing a “Yes” vote jointly with the City of Detroit.
However, the City (Orr and Jones Day), in their original motion for the Solicitation Package sent with the ballots asked for it to include “evidence in support of any objections to the plan,” as follows:
‘’14. The City proposes to send the following materials (a “Solicitation Package”) to each holder of a claim that is eligible to vote on the Plan: a notice, substantially in the form attached hereto as Exhibit 6A (the “Confirmation Hearing Notice”), which includes (a) notice of the Court’s order approving the adequacy of the Disclosure Statement; (b) the date, time and location of the Confirmation Hearing(s); and (c) the deadlines for voting on the Plan and submitting evidence in support of any objections to the Plan . . .”
One-sided Municipal Distress Forum on Chapter 9 and Emergency Managers, held Oct. 10, 2012 had the following panelists: (l to r)Frederick Headen of the State Treasury, who has endorsed dozens of municipal takeovers, David Plawecki, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, Douglas Bernstein and Judy O’Hara, both EM trainers, with O’Hara a co-author of PA 4, the predecessor to PA 436, and Charles Moore, accountant at Conway McKenzie and a chief (non-expert) witness for Kevyn Orr in the bankruptcy eligibility trial.
In his order on the motion, filed March 11, Rhodes conveniently eliminated the mention of evidence regarding objections to the Plan as follows:
“6. The Solicitation Package shall be required to include the following information and documents: a. a copy of the Confirmation Hearing Notice; b. a CD-ROM which includes the Plan, the Disclosure Statement and all exhibits thereto that have been filed in this case prior to the date of the mailing of the Solicitation Package; c. the appropriate form of Ballot for voting on the Plan; d. a Ballot return envelope; e. a copy of the Amended Tabulation Rules; f. a copy of the Notice of Voting Dispute Resolution Procedures; and g. a cover letter (i) describing the contents of the Solicitation Package, (ii) describing the contents of the CD-ROM and instructions for using the CD-ROM and (iii) providing information about how to obtain, at no charge, hard copies of any materials provided on the CD-ROM. 7. The ballots, the form of which will be determined in connection with the Disclosure Statement Hearing (collectively, the “Ballots”), will be distributed as part of the Solicitation Package as provided below.”
The language in the final solicitation package left out any description of evidence regarding objections to the plan, including that presented by unions and retiree groups at the Sixth Circuit Court Appeals.
Sixth Circuit panel of judges considering appeals: (l to r) : Julia Smith Gibbons, Raymond M. Kethledge, Jane Branstetter Stranch. Stranch is an Obama appointee, the other two were appointed by Republican presidents.
Regarding those appeals, the package said only:
“GRS, PFRS, the Retiree Committee, several unions and several associations representing the City’s retirees have appealed from the Bankruptcy Court’s ruling that found the City to be eligible to file its bankruptcy case and also held that accrued pension benefits could be reduced. The appeals are pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The Outside Funding of $816 million will not be available for GRS or PFRS if these appeals continue. The Outside Funding will only be available if these appeals are resolved, dismissed or withdrawn prior to approval of the Plan.
If the appeals continue and are successful and no further appeals or other legal actions are taken, then either the City’s bankruptcy case may be dismissed (and no plan would be confirmed), or the appellate court may hold that, although the City may pursue a restrucfuring in this bankruptcy case, it cannot reduce or impair your pension (and the Plan could not be confirmed). In either case, the Outside Funding of $816 million would not be available for GRS and PFRS.
Even if the appellate court decides that the City cannot legally reduce your pension, the City’s financial problems mean that it would still not have enough money to make the required pension contributions to GRS or PFRS. So you would still not be assured of receiving a full pension payment even if you had a legalright to a full pension payment.
If the appeals are unsuccessful and no further appeals or other legal actions are taken, then the Plan as written will be unaffected.”
Cecily McClellan, leader of DCCAER, city retiree, VP Assoc. of Prof. and Tech. Employees.
Many of the attendees at the DCCAER meeting said they had filed individual objections to the voting procedures with Rhodes. Williams told the group that the voting procedures violated federal election law.
Cecily McClellan, a leader of the DCCAER, said the group had filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain the complete list of names and addresses of retirement system members, and repeatedly asked the DGRS for the list, to no avail. The DCCAER earlier issued a statement strongly objecting to the plan, titled “GRAND THEFT or Grand Bargain,” and went city-wide with caravans including U-Haul trucks with “VOTE NO” banners.
During the meeting, attendees signed numerous other objections drafted by Aleem and Williams. Plans were laid to seek legal and other recourse to invalidate the vote and “derail the bankruptcy” as Dentons attorney Carol Neville put it, while excusing her failure to seek recourse against the city’s failure to fully disclose on the ballots and in the solicitation package that it had added 6.75 percent interest to the Annuity Savings Plan recoupments.
The agreement of major unions representing municipal workers, and their retirement systems and groups, to wipe out their appeals of a bankruptcy eligibility decision that puts millions of retirees across the U.S. in jeopardy is reprehensible, and likely represents the most major sell-out of workers by their elected officials in U.S. history.