TWO DEAD, ONE WOUNDED, ONE YOUTH FACING LIFE IN PRISON FOR DEFENSE AGAINST ARMED EVICTION ATTEMPT

Detroit Police Chief James Craig was celebrated in the June, 2014 issue of the NRA's America's First Freedom magazine.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig was celebrated in the June, 2014 issue of the NRA’s America’s First Freedom magazine. Note virtually razed neighborhood surrounding him. He has repeatedly encouraged “law-abiding” citizens to arm themselves. Shootings by homeowners of people they thought were trying to break in have increased, but in this case the home’s occupants were blamed, not the intruders.

 

New homeowner violated proper court procedures, “brandished gun” 

Deceased and accused all armed, had CCW’s, as Chief Craig advocates 

“Don’t people have a right to defend themselves if someone enters their home with a gun?”

$100 M in Hardest Hit funds should pay delinquent taxes, to keep people in their homes and put money in city and county coffers, says attorney

By Diane Bukowski 

December 19, 2014

Alonzo D. Long, Jr.

DETROIT – Catherine Franklin, 37, and her father Howard Franklin, 72, were both armed when they entered a home at 15114 Piedmont to evict its occupants Nov. 28, according to testimony at the preliminary exam of Alonzo D. Long, Jr., 22, on Dec. 17. The elder Franklin had purchased the home during the October Wayne County tax foreclosure auction.

Both Franklins lost their lives in the ensuing events, after an argument over the tenants’ removal of a dining room chandelier and window blinds, described in other news accounts as “fixtures.”

Long, who was helping his relatives move out of the home, faces two charges of first-degree murder, one count of felony firearm, and one count of discharge of a firearm in a building. About a dozen young people came to court in his support. Three apparent relatives of the Franklins also attended.

According to police, Long and the deceased parties all had concealed weapons permits.

“I saw Cat outside with a firearm in her hand when she came stumbling out,” Carlos Williams, an employee of the Franklins, testified, after defense attorney Charles Longstreet II refreshed his memory with the statement he gave police that day. Williams said she was bloodied and fell face first onto the porch.

Catherine Franklin in a photo from a 2008 article on her business, Vend R’ Us.

Williams and employee Nuganda Andrews identified Long during the hearing as the man they saw enter the house during the argument, with his gun held down at his side “stiff-arm” style. Williams said he had been sitting in a car in the home’s driveway when someone inside called out “Junior!” after the Franklins re-entered. One employee said he heard someone inside say, “Oh, so you’re brandishing guns!”

Williams told 36th District Judge Ruth Carter that other than his employers, there were three women and one man in the home. Police earlier said one of the women was wounded, and that the man was taken into custody on an unrelated count.

Andrews said, “I seen somebody pull a gun out and start shooting,” referring to Long. He said he could not see his employers from outside. Williams said he saw three “muzzle flashes” and heard five more gunshots as both employees ran from the premises. It was unclear from the testimony who shot first. There was no forensic or ballistics testimony given. Two police officers are still set to testify at a continuation of the exam Jan. 2, 2015.

Home at 15114 Piedmont, in photo from Wayne County Treasurer Testimony during exam referred to the presence of bushes which would obstruct view of what went on inside. Both employees testified they were outside the house looking through the doorway when the shooting happened.

Home at 15114 Piedmont, in photo from Wayne County Treasurer’s auction website. Testimony during exam referred to the presence of  bushes and porch berm which would obstruct view of what went on inside. Both employees testified they were outside the house looking through the doorway when the argument and shooting happened. One said he was on the lawn.

Both employees appeared to be traumatized by the event. Williams said he told those involved, “It doesn’t have to be like this,” before he ran out to avoid the gunfire.

Although both employees said the younger Franklin bought the home in an October Wayne County tax foreclosure auction, Wayne County records show the elder Franklin purchased the home, which is registered in his name under Quit Claim Deed 2014439726, dated Nov. 10, 2014. (See Howard Franklin QCD.)

Andrews said the younger Franklin called police after an initial discussion with the occupants. He said Detroit police officers arrived and talked to all parties involved, getting them to agree that the tenants needed more time to move their possessions.

“The police came up with a peaceful resolution,” Sgt. Michael Woody, the department’s Public Information Officer, told VOD. “They had no more duties at the scene. We train our officers always to refer a landlord-tenant issue to the courts, because it is a civil matter.”

Eviction at gunpoint is profoundly illegal.

Eviction at gunpoint is profoundly illegal.

The argument over the chandelier and window blinds took place after the police left, and after the occupants rented a U-Haul to move their possessions. The employees said they heard the occupants telling the Franklins that the police said they could have more time.

Attorney Jerome Goldberg, who handles many foreclosure and eviction cases, said the new owners had no right to go to the home without initiating the eviction through 36th District Court. (See Eviction Procedures at 36th District Court Eviction procedures.)  Even the Wayne County Treasurer’s auction bidding rules say with regard to a winning bidder, “Occupied structures should not be entered without the occupant’s permission.” (See Wayne County Treasurer Bidding_Rules.)

Community activist and homeowner Agnes Hitchcock, who attended the hearing, said, “I would blame the Treasurer. They should make clear to people who have the highest bid that they have no legal right to an occupied property without going through the courts, even if they have a deed in hand. It’s unfortunate they were strapped, because that gives a sense of power, and things don’t always work out the way they expect.”

The proper process takes weeks. If affirmed with a Writ of Eviction signed by a judge, Wayne County Bailiffs, not Detroit police, are responsible for the eviction.

Attorney Jerome Goldberg.

Attorney Jerome Goldberg.

“The police should have told them to get away from the property, to go through the courts first,” Goldberg said. “A chandelier and blinds aren’t ‘fixtures.’ They could very well have belonged to the [evicted] owner. Don’t people have a right to defend themselves when someone enters their property with a gun?”

Detroit Police Chief James Craig has repeatedly encouraged “law-abiding” citizens to arm themselves and obtain CCW’s. He said such action “translates into crime reduction.” He was featured on the cover of the June, 2014 issue of the National Rifle Association’s magazine as a result.

Goldberg said the events were particularly tragic because the State of Michigan just got another $100 million in Hardest-Hit Funds from the federal government, to distribute to cities in the state.

“Over 32,000 occupied homes are going into tax foreclosure now,” he said. “What’s owed in taxes doesn’t approach the real value of the home. The Hardest Hit funds, which are meant to keep people in their homes, should be used to pay delinquent city and county taxes, benefitting both the governments and the homeowners.”

Note Michigan is not among the states

Note Michigan is not among the states (in blue) using Hardest Hit Funds to keep people in their homes.

Instead, he said, the city is using them for “blight removal,” to demolish houses, with no objection from the Obama administration.

Goldberg noted that the City of Detroit paid $82 million in “chargebacks” to Wayne County this year, after homes the county purchased from the city were sold at auction at a lesser value than the county paid. The city also paid $21 million in chargebacks on delinquent water bills attached to the properties.

“That’s the largest item in the city’s budget and should have been looked at during the bankruptcy proceedings,” Goldberg said. He added that he asked Assistant Wayne County Treasurer David Szymanski last year to initiate a moratorium on tax foreclosures, but Szymanski refused to do so.

Meanwhile, every tax foreclosure auction, which includes numerous “blight bundles” of properties, brings wealthy speculators from across the globe and other bidders, including non-profits, out of the woodwork like termites to feast on the wreckage of the city’s neighborhoods.

(See  2014 DETROIT BLIGHT_BUNDLE_AuctionItems for list of Detroit properties bundled for purchase by one bidder, for demolition. THERE ARE 118 PAGES OF PROPERTIES LISTED.)

Attorney Vanessa Fluker.

Attorney Vanessa Fluker.

It is questionable whether most of the homes in the auctions have been legally foreclosed.

Bidding rules say, “The Treasurer assumes no liability for any lien, encumbrance, or easement, recorded or not recorded, which was not cancelled by the Foreclosure Judgment of the property under MCL 211.78k. It is the responsibility of the bidder to research the existence of any liens or encumbrances . . . .”

Cornell Squires, of We the People for the People, which assists many homeowners facing foreclosure, told VOD that many Sheriff’s deeds are illegally executed, with unsworn county employees operating both as deputy sheriffs to sign the deeds, and as notaries.

Noted foreclosure attorney Vanessa Fluker said she has fought hundreds of illegal evictions, including one involving an elderly woman whose senior citizen tax exemption was not taken into account by the Treasurer’s office.

“What would you do if someone showed up on your porch with a gun?” she asked.


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U.S.-CUBA TO RESTORE DIPLOMATIC TIES; EMBARGO CONTINUES AS U.S. ADVOCATES PRIVATIZATION

U.S. Pres. Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shook hands at Dec. 2013 memorial for Nelson Mandela. Brazililan President Dima Roussef watched.

U.S. Pres. Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shook hands at Dec. 2013 memorial for Nelson Mandela. Brazililan President Dima Roussef watched.

Cuban Five are free; travel, trade and third country restrictions eased; U.S. to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism

White House statement stresses expansion of private sector, Cuba “human rights” issues, despite UN condemnation of US police, prison terror

White House wants expansion of internet facilities in Cuba

Issue of political refugee Assata Shakur not addressed

HAVANA, Cuba

December 17, 2014

Fidel and Raul Castro; Fidel retired in 2008 due to health reasons and his brother assumed his duties.

Fidel and Raul Castro; Fidel retired in 2008 due to health reasons and his brother assumed his duties.

STATEMENT BY CUBAN PRESIDENT RAUL CASTRO ,

Fellow countrymen:

Since my election as President of the State Council and Council of Ministers I have reiterated in many occasions our willingness to hold a respectful dialogue with the United States on the basis of sovereign equality, in order to deal reciprocally with a wide variety of topics without detriment to the national Independence and self-determination of our people. This stance was conveyed to the US Government both publicly and privately by Comrade Fidel on several occasions during our long standing struggle, stating the willingness to discuss and solve our differences without renouncing any of our principles.

The heroic Cuban people, in the wake of serious dangers, aggressions, adversities and sacrifices has proven to be faithful and will continue to be faithful to our ideals of independence and social justice. Strongly united throughout these 56 years of Revolution, we have kept our unswerving loyalty to those who died in defense of our principles since the beginning of our independence wars in 1868.

Cuban children in 1991 as workers, on paid leave from their regular jobs, were building their own new apartments at La Guinera. Photo: Diane Bukowski

Cuban children in 1991 as workers, on paid leave from their regular jobs, were building their own new apartments at La Guinera. Photo: Diane Bukowski

Today, despite the difficulties, we have embarked on the task of updating our economic model in order to build a prosperous and sustainable Socialism. As a result of a dialogue at the highest level, which included a phone conversation I had yesterday with President Obama, we have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations.

As Fidel promised on June 2001, when he said: “They shall return!” Gerardo, Ramon, and Antonio have arrived today to our homeland. The enormous joy of their families and of all our people, who have relentlessly fought for this goal, is shared by hundreds of solidarity committees and groups, governments, parliaments, organizations, institutions, and personalities, who for the last sixteen years have made tireless efforts demanding their release. We convey our deepest gratitude and commitment to all of them.

Cuban students leave class; education through the college level is free in Cuba.

Cuban students leave class; education through the college level is free in Cuba. Photo by Diane Bukowski, 1991

President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgement of our people. I wish to thank and acknowledge the support of the Vatican, most particularly the support of Pope Francisco in the efforts for improving relations between Cuba and the United States. I also want to thank the Government of Canada for facilitating the high-level dialogue between the two countries.

Cuban workers, also on paid leave from their regular jobs, pitch in to help develop agriculture in the countryside. Photo : Diane Bukowski, 1991

Cuban workers, also on paid leave from their regular jobs, pitch in to help develop agriculture in the countryside. Photo : Diane Bukowski, 1991

In turn, we have decided to release and send back to the United States a spy of Cuban origin who was working for that nation. On the other hand, and for humanitarian reasons, today we have also sent the American citizen Alan Gross back to his country. Unilaterally, as has always been our practice, and in strict compliance with the provisions of our legal system, the concerned prisoners have received legal benefits, including the release of those persons that the Government of the United States had conveyed their interest in.

Obama has executive authority to modify blockade 

We have also agreed to renew diplomatic relations. This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been solved. The economic, commercial, and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease. Though the blockade has been codified into law, the President of the United States has the executive authority to modify its implementation.

______________________________________________________________

Cuba embargo54 years since U.S. trade embargo of Cuba imposed.

$1.1 trillion cost to Cuban economy

Cost to US economy $1.2B a year

Source: US Chamber of Commerce, Cuba Foreign Ministry. _______________________________________________________________

We propose to the Government of the United States the adoption of mutual steps to improve the bilateral atmosphere and advance towards normalization of relations between our two countries, based on the principles of International Law and the United Nations Charter. Cuba reiterates its willingness to cooperate in multilateral bodies, such as the United Nations. While acknowledging our profound differences, particularly on issues related to national sovereignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy, I reaffirm our willingness to dialogue on all these issues.

Young Cuban women on Malecon, 1991. We saw excellent teeth on everyone in Cuba due to free health care. Photo: Diane Bukowski, 1991

Young Cuban women on Malecon, 1991. We saw excellent teeth on everyone in Cuba due to free health care. Photo: Diane Bukowski, 1991

I call upon the Government of the United States to remove the obstacles hindering or restricting ties between peoples, families, and citizens of both countries, particularly restrictions on travelling, direct post services, and telecommunications. The progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems. As we have reiterated, we must learn the art of coexisting with our differences in a civilized manner. We will continue talking about these important issues at a later date.

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Obama Calls Cuba Embargo a Failure

Pres. Obama speaks on ties with Cuba.

Pres. Obama speaks on ties with Cuba.

President Obama said from the White House that 50 years of isolating Cuba had not worked and it was time for a new approach.      “This policy has been rooted in the best of intentions,” Mr. Obama said. “It has had little effect.”

The president said the United States was encouraging more resources for Cuba and said that increased commerce would be good for both countries.

Release from White House Office of Press Secretary 

December 17, 2014

FACT SHEET: Charting a New Course on Cuba < http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/17/fact-sheet-charting-new-course-cuba>;

Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.  We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba.  It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.

Cuban workers housing in 1991. Sign says to U.S. imperialism: we are not afraid of you! Photo: Diane Bukowski, 1991

Cuban workers housing in 1991. Housing is a constitutional right in Cuba. Sign says to U.S. imperialism: we are not afraid of you! Photo: Diane Bukowski, 1991

At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba.  Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.  It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.  With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.  In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.

Pedro Ross (center), head of the Cuban Trade Federation, with AFSCME officials Harold Mitchell from Cleveland and Diane Bukowski from Detroit. Along with thousands of union delegates from across the hemisphere, we attended a three-day conference with the slogan, "Cuba is not Alone!" All Cuban workers are unionized.

Pedro Ross (center), head of the Cuban Trade Federation, with AFSCME officials Harold Mitchell from Cleveland and Diane Bukowski from Detroit. Along with thousands of union delegates from across the hemisphere, we attended a three-day conference with the slogan, “Cuba is not Alone!” All Cuban workers are unionized.

Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas.  We are choosing to cut loose the anchor of the past, because it is entirely necessary to reach a better future – for our national interests, for the American people, and for the Cuban people.

Key Components of the Updated Policy Approach: Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has taken steps aimed at supporting the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country’s future.  Today, the President announced additional measures to end our outdated approach, and to promote more effectively change in Cuba that is consistent with U.S. support for the Cuban people and in line with U.S. national security interests.  Major elements of the President’s new approach include:

Cuban community center sign says: WE ARE HAPPY HERE!

La Guinera Cuban community center sign says: WE ARE HAPPY HERE!

Establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba- The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were severed in January 1961. In the coming months, we will re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between our two governments as part of the normalization process.

As an initial step, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs will lead the U.S. Delegation to the next round of U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks in January 2015, in Havana. U.S. engagement will be critical when appropriate and will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba and other measures aimed at fostering improved conditions for the Cuban people. The United States will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern and that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues.

Adjusting regulations to more effectively empower the Cuban people

Workers at La Guinera Community Center, which provides day care, a polyclinic, and recreational facilities for young and old.

Workers at La Guinera Community Center, a public facility which provides day care, a polyclinic, and recreational facilities for young and old. Obama statement stresses ‘private property ownership.’ Photo: Diane Bukowski, 1991

The changes announced today will soon be implemented via amendments to regulations of the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce.   Our new policy changes will further enhance our goal of empowering the Cuban population. Our travel and remittance policies are helping Cubans by providing alternative sources of information and opportunities for self-employment and private property ownership, and by strengthening independent civil society.  These measures will further increase people-to-people contact; further support civil society in Cuba; and further enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.  Persons must comply with all provisions of the revised regulations; violations of the terms and conditions are enforceable under U.S. law.

Facilitating an expansion of travel under general licenses for the 12 existing categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law- General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in the following existing categories: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Mass Puerto Rican rally against privatization of public services.

Mass Puerto Rican rally against privatization of public services.

Travelers in the 12 categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law will be able to make arrangements through any service provider that complies with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing travel services to Cuba, and general licenses will authorize provision of such services.  The policy changes make it easier for Americans to provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers and provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector Additional options for promoting the growth of entrepreneurship and the private sector in Cuba will be explored.

Facilitating remittances to Cuba by U.S. persons- Remittance levels will be raised from $500 to $2,000 per quarter for general donative remittances to Cuban nationals (except to certain officials of the government or the Communist party); and donative remittances for humanitarian projects, support for the Cuban people, and support for the development of private businesses in Cuba will no longer require a specific license. Remittance forwarders will no longer require a specific license.

Forbes private business conferenceAuthorizing expanded commercial sales/exports from the United States of certain goods and services- The expansion will seek to empower the nascent Cuban private sector.  Items that will be authorized for export include certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers.  This change will make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.

Authorizing American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba- Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.

Facilitating authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba- U.S. institutions will be permitted to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions. The regulatory definition of the statutory term “cash in advance” will be revised to specify that it means “cash before transfer of title”; this will provide more efficient financing of authorized trade with Cuba. U.S. credit and debit cards will be permitted for use by travelers to Cuba. These measures will improve the speed, efficiency, and oversight of authorized payments between the United States and Cuba.

Assange on Facebook GoogleInitiating new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely- Cuba has an internet penetration of about five percent—one of the lowest rates in the world.  The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited. The commercial export of certain items that will contribute to the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with people in the United States and the rest of the world will be authorized.

This will include the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware, and services, and items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems.  Telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and internet services, which will improve telecommunications between the United States and Cuba.

Updating the application of Cuba sanctions in third countries- U.S.-owned or -controlled entities in third countries will be generally licensed to provide services to, and engage in financial transactions with, Cuban individuals in third countries.  In addition, general licenses will unblock the accounts at U.S. banks of Cuban nationals who have relocated outside of Cuba; permit U.S. persons to participate in third-country professional meetings and conferences related to Cuba; and, allow foreign vessels to enter the United States after engaging in certain humanitarian trade with Cuba, among other measures.

Pursuing discussions with the Cuban and Mexican governments to discuss our unresolved maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico- Previous agreements between the United States and Cuba delimit the maritime space between the two countries within 200 nautical miles from shore.  The United States, Cuba, and Mexico have extended continental shelf in an area within the Gulf of Mexico where the three countries have not yet delimited any boundaries. The United States is prepared to invite the governments of Cuba and Mexico to discuss shared maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Summit of the Americas involves primarily members of the Organization of American States (OAS), which suspended Cuba from participation in 1962.

Summit of the Americas involves primarily members of the Organization of American States (OAS), which suspended Cuba from participation in 1962.

Initiating a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism- The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch such a review, and provide a report to the President within six months regarding Cuba’s support for international terrorism.  Cuba was placed on the list in 1982.

Addressing Cuba’s participation in the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama- President Obama will participate in the Summit of the Americas in Panama.  Human rights and democracy will be key Summit themes.  Cuban civil society must be allowed to participate along with civil society from other countries participating in the Summit, consistent with the region’s commitments under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.  The United States welcomes a constructive dialogue among Summit governments on the Summit’s principles.

Unwavering Commitment to Democracy, Human Rights, and Civil Society

Meanwhile, in U.S. police clashed with protesters against murder of Michael Brown Aug. 9. Grand juries later exonerated killer cops Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo in brutal deaths of Brown and Eric Garner in New York City.

Meanwhile, in U.S. police clashed with protesters against murder of Michael Brown Aug. 9. Grand juries later exonerated killer cops Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo in brutal deaths of Brown and Eric Garner in New York City. The UN Commission on Torture condemned the large number of police killings of African-Americans, and conditions in U.S. prisons including solitary confinement. A separate UN committee condemned the shut-offs of water to thousands of families in Detroit, and the massive foreclosure crisis which has left thousands more homeless.

A critical focus of our increased engagement will include continued strong support by the United States for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba.  The promotion of democracy supports universal human rights by empowering civil society and a person’s right to speak freely, peacefully assemble, and associate, and by supporting the ability of people to freely determine their future.   Our efforts are aimed at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state.

Slavemaster Governor Rick Snyder in Michigan has disenfranchised over half of the state's Black population. A popular vote repealing his first Emergency Manager law was disregarded and replaced with the bulletproof  PA 436. Meanwhile, the country's largest Black majority city, Detroit, and other Black majority cities in Michigan have been stripped of virtually every asset.

Slavemaster Governor Rick Snyder in Michigan has disenfranchised over half of the state’s Black population. A popular vote repealing his first Emergency Manager law was disregarded and replaced with the bulletproof PA 436. Meanwhile, the country’s largest Black majority city, Detroit, and other Black majority cities in Michigan have been stripped of virtually every asset.

The U.S. Congress funds democracy programming in Cuba to provide humanitarian assistance, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and support the free flow of information in places where it is restricted and censored.  The Administration will continue to implement U.S. programs aimed at promoting positive change in Cuba, and we will encourage reforms in our high level engagement with Cuban officials. The United States encourages all nations and organizations engaged in diplomatic dialogue with the Cuban government to take every opportunity both publicly and privately to support increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba.

Ultimately, it will be the Cuban people who drive economic and political reforms.  That is why President Obama took steps to increase the flow of resources and information to ordinary Cuban citizens in 2009, 2011, and today.  The Cuban people deserve the support of the United States and of an entire region that has committed to promote and defend democracy through the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

From the ANSWER Coalition: 

The Cuban Five prisoners are now freed from U.S. prisons after a long campaign.

The Cuban Five prisoners are now freed from U.S. prisons after a long campaign.

The Cuban Five at home with families and Cuban President Raul Castro/

The Cuban Five at home with families and Cuban President Raul Castro/

At last! The Cuban 5 are free. After 16 years of imprisonment, the United States government has released the final three members of the Cuban 5: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero

The imprisonment of the Cuban 5 for the last 16 years has been a grave injustice. Their freedom has been a focal point for struggle by people around the world who demanded their release.

The Cuban 5 came to the United States to expose and prevent terrorism directed against their country from within the territory of the United States.

They were never terrorists; they were always fighting terrorism.

U.S. invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs among many other terrorist anti-Castro plots.

U.S. invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs among many other terrorist anti-Castro plots.

The imprisonment of the Cuban 5 has been one chapter, one battle in a decades-long war directed against the Cuban people and the Cuban Revolution.

The Cuban people have been blockaded, invaded and subjected to all kinds of terrorism, and yet have remained resolute in defending the independence of their country and the social system that puts people before profits.

Congratulations to Cuba, to the Cuban 5 and their families, and to all of those who have rallied in support of their freedom around the world.

The ANSWER Coalition has organized scores of demonstrations, rallies, campus events, mass petitions, letter writing to Congress and other activities as part of the movement to free the Cuban 5. We thank all of the ANSWER Coalition supporters and volunteers who have dedicated so much time and effort to this noble cause.

Movements from the grassroots can make change. In fact, power is in the people if we are organized and mobilized. We will continue to fight for justice.  It is time to end the war against Cuba. It is time to end the blockade of Cuba and to normalize relations with Cuba.

WHAT ABOUT CUBAN ASYLUM FOR ASSATA SHAKUR?

VOD: Pres. Obama’s statement says this country’s designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” will be reviewed. For many years, Cuba has given political asylum to an internationally-renowned heroine of the Black liberation movement in the U.S., Assata Shakur. The FBI has designated her its number one “domestic terrorist.” Various right-wing Congressmen and others have demanded that Cuba extradite her back to the U.S. Cuba has always strongly refused to do so. Her continued protection in Cuba is absolutely essential at this time, as a mass movement grows across the country, condemning the racist police murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and hundreds of others.

JUSTICE FOR ASSATA SHAKUR AND THE OPPRESSED BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLES OF THE U.S.! NO EXTRADITION FROM CUBA!

Poster from the 1991 International Conference held in Havana, Cuba.

Poster from the 1991 International Conference held in Havana, Cuba.

(As an officer of AFSCME Local 457 in Detroit, VOD editor Diane Bukowski participated in the 1991 U.S.-Cuba Labor Exchange, visiting Cuba for one week, touring the country, and meeting its people.

Most inspiring was a two-day conference of thousands of union delegates from the entire Western hemisphere including Canada and Mexico, who lauded Cuba as a model which they wished to establish in their own countries. The conference took place just prior to the U.S. invasion of Panama. Its major topic was global “neo-liberal” policies which were destroying the public sectors of many Latin American countries, worsening conditions for the workers, and services for the people. The U.S.-Cuba Labor Exchange is at laborexchange@aol.com)


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REV. PINKNEY GETS 2.5-10 YRS. AS COPS WILSON, PANTALEO WALK ON MIKE BROWN, ERIC GARNER MURDERS

Pinkney earlier convicted by all-white jury of five felony counts of “forgery under the Michigan election law”

Judge Schrock cites election honesty, while over 51 percent of Michigan’s Black residents have no real election rights

By Diane Bukowski

December 16, 2014

Rev. Edward Pinkney listens as his wife Dorothy Pinkney thanks a crowd in Detroit for their support of her husband Nov. 17.  She told VOD she will not waver in her love and support for him as well.

Rev. Edward Pinkney listens as his wife Dorothy Pinkney thanks a crowd in Detroit Nov. 17 for their support of her husband. She told VOD she will not waver in her love and support for him as well. Pro-Pinkney organizer Marcina Cole is at left.

Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, Michigan – As the world rises up against the acquittal of killer cops Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo in the racist slayings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Rev. Edward Pinkney, 66, a long-time fighter for Benton Harbor’s majority-Black and poor population, was sentenced to 2.5 to 10 years in prison Dec. 15 on five counts of “forgery under the Michigan election law.”

“I have committed no crime, and unfortunately, if I had been anyone else, I wouldn’t be here,” Pinkney, his head held high, told Berrien County Judge Sterling Schrock.

After an all-white jury convicted him Oct. 3, Rev. Pinkney said, “I could not believe they could find me guilty without one piece of evidence. . . I thought the jurists would have enough heart, enough courage and righteousness to do the right thing. They didn’t just fail me. They failed everybody that lives in the city of Benton Harbor. Now everybody in Benton Harbor is in jeopardy. They are saying they don’t need evidence to send someone to prison.”

Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower is at left in this cartoon depicting Rev. Pinkney's jury,

Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower is at left with Prosecutor Sepic in this cartoon depicting Rev. Pinkney’s jury,

Benton Harbor City Commissioner Marcus Muhammad said, “Officer Darren Wilson was allowed to go free. And we saw the suffocation and the choking of Eric Garner and his murderers were allowed to go free. So for Reverend Pinkney to be convicted and sentenced to prison on this day only reflects that the justice system is in shambles!”

Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic charged Pinkney with changing five dates on petitions to recall Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower. The petitions cited Hightower’s backing by the Whirlpool Corporation, which has closed all its local plants and taken over large swaths of the city’s public land.

Michael Brown

Eric Garner

Rev. Edward Pinkney

Rev. Edward Pinkney

A Michigan State Police forensics lab technician testified that there was no way to tell who had changed any dates. He said he found discrepancies on 10 of 40 petitions, but the only five used in the trial were those circulated by Rev. Pinkney. Witnesses testified all the petitions had gone through many hands.

But Berrien County Circuit Court Judge Sterling Schrock told Pinkney, “This gives you a total of 12 felony convictions, nine of which are attempts to unlawfully interfere with the election process. That’s troubling.”

Ironically, Benton Harbor was the first city targeted in 2011 by Michigan’s Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager law which later became PA 436 in 2012. The law has now deprived over half of Michigan’s Black residents of their true election rights, and stripped their cities, including Detroit, the nation’s largest Black-majority city, of their major assets. Their residents face growing poverty, unemployment, foreclosures, police brutality, and incarceration.

Rev. Pinkney protests Benton Harbor takeover, PA 4 at rally May 26, 2012.

Rev. Pinkney protests Benton Harbor takeover, PA 4 at rally May 26, 2012.

Pinkney led a mass campaign against Benton Harbor’s EM takeover, and for many years has challenged the high rate of police killings and incarceration of Benton Harbor residents.

As Rev. Pinkney was placed in handcuffs, his supporters from around the country who had packed the courtroom rallied outside, chanting angrily, “Free Rev. Pinkney now!”

Marcina Cole, a leader of the Detroit delegation, cited what she said was the chief reason for Pinkney’s conviction by an all-white jury and his sentence in the majority-white, well-to-do St. Joseph. That city is just across the river from Benton Harbor, 98% Black, with an official poverty rate of 43 percent, the highest in the state.

“How can you convict a man without evidence?” Cole asked. “All I know is that racism was the deciding factor. . .We will continue to march for justice! May justice prevail in the courts. It’s going to take a lot of us, and people need to stop looking from the windows of their homes and come out and fight in the streets.”

Detroit supporters (center) Cornell Squires and Marcina Cole in Benton Harbor May 24, 2014.

Detroit supporters (center) Cornell Squires and Marcina Cole in Benton Harbor May 24, 2014.

Berrien County itself is 15.2 percent Black, so Rev. Pinkney’s jury venire should have included at least that many Black residents. But Berrien County Prosecutor Michigan Sepic got the only two Blacks on the large venire removed.

Pinkney also said in a motion that at least one juror, Gayle Freehling, lied when she said she did not know Berrien County Clerk and trial witness Sharon Tyler, although she had worked with her on various political events and also served as a city clerk under her in Berrien County. Tyler turned over the petitions in question to Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey without a warrant.

The chain of evidence from that point was severed. No originals, only copies of the petitions were used to bind Rev. Pinkney over for trial. No one seemed to know where the originals were.

Pati Heinz with another Pinkney supporter, actor Danny Glover, during BANCO banquet in 2012.

Pati Heinz with another Pinkney supporter, actor Danny Glover, during BANCO banquet in 2012.

Despite what some called the “lynch mob mentality” in St. Joseph itself, many whites came out to support Pinkney, including Pati Heinz of southwest Michigan.

“All white juries should never happen in a Black man’s trial,” Heinz said. “We are to be judged by our peers, not by some hand-picked racist idiots that this judicial system decides to put our lives in their hands. This whole case, there was not a shred of solid evidence! He was convicted on circumstantial evidence which was very flimsy! I sat through the whole trial, I saw it first hand; this injustice has got to stop!”

Pinkney turned himself in after a SWAT team stormed his home last May. Berrien County sheriff’s deputies then raided homes of petition signers throughout the city, trying unsuccessfully to get them to testify that they had not signed the petitions on the dates indicated. At least 30 petition signers at Pinkney’s trial verified their signatures and dates.

Prosecutor Sepic’s use of five felony charges against Pinkney contrasted with the treatment accorded Michael Brandon Hall, who ADMITTED that he forged the actual signatures of 10 voters, unlike Pinkney, who denied any wrongdoing. An Oct. 23 appeals court decision upheld rulings by lower courts that Hall was appropriately charged under election law, with misdeameanors, not felonies.

In contrast to the charges Sepic brought against Pinkney, he recently charged his friend, Berrien County Commissioner Robert Wooley, with only one count of embezzling almost a million dollars from funds for the Senior Center over a period of seven years. (See video above.)

Benton Harbor County Commissioner Robert Wooley in mugshot.

“A warrant was authorized by prosecutor Mike Sepic for the arrest of Wooley who
was allowed to turn himself in — without a Swat Team surrounding his house,” Pinkney commented. “He was released on $25,000 bond; a hearing was scheduled for Monday, December 15.”

Rev. Pinkney’s attorney Tat Parish earlier told VOD that any sentence in his case would be appealed. Neither Parish nor Pinkney’s appeals attorney Tim Holloway were available for comment at press time.

To sign petition in support of Rev. Pinkney, click on http://www.bhbanco.org/2014/09/b-n-c-o-petition-we-demand-justice-in.html?spref=tw

To donate to the campaign to free Rev. Pinkney, send funds to Rev. Edward Pinkney 1940 Union St. Benton Harbor, MI 49022  Phone: 269-925-0001

Related Stories:

http://www.wndu.com/home/headlines/Berrien-Co-commissioner-charged-with-embezzling-150K-284788611.html

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/11/30/rev-pinkney-lynch-mob-mentality-in-st-joseph-as-he-awaits-sentencing-dec-15/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/11/05/all-white-jury-convicts-rev-pinkney-of-5-felony-counts-pros-wants-life-sentence/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/10/29/free-rev-pinkney-frame-up-benton-harbor-trial-targets-nationally-known-freedom-fighter/

http://www.heraldpalladium.com/news/local/petitions-changed-but-by-whom/article_a1311aa0-a30c-5d3c-8208-ae3fc791fbc8.html

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/07/13/drop-the-charges-against-rev-edward-pinkney-of-benton-harbor-trial-set-for-july-21/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/06/07/benton-harbor-rev-pinkney-to-face-trial-on-felony-charges-july-21-despite-no-evidence/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/06/03/rev-pinkney-in-the-mouth-of-the-beast-in-benton-harbor/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/05/27/dismiss-all-charges-against-rev-pinkney-court-fri-may-30-save-benton-harbor-boycott-whirlpool/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/04/26/free-rev-edward-pinkney-recall-whirlpool-stooge-benton-harbor-mayor-james-hightower/ 


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LEAVING BANKRUPTCY, DETROIT TAKES ON $1.28 BILLION OF NEW DEBT

 Bond BuyerBy Caitlin Devitt

December 11, 2014

“Most of bonds new credits with new interest rates, maturities, or pledges.”

Pledges: Detroit income and property taxes, state revenue sharing, assets

(VOD: photos and captions are not part of original Bond Buyer story)

CHICAGO — On Wednesday, its final day in bankruptcy, Detroit issued $1.28 billion of new debt that its bond team says required novel financing structures to satisfy both Michigan municipal law and the strict confines of Chapter 9 creditor settlements.

The four separate bond financings emerged from hours of intense negotiations with creditors, bankruptcy attorneys and restructuring consultants who didn’t always understand the nuances of municipal finance law, according to one of the lead bond attorneys in the case.

Barclay's was a prime dealer in the global LIBOR scandal, in which banks sitting on the international board manipulated interest rates for their profit. Although many cities across the U.S. lodged lawsuits against these banks, Detroit did not.

Detroit floated the four deals on Dec. 10, its final day in Chapter 9. The bulk of the proceeds paid off creditors, with some new money for the city’s restructuring plan.

LIBOR value of securities and loans

Barclay’s was a prime dealer in the LIBOR scandal, in which banks sitting on the international panel manipulated interest rates for their profit, affecting at least $800 trillion in securities and loans across the globe. In the U.S., Baltimore and other cities sued over massive losses. Detroit did not.

At least one deal, a $275 million private placement with Barclays, marks the first — and possibly last — time a Michigan city taps its income-tax revenue to secure bonds.

A $287.5 million unlimited-tax general obligation bond issue features a new structure that gives bondholders more security than they had in the past and diverts a piece of property tax millage to a new creditor group, as dictated by the city’s settlement with its ULTGO holders.

The city also issued $632 million of limited-tax GO bonds that are unsecured, with new interest rates and maturities, to pay off key creditor groups, including existing LTGO holders. A final issue, totaling $88 million and also unsecured, will go toward the insurers of the city’s certificates of participation and will be paid from parking revenues, another first for the city.

(VOD: FGIC and Syncora, the insurers of the $1.5 billion “void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable” COPS loan (as described by Detroit EM Kevyn Orr), got Joe Louis Arena, revenues from the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Grand Circus Park garage, as well as uncalculated billions worth of riverfront land, in addition to the bond payments.)

Joe Louis Arena on prime riverfront property.

Joe Louis Arena on prime riverfront property.

Detroit filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in the U.S. in July 2013, and bankruptcy attorneys and creditors wrangled for months over recovery rates. Once settlements were reached, it was up to the public finance professionals to figure out how the broke city would finance the payment, according to Amanda Van Dusen, chair of Miller Canfield’s public finance group and leader of the firm’s Detroit team.

Miller Canfield is Detroit’s bond counsel and also acted as its local bankruptcy counsel during the historic Chapter 9. (VOD: Miller Canfield’s Mike McGee, now the firm’s CEO, helped author Public Act 4, the emergency manager legislation later replaced with PA 436, incorporating minor changes. Unethically, he represented both Detroit and the state in negotiating a $137M loan from the state.)

Michael McGee, now CEO of Miller Canfield, in Lansing July 13, 2012 to oppose Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon’s lawsuit against the Consent Agreement which paved the way for Detroit’s EM takeover.

“We had dozens of participants in these negotiations who came either from the municipal finance side or the bankruptcy perspective or private turnaround sector, so we had to make it work for the restructuring plan of adjustment, but also the resulting transactions had to fit Michigan law, federal securities law, and could be traded in the municipal market,” Van Dusen said.

“There are no models for doing it. They’d come up with a resolution and then we’d figure out what the documents would look like to comply,” she said, adding that they had the additional task of maintaining the tax-exemption for the unlimited-tax GOs.

“We got there, obviously, and created a whole bunch of new structures along the way,” she said.

Many of the city’s consultants and bankruptcy attorneys — including Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr — came from the private sector and were more familiar with bankruptcy in a private context than in a municipal one, she said.

“It was very difficult for the bankruptcy attorneys to speak one language, the restructuring professionals speak one language, and the municipal finance professionals speak another,” she said. “There’s been so few municipal bankruptcies, and certainly nothing of this magnitude, so it was very difficult to get to a point where the two types of professionals and market participants could understand each other and come to an agreement that fit both the bankruptcy model and the municipal finance model.”

Amanda van Dusen of Miller Canfield.

Amanda van Dusen of Miller Canfield.

Most bonds are new credits, with new interest rates, maturities or pledges

None of the four bond deals the city closed Dec. 10 were floated on the public markets.

Instead the bonds were directly placed with the creditors and participants, though they are securities that can be traded on the markets.

The deals are refundings to the extent that they replace existing bonds, but most of the bonds are new credits with new interest rates, maturities, or pledges.

“If you’ve got judgments or settlements or claims of any kind, the structures we came up with here in Detroit could be adapted to these other purposes,” Van Dusen said.

The $287.5 million unlimited-tax GO restructuring local project bonds were issued through the Michigan Finance Authority. The city had $330 million of insured ULTGOs, and the settlement called for a 74% recovery for the bondholders, with 26% of the remaining bond payments going instead to retirees.

Michigan Municipal League shows state revenue sharing lost to Michigan cities.

Michigan Municipal League report shows statutory state revenue sharing lost to Michigan cities since 2003, due to legislative and gubernatorial votes.

The bonds will retain the same interest rates and maturities, but will be strengthened by two new pledges: a fourth lien on distributable state aid the city receives from the state, as well as by specific language that says the debt millage raised for the bonds constitute special revenues.

Both pledges are part of the city’s settlement with the ULTGO holders. It’s still uncertain whether the city plans to use that language with any future ULTGOs, Van Dusen said.

Of the $287 million, $279 million was delivered to the original bondholders and $7.9 million was divided among the four bond insurers to make up for payments they made in 2014 when the city had halted all debt payments.

Another $43 million of the original $330 million of GOs will remain outstanding, with the millage payments going to two income stabilization funds for the city’s retirees, as per the settlement.

“The UTGO settlement structure is particularly innovative,” Van Dusen said. “The fact that we restructured it through the MFA, and then the way it came back with additional security to the bondholders,” she said. “It helped that all of those deals, and there were 11, were insured, so we were able to work with the insurers to craft a solution.”

City awaiting ratings from bond agencies

The city has requested a rating from Standard & Poor’s, which has not yet been released. Moody’s Investors Service gave the Assured Guaranty-insured portion of the UTGO deal, amounting to $133.5 million, an underlying rating of A3 with a stable outlook. The rating is based solely on the state aid lien, Moody’s said, as well as the intercept feature that diverts the state aid directly to the bond trustee.

Wall Street ratings agencies Standard

Wall Street ratings agencies Fitch Ratings (rep. Joe O’Keefe speaking) and Standard & Poors (Stephen Murphy to O’Keefe’s left), at Detroit City Council table Jan. 31, 2005 pushing “void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable” $1.5 B COPS loan. Then Detroit CFO Sean Werdlow (l) now COO of COPS lender SBS Financial, and Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams (r) flank them. Despite promises not to downgrade city’s debt, they did so anyway later that year. Detroit defaulted on the COPS loan several times after 2008 crash, incurring hundreds of millions in fees and penalties. Orr withdrew his lawsuit against the deal as part of the plan of adjustment.

The $275 million private placement with Barclays is the only one of the four financings to generate any new money for the city.

The bonds are secured by the city’s’ income-tax revenue, marking a first for a Michigan issuer. About half of the deal is taxable and the rest is tax-exempt.

Under the agreement, Barclays will hold the debt for up to 150 days in a variable-rate mode and the city will reissue the bonds publicly in a fixed-rate mode within that time period.

“Remarketing risk is there”–Barclays loan

Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant workers protest second of Detroit

Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant workers protest second of Detroit’s disastrous information technology systems, WorkBrain. The first was DRMS. Both cost the city hundreds of millions and did NOT work. Look for more of the same back-door dealing with kickbacks to new state oversight board on any new InfoTech system.

“The remarketing risk is there,” Van Dusen said, adding that the city will seek an extension from Barclays if necessary. “But we’re already beginning to feel that the market and the credit analysts are beginning to look at the city a little differently.”

Of the $275 million, roughly $38 million of the taxable proceeds will pay off the banks that acted as counterparties on the city’s interest-rate swaps. Another chunk of the proceeds will finance a new information technology system, considered one of Detroit’s most pressing needs, as well as other capital and operating upgrades outlined in its plan of adjustment.

The taxable bonds will mature in eight years and the tax-exempt bonds in 15 years.

The city also sold $632 million of limited-tax general obligation that are unsecured and will be used to pay off various creditors. Issued as term bonds, the debt has a 30-year maturity, and will bear interest at 4% for the first 20 years and 6% for the last 10 years. Payments will be interest-only for the first 10 years.

Revenues from Detroit-Windsor Tunnel will go to Syncora along with other holdings on the Detroit riverfront.

Revenues from Detroit-Windsor Tunnel will go to Syncora along with other holdings on the Detroit riverfront.

The LTGO bonds were issued as financial recovery bonds and, like the ULTGOs, delivered directly to the creditors’ positions.

Proceeds will be used to pay off limited-tax GO holders, who settled for a 34% repayment with the city.

Another $482 million of the LTGO bond proceeds will go to the two voluntary employee beneficiary association plans that will now oversee the city’s retiree health care. Unsecured creditors with various claims pending against the city, some for as small as $1,000, could be in line for another $20.5 million of the proceeds.

Bond insurers Syncora Guarantee Inc. and Financial Guaranty Insurance Co., holders of the city’s $1.5 billion of the certificates of participation and the last and toughest last holdouts in the case, will receive $98 million of the proceeds from the LTGO deal.

FGIC will also see an additional $3.7 million of the proceeds.

Both the insurers will also be the only recipients of another borrowing’s proceeds, $88 million of LTGO bonds.

The $88 million will mark the “final financing” of the FGIC and Syncora settlements, according to Van Dusen. They will be paid over 12 years from the city’s parking revenues. Detroit sees roughly $35 million a year from parking revenues, and roughly $10 million will go the two insurers.

Lawyers and financial advisors from EM staff celebrate FGIC deal. No unions, pension systems, city workers or retirees engaged in negotiations.

Lawyers and financial advisors from EM staff celebrate FGIC deal. No unions, pension systems, city workers or retirees engaged in negotiations. Note sole Black, Kevyn Orr, not named in original photo, crouching at center.

In addition to the $186 million bond proceeds — representing just over 10% of the $1.5 billion par amount — the two insurers will also get a mix of land and asset leases as part of their settlement with the city. (VOD: The last are likely worth more than the original loan.)

During the long negotiations, Van Dusen said she and others had to unlearn long-held assumptions about bond security.

“We all have a different understanding of what a security interest is than we did before,” she said. “Bond lawyers have gotten very used to thinking of GO debt one way and what is very difficult to understand is a pledge is just a promise to pay, it doesn’t create a security interest. All bond lawyers should be paying a lot more attention to what security interests will survive bankruptcy.”

Protest against Detroit bankruptcy proceedings Aug. 19, 2013, including retirees and their supporters, demanded an end to debt service to the banks.

Protest against Detroit bankruptcy proceedings Aug. 19, 2013, including retirees and their supporters, demanded an end to debt service to the banks. The City of Detroit reneged on its pledge and promise to retirees that they would have a livable income in their golden years. Retirees and workers recouped only 13.5 percent of their claims, while banks got 95.9 percent, re VOD story link below.

Related:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/11/15/detroit-bankruptcy-plan-genocide-in-usas-largest-black-majority-city-rich-get-95-9-poor-get-13-5/


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JUSTICE FOR AIYANA JONES’ FAMILY; PLEASE HELP CHILDREN AT CHRISTMAS

Some of thousands of Innocent lives taken by police:  (top down) Aiyana Jones, Detroit, 2010; Michael Brown, Ferguson 2014; Eric Garner, NYC, July 2014; Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, 2014; Aura Rosser, Ann Arbor, 2014; Lamar Grable, Detroit, 1996; Brandon Moore, 16, Detroit, 2006; Artrell Dickerson, 18, Detroit 2007.
Some of thousands of Innocent lives taken by police:
(top down) Aiyana Jones, Detroit, 2010; Michael Brown, Ferguson 2014; Eric Garner, NYC, July 2014; Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, 2014; Aura Rosser, Ann Arbor, 2014; Lamar Grable, Detroit, 1996; Brandon Moore, 16, Detroit, 2006; Artrell Dickerson, 18, Detroit 2007.

 

VOD APPEAL FOR HOLIDAY FUNDS FOR AIYANA JONES’ FAMILY

Aiyana Jones’ extended family, including numerous young children whose parents have had difficulty finding employment, has nothing for the holidays. VOD is appealing to the community not to forget them.

Young Aiyana with little brother during a happier Christmas before she was killed at the age of 7 by Detroit cop Joseph Weekley, Jr.

Young Aiyana with little brother during a happier Christmas before she was killed at the age of 7 by Detroit cop Joseph Weekley, Jr.

Checks and money orders should be made out to “MERTILLA JONES” (Aiyana’s grandmother), and sent c/o Voice of Detroit, P.O. Box 32684, Detroit 48232.

 (The family’s civil lawsuit has not been heard during the pendency of the Detroit bankruptcy. Lawyers representing the family will likely have a difficult time if trial does begin, due to the unjust conviction of Aiyana’s dad, who along with Dominika Jones, represents her estate. Any trial will likely take years.)

 – See more at: http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/12/03/missouri-police-govt-go-after-michael-browns-family-a-repeat-of-actions-vs-aiyana-jones-family/#sthash.DqajNMGf.dpuf

Since there has been so much false information on the Aiyana Jones case propagated by Detroit’s local mainstream media and others, a listing of previous extensive VOD coverage is included below, after the “more” tag. VOD was there the morning Aiyana was killed on May 16, 2010, and has covered virtually every related event since. Now at this time of heightened awareness regarding the extent of police killings and atrocities committed against Black and Brown people, please let us not forget little Aiyana Jones and her family.

Continue reading


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MARCH AGAINST CAPITALISM’S RACISM, POVERTY AND WAR FRI. DEC. 12 @ 3 PM

Black lives matter protest from flier

Detroit March Against Capitalism

Friday, December 12 @3:00pm

Spirit of Detroit statue (Woodward and Jefferson)

After the march meet at 5920 Second Ave. for potluck/discussion

All around the world from Detroit, Ferguson, to Ukraine the capitalist class is on the assault against poor people everywhere. Whether they’re shutting down schools, cutting food assistance programs, shooting unarmed people in our streets, or dropping bombs on innocent people abroad they’ve made it clear that there’s only one thing they want: everything!

Capitalism has proven itself to be nothing but a parasitic system based purely on greed with no regard to the needs of the people, which threatens not only our own lives but all of the life on the planet. They’ve destroyed our neighborhoods with unemployment and foreclosures. They’re shutting off our water. They’re plundering the city in a bankruptcy they threw us in. They’ve put the squeeze on us, it’s time we put the squeeze on them!

Put an end to racist police terror! Justice for Michael Brown and Eric Garner! A job is a right! A home is a right! Food is a right! Education is a right! End military interventions at home and abroad which put poor people against poor for the sake of profit for a few!

Mike Brown means we got to fight back

Endorsed by FIST, Moratorium NOW!, MECAWI, & Workers World Party For more info, call or text FIST at 313-671-7426


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WHY WE WON’T WAIT: RESISTING THE WAR VS. THE BLACK AND BROWN UNDERCLASS

Eric Garner protest in Kalamazoo, MI/Photo: Kalamazoo Gazette

Eric Garner protest in Kalamazoo, MI/Photo: Kalamazoo Gazette

 

Police executed dozens of other Black and Brown people across the U.S. as Ferguson grand jury decision was awaited; killings continue

“A case can be made for the complete withdrawal of the police from Black and Brown neighborhoods”

http://sfbayview.com/2014/12/why-we-wont-wait-resisting-the-war-against-the-black-and-brown-underclass/

Robin D. G. Kelly, UCLA professor

Robin D. G. Kelly, UCLA professor

Dec. 4, 2014

by Robin D.G. Kelley

San Francisco Bay View newspaper

Wait. Patience. Stay Calm. “This is a country that allows everybody to express their views,” said the first Black president, “allows them to peacefully assemble, to protest actions that they think are unjust.” Don’t disrupt, express. Justice will be served. We respect the rule of law. This is America.

A man is arrested by police after kneeling in the street during a protest outside the Ferguson Police Department on Saturday, Nov. 29. – Photo: Jeff Roberson, AP

A man is arrested by police after kneeling in the street during a protest outside the Ferguson Police Department on Saturday, Nov. 29. – Photo: Jeff Roberson, AP

We’ve all been waiting for the grand jury’s decision, not because most of us expected an indictment. District Attorney Robert P. McCulloch’s convoluted statement explaining – or rather, defending – how the grand jury came to its decision resembled a victory speech.

For a grand jury to find no probable cause even on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter is a stunning achievement in a police shooting of an unarmed teenager with his hands raised, several yards away.

Robert McCulloch with sloganDistilling 4,799 pages of grand jury proceedings to less than 20 minutes, he managed to question the integrity of eyewitnesses, accuse the 24-hour news cycle and social media for disrupting the investigation, and blame alleged neighborhood violence for why the removal of Mike Brown’s body from the pavement had to wait over four hours.

McCulloch never indicted a cop in his life, so why expect anything different now? Some waited hoping for a miracle; most waited because they knew a crisis was brewing.

National Guard in Ferguson.

National Guard in Ferguson.

The white folks in St. Louis and surrounding municipalities, as well as the state of Missouri, used the waiting period to prepare for war. Residents bought more guns and ammunition, stockpiled on plywood to cover store windows, installed alarm systems and window bars, stocked up on food and water.

Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, calling up National Guard forces from across the state and beyond, training the state militia for riot control and counterinsurgency. The federal government has dispatched FBI agents, some presumably undercover operating inside protest movements.

As I write these words, all forces are being deployed against protesters and the Black community more generally, and the governor has requested more National Guard troops. Wait. Patience. Stay Calm.

Tamir Rice, 12, killed by Cleveland police

Tamir Rice, 12, killed by Cleveland police

Meanwhile, as we waited for the grand jury’s decision, a 12-year-old Black boy named Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police in Cleveland because the officer mistook his toy gun for a real one. Tamir was playing outside of Cleveland’s Cudell Recreation Center, one of the few public facilities left that provide safe space for children.

As we waited, Cleveland cops took the life of Tanisha Anderson, a 37-year-old Black woman suffering from bipolar disorder. Police arrived at her home after family members called 911 to help her through a difficult crisis.

Tanisha Anderson/Family photo

But rather than treat her empathetically, they did what they were trained to do when confronted with Black bodies in Black neighborhoods – they treated her like an enemy combatant.

When she became agitated, one officer wrestled her to the ground and cuffed her while a second officer pinned her “face down on the ground with his knee pressed down heavily into the back for 6 to 7 minutes, until her body went completely limp.” She stopped breathing.

They made no effort to administer CPR, telling the family and witnesses that she was sleeping. When the ambulance finally arrived 20 minutes later, she was dead.

As we waited … As we waited, police in Ann Arbor, Michigan, killed a 40-year-old Black woman named Aura Rain Rosser. She was reportedly brandishing a kitchen knife when the cops showed up on a domestic violence call, although her boyfriend who made the initial report insisted that she was no threat to the officers. No matter; they opened fire anyway.

Aura Rosser/Family photo

Aura Rosser, Ann Arbor

Roshad McIntosh, Chicago

Roshad McIntosh, Chicago

As we waited, a Chicago police officer fatally shot 19-year-old Roshad McIntosh. Despite the officer’s claims, several eyewitnesses reported that McIntosh was unarmed, on his knees with his hands up, begging the officer to hold his fire.

As we waited, police in Saratoga Springs, Utah, pumped six bullets into Darrien Hunt, a 22-year-old Black man dressed kind of like a ninja and carrying a replica Samurai sword. And police in Victorville, California, killed Dante Parker, a 36-year-old Black man and father of five. He had been stopped while riding his bike on suspicion of burglary. When he became “uncooperative,” the officers repeatedly used Tasers to try to subdue him. He died from his injuries.

Darrien Hunt, Utah

Darrien Hunt, Utah

Dante Parker, CA.

Dante Parker, CA.

As we waited, a 28-year-old Black man named Akai Gurley met a similar fate as he descended a stairwell in the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn. The police were on a typical reconnaissance mission through the housing project.

As we waited … Officer Peter Liang negotiated the darkened stairwell, gun drawn in one hand, flashlight in the other, prepared to take down any threat he encountered. According to liberal Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Police Chief Bill Bratton, Mr. Gurley was collateral damage. Apologies abound. He left a 2-year-old daughter.

Akai Gurley, Brooklyn

Akai Gurley, Brooklyn

Ezell Ford, LA

Ezell Ford, LA

Omar Abrego, LA

Omar Abrego, LA

As we waited, LAPD officers stopped 25-year-old Ezell Ford, a mentally challenged Black man, in his own South Los Angeles neighborhood and shot him to death. The LAPD stopped Omar Abrego, a 37-year-old father from Los Angeles, and beat him to death.

And as we waited and waited and waited, Darren Wilson got married, continued to earn a paycheck while on leave, and received over $400,000 worth of donations for his “defense.”

Darren Wilson weds as country erupts in anger at his murder of Mike Brown.

Darren Wilson weds as country erupts in anger at his murder of Mike Brown.

You see, we’ve been waiting for dozens, hundreds, thousands of indictments and convictions. Every death hurts. Every exonerated cop, security guard or vigilante enrages. The grand jury’s decision doesn’t surprise most Black people because we are not waiting for an indictment. We are waiting for justice – or more precisely, struggling for justice.

We all know the names and how they died. Eric Garner, Kajieme Powell, Vonderitt D. Meyers Jr., John Crawford III, Cary Ball Jr., Mike Brown, ad infinitum. They were unarmed and shot down by police under circumstances for which lethal force was unnecessary. We hold their names like recurring nightmares, accumulating the dead like ghoulish baseball cards. Except that there is no trading. No forgetting.

Just a stack of dead bodies that rises every time we blink. For the last three generations, Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Stewart, Eula Love, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Patrick Dorismond, Malice Green, Tyisha Miller, Sean Bell, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Margaret LaVerne Mitchell, to name a few, have become symbols of racist police violence. And I’m only speaking of the dead – not the harassed, the beaten, the humiliated, the stopped-and-frisked, the raped.

Kids-dead-by-police-640x205

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Nixon, President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, the mainstream press and every state-anointed Negro leader lecture Black people to stay calm and remain non-violent, when the main source of violence has been the police.

Mike Brown’s murder brought people out to the streets, where they were met with tear gas and rubber bullets. State violence is always rendered invisible in a world where cops and soldiers are heroes, and what they do is always framed as “security,” protection and self-defense. Police occupy the streets to protect and serve the citizenry from (Black) criminals out of control.

Below: Video of Detroit Police raid on the home of Aiyana Jones, 7, killed with MP5 submachine gun May 16, 2010; video as released does not show cop rushing her body out of the house seconds after entry.

This is why, in every instance, there is an effort to depict the victim as assailant – Trayvon Martin used the sidewalk as a weapon, Mike Brown used his big body. A lunge or a glare from a Black person can constitute an imminent threat. When the suburb of Ferguson blew up following Mike Brown’s killing on Aug. 9, the media and mainstream leadership were more concerned with looting and keeping the “peace” than the fact that Darren Wilson was free on paid leave.

Or that leaving Brown’s bullet-riddled, lifeless body on the street for four and a half hours, bleeding, cold, stiff from rigor mortis, constituted a war crime in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It was, after all, an act of collective punishment – the public display of the tortured corpse was intended to terrorize the entire community, to punish everyone into submission, to remind others of their fate if they step out of line. We used to call this “lynching.”

Mike Brown lay in street for over four hours after Wilson executed him, with his blood running out until it turned black.

Mike Brown lay in street for over four hours after Wilson executed him, with his blood running out until it turned black.

The immediate and sustained resistance to the police following Mike Brown’s murder revealed the low intensity war between the state and Black people, and the disproportionate use of force against protesters following the grand jury’s decision escalated the conflict. To the world at large, Ferguson looked like a war zone because the police resembled the military with their helmets, flak jackets, armed personnel carriers and M-16 rifles. Continue reading


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COINTELPRO RIOT POLICE PROVOKE VIOLENCE AT CALI DEMOS FOR MIKE BROWN, ERIC GARNER

Police attack protesters in Berkeley, CA Dec. 6.
Police attack protesters in Berkeley, CA Dec. 6.
Deborah Dupre
Deborah Dupre

 

By Deborah Dupre, Human Rights Examiner

The Examiner

December 8, 2014

Berkeley, CA — Police, not protesters, provoked one of the most intense confrontations in the Bay Area in years on Saturday night during human rights demonstrations sparked by recent grand jury decisions against Michael Brown and Eric Garner, unarmed black people killed by police, according to protest leaders, who describe beefed up Cointelpro tactics of yesteryear.

Using Cointelpro an agent provocateur tactic widely used against human rights advocates of the Vietnam and Civil Rights era, police on Saturday night instigated raucous demonstrations, turning them violent, protest leaders say, according to Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet on Monday, also reporting that mainstream media is reporting the opposite.

Protesters outside police HQ.

Protesters outside police HQ.

Nick Adams, a sociologist and fellow at University of California Berkeley’s Institute for Data Science, who oversees this research spoke to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld about what provokes police-protester violence.

“Do police provoke violence?” Rosenfeld asked Adams.

“Certainly, sometimes,” responded Adams, researching some 8000 police-protester incidents for The Deciding Force Project.

Cointelpro cops in ‘major overkill’

“When we got up to march to the university, the cops went into major overkill,” Yvette Felarca said Sunday.

Rosenfeld says she recounted what happened after several hundred marchers led by her group, Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), left a plaza in front of the Berkeley police station, where they had marched to protest the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City.

Yvette Falarca (center with bullhorn) speaks at earlier protest against police killing.

Yvette Falarca (center with bullhorn) speaks at earlier protest against police killing.

“The cops blocked our way and stopped two feet ahead of our front line,” Felarca said, describing how rows of officers in riot gear appeared to face down marchers. “The cops lunged at them. They were attacking and it was completely out of pocket. People were like, ‘What the hell are you doing? This is completely unacceptable.’”

It is no surprise that media has painted the human rights protesters as those who began rioting. Cointelpro has always had support of media that it manipulates through embedded reporters, according to Senator Church’s Congressional Committee’s report.

Today we see mainstream news reporting, “protesters angered by police killings in Missouri and New York clashed with officers, vandalized businesses and even fought with each other, officials said.”

And Associated Press reports Monday:

“The unrest in Berkeley follows violent disruptions of demonstrations in Oakland and San Francisco in recent days. Five San Francisco police officers sought medical treatment after sustaining injuries during a protest in downtown San Francisco on Black Friday. But the protest Saturday, which included several hundred people, was the most serious for Berkeley in recent days.”

A major difference between Cointelpro of yesteryear and today is that today, militarized police are directly associated with the relatively new FBI/CIA partnership, unconstitutional.

Sunday’s protest began peacefully on the University of California, Berkeley campus, but again eventually grew rowdy and spilled into Oakland, completely unlike rights leaders have advocated and trained.

Video below: DC protesters block freeway

After human rights advocates blocked traffic on the freeway, California Highway Patrol said officers fired tear gas at the protesters, who reportedly “targeted police with rocks and bottles and tried to light a patrol vehicle on fire.” Police claimed explosives were thrown at officers, “but there was no information immediately available on how potent they were.”

The demonstrations, part of the nationwide protests, were the latest of several in the Bay Area, including in Oakland where human rights advocacy is strong. The citizens are standing in solidarity against recent grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York not to indict white police officers who killed two unarmed black men.

As hundreds of protesters began marching in downtown Berkeley, the same unrest seen Saturday night again began. An unknown someone smashed a Radio Shack window. A peaceful protester who tried to stop the vandalism. Another unknown someone hit him with a hammer, according to Officer Jennifer Coats.

Detroit protesters disrupt holiday activities

TV footage showed “protesters” smashing door windows and breaking into buildings and setting rubbish piles ablaze. Real human rights protesters, however, have spent weeks training in intensive non-direct, peaceful demonstrating.

Coats said in a statement that there was “significant damage” to several Berkeley businesses, that police arrested five people in connection with the demonstrations, and two officers sustained minor injuries Sunday night.

“They need to be listened to and they need to be responded to,” Ohio Gov. Kasich said on ABC’s This Week referring to the protesters across the nation. “In our country today, there’s too much division, too much polarization – black, white; rich, poor; Democrat, Republican. America does best when we’re united.

A “significant percentage” of the country believes the system’s not working for them and can be working against them, Kasich said.

Human rights leaders targeted for organizing national protests

In other areas, police are using Cointelpro tactics on genuine protest leaders leading the national demonstrations against racist-related human rights abuses obvious since the latest in hundreds of white officer killings of blacks.

The long list of innocent Targeted Individuals (TIs) experiencing counterintelligence injuries in their homes and communities grows daily. Before the recent protests, hundreds of TIs across the nation had reported experiencing serious injuries from covert targeted “non-lethal” weapons in the hands of police and corporate-paid thugs.

Rasheen Aldridge (l) listens as Pres. Obama (r) speaks at meeting on response to grand jury verdicts Dec. 1, 2014. He has now been charged along with dozens of others in Ferguson in connection with violence at the protests. The Federal ATF, over which Obama has control,  is investigating and seeking to charge more youths.

Rasheen Aldridge (l) listens as Pres. Obama (r) speaks at meeting on response to grand jury verdicts Dec. 1, 2014. He has now been charged along with dozens of others in Ferguson in connection with violence at the protests. The Federal ATF, over which Obama has control, is investigating and seeking to charge more youths.

Rasheen Aldridge is among the most recent TI victims of United States political repression. A prominent youth leader involved in numerous campaigns, Aldridge has met with Mayor Slay to discuss city policy changes in the wake of Michael Brown’s death. He was recently appointed to the Governor’s Ferguson Commission. Monday he traveled to Washington and met with President Obama about conditions in Ferguson.

On November 25, the day after the Grand Jury decision announcement about police officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed Michael Brown, 18, Aldridge was among peaceful human rights protesters who attempted to enter St. Louis City Hall, a public building that should have been open. In response, the City of St. Louis put out a summons for his arrest for allegedly assaulting an officer while attempting to enter City Hall that day.

Zach Chasnoff

Zach Chasnoff

“Numerous activists in our movement have been followed, harassed and intimidated by St. Louis Metropolitan Police and other local police agencies,” said Michael T. McPhearson, Don’t Shoot co-chair and Veterans for Peace executive director. “The treatment of Rasheen stands out as politically motivated in response to his leadership on the ground and as a Ferguson Commission member.”

Zach Chasnoff, former organizer of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), was also charged with assaulting an officer after attempting to enter City Hall. Eight officers arrested him while he was grocery shopping with his wife days after the protest. After arrested, the officers removed his handcuffs one officer aggressively got in his face, urging Chasnoff to punch him, according to Popular Resistance. Police also intimidated and harassed Chasnoff’s wife inside Schnuck’s grocery store. Chasnoff was put on a 24-hour hold.

Wes McEnany, president of Mid-South Organizing Committee and the Show Me $15 campaign, was arrested this week at the Phillips 66 on N. Broadway. As part of the national fast food strikes, workers were finishing a protest last night when police arrived in riot gear and started to cuff workers. McEnany went to talk to the police, who told him they would arrest everyone unless McEnany would be arrested.He was charged with failure to obey a police officer.

David Whitt (l) and family with organizer Lance Murray from the Free Thought Project.

David Whitt (l) of Canfield Copwatch Group and family with organizer Lance Murray from the Free Thought Project.

David Whitt, a Canfield Apartments resident and co-founder of the Canfield Watchman Copwatch group, was riding his bike the morning of November 24th, the day the Grand Jury announced its decision regarding Officer Darren Wilson. He pulled over to the side of the road on his bike. Police drove up to him and arrested him, saying they stopped him for failure to wear a bicycle helmet. He was charged, however, with disrupting traffic.

“The Don’t Shoot Coalition calls on Mayor Slay and all law enforcement leaders to control their police forces,” said McPhearson. “Those who ‘serve and protect’ must demonstrate a greater respect for democratic rights.”

In the Bush-Obama police state, however, democratic rights have been replaced with martial law, a police state too many individuals have not understood until recently and too many groups had failed to unite to resist.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“It is beautiful to see this rising together for a better world,” says Zeese. “On all of these issues and more, we are united in our desire for justice and together we are a powerful force.”

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received his now infamous letter nearly 50 years ago, he confided in friends that someone wanted him to kill himself and he thought he knew who that someone was.

“Despite its half-baked prose, self-conscious amateurism and other attempts at misdirection, King was certain the letter had come from the F.B.I. Its infamous director, J. Edgar Hoover, made no secret of his desire to see King discredited,” the Times reports.

Whether today’s American human rights defenders can really overpower forces of high-tech military weaponry used against them and other Cointelpro tactics to discredit and neutralize their movement leaders is a beauty yet to be seen.

Suggested Links:

FBI Cointelpro intensifies against innocent Targeted Individuals

Suppressed history of FBI Cointelpro war on ‘We the people’

Mike Brown slaying: Anonymous ‘promises’ Ferguson Police retaliation


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“OPEN SEASON” — UNARMED BLACK MAN RUMAIN BRISBON KILLED BY WHITE PHOENIX COP

Rumain Brisbon with daughters, two of his four children.

Rumain Brisbon with daughters, two of his four children. He had stopped at their apartment building to drop off food for them.

“It’s ‘open season for killing black men,’ according to a community leader in Phoenix where another unarmed black man is dead at the hands of local police. An officer said he felt threatened by Rumain Brisbon before shooting him twice in the torso.”

By Megan Cassidy

The Arizona Republic

December 4, 2014

PHOENIX — The facts surrounding Rumain Brisbon’s death — the ones that could be agreed upon as of Wednesday evening — follow a narrative familiar to a nation still reeling from the racially charged police incidents in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere.

In Phoenix on Tuesday evening, a white police officer who was feeling threatened used lethal force on an unarmed black man. The incident left the officer unharmed and Brisbon, 34, dead with two bullet wounds in his torso at a north Phoenix apartment complex.

Protesters outside Phoenix police station.

Protesters outside Phoenix police station.

Phoenix police quickly released a detailed account of the killing for the media on Wednesday morning in what officials said was an effort to promote transparency, especially in light of the unrest that has played out in Ferguson and New York City following the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white officers.

But portions of that account have already been challenged by some witnesses and community activists who say that the officer’s use of force was excessive and that Brisbon’s death was unwarranted.

Shortly before 6 p.m. MT on Tuesday, officers were in the area of Interstate 17 and Greenway Road for a burglary investigation when a resident of an apartment complex told them that men inside a black Cadillac SUV were engaged in a drug deal, said Sgt. Trent Crump, a Phoenix police spokesman.

Police checked the license plate that the tipster provided and found it was registered to a resident in the 15400 block of North 25th Avenue, where there was also a pending report of a “loud music disturbance.”

The loud-music call was canceled, so the officer went to the SUV to ask questions of those inside, Crump said.

The officer said the driver, later identified as Brisbon, got out and appeared to be removing something from the rear of the SUV. The officer told Brisbon to show his hands, but Brisbon stuffed his hands into his waistband, Crump said.

Graphic from Color Lines

Graphic from Color Lines

The officer drew his weapon and Brisbon ran toward nearby apartments, Crump said. A short foot chase ensued.

“Witnesses indicated to us that the suspect was verbally challenging to the officer,” Crump said.

Brisbon refused to comply with the officer’s commands to get on the ground, and the two struggled once the officer caught up with him, Crump said.

Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump, spokesman

Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump, spokesman

“During the struggle, Brisbon put his left hand in his pocket and the officer grabbed onto the suspect’s hand, while repeatedly telling the suspect to keep his hand in his pocket,” he said. “The officer believed he felt the handle of a gun while holding the suspect’s hand in his pocket.”

A woman inside an apartment opened a door at that moment, and the officer and Brisbon tumbled inside, Crump said. Two children, ages 9 and 2, were in a back bedroom, he said.

The officer could no longer keep a grip on Brisbon’s hand and, because he feared that the suspect had a gun in his pocket, fired two shots, Crump said.

The item in Brisbon’s pocket turned out to be a bottle of oxycodone pills, he said.

Crump said the officers are aware of the delicate nature of the case and are asking the community to allow investigators to gather all the facts.

Below: video of police assault Oct. 28, 2014 on police brutality protest.

“I would like to think that in our officer-involved shootings, that we are transparent as we can be as an organization,” Crump said. “We always have been and always will be concerned about what it is that our residents think about our role in this community and the levels of force that we use.

“Let’s be very clear: The officer was doing what we expect him to do, which is investigate crimes that neighbors are telling him are occurring in that part of the complex.”

Crump said the department was not identifying the officer, a 30-year-old with seven years on the force.

He also acknowledged that, as in most police investigations, witness accounts varied.

Michelle Cusseaux, 50, was fatally shot August 14, 2014 by Phoenix Police Officer Percy Dupra after, police say, she threatened officers with a hammer when they went to serve a court order to deliver Cusseaux to a mental-health facility. Family and activists demanded an external investigation of the shooting. This didn't happen -- until people marched outside City Hall with Cusseaux's body in a casket on Friday.

Michelle Cusseaux, 50, was fatally shot August 14, 2014 by Phoenix Police Officer Percy Dupra after, police say, she threatened officers with a hammer when they went to serve a court order to deliver Cusseaux to a mental-health facility. Family and activists demanded an external investigation of the shooting. This didn’t happen — until people marched outside City Hall with Cusseaux’s body in a casket on Friday.

Martin Rangel lives upstairs from where the shooting occurred and said he heard some banging and then a gunshot.

“It was so loud, I heard the vibration through the floor,” Rangel said. “I ran to the window, and that’s when I saw the cop running out, or like, walking out, and he was cussing, you know, he was screaming, ‘F–k, f–k,’ like upset that he shot the guy.”

Brandon Dickerson, who said he was in the car with Brisbon shortly before the shooting and witnessed some of the incident, said Brisbon was dropping off fast food to his children in the apartment. On Wednesday evening, strewn french fries still littered the front porch.

Dickerson said he never saw the officer try to talk with Brisbon. He also said his friend wasn’t yelling at the officer.

“Who’s gonna argue with police?” Dickerson said. “He had no death wish yesterday.”

Zachary Pithan, with mother Cleo Daily. He was killed by Phoenix police officer Clint Brookins on April 20, 2013.

Zachary Pithan, with mother Cleo Daily. He was killed by Phoenix police officer Clint Brookins on April 20, 2013.

Marci Kratter, a Phoenix attorney who represented Brisbon in a previous DUI case and is now representing his family, said she is concerned that the story offered by police is not complete.

“There are numerous witnesses that will challenge the police officer’s account of what transpired,” she said.

Kratter said she dispatched investigators to the scene to determine whether a civil wrongful-death suit is necessary.

“Tonight, four children are missing their father, a woman is missing her husband and a mother is missing her son,” she said. “It was a senseless tragedy. He was unarmed and not a threat to anyone. We intend to pursue this to the full extent of the law.”

Jarrett Maupin

Jarrett Maupin

Civil rights activist Jarrett Maupin was at the scene Wednesday and said he spoke with Brisbon’s family members.

“I think the statements given to me by neighbors, friends and family members are in direct contrast to what has been disseminated by the Phoenix Police Department,” he said.

Court records show that while Brisbon was serving a five-year probation sentence stemming from a 1998 burglary conviction, he spent several months in the hospital after being shot. Details of the shooting were not immediately available, but court records state that he had been on “a self-destructive path due to his emotional state” after the shooting.

Records show that Brisbon was booked on suspicion of driving under the influence twice in 2009 and once in October. He also had a marijuana conviction.

Officer-involved shootings are not uncommon, but the events that transpired in Ferguson, Mo., in August triggered a national debate about lethal police force and whether it too often crosses the line in minority communities.

Karl Gentles

Karl Gentles

The Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown, an unarmed man, sparked riots in Ferguson and protests nationwide. Darren Wilson, the White officer who shot him, was not indicted.

Then, on Wednesday, it was announced that a white officer would not be indicted in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, who was allegedly selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island.

Karl Gentles, a local leader in the black community and public policy chairman of the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce, said there is clearly a concern in Phoenix, as well as nationwide, that justice is not being served in defense of the African-American community.

Gentles encouraged police to address these perceptions and for city officials to get all the facts surrounding the shooting.

“There has to be some additional communication, dialogue, training, about how black males are perceived,” he said. “Because, as you see from other incidents, black males are feared with unfound reason in many cases, and there is an explicit overreaction in dealing with African-American males that leads to these contentious situations.”

Ann Hart, chairwoman of the African American Police Advisory for South Phoenix, wonders how this latest incident could have been prevented.

“It gives the impression that it’s open season for killing black men,” Hart said. “We need to take a deeper dive into why police officers are feeling compelled to shoot and kill as opposed to apprehend and detain, arrest and jail.”

Contributing: Jennifer Soules and Joe Dana, The Arizona Republic

Go to http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/ for more about Phoenix police.


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NO JUSTICE FOR ERIC GARNER, NO PEACE AS PROTESTERS FLOOD NYC, COUNTRY’S STREETS

Eric Garner with three of six children

Eric Garner with three of his six children

December 4, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — The cellphone video of the last moments of Eric Garner’s life showed a white police officer holding the unarmed black man in a chokehold as he repeatedly gasped, “I can’t breathe.”

Eric and Esaw Garner.

Eric and Esaw Garner, his wife

Despite the video and a medical examiner’s ruling that the chokehold contributed to the death, a Staten Island grand jury decided Wednesday not to bring any charges against the officer, prompting protests across the country and sending thousands onto New York’s streets, where they marched, chanted and blocked traffic into Thursday morning.

While legal experts note it’s impossible to know how the grand jurors reached their conclusion, they say the Garner case, like Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, once again raised concerns about the influence local prosecutors have over the process of charging the police officers they work with on a daily basis.

VOD readers, YouTube removed the original video below from its site saying it was intended to “harass, bully or threaten.” Didn’t they mean the NYPD? So here’s another one with full commentary.

VOD: in second video, killer kops stand over Eric Garner, who is totally unresponsive and clearly dead, for at least seven minutes, appearing to pretend he is still alive while they wait for EMS, even talking to him after finding no pulse. Officers are trained in CPR, they obviously refused to try to resuscitate the man they had just asphyxiated. All of them should go to prison for life for Eric Garner’s death.

“The video speaks for itself,” said Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia Law School. “It appears to show negligence. But if we learned anything from the Brown case, it’s the power of prosecutors to construct and manage a narrative in a way that can shape the outcome.”

Protesters flood Rockefeller Center during Xmas tree lighting.

Protesters flood Rockefeller Center during Xmas tree lighting.

 Ekow N. Yankah, a professor at Cardozo School of Law, agreed that, “It is hard to understand how a jury doesn’t see any probable cause that a crime has been committed or is being committed when looking at that video, especially.”

James A. Cohen, who teaches at Fordham University Law School, went further, saying, “Logic doesn’t play a role in this process.”

U.S. Attorney Eric Holder said federal prosecutors would conduct their own investigation of Garner’s July 17 death as officers were attempting to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes on the street. The New York Police Department also is doing an internal probe which could lead to administrative charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who remains on desk duty.

Protesters chanted "We can't breathe!"

Protesters chanted “We can’t breathe!”

The grand jury’s decision prompted emotional protests around New York and in cities from Atlanta to California. The same day, a white police chief in Eutawville, South Carolina, was charged with murder in the death of an unarmed black man after an argument at a town hall meeting.

In Manhattan, demonstrators laid down in Grand Central Terminal, walked through traffic on the West Side Highway and blocked the Brooklyn Bridge. A City Council member cried. Hundreds converged on the heavily secured area around the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting with a combination of professional-looking signs and hand-scrawled placards reading, “Black lives matter” and “Fellow white people, wake up.” And in the Staten Island neighborhood where Garner died, people reacted with angry disbelief and chanted, “I can’t breathe!” and “Hands up — don’t choke!”

Demonstrators flooded streets in New York City, Oakland, CA and other places across the country after grand jury refused to indict NYPD killer cop in Eric Garner murder.

Demonstrators flooded streets in New York City, Oakland, CA and other places across the country after grand jury refused to indict NYPD killer cop in Eric Garner murder.

Police said 83 people were arrested, mostly on disorderly conduct charges. The demonstrations were largely peaceful, in contrast to the arson and looting that accompanied the decision nine days earlier not to indict the officer in Brown’s death.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said the grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to bring charges, but unlike the chief prosecutor in the Ferguson case, New York law forbids him from giving details on the grand jury action. The district attorney was seeking a court order to have some information released.

Protesters block Market Street in San Francisco.

Protesters block Market Street in San Francisco.

Garner’s widow, Esaw, said she had no faith in the local prosecutors.

“As far as the police and the DA, there was no sincerity from Day One,” she said in an interview on the “Today” show.

In order to find Pantaleo criminally negligent, the grand jury would have had to determine he knew there was a “substantial risk” that Garner would have died. Pantaleo’s lawyer and union officials argued that the grand jury got it right, saying he used an authorized takedown move — not a banned chokehold — and that Garner’s poor health was the main cause of his death.

NYC protesters block traffic on Brooklyn Bridge.

NYC protesters block traffic on Brooklyn Bridge.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has led protests over the custody death of Garner and the police shooting of Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, said the New York decision is yet another reason he has lost confidence in state grand juries and local prosecutors to bring such cases.

“State grand juries tend to be too compromised with local politics because local prosecutors run for office and they have to depend on the police for evidence,” he said. “Don’t we have the right to question grand juries when we’re looking at a video and seeing things that don’t make sense?”

Eric Garner verdict protest in Oakland, CA.

Eric Garner verdict protest in Oakland, CA.

The video shot by an onlooker showed the 43-year-old Garner telling a group of police officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him. Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck in what appeared to be a chokehold.

The heavyset father of six, who had asthma, was heard repeatedly gasping, “I can’t breathe!” He later died at a hospital.

A forensic pathologist hired by Garner’s family agreed with the medical examiner, saying there was hemorrhaging on Garner’s neck indicative of neck compressions.

Protest in Seattle, Washington.

Protest in Seattle, Washington.

Columbia’s Fagan said another factor was that the Staten Island grand jury came from the most conservative and least racially diverse of the city’s five boroughs, and home to many current and retired police officers and their families.

“Staten Island is a very different borough,” he said. “In fact, it may be closer to suburban St. Louis, and we can’t discount that.”


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