A Michigan court tasked with protecting its most vulnerable citizens has become home to a roiling controversy charging abuse, exploitation, robbery and neglect. Part One of Five: Unacknowledged and Unprotected By Gretchen Rachel Hammond In the frigid, early morning of … Continue reading →
Macomb County rampant with corruption from top to bottom.
Saad Akram Bahoda targeted by Macomb AP Jorij Fedorak, now serving life for self-defense, tacked onto completed parolable life case; MDOC photo shows dignity
Saad Bahoda case preceded frame-up of Detroit businessman George Rider
AP Jorji Fedorak, married to ATF agent, prosecuted both Bahoda, Rider
Bahoda over-charged while on parole from now illegal 650 lifer sentence
VOD staff writer Ricardo Ferrell
BY RICARDO FERRELL
VOD Staff Writer
Further research, editing by Diane Bukowski
August 1, 2019
After decades of hearings and court proceedings held within Macomb County Courts, the level of corruption continues, causing many to wonder if any real justice will ever prevail for defendants, or be equally applied among those sworn to administer it.
Police agencies from cities like Shelby Township, Warren, Roseville, Mt. Clemens, Clinton Township, and Eastpointe continue to investigate and pursue trumped up cases in order to clear their books of numerous felonies.
The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, in past years headed by former Prosecutor Carl Marlinga, wasn’t exempt from scandal and corruption either, but Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith has continued and expanded the level of corruption since his election. He remains in office despite an ongoing federal investigation into his alleged embezzlement of public funds.
In 2011, Saad Bahoda was arrested by Shelby Township Police and overcharged by Smith’s office with Assault With Intent to Commit Murder for a minor altercation, which actually was self-defense, and if anything, only amounted to a simple fight.
Sahara Mediterranean Grill in Shelby, MI has been closed since last year. Shelby is 91 percent white.
On or about August 27, 2011, while attending a birthday party for his 17 year-old niece at the Sahara Restaurant located in Shelby, a fight broke out that involved Bahoda’s nephew who was only 18 years-old. Someone entered the restaurant and told Saad that his nephew Dylan needed him outside. Bahoda exited the restaurant after hearing his nephew might be in danger.
Witnesses testified at trial that Bahoda came out of the restaurant and broke up an altercation involving his nephew. Moments later nearly 35 individuals converged on him and his sister, who began swinging her purse to help her brother. Bahoda pushed his sister out of harm’s way and continued to ward off the mob attack. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the pocket knife that he used at his job cutting zip ties and stopped the altercation. Everyone left.
Bahoda soon after exited the Sweet Jane Hookah Lounge where he was confronted by a group of three. They aggressively come after Bahoda in what he perceived as an attack. He again pulled his pocket knife and instinctively tried to get the three attackers off by raising the knife, which struck the complainant on the neck.
Notorious Macomb County Jail
Bahoda was held in the Macomb County Jail for TWO YEARS awaiting trial, as were George Rider, Marcie Griffith, and Eric Griffin. He didn’t make bail due to having a detainer from the MDOC. He had been paroled two years prior after serving 21 years for a 1990 life sentence on a 650 Lifer drug sentence, later outlawed as racially discriminatory.
Bahoda won a 1995 state Court of Appeals decision exonerating him in the 65o lifer drug case based on claims of prosecutorial misconduct. The prosecutor used the terms “Arab,” “Arab connection,” and “Iraqi” at a trial conducted during the Persian Gulf War. He also threatened two witnesses with life sentences if they did not testify truthfully, and another with deportation. Finally, he allegedly injected a “civic duty” argument, expressed a personal opinion about defendant’s guilt, and used denigrating terms to describe Bahoda.
Retired MCCC Judge Thomas Brookover was replaced by Rider’s judge Suzanne Faunce, whose father and sister are also judges.
The prosecutor’s office vigorously pursued Bahoda after learning he was out on parole. The jury trial before retired visiting Judge Thomas Brookover was prosecuted by none other than Jurij Fedorak, the same Assistant Prosecutor in the Rider, Griffin, & Gibson case. He’s known for using shady tactics to obtain convictions. He is married to a federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agent, Vera Fedorak as well.
Bahoda’s trial, like the Rider trial, had similar problems with Conflict of Interest, Questionable Conduct, and Improper Argument. The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office knew the Bahoda case was nothing more than an instance of self-defense, as the facts surrounding the case showed.
Throughout the court proceedings and trial, Bahoda made it known to his attorneys that an evidentiary hearing was needed to sort out the many injustices in the case, involving conflicts of interest. Those conflicts included the fact that Bahoda earlier consulted Atty. Brian Legghio in an effort to retain him, but that later Legghio represented witness Natalie Allie who testified against him. Atty. Steven Kaplan later represented Bahoda but failed to object to that conflict of interest.
The late Robert Berg Jr., Bahoda’s defense attorney, was a longtime confidant of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young,
Mr. Bahoda’s subsequent trial attorney Robert Berg Jr. did employ the services of J.P. Carey Consulting, Inc., a well respected and reliable polygraph examination firm.
On April 19, 2012, at 8:14am, a polygraph examination was conducted on Saad Akram Bahoda at the Macomb County Jail. The results and findings by Mr. Carey indicated the following: “The subject’s polygrams contained no consistent specific physiological responses indicative of salience on relevant issue questions. After analysis of the subject’s polygrams, based on case facts available, it is this examiner’s opinion that the subject was truthful on the test issue.”
While Carl Marlinga represented Mr. Fedorak as his attorney, he filed a motion asking for Fedorak to recuse himself due to another conflict of interest, but the motion was not upheld and Marlinga shortly afterwards withdrew from the case.
Fedorak was able to obtain information by way of the portrayed conflict of interest between Brian Legghio and Bahoda. As an officer of the court, Fedorak should have disqualified himself so as not to have the appearance of being biased or interjecting an improper prosecutorial maneuver. In addition, Fedorak, along with another of Bahoda’s attorneys Daniel Rust both collaborated and conspired to sabotage Bahoda’s Ginther hearing in an effort to cover up the conflict of interest between Fedorak and Legghio.
Based on the above conflicts of interests, ineffective assistance of counsel, disregard for the interest of justice, overcharging by prosecutor’s office, injustices and inequities in applying the law, and total disregard of an obvious self-defense claim by defendant Saad Bahoda, all caused the resumption of Bahoda’s unfair and illegal life sentence. In other words, he was out on parole after serving 21 years on a sentence that basically was ruled illegal when Michigan drug laws changed in 1998 and 2003.
In addition to the numerous delays cited in part in this chart, Bahoda’s judge allowed at least half a dozen attorneys to withdraw from the case on uncited grounds.
Bahoda earlier won a state Court of Appeals decision exonerating him in the 65o lifer drug case based on claims of prosecutorial misconduct. The prosecutor used the terms “Arab,” “Arab connection,” and “Iraqi” at a trial conducted during the Persian Gulf War. He also threatened two witnesses with life sentences if they did not testify truthfully, and another with deportation. Finally, he allegedly injected a civic duty argument, expressed a personal opinion about defendant’s guilt, and used denigrating terms to describe Bahoda.
But that COA decision was later overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court.
The parolable life sentence to which Saad was sentenced to in 1990, is now in 2019 being used to hold him beyond the new 3 to 15 years term he received on the Shelby Township incident. The bottom line is, Eric Smith’s office vigorously pursued what amounts to an act of self-defense and turned it into the highest charge possible – Assault w/i to Commit Murder.
It’s blatantly obvious the Macomb County Prosecutors Office wanted to continue punishing Mr. Bahoda because of his drug conviction and parole status. The fact that the ‘650 Life’ was deemed illegal and unfair should have prompted a different outcome as it relates to the overcharge in the first place of something, if anything only amounted to a fight, or simple assault, a 90 day misdemeanor, which means Mr. Bahoda wouldn’t be back in prison serving an illegal life sentence.
The ‘650 life’ term meant anyone convicted of possession or delivering 650 grams or more of a controlled substance were automatically given life without parole sentences, which were changed to parolable life as a result of litigation and the Foster-Bey civil lawsuit covering some 850 parolable lifers.
The newly passed federal First Step Act in the Criminal Justice Reform packet allows for 3,000 such offenders to be considered for immediate release. See https://www.firststepact.org/about.
(Illustration courtesy of FirstStepAct.org)
The U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and President Trump have all strongly suggested that states should follow suit and implement their own versions of the First Step Act, which would mean the handful of 650 lifers in Michigan would be released, and so should Saad Bahoda, who is the real victim in the Shelby Township case. In retrospect he was only trying to protect his nephew, sister and himself from imminent harm and/or danger.
Saad has now served virtually eight additional years on a sentence that has long been deemed illegal. In the interest of fundamental fairness and the interest of justice, Saad Bahoda should not have to serve the rest of life in prison for a drug conviction that’s nearly 30 years old. Altogether Saad has served nearly three decades on the same life sentence.
What sense does it make to have someone who was trying to do the right thing to serve the same life sentence twice?
Writer’s final note:The Bahoda case has striking similarities to that of the Rider, Griffin and Gibson case (see story below). The same Prosecutor and AP’s were involved where there were instances of conflict of interest, and repeated denial of valid and meritorious motions by Judges Brookover and Suzanne Faunce. Assist. Prosecutor Jurji Fedorak vindictively pursued defendants despite the lack of evidence to support the charges and used the prestige of his office to obtain a conviction.
Macomb Co. Pros. Eric Smith
Macomb Co. AP Jurij Fedorak
This racist and corrupt county must be stopped and held accountable; that means the corrupt judges who have shown their disregard for justice in their courtrooms, as well as Chief Prosecutor Eric Smith and his corrupt underling Jurij Fedorak, and police agencies in cities like, Warren, Roseville, Clinton Township, Harrison Township, and Shelby Township, should be put on trial instead.
UPDATE 8/19/09: U.S. Reps. Omar, Tlaib, supporters condemn Trump, U.S. support of Israel, white supremacy; call for end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, travel restrictions
“Thank you for hearing me, thank you for seeing me, thank you for loving me. And thank you for allowing me to be not just your Congresswoman, but also a granddaughter of a grandmother living under occupation.”–Tlaib
Tlaib says she and grandmother decided mutually to forego reunion on West Bank due to limitation of Tlaib’s right to speak
August 16, 2019
By JVP ACTION
DETROIT, MI–Dozens of members of Detroit’s Jewish community and allies gathered at sundown in Pallister Park to observe a Shabbat service with Rep. Rashida Tlaib. As the Shabbat candles were lit, and prayers and poetry recited, Detroit’s Jewish community and allies stood together listening to Rep. Tlaib describe the hardships she faced this week and her commitment to keep fighting for justice.
VOD–this event strongly contradicted Donald Trump’s assertion that Tlaib and the three other congresswomen known as the “Squad” hate Jews and the people of Israel, as well as the people of their own country, the U.S. In comments widely recognized as racist, Trump told them to “go back home” although all were born in the U.S. and were duly elected by nearly three million constituents in their districts. They also represent a broader population of oppressed women of color across the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Speaking with passion and through her tears, Representative Rashida Tlaib said: “I cannot tell you how much love I feel here… Thank you for lifting up peace, love and justice…I’m proud of my Palestinian roots, and I’m also strong because I grew up in the most beautiful, blackest city in the country, in the city of Detroit.”
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib and supporters form a prayer circle in Pallister Park Aug. 16, 2019.
Rep. Tlaib continued: “I can’t wait to show my grandmother how I was supported by all of you – it would bring her so much joy. One day we’re going to be able to hear the voices of people like my grandmother, who have not been truly seen or heard… And so, today, thank you for hearing me, thank you for seeing me, thank you for loving me. And thank you for allowing me to be not just your Congresswoman, but also a granddaughter of a grandmother living under occupation.”
Yesterday, Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were banned from entering Israel, due to their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestinian rights. The Israeli government’s decision was encouraged by President Trump. Although Israel announced it would allow Tlaib to enter Israel on a humanitarian basis to visit her family – including her grandmother – such permission was contingent upon her agreeing to censor herself politically. As Tlaib said in her statement: “I will not allow the Israeli government to humiliate me and my family or take away our right to speak out. I will not allow the Israeli government to take away our hope.”
“You’re a United States Congresswoman–we wanted to celebrate you, but there’ll be a dark cloud over you.”–Tlaib’s relatives
Beth Miller, Jewish Voice for Peace Action – Government Affairs Manager: “We are in awe of Rep. Tlaib’s courage and stand by her. It’s heartbreaking that Rashida had to spend this evening with us instead of her beloved family. And it’s enraging that the Israeli government would hold a Member of Congress’s family hostage unless she agrees to censor herself. For as long as it’s existed, the Israeli government has forced these kinds of heart wrenching and impossible choices on Palestinians. It’s time for all of us to insist our elected officials hold Israel accountable.”
JVP Action Organizer Reuben Telushkin:“In celebrating Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, we are invited to also imagine the world we want to see. At the end of this difficult week, we’re grateful for Rashida’s steadfast leadership working toward the vision of a world with freedom and equality for all people.”
JVP Action Supporter Barbara Harvey: “We know what Rashida’s values are, because she has served our community so well for years – during her three terms in the Michigan legislature and now in Congress. This community remembers her love for all of us and her passionate commitment to us and to justice for all. We will have her back as long as she is willing to serve.”
Sharon Feldman talks about conditions in Palestine
Detroit Atty. Jerome Goldberg supports Tlaib, Palestine
JVP Action is an independent, non-partisan, 501(c)(4) organization formed as the political and advocacy arm of Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP Action is building a multi-racial, intergenerational movement of Jews and allies to transform U.S. policy towards justice in Israel/Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 500,000 online supporters, over 70 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.
MEET RASHIDA TLAIB’S GRANDMA: ‘WHO WOULDN’T BE PROUD OF A GRANDDAUGHTER LIKE THAT?’
Muftiyah Tlaib, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother, was interviewed by the Washington Post on Aug. 16, the same day as the Shabbat was held. They have not seen each other for 10 years, but Tlaib said that her grandmother swore to her that she would not die until she sees her beloved granddaughter. Phot0: Washington Post
BEIT UR AL-FAUQA, WEST BANK — Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother does not understand why her granddaughter, a sitting U.S. congresswoman, could not visit her as originally planned.
Muftiyah Tlaib — who says she is somewhere between 85 and her early 90s — lives in the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, about 15 miles outside Jerusalem and close to the seam line between Israel and the West Bank, territory that Israel occupied in the 1967 war and that Palestinians hope to see as part of an independent state someday.
BEIT UR AL-FAUQA, WEST BANK
She lives in the same elegant limestone house in the same sleepy village she has called home since 1974 — the house where the whole village once came to celebrate Rashida Tlaib’s wedding, and the house that looks directly onto an Israeli settlement with a visible military presence.
“When I won, it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions,” Tlaib tweeted. “I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”
“Silencing me and treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”
Tlaib has previously lent her support to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which Israel sees as increasingly threatening. Her positions have earned her the ire of pro-Israel advocacy groups and also of some of her Democratic colleagues in Congress.
But the quiet village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, and specifically the view from Tlaib’s grandmother’s house, sheds at least some light on the force of her convictions.
Map shows Beit Ur al-Fauqa surrounded by Israel’s restrictive zones.
A major highway now cuts directly through land the family says it once owned, Muftiyah Tlaib said, a thoroughfare that has altered the family’s access to olive groves and fig trees they still keep.
“It’s hard for me to reach my land on the other side,” she said. “I used to cross by walking, but once a woman was hit by a car.”
For Ashraf Samara, the head of the village council, Israel’s action toward the congresswoman is a window into the lived experience of the military occupation of the West Bank.
Rashida Tlaib’s relatives gather oustide home in Beit Ur Al-Fauqa
“This is all very strange for the media,” he said in an interview, noting that he had met Rashida Tlaib about 20 years ago. “But not for me as a Palestinian because I know the reality of occupation.”
Samara said he appreciated that Tlaib and Omar had begun to challenge traditional American bipartisan support of Israel.
“What I can say about Rashida and Omar is that they are starting to knock on the door and say something is wrong. Hopefully in the future they will change something in the opinions of ordinary American people.”
“I am proud of her,” the grandmother said of her granddaughter. “Who wouldn’t be proud of a granddaughter like that? I love her and am so proud of her.”
House Democrats weigh action against US and Israel ambassadors over banned visit
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George Rider, Marcie Griffith, Eric Griffin sentenced to LWOP July 31 in 2017 murder of Oak Park woman Julii Johnson in Warren
In sentencing statement not published by mainstream media, Rider says the three did not even know each other, calls case a “legal lynching”
Rider allies say feds directed Warren Police to Rider as part of ongoing campaign vs. business owner in way of downtown gentrification plans
Rider appealing conviction, represented by State Appellate Defender’s Office
August 11, 2019
MT. CLEMENS, MI — Defendant George Rider’s sentencing statement to Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Toia Aug. 1 received no play from the mainstream media, but he forwarded a copy to VOD to tell his side of what he and others say was a “legal lynching.” He reiterated that the three defendants did not even know each other. Mainstream headlines have characterized the murder of Julii Johnson in 2017 the result of a “love triangle,” finding the defendants guilty two years before delayed trial, although the first suspect was Johnson’s boyfriend Michael Lattner. He owned one gun thought to be the murder weapon and was recently convicted in federal court of possession of that gun. Rider, represented by the State Appellate Defender’s Office, filed a claim of appeal August 7, 2019.
Judge Joseph Toia–did he facilitate a legal lynching?
Following is Rider’s statement to Judge July 31, 2019:
America is a great country and this great country is governed by laws and rules. But most of all this great country has the Constitution of the United States. And everyone must abide by these laws and rules of this great country.
Judge Toia, you took an Oath, and you swore in that Oath to be fair and impartial in this courtroom. You deliberately and intentionally broke your Oath, violating the rules of this courtr00m. You violated MRE 901 and MRE 801. By doing this, you committed Malfeasance.
You hide behind your robe and the color of law to legally lynch me in this courtroom. You trample on my rights under the 4th Amendment, the 5th Amendment, the 6th Amendment, the 8th Amendment, and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
You were acting under the color of law when you symbolically and systematically used your position to legally lynch me.
Black business owners were frequently lynched by white competitors in history of U.S.
You forced me to go to trial with two individuals who I had no prior relationship with. You systematically placed me in the middle, and made me appear to be the glue that held this crime together, so you could justify this lynching.
I would have had more respect for you and this court, if you had taken me across the street in the park, and lynched me from a tree. But instead you choose to lynch me in this courtroom, under the color of law.
You violated my 6th Amendment rights when you let A.U.S.A. Karen Reynolds interfere with my attorney Suzanna Kostovski in this state case. This is one of the many reasons my attorney was ineffective as my attorney, because the federal government is not supposed to interfere with the attorney-client relationship.
Karen Reynolds offered me through my attorney Suzanna Kostovski to plead guilty to 20 years and cooperate in this state case. And of course I declined.
The plot started with the meeting on February 23, 2017 with the conspirators being A.U.S.A. Karen Reynolds, Macomb County Prosecutor Jurji Fedorak and his wife [Vera Fedorak], who is an ATF agent, along with the FBI and the Warren Police Department.
Macomb Co. AP Jurji Fedorak
ATF agent Vera Fedorak, wife of Jurji Fedorck
These same conspirators on March 25, 2017 raided my home with no search warrant, only producing an application for a warrant. They threatened my girlfriend and my son that if they did not open the door they would knock the door down. To this day, no search warrant has ever been produced, and no federal charges brought.
[Macomb County District Court] Judge Suzanna Faunce started the lynching on January 27, 2017, when she signed a search warrant without probable cause [related to earlier incident].
Judge Michael Chupa abused his discretion when he bound over this case without probable cause.
[Macomb County Circuit Court] Judge Jennifer Faunce tried to complete the lynching herself, but was recused from this case because of a conflict of interest. Then she pretended she had no knowledge of her sister Suzanna Faunce signing the search warrant in this case.
MCCC Judge Jennifer Faunce. sister 37th DC Judge Suzanne Faunce
Then they assigned this case to Good Ole Judge Joseph Toia to do the lynching and their dirty work. A Judge who is supposed to be fair. But you’re not fair. Because you’re worried about your own political interest, and getting re-elected, and opposed to upholding the law according to an Oath you took.
You’re just like all the other corrupt officials in Macomb County. A Cheater! And you will always be known as a Cheater.
Mr. Rider’s statement to VOD: I will prevail. I do believe my attorney did not fight for me. And I honestly believe she was working with them. Because it’s no way I was supposed to be charged for text messages let alone found guilty. It was a legal lynching. – George
GEORGE RIDER IN ANOTHER STORM
VOD staff writer Ricardo Ferrell
By Ricardo Ferrell
The feds are secretly celebrating the First Degree Murder conviction of George G. Rider, in the death of Julii Johnson, the Oak Park woman who was shot and killed outside a Warren condominium owned by her boyfriend J. Terrell Lattner. Lattner was originally suspected by investigators as being responsible for the murder.
According to sources a secret meeting held on the day of Rider’s arrest yielded undue influence and interference by federal authorities, especially that of Assistant United States Attorney Karen Reynolds. Reynolds, who has been on a vindictive pursuit of George Rider for many years, pushed for the Warren Police Department and the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office to bring what amounted to bogus murder charges.
There was no direct evidence connecting Rider to the crime. In the history of Michigan’s court system, never has anyone been convicted of First Degree Murder for two text messages, which haven’t been substantiated or authenticated to determine whom actually sent them. The Michigan Rules of Evidence (MRE) clearly states: text messages that cannot be authenticated from who sent them, must be determined as hearsay under MRE 901.
MRE Rule 901 – Requirement of Authentication or Identification (a) General provision. The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims
George Rider with renowned artist Tyree Guyton at fundraiser for the Heidelberg Project. Rider is a respectable Black business and landowner allegedly targeted by white corporate gentrifiers in Detroit.
Aside from the hearsay text messages, there was no physical evidence linking Mr. Rider, no eyewitnesses, no DNA, or testimony connecting him. So, the question becomes, how in the hell can a citizen be convicted without any evidence against him or her?
It’s blatantly obvious that the reason Rider was charged in the first place was simply because his name happens to be George G. Rider, someone the federal government has vindictively pursued for decades relentlessly trying to connect him to unsolved crimes, including murders, mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, and a host of other crimes they have failed to get him on.
On July 31st, 2019, Rider will receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for a crime he stands innocent of, one that isn’t supported by a shred of evidence. Thus, George G. Rider is riding through yet another man-made storm by federal authorities and a corrupt county Prosecutor’s office in Macomb County, Michigan.
That office is led by the county’s alleged number one crook who is under investigation himself for mishandling over a million dollars in the forfeiture fund. [Ironically, A.U.S.A. Karen Reynolds has been active in investigations into mishandling of federal funds used in Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s Demolition Project, handed out to no-bid contractors.]
We have to call into question the seemingly stacked jury make-up. How can a County have municipalities made up of nearly 50% African Americans, but insist that there weren’t enough Blacks to pull from the jury pool? That’s the absurdity in how Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor Jurij Fedorak was allowed to get away with justifying the lack of potential Black jurors, when in actuality there were many that could’ve been chosen had fairness been applied in the jury selection process.
Here again, is where we must ask the tough questions: Why didn’t the presiding Judge in the case step in and assure fairness to the defendant(s)? It’s his judicial duty to sit as a fair and impartial referee and make certain both sides, the defense and the prosecution, are playing above board by the rules. Not sit blindly and silently allowing a lopsided form of justice to take place before his bench.
Well, so much for his judicial obligations and the oath he swore to uphold. Judge Joseph Toia, in his duty as a jurist has failed to perform in accordance to what’s expected of a fair and impartial minded referee (judge). This is a vicious storm that George G. Rider has had to endure due to:
the vindictive prosecution,
the level of corruption by law authorities and judicial figures,
the blatant disregard for the administration of justice,
the numerous delays and postponements,
the tainted DNA evidence from technicians of the Michigan State Police crime lab,
the Fourth Amendment violation by a warrantless stop, search & seizure,
the obvious conflicts of interest by at least three Macomb District/County Judges,
the lack of physical evidence,
no eyewitness testimony linking Mr. Rider to the crime,and the two text messages, which amount to hearsay – all have contributed to the wrongful conviction of G. Rider.
For any Court in the State of Michigan to allow a faulty and unsupported conviction like this to stand would be a Travesty of Justice, and a black eye to the entire Judicial System. No citizen in Michigan, or anywhere in the United States, should be deprived of his or her liberties under the Constitutions of this land. The conviction of George G. Rider for the crime of First Degree Murder should and must be reversed based on the many factors that led to him being wrongfully convicted of a crime not supported by the evidence.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have organized mass rallies in support of human rights for prisoners across U.S.
This writer believes there’s never been anyone in Michigan, in the history of all first degree murder cases to be convicted by two unauthenticated text messages, where the Warren Police, the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, or the interfering Federal Authorities were able to prove the identity of the actual sender of the messages. In fact, what do the two texts prove anyway? “1) Good Morning sunshine. Today is a beautiful day, Friday the 13th. 2) I hope you understand.” How can anyone be found guilty of a capital offense based on the above?
Notwithstanding, nobody testified to proof that George Rider sent the two texts. Apparently the prosecution, in his effort to get a conviction, could care less how he got it, as evidenced by his and overzealous federal authorities’ vindictive pursuit of George G. Rider. I wonder how the Michigan Court of Appeals will rule on this case of first impression. Let justice rein in and correct this wrongful conviction.
“An injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.” — MLK Jr.
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Pilots demonstrating for better working conditions people who fly planes for Amazon.com and Atlas Air Worldwide picket outside Amazon.com’s annual shareholders meeting, May 22, 2019, in Seattle, Washington. Photo: CNBC
By Leslie Josephs
In the decade since the U.S. emerged from the recession, many industries, including airlines and automakers, have enjoyed a near uninterrupted streak of profits.
U.S. Airlines, better known for their boom and bust cycles, are headed for their 10th straight year of profitability. The top four biggest airlines and three biggest automakers in the country brought in more than $25 billion in profit last year.
Now, across the U.S., workers who assemble cars, fly planes, prepare airplane food, clean hotel rooms and stock grocery store shelves, just to name a few — many of them unionized employees in the middle of contract talks — are determined to get a bigger cut of the spoils.
The contracts currently under negotiation between the United Auto Workers and Big Three Detroit automakers expire in September and will set the wages and benefits for about 158,000 employees for the next few years. The more than 37,000 pilots at the three largest U.S. airlines — Delta, United and American — are seeking higher pay and better retirement benefits after cuts in past downturns. “Our goal is to reach an agreement that continues to recognize the contributions of our pilots toward our company’s success while also positioning Delta to continue its momentum,” Delta said in a statement.
After 35 years of shrinking union participation rates across the U.S., non-unionized employees at JetBlue, Amazon, Uber and Lyft are increasingly making demands for higher pay or trying to organize — emboldened by the tight labor market, low corporate taxes, healthy company profits, and rising living costs.
Uber and other ride-share drivers protest outside Wall Street bull in NYC.
Grocers owned by Kroger and Albertsons in Southern California, including Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Ralph’s, are deep in negotiations with local members of the United Food and Commercial Workers in hopes of staving off their own strike. The region’s last grocery strike, fifteen years ago, reportedly cost the grocers $1.5 billion in sales.
“You can’t reverse 40 years of inequality in one to two years,” said Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Wage growth lags
The root of the tension, economists say, is that wage growth has not kept pace with an increase in productivity and the cost of living, despite a recent uptick. That comes as U.S. unemployment is near a 50-year low and companies need those workers.
Economist Joseph Stiglitz/Business Insider photo
“That means someone is getting more of the money,” said Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. “It is totally understandable why workers say ‘we ought to do something.’ I think the fear is: as bad as things are now they could get worse and that if we don’t do something preemptively we’re in for even more difficulties.”
Weekly wages in the U.S. increased an average of 2.6% each year from 2008 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Workers are now seeking not only higher pay but better working conditions, health benefits and better retirement packages, just as some companies are bracing for lower economic growth forecasts and the impact of tariffs.
Making ends meet
“The American worker … has been stretched further and further and further to make ends meet,” said labor leader and United flight attendant Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents some 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines. “That’s an impossible hamster wheel to stay on.”
AFA President Sara Nelson testifies at U. S. Congressional hearing on safety of Boeing 307 MAX safety.
Labor unions are now arguing that their members deserve higher pay as their employers are flush with profits. Their ranks had been hit by layoffs, furloughs, pay, pension and benefit cuts as their employers struggled in recessions and bankruptcy.
United Auto Workers President Gary Jones made it clear last month that union members expect to be rewarded for past work during contract negotiations this year with the Big Three in Detroit, even though U.S. auto sales this year are expected to fall below 17 million vehicles for the first time since 2014. The drop would mark the second decline in U.S. industry sales since the record of 17.55 million vehicles sold in 2016.
The unionized workers aren’t the only company employees demanding better pay and working conditions.
Non-unionized workers at JetBlue and Delta have recently organized or are considering organizing, despite company messages against it.
In May, Uber and Lyft drivers in cities from London to Los Angeles demonstrated for higher wages, some of them shutting off the ride-hailing apps during the strike. Drivers at Lyft and Uber recently won pay increases in New York.
Amazon workers in Minnesota on strike.
At Amazon, warehouse workers have used the online retailer’s two-day Prime Day sale to demand higher wages. In Minnesota in July, Amazon workers held signs that read: “We’re human; not robots” during their strike. Amazon workers in Europe also held strikes.
Other companies have increased pay recently. Bank of America, for example, raised its workers‘ minimum pay to $20 an hour in March.
Investors aren’t always receptive. When American Airlines announced pay increases in April 2017 for its pilots and flight attendants, not tied to contract negotiations, shares fell more than 5% that day.
“We’re seeing record profit for our American companies, it’s sad to say those gains aren’t really translating to our members,” United Auto Workers’ president Jones said during an event last month to officially start collective bargaining at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. “In this time of corporate prosperity, labor is still being asked to take concessions … This must stop now.”
Aviation workers are also clamoring for more pay and benefits. They argue they still haven’t fully recovered from cuts since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that roiled air travel demand and sparked a wave of airline bankruptcies.
“You don’t go through bankruptcy and win things,” said Dennis Tajer, a Boeing 737 captain at American and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American’s pilots. “It’s like a massage with a cheese grater: it hurts.”
Tensions between company management and some of their employees have grown so severe that disputes are ending up in courtrooms as companies allege workers are disrupting operations to gain leverage in contract talks.
Pleasing Wall Street
Donald Trump bolstered profits with corporate tax cuts in 2017.
Unions have argued their companies are aiming to please Wall Street instead of their own employees. Companies in the S&P 500 are reporting what is set to be their ninth-straight quarter of profit growth — bolstered by President Donald Trump’s 2017 corporate tax cuts.
Companies have spent a lot of that windfall to buy back their own shares, to the chagrin of workers seeking higher wages. In the decade ended in March, companies in the S&P 500 have spent around In the first quarter, S&P 500 companies spent $205.8 billion on buybacks, the second-biggest sum on record after the previous quarter and 9% more than a year earlier, according to an analysis from S&P Dow Jones Indices.
United, Southwest, American and Delta’s buybacks are among the top 150 largest in the S&P over the past decade, through the first quarter of this year, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. United spent close to $3.9 billion buying back its own shares over the last two years, the data show. The Chicago-based airline’s net income in the last two full calendar years was $4.2 billion, according to FactSet.
UAW members, meanwhile, get a slice of the automakers’ profits through profit-sharing bonuses. However the union is still trying to make up for concessions it gave up during the last economic downturn, including a decade of stagnated wages prior to 2015.
The union agreed to cut benefits and receive more substantial profit sharing in lieu of annual wage increases as a result of the Great Recession and the government-backed bankruptcies of General Motors and then-Chrysler in 2009.
Under the current four-year deals, the automakers have paid more than $4 billion in profit-sharing bonuses to UAW members. The record payments, which are based on each company’s annual earnings in North America, have averaged roughly $20,500 per worker at Fiat Chrysler, $33,400 at Ford and $45,500 for GM since 2015.
First raises in years
FCA CEO Mark Stewart
UAW members also received their first raises in a decade four years ago. Starting pay for hourly production workers is roughly $17 to $30 an hour based on seniority — well above other unionized workforces.
The profit-sharing bonuses and stagnant wages have helped the automakers control fixed costs and put labor expenses more in line with non-unionized competitors — something executives hope to continue with these negotiations.
“We cannot, we will not, repeat those actions that put us in those dangerous financial positions,” Mark Stewart, chief operating officer of FCA – North America, said last month at the company’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. “We cannot return to our old ways of doing business or we’re risking the same result.”
Decades of bankruptcies
Airline unions, whose members weathered decades of bankruptcies and their aftermath, are now seeking more for their workers in cockpits, cabins and maintenance hangars. The strong U.S. economy is propelling travel demand and putting the country’s carriers on track this year for their 10th-straight year in the black. That’s a sharp turnaround for a capital-intensive industry known for its boom-and-bust cycles that inspired recently born-again airline evangelist Warren Buffett to tell shareholders in 2008: “Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.”
Airline profits not spent on workers, passengers.
Between the peak in 2001 and 2011, at the depths of airline industry turmoil, the sector had shed about 28% of its workforce or 145,000 jobs, according to the Department of Transportation. Full-time equivalent airline employees are back up to more than 440,000 jobs but off the pre-9/11 peak of more than 530,000 positions.
A decade of consolidation that left four big airlines in control of most of the U.S. market and strong economic growth helped domestic carriers rake in nearly $90 billion in profits since 2010, according to Airlines for America, an industry group.
“There’s money to get,” said Orley Ashenfelter, a Princeton University economics professor who specializes in labor relations and wages. “When the company’s losing money it’s hard to say you’re important.”
Some labor tensions have grown so sour they’re ending up in courtrooms.
American Airlines, for example, said in a lawsuit this spring that it had to cancel hundreds of flights because the unions that represent its more than 12,000 mechanics were engaged in an illegal work slowdown. The unions are demanding better pay and stronger limits on how much maintenance work the airline can outsource to workers overseas and have denied the allegations. A federal court in Texas in June ordered the unions to notify workers not to engage in activities that could hurt the airline.
Atlas Worldwide Airllines Holdings enjoined pilots from an “illegal worker slowdown.”
Pilots for Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, one of the cargo carriers that operates Amazon’s package-delivery airline Amazon Air, in July lost their appeal to overturn an injunction against what Atlas called excessive sick calls and an illegal worker slowdown. The company said the labor dispute contributed to its disappointing quarterly earnings, which pushed down its stock 25% after it reported on Aug. 1. Pilots there have complained about grueling work hours and low pay compared with their counterparts at rivals.
Earlier this year, Southwest had a similar dispute with its mechanics, but later reached a contract with the group, their first in more than six years, and a higher pay raise than Southwest offered in previous rounds of negotiations.
Even workers that have relatively good relations with their employers are demanding better conditions. United Airlines flight attendants last winter picketed at United’s hubs around the country after the company reduced staffing on board to FAA minimums (American and Delta were already staffed at that level), saying it compromised their safety, particularly as airlines fit more seats on board.
Protest in D.C.
Last month, the unions representing more than 20,000 airline catering workers around the country staged a protest at Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan National Airport demanding higher pay for the people who prepare airplane meals. Some 11,000 catering workers voted in June to strike.
Airline food workers on srike.
The workers voted to strike in June. But they, like other airline employees, are under the Railway Labor Act, which prohibits work stoppages and walkouts unless they are released by the president-appointed National Mediation Board. The last commercial U.S. airline pilot strike, for example, was in 2010, when Spirit’s pilots walked off the job.
Presidential hopefuls are keenly eyeing the labor dynamic. Democratic candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders attended the catering workers’ picket in Washington on July 23 as presidential hopefuls eye the growing gap between haves and have-nots as a key priority for millions of voters.
“Trump has really heightened the issue because he did win…[and] the working class was key to his victory” said Dean Baker, Senior Economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “He did create more emphasis on working class issues, and then he ends up making a lot of promises. Democrats will be claiming he didn’t keep that.”
BHAS submits new proposed plan for district to Whitmer
State AG Dana Nessel says Gov. Whitmer has no authority to close Benton Harbor schools
BENTON HARBOR–In the wake of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement of plans to close all of part of the Benton Harbor School District, the Michigan Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has weighed in strongly, calling for self-determination for the students and residents of this beleaguered Black-majority city.
In the ACLU letter, Atty. Fancher writes in part, “In recent weeks we have spoken with Benton Harbor residents and activists with whom we have had both long-term and recent acquaintance. Based on those discussions as well as our overall experience with education issues and previous administrations’ use of emergency managers, we strongly urge against any inclination to revive the idea of unilaterally closing the high school, or to resort to state control of the school district in some other form.
“Benton Harbor High School was established in 1872, and it has not only played a central role in the lives of many generations of Benton Harbor residents, it is in a real sense an anchor of the community. Closing the school would eliminate one of the only remaining educational, cultural and civic centers in a community that has endured decades of discrimination, marginalization and poverty. As for emergency management, the City of Benton Harbor’s experience with the emergency manager approach during previous administrations was one that denied the people of that city their democratic rights and democratic participation in government, regardless of one’s opinion about whether it was effective. The school system should not be subjected to the same experience.”
Fancher notes that 85 percent of Benton Harbor’s population is Black, and that it has a poverty rate of 48 percent, in the wake of “deindustrialization, white flight, rising crime rates, the crack trade, chronic unemployment, and loss of state revenue-sharing.”
Slavemaster Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder 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.
He continues, “In recent years, the state’s purported efforts to address Benton Harbor’s challenges through emergency management have not only failed, they have made matters worse because they were part of a pattern of state actions that were racially discriminatory. In a case challenging the constitutionality of the emergency manager laws, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh noted: ‘By plaintiffs’ calculations, over 52% of Michigan’s African Americans are under emergency manager authority pursuant to the enactment of [the emergency manager law], compared to two percent of Michigan’s Caucasian citizens.'”
Steeh said also that six out of seven communities of color (85%) were taken over by emergency managers because the state scored them at fiscal alert rates of 7, while no communities with a majority-white population and fiscal alert rates of 7 were taken over.
“By 2011 the school district was $18 million in debt,” Fancher continued. “The state issued an ultimatum demanding that school officials cut $2.6 million from its budget or have an emergency manager appointed to run the district.”
He said the district later agreed to a state-approved debt elimination plan, but its economic troubles continued, causing it to go further into debt. The debt was down to $15 million by 2014, out of a total $40 million budget. The district consolidated 40 percent of its buildings, privatized non-instructional services, and enacted 10 percent pay cuts for the rest of the staff.
Subsequently, Fancher writes, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a district “CEO,” Robert Herrera, who reported directly to the state school reform board, not the district’s board. He resigned in June.
[VOD: During Herrera’s tenure, the district’s debt rose back again to $18 million; however the operating deficit last year was just $4.8 million. But the district is expected to pay the principal on $11 million in state loans which the state no longer backs, in 2020, according to a report from the Michigan Citizens Research Council. at https://crcmich.org/whats-next-for-the-financial-crisis-in-benton-harbor-schools/
Benton Harbor High School students rally to save their school district in June, 2019.
Fancher says the position of the state ACLU is that the people of Benton Harbor have the right to evaluate their school board at the ballot box, and that attacks on school leaders can obscure the real causes of a district’s problems.
“Research by Michigan State University Professor David Arsen demonstrates that a school district’s financial distress may be due to race and factors unrelated to school management,” Fancher notes. He says Arsen found in 2015 that 10 percent of the state’s 550 districts had operating deficits in the years 2012 to 2014, but that emergency managers were assigned primarily to predominantly African-American districts, including the state’s largest district, in Detroit.
“Arsen sought, and found, an explanation for this racial phenomenon. He concluded that predominantly Black school districts find themselves having to do far more with fewer resources, not because they are Black, but because of the dynamic triggered by the presence of charter schools in the district. High achieving students in search of better educational opportunities leave the district’s schools for charter schools and leave behind students who need much more expensive special education services:
Detroit Public Schools teachers walked out across the district in 2001 to rally in Lansing against bill that would have opened the way to more charter schools. They succeeded for the time being. But now the majority of Detroit students attend for-profit charter schools with limited curriculums and accountability.
“Districts with high concentrations of African American students are much more likely to be subject to intense charter school penetration, to lose students to inter-district choice, and to have higher concentrations of students with disabilities.”
He continued, “We also want to lift up concerns in the community about having Benton Harbor High School students attend schools in neighboring districts. Racial integration has many potential benefits, but it cannot occur successfully without proper preparation of the communities that will be affected. This would require the engagement of skilled professionals working in Benton Harbor and neighboring communities over an extended period of time. The resources that would be required for such an undertaking would be better spent on improvement of Benton Harbor’s own high school.
(VOD note: According to the report from the Michigan Citizens Research Council, 65 percent of Benton Harbor students attend school in other districts already.)
ACLU Decries Corporate Land Grab behind Whitmer plan
Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad, elected in 2016.
He quotes Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad who said that he believes the state’s motive is to seize the prime property near the St. Joseph River where Benton Harbor High School is located. Muhammad noted he has seen development plans with no high school building on the site.
“Follow the money and money talks,” he said. “They say it’s about finances. But what’s not said in the undercurrent is there is elaborate plans to turn Benton Harbor into a tourist attraction for second homes and retirement and recreation. Basically, a new population and push out those who have stayed in the city.”
Rev. Edward Pinkney speaks at rally in Benton Harbor in 2012: Jean Klock Park is not for sale!
Fancher continues, “The ACLU has heard this viewpoint expressed not only by individuals engaged in civic affairs but also by everyday Benton Harbor residents. The fears are based on a very real history. More than fifteen years ago, developers set their sights on seizing part of Jean Klock Park’s beachfront for development of an upscale golf resort.
“There was considerable resistance by Benton Harbor residents. Nevertheless, there has been extensive beachfront development of residential properties that are likely far beyond the reach of most Benton Harbor residents. The high school, its athletic fields and other school grounds are in the vicinity of entertainment enterprises located along Riverview Drive.”
He concludes that the residents of Benton Harbor “possess great insight regarding causes and potential solutions. If the state comes into Benton Harbor with pre-packaged guidelines, timetables and solutions, it sends the message that the people of the community cannot be trusted to determine their own destiny.”
AG NESSEL: WHITMER HAS NO LEGAL RIGHT TO CLOSE BH SCHOOLS
The Detroit News reported recently, “State Attorney General spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney told The Detroit News the governor has no legal authority to ‘force’the Benton Harbor school board to accept her proposal to educate only students in grades K-8 and send all high school students to neighboring districts.
State AG Dana Nessel
“The governor’s proposal was an attempt to avoid the Treasurer and (Michigan Department of Education) from taking more severe and drastic statutory action against BHAS such as dissolving the BHAS school district … or having the Superintendent of Public Instruction conduct a preliminary review to determine the existence of probable financial stress,” Rossman-McKinney said in an email.
Brown said action by state lawmakers would be needed if dissolution is sought because Benton Harbor does not meet all of the criteria outlined in the law to dissolve the district. Specifically, the district did not lose at least 10% of students between the 2017-18 and the 2018-19 school years, Brown said.”
BENTON HARBOR AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT SUBMITS NEW PLAN TO GOV.
Benton Harbon VP Joseph Taylor also accused Gov. Whitmer of facilitating a land grab at BHHS in interview at top of story.
At the same time, it announced plans for the opening of the new school year at Benton Harbor High School and the remainder of the district.
The proposal includes the following key issues, in part:
General Local Control and Accountability
BHAS Board of Education will have full local control and will operate the entire BHAS K-12 school district.
Because the threat of shutting down Benton Harbor High School has resulted in the adverse effect of parents seeking to enroll their school-aged children outside of the District, the proposed Agreement must provide that both the Board and the State are committed to keeping Benton Harbor High School open for a minimum of four years.
The proposed Agreement must provide that if the District meets its annual benchmarks (e.g., 12-month, 24-month, 36-month, 48-month), then the four-year commitment to keep Benton Harbor High School open will continue to roll-over annually, so that students who enroll in BHAS as a freshman know that they will be able to graduate as a Tiger.
BHAS Board will have full control over all BHAS property and buildings, including the approval of any lease or sale.
BHAS Academic and Student Performance
In 2012 march to stop disastrous Detroit bankruptcy proceedings, Maureen Taylor carries a sign demanding forgiveness of DPS debt. Marchers also demanded forgiveness of city debt. After Detroit bankruptcy, its debt rose by 300 percent.
BHAS will continue to implement a consistent, evidence-based curriculum across K-12, including regular and appropriate professional development for the District’s instructional staff. The costs associated with providing the professional development may be paid for by grant funding, philanthropic funding, or in-kind donations. BHAS will continue to work to increase the number of certified teachers who are hired by BHAS, especially in the areas of English Language Arts and Math.”
The board noted that such additions may be affected by a national teacher shortage, non-competitive wages, and the instability of the district.
It included a requirement that the state provide additional funding to enable BHAS to recruit and retain certified teachers.
BHAS added that it will continue to work to decrease the percentage of students who are subjected to disciplinary measures that result in the student being suspended or expelled from school, and work to decrease the percentage of students who are deemed truant. BHAS will also continue to work to resolve any outstanding special education discipline compliance issues that were remaining at the end of the 2018-19 school year, and in the future.
The BHAS also addressed fiscal issues, saying it will adopt and maintain a sound financial and operating plan for the District. This includes a balanced budget, an Enhanced Deficit Elimination Plan if required by the state treasurer, and other measures utilizing Department of Treasury recommendations.
Meanwhile a study has shown that Michigan has reduced its provision of state school funding to districts to the point where Michigan now has the lowest level of school funding in the nation.
The reduction has been caused over the years in large part by huge reductions in state corporate taxation and increases instead in funding for the state’s prison system. and more corporate tax breaks.
Benton Harbor students have also called for the state to forgive the District’s debt, largely caused by state actions under emergency managers. The state should begin by forgiving the $11 million in state loans due in 2020. The debt of Black cities and school districts across the state has been used as an excuse for state takeovers, when in fact it is encouraged by the state and the banks as a source of highly excessive interest payments.
Benton Harbor High School is located in the mid-city Empire Street district off the St. Joseph RIver, currently being redeveloped by wealthy financiers.
Pier 1000 near BH High School off St. Joseph River: tourists don’t want Black students in area.
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Detroit Black Music Awards: “We’ve acknowledged Entertainers from the least to the greatest, from Motown stars to Local stars”–Misty Love, Pres.
11th Annual DBMA to be held in Detroit, the “Music Capital of the World”
VOD staff writer Ricardo Ferrell
By Ricardo Ferrell
DETROIT — The DBMA to be held on Sunday, August 4th, 2019, at the Charles H. Wright Museum marks the 11th year this prestigious event has been in Detroit.
Misty Love, President of the Detroit Black Music Awards, is proud to announce this year’s event, which is primed to be the best she and partner Billy Wilson, the President of the Motown Alumni Association, will be presenting, holding it in what could easily be termed the Music Capital of the World.
Misty Love has had quite a singing career. She’s a vocalist with one Gold record; six Platinum records and 10 Diamond records to her credit for singing with artists like Kid Rock and Cheryl Crow. Misty’s also quite the songwriter. She has written songs for Kid Rock that went on to sell over five million copies. Misty has been singing all her life and have been on every show from David Letterman, the Tonight Show, VHI Awards, MTV Awards, and the Soul Train Awards.
Aside from living and singing in Las Vegas, Nevada, she’s been to Spain and other places around the globe showcasing her angelic God-given voice. The idea to create a Detroit version of the Black Music Awards came about when Misty won Blues Singer of the year two years in a row at the Las Vegas Black Music Awards. It inspired her to explore bringing the event to Detroit in 2009.
Every year since its inception, the DBMA has had at least 10 categories, including best R&B male; best R&B female; Entertainer of the Year; best Gospel, etc. The DBMA also gives at least five Special Tribute Awards and five(5) Lifetime Achievement Awards. Misty Love continues to bring this illustrious event to Detroit year after year with No Sponsors! Primarily the only financial support she receives is when someone purchases an ad in her souvenir book.
This year’s event will likely feature a tribute to the late Aretha Louise Franklin, known around the world as the Queen of Soul. In the Motor City she will always be remembered as the Queen of Detroit for all she contributed to the city she loved so dearly.
Aretha Franklin’s homegoing was held at Charles H. Wright Museum.
Misty Love told me in a handwritten correspondence, “So many Detroit artists never get any recognition. They sing in these clubs and concerts and never get any recognition. It doesn’t matter if they perform in a poolroom, they should be recognized for their musical talents. We’ve acknowledged Entertainers from the least to the greatest, from Motown stars to Local stars. It doesn’t matter to us because we give each of them the same recognition.”
The Detroit Black Music Awards is a very classy event and its also a formal affair. Misty calls it “The BET in The DET” which is quite fitting. Black Entertainment at its best in Detroit, you simply can’t get it any better than that, especially since some of the best-of-the-best singers were born and raised in Detroit. The Motown history itself and what that musical dynasty was able to accomplish from scratch inspired the grind and creativity of a determined Black woman to provide a platform for all to be rightfully recognized regardless of their status in the music industry.
Misty Love is the truth when it comes to putting in real work for the mission, and not thinking about any reward. She is a beautiful soul and has a heart of gold. This annual epic event is made possible by the help of Misty’s partner Billy Wilson, who is one of the most prolific Motown historians of today. Billy’s expertise and wealth of knowledge in the music industry, specifically that of the Motown Sound from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and beyond adds credence to the DBMA and its mission.
Billy Wilson and Misty Love during previous DBMA at Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History.
Billy Wilson’s knowledge of Motown’s stature and humble beginnings is priceless. These two brilliant minds, Misty Love & Billy Wilson and their tireless efforts, are what makes the Detroit Black Music Awards such a great and epic event.
“People love this event and they tend to enjoy the voting process, where they can vote for their favorite artist,” says Misty.
Misty shared with me how she will remain committed to the Detroit Black Music Awards, and continue to recognize every talent she can, as her way of giving back. She also said, “I do this to give people their Roses now while they can still see and smell them.”
Some of the notable supporters of the DBMA are: Judge Deborah Thomas, Gloria Ray, Charles H. Wright Museum, Fox 2 News, Voice of Detroit, and a host of others.
Writer’s note: The Detroit Black Music Awards is an event that all Black folks and business owners in the City of Detroit, and its surrounding areas should sponsor and promote without any reservations. This annual event solidifies the true essence of why its imperative that we as a people show a willingness to be supportive of one another regardless of our demographics, or socio-economic status. Detroit is headed for another comeback, and the Detroit Black Music Awards is gearing up to reinvigorate the Motown sound, and giving local talents the stage needed to showcase their talents, is what the DBMA’s are all about. If you have heard about this annual event, then certainly you wouldn’t want to miss this year’s epic extravaganza.
Charles Jones gets 10-20 yrs. for manslaughter in Je’Rean Blake death, concurrent with perjury sentence, after ‘nolo contendere’ plea deal
Eligible for parole in 2021; Atty. Leon Weiss says he will urge officials to release Jones at earliest date
“Didn’t Jones give Chauncey Owens the gun?”— first question asked at press conference on police slaughter of 7-year-old Aiyana in 2010
“WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH THIS?”—shocked response from family attorney Geoffrey Fieger
After victim impact statements, Judge Wanda Evans implores family to move forward
Mertilla Jones’ favorite photo of her granddaughter Aiyana Stanley Jones.
By Diane Bukowski
July 30, 2019/updated 8/1/19
DETROIT—Two days after Detroit police shot Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, to death as she slept May 16, 2010, the family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger held a press conference about the horrific midnight SWAT-style raid on her grandmother Mertilla Jones’ flat in a poor east-side Detroit neighborhood.
Raid leader Detroit cop Joseph Weekley, a resident of well-to-do Detroit suburb Grosse Pointe, had blasted the child in the head with a submachine gun, only seconds after entry into the home. A neighbor commented later, “They came to kill.”
Weekley was a featured star on A&E’s “The First 48,” which filmed detailed, secret police preparations for the raid during two days after the killing of Je’Rean Blake, 17, on May 16. The A&E cameras were there as police met in a field just prior to the raid, filming their discussion of tactical plans. Then they followed along as the DPD armored vehicle approached the Jones home in a poor Detroit east-side neighborhood, and filmed the raid itself.
Fieger press conference May 18, 2010; (l to r) Aiyana’s cousin Mark Robinson, mother Dominika Stanley, father Charles Jones, Atty. Geoffrey Fieger, grandmother Mertilla Jones, aunt Krystal Sanders. Along with Aiyana’s two toddler brothers, great-aunt Robinson, and cousin Vincent Ellis, all were present during police raid conducted for the benefit of A&E’s “The First 48.”
Aiyana’s father Charles Jones and mother Dominika Stanley joined Mertilla Jones and other family members, all still numb with grief and shock, to describe the raid.
“As soon as they hit the window, I hit the floor and reached for my grandbaby,” Mertilla Jones sobbed. “I saw the light go out of her eyes and blood coming out of her mouth. I had never seen anything like that before. My beautiful, gorgeous granddaughter. I can’t trust them; I can’t trust the Detroit police.”
The mainstream media was out in force at that press conference. Despite the family’s heart-wrenching accounts, the first question out of a reporter’s mouth was, “Didn’t Charles Jones give Chauncey Owens the gun?” Clearly prompted by a leak from DPD insiders, he referred to Blake’s killing.
An appalled Fieger responded, “WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH THIS?”
NINE YEARS LATER, MEDIA STILL LIES, SLANTS STORIES ON DEATHS OF AIYANA, JE’REAN
On July 26, Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Wanda Evans re-sentenced Charles Jones to 10-20 years on a reduced charge of manslaughter, to run concurrently with a 10-20 year sentence for perjury, in the killing of Je’Rean Blake May 14, 2010. The perjury charge related to his secret and untranscribed testimony in front of now Chief Judge Timothy Kenny, who acted as a one-man grand jury in charging Jones and Owens.
Joseph Weekley shown as star on previous series, Detroit SWAT.
Jones will get credit for the 2,841 days he has served so far, Judge Evans said, and he could be released with the next two years with good conduct. In contrast, his daughter’s killer, DPD A&E star Joseph Weekley, walked after several mis-trials on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm.
Jones was re-sentenced after a Court of Appeals remanded his case to the trial court, saying that the late Judge Richard Skutt’s failure to answer some of the jurors’ questions caused them confusion, resulting in contradictory verdicts of “guilty” of second-degree murder and “not-guilty” of firearms charges. The prosecution’s case was based on a never-proven theory that Jones had supplied the gun that killed Blake. See COA opinion at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Charles-Jones-COA-charge-1.pdf
Judge Skutt, however, had bravely tried to exclude testimony from two “jail-house snitches,” but was overturned on appeal by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. He suffered a fatal heart attack last year, on his way from another judge’s court.
Atty. Leon Weiss (center) speaks during Charles Jones (l) resentencing. AP Mark Hindelang at right.
During Jones’ resentencing, his attorney Leon Weiss acknowledged, “This is a tragedy for two families. We went through a six week trial, but you don’t get over losses like this. I spoke to Charles for many hours about the loss of his daughter. I believe the sentencing agreement is fair and just.”
He said later that he will urge the parole board to release Jones at the earliest possible date.
Jones said simply, “I would like to offer my condolences to the family. I pray that they get to mourn, grieve and rejoice from my conviction. I’m sorry for their loss.”
Jones’ family members, including his three oldest sons, were present for the re-sentencing, hoping to hear that he would be released with time served. (See photo below. His mother Mertilla Jones is at center.)
Je’Rean Blake’s family members including his mother Lyvonne Cargill, 10-year-old daughter Zyonna Cray, and godmother Lakese Anderson read victim impact statements.
Charles Jones’ family at his resentencing July 26, 2019.
Anderson said, “Je’Rean was a kind, giving, thoughtful young man. I pray that [Jones] receives the maximum sentence and that it runs consecutively with the other charge.” She said Blake was about to graduate from high school and planned to join the U.S. Marines.
Anderson read Cray’s statement which said in part, “How could you do this to my daddy? Now I get no calls or help from my daddy. I don’t get birthday or Xmas presents. He’s not here to help me with my homework. How could you sleep after helping someone take his life. You tried to hide him in your family home and your daughter lost her life.”
Cray was one-and-a-half years old when Blake died.
Jerean Blake’s mother is shown sitting with Je’Rean’s friend Jacquavis (J-Roc) Richards during Jones-Owens trial in this Detroit News photo.
Cargill said in part, “I miss my son. I can’t go to work. Police told me I had to go through the trial all over again. I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. . . .I’m tired, ready to snap. Some people say I’m just in it for the money. They are wrong. You stole my son’s life.”
During the years after the police raid, Cargill appeared repeatedly in news interviews and on talk shows characterizing the Jones family as criminals who caused the raid on their home, aiding the official police version of events. She also ran Facebook pages with similar comments.
Before sentencing Jones, Judge Wanda Evans spoke to Blake’s family.
“What I hope for you is that no matter what has happened in the past, you look to the future and not let this control you anymore,” Evans said. “To the daughter: remember how your dad would want you to feel—he would want you to feel joy and love in spite of all. He wants you to live the best life you can live. He wants you to take this situation and not hold on to the anger. He would want you to be the voice that he no longer can be. To be able to help someone that might have been in the same situation that you’re in, to help them to get past all the hurt and the pain that your grandmother said that you’re feeling.”
Judge Wanda Evans
She continued, “What your grandmother said—I’m tired and I need some help. It’s not easy going through the grief process alone. There are professionals out there that can help you go through the different stages, of what’s going on in your head and your heart, to help your family be strong and move on.”
Evans officially barred further social media posts by the families related to this case, and informed Jones that he must have no contact with Blake’s family upon release.
Mainstream media accounts of Jones’ re-sentencing, nine years later, are still following the pattern initiated at the May 18, 2010 Fieger press conference. This is despite the City of Detroit’s apparent change of heart in settling a lawsuit filed by Aiyana’s parents for $8.25 million. It was the Office of the General Counsel for the Third Judicial Circuit Court which announced the sentencing agreement for Charles Jones in the death of Je’Rean Blake, not Prosecutor Kym Worthy, in another forward step.
But the media continue to allege that Blake’s “slaying triggered the police manhunt that ended with Aiyana shot to death in her family’s home during a raid.”
Charles Jones (l) and Chauncey Owens (r) during trial; Jones’ attorney Leon Weiss with back to camera.
They also claim, falsely, that police were looking for Charles Jones, not Chauncey Owens, who resided in the upstairs flat at a separate address. Police had a warrant to search that address specifically to arrest Owens only.
Owens is serving a life-without-parole sentence after refusing to testify that Jones gave him the gun that killed Blake. In a police video of his interrogation after Owens learned that Aiyana had died, shown to his jury but not to Charles’ jury, he named another man as the one who supplied the gun, and originally identified his brother as the killer.
At the beginning of the interrogation, Owens told police repeatedly that he had killed no one. He named his brother Sh’ronn Hurt, who lived across the street from the Jones family flat, as responsible for Blake’s death. DPD Sgt. Kenneth Gardner and others manipulated the interrogation by belatedly allowing Owens to call his fiancée, Aiyana’s aunt LaKrystal Sanders. Police had not told Owens that Aiyana was dead, but Sanders did so.
DPD Sgt. Kenneth Gardner; photo from A&E’s “First 48” website.
Like Joseph Weekley, Sgt. Gardner was also a featured star on A&E’s “The First 48.” His efforts to get Owens to confess facilitated the show’s story-line that necessitated solving the Blake murder in 48 hours.
Despite Sgt. Gardner’s repeated efforts to get him to name Charles Jones as the man who gave him the gun, he adamantly stated Jones never did so, or at the very most, was only present at the scene, which is NOT a crime.
Owens filed an appeal of his life sentence which was rejected by the Court of Appeals Sept. 15, 2015, except for an objection to an assessment of court costs, which was remanded to the trial court. (See COA ruling at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/COA-Chauncey-Owens-9-15-2015.pdf ). Court records do not show whether the case was so remanded, and there is no record of an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.
The Appeals Court rejected Owens’ argument that his original plea to second-degree murder based on providing a “truthful statement” of events in the Je’rean Blake killing had been unlawfully voided. The COA cited the prosecutor’s version of the plea agreement as follows:
“The Defendant must testify truthfully about the individual who supplied him with the gun he used to shoot the victim. If the Defendant cooperates and testifies truthfully any time we ask him, then we will allow – we will be asking the sentencing judge – if we’re satisfied with his testimony, to reduce his sentence by two years. The Defendant must testify at all hearings requested and must submit to a polygraph if requested.”
The COA said Owens’ refusal to testify specifically against his co-defendant Charles Jones violated this agreement. However, there is nothing in the agreement, as VOD reported earlier, that required Owens to name Charles Jones as the person who allegedly supplied a gun to him. The COA also rejected arguments regarding the failure to call witnesses who allegedly heard Sh’rrod Hurt admit to the Blake killing, claiming they were “hearsay within hearsay.” It rejected other arguments as well.
‘The Militarization of the Police’ and its role in the death of Aiyana Stanley Jones
The media, including even local talk show hosts like Mildred Gaddis and the late Angelo Henderson, put the tragic death of Blake, 17, during a personal confrontation outside a party store, on the same level as the horrific military raid launched on a poor family’s home, taking the life of their beloved Aiyana.
Aiyana Jones’ mother, aunt and grandfather March 8, 2013.
PBS reported, “Police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed, according to a study of 9,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. The study is arguably the nation’s first systematic analysis on the use and consequences of militarized force.
“In at least one state — Maryland — police are more likely to deploy militarized units in black neighborhoods, confirming a suspicion long held by critics, the study found.”
But media locally have largely diminished this nationally-recognized factor when it comes to the cases of Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Je’Rean Blake.
The blame lies not only with the media but also with various community leaders who similarly equated Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ death with an “epidemic of violence” among the youth of Detroit and cities like it. The real epidemic of violence has been perpetrated by the U.S. military, police agencies, and the U.S. government across the world. So-called “Black-on-Black” violence is directly connected to factors of extreme poverty, unemployment, the destruction of public school systems and public recreation opportunities for youth nationally, and the repeatedly exposed role of U.S. secret agencies like the CIA in flooding poor communities of color with drugs.
Related story (the story below contains links to all other stories published by VOD on the police murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones.)
Puerto Ricans shut down major highways, flooded roads to governor RIcky Roselli’s mansion July 22, 2019 to demand his immediate resignation, after years of massive cutbacks ordered by global banks which want phony Detroit-style bankruptcy.
July 22, 2019
Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello and U.S. Pres. Donald Trump enjoy light moment during Hurricane Rita on island.
Thousands of protesters calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló have brought Puerto Rico almost to a standstill. Public outrage was prompted by his texts mocking victims of the devastating 2017 hurricane, Maria.
Protesters were joined by a number of high-profile Puerto Rican celebrities, including Latin pop singer Ricky Martin and rapper René Pérez Joglar, also known by his stage name ‘Residente.’ Many businesses, including the Plaza Las Américas mall in San Juan, closed throughout the day in anticipation of the demonstration.
A major expressway –Highway 18– was completely blocked by protesters.
Some held signs and banners directly calling on Rosselló to resign.
Protesters block one of many major highways in San Juan, Puerto RIco’s capital.
Massive protest flooded streets of San Juan.
The leader of the US territory has been embroiled in controversy following a leak of hundreds of communications in which he made a series of offensive remarks. The leaks amount to almost 900 pages of messages sent to current and former aides and officials. They contain sexist, homophobic and often profanity-laced comments as well as crude and flippant remarks about subjects like death following Hurricane Maria.
In addition to causing great offense, a member of the Puerto Rican legislature has identified 18 cases of potential crimes and introduced a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings against Rosselló. Both island and federal authorities have also launched investigations into possible corruption or conflicts of interest stemming from information contained in the texts.
Women joined the protest en masse.
On Sunday, Rossello said that he would not resign, but will step down as leader of the New Progressive party, the major pro-Puerto Rican statehood party, and would not seek re-election in the upcoming 2020 gubernatorial vote. However, many figures from across the political spectrum – and both on the island and from the US mainland – are calling for nothing short of his resignation, arguing that his position is untenable in light of the leaks.
The Caribbean island nation is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The natural disaster caused billions of dollars in damage, destroyed about 80% of the country’s crop value and left several thousand residents dead. In the months following the storm, over 100,000 Puerto Ricans fled the island for the US mainland. Earlier that year, Puerto Rico became the first US territory to become bankrupt in what has been described as the “biggest government financial collapse in United States history.”
Trump tossing paper towels to Puerto Ricans at hurricane relief center.
The US government’s response to the crisis was controversial. The Senate initially voted 90-10 to approve a multi-billion dollar aid relief program, but Democrats expressed concern that the spending didn’t go far enough.
Congress eventually allocated just over $40 billion to the relief effort, which came from various sources including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Trump made a number of controversial remarks about both this amount and the response of local politicians. He falsely claimed that $92 billion had been spent on the recovery effort, describing the amount as “squandered and wasted and stolen.” He also made a number of disparaging remarks about elected officials in Puerto Rico, describing the governor as “terrible” and the mayor of San Juan as a “horror show.” He also frequently boasted about his own purported role in the recovery effort, describing himself as “the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico.”
Below: Carmen Yulin Cruz, Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico responds to Trump’s failure to provide sufficient aid, and racist comments on disaster.
This latest controversy might lead to a further need to prop up the troubled island. If Rosselló goes, a new administration will have to take its place. If he stays, his government will turn into a lame duck until the next gubernatorial elections, which are over a year away. Either way, as a US territory for which Washington has ultimate responsibility, the burden will fall on the federal government to help ensure good governance.
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PUERTO RICO’S DEMAND FOR INDEPENDENCE MORE ALIVE THAN EVER
Interview with Puerto Rican patriot Oscar López Rivera
At the 4th International Conference for the Balance of the World, Oscar López Rivera called for Latin American unity to build support for Puerto Rico’s independence struggle. Photo: Ariel Cecilio Lemus Alvarez
PUERTO RICO —Puerto Rico’s demand for independence was reaffirmed by the patriot Oscar López Rivera recently, insisting that this is the inalterable demand of the island’s people.
In statements to Granma International, he noted that the only path forward for his homeland is independence, and an end to the U.S. protectorate.
He cited, as another other important issue in the struggle, the elimination of Puerto Rico’s exorbitant foreign debt, which according to Wall Street has reached 73 billion dollars, and for which the island’s people bear no responsibility, he said.
López Rivera recalled that the Caribbean nation does not have its own public treasury to pay this debt, since all income generated goes straight to the United States, given its status as the reigning colonial power.
Puerto Rico cannot appeal to any international financial institution or declare bankruptcy as any state of the union could, because it is not part of U.S. continental territory and is prohibited from applying for financial bail-out programs, given its condition as a Free Associated State.
He explained that to resolve the issue, in 2016 the White House named a Financial Oversight Board, with powers greater than those of the governor, charged with the task of developing social cutback plans to guarantee payment to creditors.
López Rivera explained that economic measures taken since then have cut the budget for programs benefitting the population, and accentuate dependence on the United States.
Protest demanding cancellation of Puerto RIco’s debt.
This situation, he said, is leading many Puerto Ricans to fight for the island’s definitive independence, or emigrate to the mainland, a pattern that continues to increase. Moreover, the nation has been unable to recover from the disaster created in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, he added.
“Today we are confronting this criminal, vengeful debt imposed by credit agencies backed by the United States. Related to this issue, the government imposed on us the Financial Oversight Board, which is determining how to implement an austerity plan, one that threatens the present and future of Puerto Rico, in ways we can’t even imagine,” he stated.
The issue will be addressed in the United Nations General Assembly, he said, and the demand for the homeland’s independence and the right to self-determination will be raised, on the basis of the fact that, in 1952, when the United States imposed the Free Associated State, information was manipulated and distorted to serve its neocolonial goals.
“We advocate unity among left political forces, to put our differences aside and work to achieve our definitive independence, which has become a necessity,” López Rivera stressed.
New York march to free Oscar Lopez Rivera.
As a young man he was recruited by the U.S. Army and obliged to participate in the Vietnam War.
Returning to the U.S. city of Chicago, where his family had settled in the 1970s, he joined the struggle in defense of the rights of Puerto Ricans, becoming an outstanding community organizer, demanding better living conditions for the population.
In 1976, he joined the underground movement in favor of Puerto Rican independence as a member of the National Liberation Armed Forces (FALN), and was imprisoned in 1981, following his arrest by the FBI and conviction for alleged seditious conspiracy.
At the time of his capture, he sought classification as a prisoner of war, in accordance with Protocol I of the 1949 Geneva Convention that recognizes this condition in cases of persons detained during armed conflicts and struggles against colonial oppression.
This demand was ignored by the U.S. government, which sentenced him to 55 years in prison. Subsequently, they fabricated an escape attempt and the sentence was extended to 70 years, 12 of which he spent in solitary confinement.
4th International Conference for the Balance of the World, Havana, Cuba
Oscar López served a total of 36 years of hard prison. On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama granted him a pardon and his release occurred on May 17 of the same year.
He recently traveled to Cuba to attend the 4th International Conference for the Balance of the World in Havana, which was held at the end of January.
For this Puerto Rican patriot, returning to Cuba was a great honor. “I feel super excited to be here. This forum can illuminate us regarding the necessary unity and put divisions aside. I am one of those who have confidence that a better and more just world is possible. We fight to achieve the goal of prosperity for all human beings, because not only does Puerto Rico suffer, but the entire planet. We suffer the punishment imposed by the imperialist U.S. ogre.”
He said that maintaining the continuity and legacy of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro is important. “We need youth to continue that legacy, because it represents the future of society. To continue the example of Fidel Castro, who assumed it from José Martí,” he concluded.
Video above shows example of Detroit woman forced to walk home in 2 degree weather Detroit police impound car; officer Gary Steele later demoted for racist post
Detroiters pay highest car insurance rates, have highest unemployment and child poverty rates in U.S.
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib co-sponsors PAID bill that would lower rates
Dennis Boatwright II
By Dennis S. Boatwright II
July 22, 2019
Thousands of low-income metro-Detroit area moms cannot drive to work because law enforcement officials tow away their cars after they are unable to show proof of insurance, according to Wayne County Clerk records.
Consequently, these near minimum wage earners lose their only means of transportation and must scramble to find other ways to take their children to daycare and doctor appointments.
Essentially, thousands of cars bulge through the gates of police impounds because the mothers don’t earn enough money to pay Detroit’s unaffordable car insurance rates.
For instance, non-Michigan residents are astonished that Michigan drivers pay on average $2,693 annually, and are taken aback that Wayne County residents (including Detroit) pay nearly double that rate at $5,646 per year. This means Detroiters, in particular, have to pay the highest car insurance premiums in the nation, even though Motor City has the lowest per-capita income among large U.S. cities. Detroit’s unbelievable car insurance rates are double that of Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, big cities that also have high concentrations of people of color, as well as poverty and crime.
Car being impounded. Most drivers can’t afford costs to get cars back, they are sold at auction.
More directly, the average U.S. citizen pays only $115.00 per month while the average Detroiter pays an astonishing $470.00 each month per vehicle. In real terms, that means most Detroiters are paying two car notes every month, essentially.
It is no wonder that sixty percent of Detroit motorists take the chance of driving uninsured.
Since most Detroiters are unable to pay $470.00 per month, many don’t have coverage. This explains why police impounds are crammed with confiscated vehicles that otherwise can be driven.
According to 36th District Court records, when a single mom is pulled over for no insurance coverage, her car is impounded and she is written a two-hundred dollar misdemeanor citation. To get the car back, these distressed mothers are required to show proof of insurance and pay up to $900 in towing and storage fees in order to get the vehicle released from police custody. The fine and impoundment easily surpasses $1,000.
Detroit mother and children.
Since most struggling mothers cannot afford adequate insurance coverage nor the dispiriting towing and storage scams, their cars are auctioned away—oftentimes to a fellow police officer–after thirty days if they are unable to hustle up the cash.
Since the majority of single-parent moms don’t have required insurance, a nefarious cottage industry has popped up to feed off Detroiters who cannot pay such crippling premiums (sometimes 40-percent of their monthly incomes). Strip mall insurance brokerage companies like L.A. Insurance and Advasure sell desperate car owners thirteen-day car insurance policies for $400 ($800/mo). Then the relieved insured catch a ride to the police impound waving an insurance certificate to rescue the vehicle out of car jail, as they call it. Since the insurance policy just lasts two weeks, this sad cycle repeats itself over and over again.
To be sure, many are led to believe that car insurance in Detroit is the highest solely because of lower credit scores or high crime rates. (Credit scores are not the biggest spoiler, though in many cases they are privately factored in.)
Frankly, one reason Detroiters pay high insurance rates is that their political representation is indifferent and relatively weaker than the rest of the nation.
But there is room for hope.
Cars in impound lot.
Enough state legislators can vote to place a cap on how much an insurance company can charge motorists. If Detroiters want to get their insurance premiums lowered to the national average they must elect and support lawmakers who rank lowering car insurance premiums high on their legislation agendas.
So far, only freshman U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI, 13th District) considers this an urgent issue and has already made changes to Michigan’s insurance costs that will provide a 10-percent relief to monthly payments.
However, much more needs to be done and many more lawmakers must be willing to attack this exploitation of poor people. Sympathetic legislators need serious pastors, grassroots educators, and everyday folks to unite and mobilize around this important issue. Otherwise, thousands of more teary-eyed moms will be ordered to “step outside the car.”
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib Bill Could Bar Michigan Auto Insurers From Using Non-Driving Factors
By Bethan Moorecraft
July 15, 2019Ju
U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan)
st weeks after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a landmark no-fault auto insurance reform bill, legislators are demanding for more to be done to reduce the state’s extortionate auto insurance rates.
US Rep. Rashida Tlaib has introduced a bill called the Prohibit Auto Insurance Discrimination Act (PAID), which would prevent auto insurance companies from using non-driving factors like zip code, census tract, gender, education, occupation, employment, homeownership, credit score, and marital status, to determine rates.
“Auto insurance rates should be determined by your driving record, not your credit score, gender, marital status, education, residence, or any other non-driving factor that has nothing to do with your safety on the roads,” Tlaib commented. “Drivers in Michigan’s 13th congressional district face some of the highest car insurance rates in the nation, and non-driving factors that serve as proxies for race and income and allow modern-day redlining are a main culprit. The use of non-driving factors puts marginalized communities at a disadvantage and creates obstacles to economic opportunity for families.”
U. S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
According to the insurance search engine, The Zebra, Michigan has the highest auto insurance rates in the country, with an average premium of $2,693. Some drivers in the state are paying in the realm of $5,000 every year to get on the roads, which takes a significant chunk out of the average annual income of Detroiters.
Watson Coleman told the Detroit Metro Times: “Car insurance is absolutely necessary for most American families, so when companies raise rates for unfair, undisclosed, and unproven reasons, families are going to be hurt. Income proxies like where you work or whether you have a college degree don’t weed out bad drivers — they just create a two-tier system where those who make less get charged higher rates. Working families deserve better than a system that is fundamentally unfair.”
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