TRAYVON MARTIN’S MOTHER SPEAKS OUT ON MOTHER’S DAY AGAINST ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAWS

VOD note: the story below details Michigan’s version of the “Stand Your Ground’ Law, the “Self-Defense Act” passed in 2006 allowing individuals greater latitude to “shoot first, ask questions later.”


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IAN MAY DEATH: VIGILANTE ”JUSTICE” AT WORK?

Ian May

18-year-old killed by retired cop with history of brutality during alleged robbery

By Diane Bukowski 

May 11, 2012 

DETROIT — Questions surround the death of 18-year-old Ian May on March 23. He was shot in the back of the head by security guard and retired cop Lamar Nowell Sr., while running from the scene of an “inside job” robbery at a Dollar General store on East Lafayette near downtown Detroit.

The questions involve not only May’s case, but the mindset of young people in Detroit today, deprived in many cases of homes, schools, libraries, recreation centers, jobs and guidance in a devastated city they did not create or ask to be born into.

Trayvon Martin

They also involve the mindset of adults like U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who characterized Detroit’s primary problem as “youth violence” during the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner May 6, and George Zimmerman, who patrolled his Sanford, Florida neighborhood to keep Black youth like Trayvon Martin out, eventually brutally murdering the 17-year-old.

IAN MAY, 18

“Despite the picture the newspapers painted, Ian was straight up the most adorable, lovable, funniest, happy big kid that I know,” a friend of May’s mother Lidjinet Graves told mourners at his funeral March 30. It was overflowing with May’s family and friends, including dozens of youths wearing T-shirts with his photo.

A uniformed honor guard from a private security agency May had worked for flanked his coffin.

Ian May’s high school diploma

“We knew him as Big Ian [pronounced “een”],” a relative said. “He was an awesome young man who left a tremendous impact on the lives of many young people and adults as well. He made life seem so easy and free. What will I do without your jokes, Ian?”

May graduated from Detroit public and private schools with his high school diploma, and from the Job Corps, according to his obituary.

He also worked a summer job at the Detroit Department of Human Services, now in the process of being shut down by Mayor Dave Bing and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

VIDEOTAPE SHOWED SHOOTING

His grandfather Jerome Brown told VOD at the funeral that a store videotape police showed to May’s mother affirms that Ian was shot in the back, then fell on his face. Family members saw the gunshot wound in the back of his head at the funeral home, he said.  Initial daily media reports claimed Nowell shot Ian in the face as Ian confronted him with a gun.

Dollar General store on E. Lafayette

“It was wrongfully reported,” Brown said. “He didn’t point at gun or shoot at anyone, he ran away. We just want to make sure that videotape doesn’t disappear. How can it be right to shoot a kid like that who was running away?”

VOD requested a copy of the autopsy report from the Wayne County Medical Examiner, but was informed weeks later that it was still not complete.

During the preliminary exam of Dollar General store cashier Andrea Liles, fired worker Jazmine Marshall, and Lile’s child’s father Ovid Jones May 1, the store’s young manager testified that he and Liles were on duty at the time of the robbery.

He said two men approached Liles and demanded money. The manager testified that he opened the cash register with his keys to give them the money.  He did not say how they got into the store, which had not opened yet.

“Fleeing felon” rule applied in May’s case

“The taller man had the gun to Andrea’s side and told her, ‘come on baby, let’s empty all these cash registers,’” the manager said.  He did not describe or identify either man, other than to say one was taller and one was shorter. He testified that he himself opened the registers with his keys. As he was about to let the men out, he said, the security guard opened the door.

“He said, ‘freeze,’ the manager testified. “Lamar said he was a retired police officer, and they took off running.”

No forensic testimony about the gun allegedly involved was introduced at the preliminary exam.

Graves said the prosecutor assigned to the case told her the guard had a right to shoot Ian because he was a “fleeing felon,” and that the guard “presumed” he was armed whether or not he saw a weapon. Graves said she believes the guard saw no gun.

SHOOT FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER

In other words, shoot first and ask questions later. It appeared from the manager’s testimony that there was very little time for the guard to determine exactly what had just happened.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy

Maria Miller, communications representative for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, told VOD, “The investigation of the fatal shooting of Ian May was submitted to our office by the Detroit Police Department and the evidence was reviewed. It was determined that the shooter would not be charged because his actions were legally justified under the facts and evidence in the case.”

Police investigator Alvin Williams, the prosecution’s chief witness, read statements he took in his own writing from the defendants. They wove a confusing story involving two different alleged plots by the defendants to set up the robbery, with several backing out and trying to get others to take their place. One account implicated the manager himself.

May’s mother told VOD her son received a call at 4 a.m. that morning from a friend. He was sleeping after an evening of work. She said her affable son was sometimes gullible.

“He would tell me, ‘Mom they’re my friends,’ and I would tell him, ‘Everybody is not your friend, Ian,” Graves said.

LAMAR NOWELL, SR. 

Lamar Nowell, Sr. (Photo from Linked In page)

According to court records, Lamar Nowell, Sr., now 62, of Southfield, was already retired from the Detroit Police Department when he was convicted of felony “aggravated stalking” in 1994, for incidents involving his ex-wife, also a retired officer. On appeal, his conviction was converted to misdemeanor stalking.

Several Detroiters sued him for brutality during his tenure in the 1980’s, winning undisclosed settlements.

Michael Seals, a Kettering High School graduate and Detroit Memorial Hospital custodian, said Nowell smashed him in the face with his fist, knocking out of three front teeth and injuring his face. He said he had been visiting his mother next door to a gas station when police carried out a drug raid on the station. They forced him inside when he went out to inquire what was going on, says the suit.

Charges against Seals for interfering with a police officer were later dismissed.

“I WANT YOU, BITCH!”

Helen and Herman Collins sued Nowell in 1987. The lawsuit says Ms. Childs went outside after officers had stopped her son and two friends in front of her home on Wisconsin, and that she yelled to her son to stop resisting.

Nowell was sued for brutality

As she was going back to her house, says the suit, Nowell “grabbed her by the hair, pulling her to the ground, yelling ‘I want you bitch.” It says Nowell and the other cops beat her on the face and body, causing a concussion, multiple injuries to her spine, sprains of both hands and a shoulder, and “multiple contusions over her entire upper extremities.”

Charges against her for interfering with the officers were dismissed after Nowell failed to show up for the hearing.

In an earlier case, in 1980, Ellen and Odell Collins sued Nowell and four other officers for breaking down the door of their home and holding them at gunpoint, before discovering they were at the wrong address.

NOWELL TODAY 

Nowell’s “Linked-in” page, with his photo, says he is currently a “Loss Prevention consultant, Licensed Private Investigator, owner of a Private Security Guard agency, Concert, dance Promoter/ Instructor and D.J.”

Does Nowell have a CCW?

There is no record on the state website of a “Professional Investigator “ license for Nowell (the state term for a PI), or of a license as a security guard agency owner, required under Michigan Public Act 330 of 1968. That act says part of its purpose is “to protect the general public against unauthorized, unlicensed and unethical operations by individuals engaged in private security activity.”

It is unknown whether Nowell has a concealed weapons permit or simply carries a gun as a “retired police officer,” which would be illegal.

Nowell’s page says he is also CEO of Courtesy Process Service, LLC, and of Dance N Harmony, and that he owns Englewood Maintenance Company. The first company is registered with the state, the other two are not.

Nowell can now add to his resume that he is the killer of 18-year-old Ian May.

Note: VOD did not contact Nowell for comments, having earlier been threatened with criminal charges by the prosecutor’s office for contacting witnesses in ongoing cases.

“FLEEING FELONS” 

“Detroit 300” members at Hart Plaza rally for Trayvon Martin; Martin’s killer Zimmerman was, like them, a self-appointed “neighborhood watch” man

Pumped up by people like Attorney General Holder, Detroit police chief Ralph Godbee, and the Detroit 300, many will say that Ian May “got what he deserved.” There are more and more reports of youths dying during home break-ins and other alleged robberies in recent months.

Detroit, already the poorest city in the country, is now under “state occupation” as Rev. Charles E. Williams II says in the article below. The passage of the Public Act 4 consent agreement by the City Council provides for the virtual dismantling of most city services, meaning conditions for youth in Detroit will worsen drastically in months to come.

Michigan paralegal Edward Sanders researched Michigan’s “Self-Defense Act,” Public Act 313, which took effect in 2006. It has been compared to the Florida law Zimmerman is using to justify his killing of Trayvon Martin.

Edward Sanders

The law transformed earlier precedent under People v. Riddle, a 2002 Michigan Supreme Court case, said Sanders.

“Generally, a person acting in self-defense [had] a duty to retreat from the attack if he or she can do so safely, but retreat is never required in the person’s own home, nor is retreat required in the case of a sudden and fierce violent attack or if the person reasonably believes the attacker is about to use a deadly weapon,” Sanders wrote.

MICHIGAN’S “SELF-DEFENSE ACT”

The Michigan Self –Defense Act, however, passed after a campaign by gun rights activists, eliminated the duty to retreat in additional circumstances.

“It specifies that a person could use deadly force against another individual, without a duty to retreat, if he or she were not engaged in the commission of a crime and honestly and reasonably believed that force was necessary to prevent imminent death, bodily harm, or sexual assault,” said Sanders.

The law expanded where a person can use deadly force, from inside their home to garages, barns and yards, among other provisions. However, said Sanders, the Self-Defense Act preserved the common law duty to retreat in other circumstances.

According to a 2006 Detroit Free Press article, former Governor Jennifer Granholm signed the law, but forced changes including protecting victims of domestic assault and allowing prosecutors to investigate such shootings.

Even Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz, then president of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Association of Michigan, told the Free Press, “We don’t want murderers falsely using self-defense claims without being subject to the scrutiny of prosecutors and juries.”

TIGH CROFF CASE

Tigh Croff serving two years on a gun charge

In reality, this rarely happens. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy did bring second-degree murder charges against Tigh Croff, a 31-year-old security guard who caught two men outside his home when he returned from work, after two break-ins had occurred the previous week, in Nov. 2009.

He chased Herbert Silas, a 53-year-old unarmed homeless grandfather of 13, down the street for several blocks, then shot him to death.

“I told him he was going to die, and I shot him,” Croff told police. “I ain’t no angel, but I ain’t done nothing stupid.”

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway reduced the charges to voluntary manslaughter over the prosecutor’s objections, and later refused to recuse himself from the case. In off the record comments, Hathaway had expressed sympathy for Croff, saying he himself would not hesitate to shoot in similar circumstances.

Judge Michael Hathaway

After a hung jury in the first trial, a second jury convicted Croff of manslaughter and a firearms charge. Hathaway sentenced Croff to three years’ probation for the manslaughter charge, although he faced up to 17 years in prison. Hathaway had to sentence him to a mandatory two years in prison on a gun charge.

Croff is currently incarcerated at the Parnell Correctional Facility.

VOD COMMENTARY

Detroiters need to examine their consciences regarding whether taking private property,  particularly that belonging to predatory local store owners who pay low wages, is worth the life of youths like Ian May.

In August, 2011, another “retired Detroit police officer” shot 16-year-old Robert Coffee eight times. A gunshot wound in the back, which penetrated his lungs and heart, was likely the fatal wound. Coffee had allegedly robbed a McDonald’s at W. McNichols and Livernois. According to news reports, the “retired cop” regularly frequented to store to use its Internet.

McDonald’s the day after Robert Coffee, 16, was shot to death

Earlier, another “retired cop” shot a Grosse Pointe South High star football player, who lived in Detroit, to death on W. Seven Mile near the Lodge Freeway, claiming he had attempted to rob him.

VOD went to the scene of the McDonald’s incident the following day and saw that the front windows and door of the store were boarded up after being blasted out by the retired cop during Coffee’s attempt to escape. No eyewitnesses were present, but one youth told VOD, “It’s too bad that it takes a white person to ask questions about what happens to kids like us.”

In arguing against juvenile life without parole sentences, prisoner advocates have cited extensive medical evidence showing that full brain development including impulse control does not happen until around the age of 25. They argue that the evidence shows that youth are not as culpable as adults for what they do. The U.S. is now the only country in the world that sentences youth to death in prison. The same argument should apply to execution in the streets.

Two weeks after May died, several youths robbed another Dollar General store, but none were killed. Since then, two youths have been shot to death during home break-ins, during which one homeowner also shot his own wife, non-fatally.

Larry Hicks demands moratorium on city’s $16.9 billion debt to the banks at protest May 9, 2012

Whatever happened to “STOP OR I’LL SHOOT?” Black youths like Trayvon Martin, Ian May, and Robert Coffee are considered expendable by many in this country, “collateral damage” in the “war against crime.”

WHERE IS THE WAR AGAINST THE CRIMINAL BANKS, CORPORATIONS, AND POLITICIANS WHO HAVE DESTROYED CITIES LIKE DETROIT AND CONTINUE TO WREAK HAVOC ACROSS THE WORLD, A WORLD THESE YOUNG PEOPLE DID NOT MAKE?


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FIGHT FOR FREEDOM FUND DINNER IGNORED ASSAULT ON BLACKS IN MICHIGAN

Rev. Charles E. Williams Sr. denounced PA4 assault on Detroit and other majority-Black cities in Michigan at rally against banks’ role in destruction of Detroit May 9, 2012

By  Rev. Charles E. Williams Sr. revwilliams72@hotmail.com

May 10, 2012 

I attended the Fight for Freedom Fund dinner Sunday night, and it was abysmal and repulsive. 

At a time when African Americans in Detroit are up under a major assault and faced with state occupation, the assault on Blacks in Michigan was barely mentioned at the event.  I was at the dinner for two hours, leaving just as the keynote speaker, Eric Holder, was being introduced. I exited because I could not take any longer the ignoring of the African American plight by the event’s earlier speakers. 

At a time when Detroiters and residents of other cities with a high concentration of African Americans are being disenfranchised (or faced with voter suppression legislation), how could this very issue not be the major topic or theme of the conversation at the dinner? 

Atty.General Eric Holder, shown with Detroit NAACP President Wendell Anthony, refused U.S. Rep. John Conyers' request, made in Dec. 2011, to investigate PA4's violations of National Voting Rights Act.

The only speaker who spoke or made any significant reference to what we are faced with here in Michigan was Rachael Maddow, who rightly stated that this issue is so important, it should be the topic of conversation of newspapers and news programs all over the country.  Maddow, however, spoke for only about five minutes. She was an awards recipient, so she accepted her award, made the important observation and apologized for needing to leave early. I think she was as nauseous as I was by the time she spoke and any excuse was good enough to make a gracious exit. 

As Malcolm X said over 50 years ago regarding The March on Washington, “it was a circus,” a spectacle.

Gerard Anderson

The dinner sent mixed messages beginning with who was invited and who was introduced as friends of the NAACP. The corporate chair, Gerard Anderson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DTE Energy, was bouncing around and spoke for about fifteen minutes. Although he expressed love and concern for the main people being affected by the radical changes coming our way, I wonder how he can be in love with the same people whom his company helps oppress. It is common knowledge that DTE Energy is a major contributor to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC.) 

ALEC is anti-American and anti-democratic; it is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash from corporations like DTE, have evolved to shape legislation like Stand Your Ground, and voter suppression laws all over the country.

Inspired by Milton Friedman’s call for conservatives to “develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available,” ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: Controlling government, removing regulations on corporations like DTE and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful like Governor Snyder to account.      

March against DTE at shareholders' meeting May 3, three days before NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner


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PROTEST DISRUPTS DTE SHAREHOLDERS MEETING

DTE Pay Your Taxes! – We Need Clean & Safe Energy! DTE March & Demonstrations! This Is How They Treat Us, DTE & Police! – – A No Struggle, No Development Production! By KennySnod * *

(More photos, comments coming)

Published on May 4, 2012 by KennySnod

DTE and their shareholders have the power to change the economic condition of our communities by investing in clean energy. Clean energy like wind and solar are cleaner and cheaper than coal or nuclear energy. Almost 80% of our energy now comes from coal, which is linked to asthma, heart disease and cancer! Now DTE wants to build an other $15 billion nuclear plant that would crush Michigan families.

DTE shuts people off 200,000 times every year, including seniors and children! We need to stop the shutoffs, and stop the continuation of investing in dirty, dangerous and risky coal and nuclear.

– – A No Struggle, No Development Production! By Kenny Snodgrass, Activist, Photographer, Videographer, Author of From Victimization To Empowerment… www.trafford.com/07-0913
eBook available at www.ebookstore.sony.com
YouTube – I have over 280 community videos and over 88,000 Hits
on my YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/KennySnod


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INVESTORS FRET AFTER GREEK, FRENCH ELECTIONS, U.S. JOBS REPORT

 By Richard Hubbard LONDON | Mon May 7, 2012 11:30am BST (Reuters)

Greek and French election results rattled investors on Monday by undermining confidence in the region’s plans to cut spending and tackle its debt crisis, sending the euro to a three-month low. European shares also traded lower, with Greek stocks down 6.4 percent .ATG, but reaction was muted with the UK market closed for a holiday.

Investors sold the bonds of other weaker euro zone members after the two pro-bailout parties in Greece failed to win a parliamentary majority, rekindling fears over the country’s future in the single currency.

“With the new political situation in Greece, a (euro) exit has become much more possible than before,” said Carsten Brzeski, senior economist at ING.

In a more widely expected result, French Socialist candidate Francois Hollande claimed the presidential seat from Nicolas Sarkozy, increasing concerns that his government may try to weaken a German-led austerity drive across the region.

The signs of a renewed political crisis in Europe came just as Friday’s U.S. nonfarm payrolls report dealt a heavy blow to hopes of recovery for the world’s largest economy, sparking a widespread selloff on Wall Street and on Asian markets.

“The election results at the weekend are not helpful to calming the worries already in the market after disappointing (U.S.) payrolls report on Friday,” said Gerhard Schwarz, head of equity strategy at Baader Bank.

The euro zone’s blue chip index, the Euro STOXX 50 .STOXX50E, opened down 1.1 percent, to 2,222.37, its lowest level all year but later recovered to be off 0.45 percent. The euro hit a low of $1.2955 in Asian trading as the election results become clear but with the key UK market closed, it climbed back to trade around $1.3035, at the bottom of its $1.30-$1.35 trading band seen since February.

PERIPHERAL BONDS HIT

Europe’s sovereign debt markets were most affected by fears over the future of the region’s fiscal austerity policies, with investors fleeing to safe-haven German government bonds. German Bund futures hit record highs of 142.44, up 14 ticks, while investors sold Spanish and Italian bonds. Cash 10-year German yields were 2 basis points lower at 1.56 percent, within a whisker of the record low. Bond investors were expected to keep away from other peripheral euro zone markets in the coming days as they watch efforts to form a ruling coalition in Athens.

(VOD: video below is from last year’s elections in Spain, which unseated the “Socialist Party” there because it had not responded to the suffering of the people. “Socialist Parties” in Europe do not necessarily mean socialist revolution.)

Spain has become the recent focus of the debt crisis and industrial output for March confirmed the economy’s weakness. The government is expected to announce a rescue plan for ailing bank Bankia as part of a wider reform of the banking system, sources said on Monday.

The Spanish 10-year government yield was up six basis points at 5.84 percent but analysts expected it to re-test the psychologically important 6 percent. World equities reflected the sharp falls on Wall Street in the wake of the latest payrolls report and further selling in Asia after the European election results became clear.

The MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS fell 0.8 percent to 14-week lows at 319.01 points after Wall Street posted its worst week of the year last week when new jobs data showed U.S. hiring slowed for the second month in a row. U.S. stock index futures pointed to further falls on Monday. The surprisingly weak non-farm payrolls report for April fuelled fears of a drop in energy demand helping send Brent crude oil below $113 a barrel, its lowest level since late January. (Additional reporting by Toni Vorobyova; editing by Anna Willard)

VOD comment: Global banks have no interest in investing in the prosperity of the people, only condemning them to more unemployment, minimal wages and benefits, privatization, and poverty. That is why it is important for people to attend the rally listed in the post below. The BANKS are the enemy of working and poor people world-wide. Whether elected officials can overcome their sovereignty remains to be seen. Only an all-out revolt of the people like that of the Paris Commune, which took over the banks, can win in the end.


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PROTEST AT BANK OF AMERICA WED. MAY 9, 4 PM DOWNTOWN DETROIT


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MAY DAY PROTESTS: VIOLENCE IN OAKLAND, SEATTLE; OCCUPY DETROIT TAKES THE STREETS

Oakland police and May Day protesters face off. Video courtesy of KNTV.

MSNBC  May 1, 2012

Protesters across the world hit the streets Tuesday on May Day to rally against austerity measures and call for higher wages and more jobs.

Marches turned violent in Oakland, where protesters pounded on bank windows and went face-to-face with a police line, and in Seattle, where protesters dressed in black smashed windows and police pepper-sprayed some in the crowds. 

Protesters playing cat-and-mouse with police pounded on windows of banks and other businesses, SFGate.com reported. After surrounding a downtown Bank of America branch, protesters chanted, “Oakland is the people’s town; strike, occupy, shut it down.” they also gathered at a Wells Fargo bank branch. Police later confronted demonstrators marching through downtown. Video by NBCBayArea.com showed at least one protester being dragged away by police.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A group of May Day protesters dressed in black clothes and wearing face makeup smashed windows in downtown Seattle. Video courtesy KING

In Seattle, windows were broken and police arrested a handful of protesters as about 100 marched in downtown, NBC station KING reported. Many marchers were dressed in dark clothes, wearing face makeup and carrying sticks, live TV video showed. Police pepper-sprayed several protesters as problems developed. KING reported numerous tires slashed and large amounts of glass on the ground from vehicles and buildings, including the old federal courthouse, smashed by protesters. Peaceful protesters remained at the downtown Westlake Plaza, where speeches and concerts continued, KING reported.

“Part of me, I want to understand where they’re coming from and then they pull something like this,” said Sam, who would not give his last name, as he saw the back window of his car smashed out by protesters. Sam was on holiday from his home in British Columbia. “I’m from Canada,” he said, “imagine the impression this gives me of the United States.”

Occupy Detroiters marched from old train station to Grand Circus Park

 In the United States, the protests are seen as the biggest test for the Occupy movement since many of its camps were shuttered late last year. Occupiers in more than 100 cities across the country were expected to protest on the day that traditionally celebrates workers’ rights.

“We’ve got hundreds of people out already and I know a lot of people are going to be trickling in as the day goes along. We’ve had pickets at the Bank of America, Chase, Disney,” Mark Bray of the Occupy Wall Street PR team said as protesters in Manhattan chanted “We are the 99 percent” in the background. “(The) mood is very spirited, the rain is lightening up.”

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

About 1,000 Occupy protesters were based at New York’s Bryant Park. As about 250 protesters left to march on banks after noon, they chanted “Out of the stores, into the streets” and “Banks got bailed out; we got sold out.”

Robby McGeddon, 47, a tech worker carrying a maypole for May Day, said, “There’s too much fear for the general public to actually want to strike. They don’t want to lose their job. … We haven’t reached that tipping point where people are more frightened for some place to live. … It will get to the tipping point but right now we’re just practicing.”

“We’re trying to find new, positive community-building ways to engage and protest and be a part of the burgeoning civil dialogue about what this country should be doing,” said Daphne Carr, 33, co-organizer of the Occupy Music Working Group.

About 300 musicians led a march of about 1,000 down Fifth Avenue to Union Square in Manhattan. The crowd swelled to about 3,000 later in the day as unions reperesenting teachers, transport workers, nurses, musicians and others in lively afternoon of art and music.

Carr said music making “has been eroded from our public sphere so we’re taking and re-claiming the right to play music publicly together in the streets, in the parks without permits, and that it’s a safe and natural part of being a part of the city.”

“Get a job,” one man said as he elbowed his way through the crowd of protesters.

“This is like the resurgence of the Occupy Wall Street movement,” said photographer Joel Simpson, 65, of Union, N.J., as the “guitarmy” sang “This land is your land” in the background. Though most of New York City didn’t know the May Day protest was going on, he said, the Occupy movement “touches public consciousness in a very broad way and politicians have to at least pay lip service to it.”


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DETROIT STUDENTS WALK OUT AGAINST SCHOOL CLOSURES AND CONDITIONS; HOLD FREEDOM SCHOOL

Some of students who walked out against Southwestern HS closure in Clark Park April 25, 2012/WSWS photo

By Lawrence Porter

http://www.wsws.org
April 27, 2012 

Over 200 students at two high schools in Detroit’s southwestern neighborhood, Southwestern High and Western International, walked out of class on Wednesday to protest the closure of Southwestern, the poor conditions at Western, and the growth of charter schools.

Students from Western said they walked out of school just before 11 a.m. in sympathy with the students at Southwestern High School, which is among nine schools slated for closure next year in the Detroit Public Schools district.

Natalie Rivera/WSWS photo

“Our walkout at Western was inspired by the walkout at Southwestern and it was in solidarity with it, but it was also against the conditions in our school system,” stated Freddie Burse, one of the leaders of the walkout.

Freddie said the students organized the event themselves via Facebook after a student heard that there was going to be a walkout at Southwestern.

“The purpose of the demonstration was to make our voices heard and to speak up on our education system because we feel there are a lot problems there,” continued Burse.

“We are also opposed to the growth of charter schools. The main one here is Caesar Chavez. The privatization of schools is the death of the school system.”

Several students said they were especially upset with the announcement that Southwestern High School would be closed next year.

Denby High students Anjanette Payne, 16; Zana Davis, 17; Marquita Kennedy, 16 and Tamara Hollis, 17. “As a senior, I feel it’s not just about me, it’s about other kids too,” said Davis, one of the organizers of the boycott. (Laura Phelps / The Detroit News)

“It’s about trying to save Southwestern High School,” stated Natalie Rivera, a junior at Western, as she and several hundred students gathered in Clark Park with students from her school and Southwestern. “We are tired of the closing of the schools. We want them to stop.

“Southwestern students walked out so we felt we should walk out in solidarity. We want all of the schools to join together,” continued Rivera. “We don’t even have proper books in the school. We have to learn with old stuff that is not updated. The teachers take their own money to pay for the stuff we need.”

The walkouts at Western International and Southwestern are the third student walkouts in the last month in Detroit.

Denby High students Anjanette Payne, 16; Zana Davis, 17; Marquita Kennedy, 16 and Tamara Hollis, 17. “As a senior, I feel it’s not just about me, it’s about other kids too,” said Davis, one of the organizers of the boycott. (Laura Phelps / The Detroit News)

Last month students at Denby High school walked out after the announcement that the school will be placed in the new statewide district for what are being billed as low-performing schools—the Education Achievement Authority (EAA). Another spontaneous protest took place at Fredrick Douglass Academy when 50 students walked out because they did not have teachers. After protesting that they wanted an education, the students were suspended for a day.

The Detroit school system has been decimated by the actions of a series of Emergency Managers—state-appointed directors that take over a school district in financial distress, that have been appointed by both Democratic and Republican governors—the systematic defunding of the system by state and federal administrations and the collapse of city property tax revenues, the archaic basis of public education funding in the US.

Avontae Latham/WSWS photo

The present Emergency Manager, Roy Roberts, appointed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, is implementing the closure of Southwestern. Roberts, a former General Motors executive, has outlined a plan to model a new school district dominated by charter schools similar to the New Orleans Recovery School District created after Hurricane Katrina. The charter school policy is in line with President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top educational initiative.

Avonte Latham, a junior involved in the walkout, said the government should provide more financial assistance to the Detroit school district. “I feel Michigan needs to give more money for schools. This is holding things back by closing schools,” charged Avonte.

“I don’t think they should be closing schools every year. They are forcing people to leave Michigan. When they decided to close Southwestern HS we decided to take a stand. Enough is enough. They are taking the schools out of the DPS system and putting them in a new system. It’s not right.”

Gabriela Alcazar/WSWS photo

Several students and their supporters said the closure of Southwestern would have a major impact on the choices for schools next year. Gabriela Alcazar, a community activist who attended the protest, said the students at Southwestern have been given two choices for schools that will only make matters worse.

“If Southwestern is closed the student will either go to Western or Northwestern,” stated Alcazar. “Southwestern is already overstretched with 1,700 students. Northwestern is 15 miles away.”

The author recommends:

Detroit schools manager names schools to close this fall
[10 February 2012]

Jerry White campaigns in Detroit against school closings
[14 February 2012]

Detroit school czar targets 15 schools, 600 teachers
[21 March 2012]

School districts throughout Detroit area face cuts
[18 May 2011]

STUDENTS SUSPENDED IN WALKOUT HOLD FREEDOM SCHOOL 

Students protest in Clark Park, across the street from Western International High School in Detroit Wednesday, April 25, 2012. Students suspended for the action are now planning to hold a "freedom school" in the same pa

By David Sands

April 27, 2012 

Students suspended for walking out of class at Detroit’s Western International High School earlier this week to protest school closures and demand a better education, are holding a “freedom school” Friday in Clark Park, across the street from their official school building.

Students left class Wednesday morning to protest the closing of Southwestern High School, which many fear would lead to overcrowding at Western, and to demand more resources and greater teacher engagement for the district’s schools.

Southwestern’s nearly 600 students will be offered space at Western International and Northwestern high schools next year, according to the district.

Detroit school board member Elena Herrada waiting to testify against consent agreement at Detroit City Council meeting April 2, 2012

Detroit Board of Education member Elena Herrada told the Detroit News that up to 180 students were suspended from Western and Southwestern high schools following Wednesday’s action. Detroit Public Schools spokesman Steven Wasko told The Huffington Post about 100 students were suspended for five days following the walkout.

School officials at Western did not return repeated requests for comment.

Wasko said concerns about a potential lack of supplies at Western are unfounded. “Western was one of the schools with top scholarships awards, coming in after Renaissance and Cass” high schools for the 2010-11 school year, securing more than $13.9 million in grants and scholarships.

One Western student told The Huffington Post she could be facing more than a suspension. Raychel Gafford, 17, said she has been singled out by school authorities for her vocal role in the walkout and that the district’s police have indicated she may face unspecified charges.

Gafford said students are organizing the freedom school for the same reasons they walked out. “We’re sticking together and we’re not backing down from this,” she said. “We were thrown out of school for fighting for an equal education and we’re doing this to show we’re still going to be learning even if we got kicked out of school.”

Classes at the freedom school will be held with help from community volunteers for the duration of the students’ suspensions, including over the weekend.

Greg Pratt posted this photo with an account of the Freedom School on its Facebook page

A Facebook page promoting the freedom school puts the number of participating students at more than 150:

We do not understand why we are being punished with a loss of educational opportunity when that is exactly what we were fighting for. To further demonstrate our commitment to education, we will be attending our own school taught by ourselves and community educators for the duration of our suspension.

Gafford said the freedom school would cover a number of subjects, including the history of the civil rights movement, hip-hop, and art classes, and that space would be provided for students to make up missed class work.

Raychel’s mother, Amber Gafford, 34, said she supports her daughter and other students fighting for a quality education.

“I wish there were more kids doing this,” she said of their decision to walk out. “The children, they aren’t doing it to be malicious to the school. They have a reason they’re doing it. Their voices should be heard.”

The freedom school is the latest in a series of recent student actions at Detroit schools.

Around 50 students were suspended March 29 after leaving their classrooms at Frederick Douglass Academy to protest the school’s shortage of teachers. And hundreds of students marched in front of Denby High School on March 16 to protest their school’s transfer into a new state-run district.

Below is WSWS video of parents protesting former DPS EFM Robert Bobb’s firing of Western High School principal.


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UNION FILES SUIT TO PRESERVE DETROIT DHS, RESTORE FUNDS FOR POOR; ANGRY RESIDENTS SAY “MICHIGAN IS NEW JIM CROW”

Kawhnua Liggins takes her daughter to day care April 24; her D-DHS grant to pay for it has now been cut/Photo ClickonDetroit Channel Four

By Diane Bukowski

April 29, 2012

DETROIT – A union representing Detroit Department of Human Services (D-DHS) workers filed suit April 19, demanding the restoration of millions in federal funds withheld by Michigan Department of Human Services (M-DHS) director Maura Corrigan since Oct. 2011. The suit requests the maintenance of D-DHS’s designation as a Community Action Agency (CAA), and an injunction preventing Wayne Metro Community Action Agency (WMCAA) or any other entity from taking over its programs.

APTE President Dempsey Addison at first Occupy Detroit march in 2011

“As a result of Director Corrigan’s illegal cut-off of CSBG funds to the City of Detroit, the neediest Detroiters are being denied desperately needed services, services which are vital to their very survival,” says the lawsuit. It was filed by Attorney Jerome Goldberg on behalf of Dempsey Addison, President of the Association of Professional and Technical Employees, and DHS employee Cecily McClellan.

(Click on APTE lawsuit and letters to read suit as well as letters from APTE to the federal government.)

D-DHS assists residents in fighting foreclosures, evictions and utility shut-offs, provides food, clothing, day-care and transportation, and helps fund non-profits like Young Detroit Builders. It also ran the city’s home weatherization program, which was turned over to WMCAA April 1, with hundreds of workers and contractors left unpaid, and work on homes unfinished.

Funding for the city’s Head Start Program, amounting to $55 million, which D-DHS coordinates through contractors, is being transferred as well.

Detroit Head Start program; funding transferred from D-DHS

Kawhnua Liggins, who was taking her toddler to a day care program, told Channel Four reporter Paula Tutman April 25 that she needs the grant D-DHS provides. Tutman reported it had been cut the day before and that three-quarters of the families at the day care center have lost their grants beginning last fall.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing gets hug from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who now controls him and city's government.

“If I don’t have that money, I could lose my job,” Liggins said. “Jobs are bad right now, so I only work part-time. Child care is every bit of $150 to $200 a week, and my check is only $120 a week. I can’t afford to pay rent and my other bills on top of child care.”

Council President Charles Pugh told Tutman that funds were cut due to alleged mismanagement, but was not quoted regarding the letter City Council sent to the state refusing to voluntarily de-certify D-DHS. (Letter is attached to lawsuit PDF referenced above.)

(Click on http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/Detroit-families-say-they-re-struggling-after-state-cuts-funding-to-human-services-department/-/1719418/11860610/-/o703bo/-/index.html to view full broadcast.)

Mayor Dave Bing, who now reports to the state under the recently enacted “Financial Stability [Consent] Agreement,” announced in his April 12 budget address that he would cut off all funding for D-DHS in the coming year.

Debra Taylor at earlier meeting of Detroit Financial Review Team

“Michigan has become up South, the new Jim Crow,” Debra Taylor testified during a state administrative hearing April 23. “You can’t just dress this pig up and put perfume on it. Turning over D-DHS has nothing to with the city’s deficit or with mishandling of funds. It is racism, another power grab along with the illegal Public Act 4 takeover of Detroit.”

The suit requests a temporary restraining order and writ of mandamus (to compel a government officer to perform a duty) against defendants Corrigan, Mayor Dave Bing and Kirk Lewis. A hearing is set for Friday, May 11, 2012 at 9 a.m. before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen McDonald in the Coleman A. Young Center, 2 Woodward Avenue, Rm. 1507.

The suit says laws a review of any proposed termination of funds must be completed at both the state and federal levels BEFORE funds are cut-off. It challenges the state’s assertion that D-DHS has been responsible for massive misuse of funds. D-DHS workers face lay-offs this June as a result of the allegations. (Click on DHS Closing for documents APTE gathered containing favorable state D-DHS audits under Stacie Gibson, former director of the Michigan Bureau of Community Action and Economic Opportunity.)

“The state violated federal guidelines and the legal process when it withheld $8 million over six months ago,” lawsuit plaintiff Addison testified at the April 23 hearing. “It hurt thousands of Detroiters by cutting off essential services. What right do you have to sit here like a judge and mislead the people?”

D-DHS Commissioner Tia Comart speaks at state hearing April 23; Stephanie Comai is at right on judge's bench

Stephanie Comai, Acting Director of the Bureau of Community Action and Economic Opportunity, and an M-DHS employee, presided over the hearing in a State Court of Appeals (COA) courtroom in the Cadillac Building. She and two others sat at the bench normally used only by COA judges.

The little-publicized hearing was a step in adversarial proceedings brought by the state subsequent to the Detroit City Council’s earlier vote against voluntary termination of D-DHS’s CAA status. (Click on http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/03/06/corrigan-demands-council-hand-over-control-of-city-dhs/  for earlier VOD article.)

Detroiters who opposed takeover of D-DHS at hearing April 23.

Mayor Dave Bing previously told the state the “city agreed” to the voluntary termination, but statutes require that the City Council also sign off.

Dozens of Detroiters who testified April 23 demanded copies of the state’s “comprehensive monitoring report” recommending de-certification of D-DHS and its specific reasons for doing so, which was not provided at the meeting. Comai referred to it in a March 23, 2012 letter to D-DHS director Ursula Holland, attached to the APTE lawsuit.

The lawsuit says such a report must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but “on information and belief, a report in conformance with [federal law] stating the basis for such a determination has not been prepared and submitted.”

Comai said she would send a copy to those who requested it at the meeting, including this reporter, but it has not yet been received.

WMCAA President Jodi Adamovich, board member Thelmas Chonko, CEO Louis Piszker, who operates for-profit Thornton Park LP out of WMCAA Ecorse office

Comai said M-DHS plans to temporarily turn D-DHS programs over to the Wyandotte-based WMCAA, while issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) open to non-profits which will be “a high-performing effective service operators.” She said WMCAA would be opening offices in Detroit shortly to resume services that have been cut off.

Precinct Delegate and former Detroit School Board Member Marie Thornton challenged Comai’s statement that D-DHS is the ONLY one of 30 CAA’s in the state with compliance problems.

“You said the 29 other agencies are perfect,” Thornton declared. “Well, tell me about the 29 perfect agencies so I can say to Detroit, ‘Shame on you.’”

Precinct delegate and former Detroit school board member Marie Thornton at earlier meeting

She asked whether Comai would open an investigation into corruption at WMCCA. Testimony was given that WMCAA’s CEO Louis Piszker runs a for-profit real estate company, Thornton Park Limited Partnership, out of WMCAA’s Ecorse office, and that WMCAA sold a property to his business for $10. Confronted with an increasingly hostile audience, Comai reluctantly said she would.

Several speakers asked Comai why she is not investigating Mayor Dave Bing as well, since he directed former D-DHS director Shenetta Coleman to use $400 million in federal grant funds to help pay off the city’s $1.5 billion Pension Obligation Certificates (POC) debt, as well as to fund construction of new offices for D-DHS at the Herman Kiefer Health Complex on Taylor. (Click on lawsuit)

Several of the Department’s elected Commissioners testified angrily that they had not been consulted by the state about the proposed action, as required by state law. The failure to do so is also cited in the APTE lawsuit.

Les Little speaking at City Council hearing on consent agreement

Comai said they had spoken with the commission chair, but Commissioner Tia Collette Comart said the chair is appointed by the Mayor and has not shared any information with the rest of the commission.

“I am the first chair, and am in an elected position,” she said. “No one said anything to the first chair, the second chair, only to Mayor Bing. “I am a Head Start parent and assistant secretary for Hartford Memorial’s Head Start program and I object to this attack by the state. ” She gave her email address in testimony, which is commissionertia@gmail.com.

Commissioner Carolyn Thompson said, “Detroiters’ voter rights are being trampled. I am insulted that I am being asked to re-apply with the new CAA for a position to which I was already elected. The City of Detroit is ravaged by poverty, but now you are cutting residents off of utility assistance and other vital services.”

Michigan Auditor General Thomas McTavish

“It’s time for Detroit to do what a bunch of patriots did in the 1700,’s” said Les Little. “We have been under assault from the State of Michigan since Public Act 4 and the consent agreement. Time and time again services we pay taxes for have not been rendered to our people.”

Several speakers challenged Comai because M-DHS itself was cited by State Auditor-General Thomas McTavish for a lack of financial controls and millions of dollars in questionable purchases, in an August 16, 2011 audit.

The audit revealed that the same employees created and processed invoices and then approved the checks to pay them. McTavish also found a lack of documentation for purchases of computers and other electric applicances allegedly provided to M-DHS clients, among other issues. For further information, click on http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/08/dhs_audit_finds_millions_in_qu.html.


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THOUSANDS OCCUPY DOWNTOWN DETROIT, DEMANDING “GE PAY YOUR TAXES!”

We Pay Our Taxes! Why Doesn’t GE! – – A No Struggle, No Development Production!   By Kenny Snodgrass

Thousands of citizens marched at the GE Annual Shareholder Meeting in Detroit Michigan on April 25, 2012 at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance. Marchers came to demand that GE “Pay Their Fair Share Of Taxes.” They marched on East Jefferson and on the river front side as well. About two dozen shareholders were escorted out of the meeting, after standing to make their demands heard. They included Pastors William Rideout, Homer Jamison and Walter Starghill of Detroit and Inkster. The Free Press reported that GE Vice Chair and Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin said “We pay our taxes.” GE paid $2.6 billion in taxes to the USA last year, but they were offset by tax breaks, according to the marchers.

  *A No Struggle, No Development Production! By Kenny Snodgrass, Activist, Photographer, Videographer, Author of From Victimization To Empowerment…

www.trafford.com/07-0913  eBook at www.ebookstore.sony.com

 I have over 275 community videos and over 87,000 Hits
on my YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/KennySnod 
 

GE protesters packed East Jefferson curb to curb April 25, 2012

By Diane Bukowski

 April 26, 2012 

Youth participated in protest en masse

DETROIT – Thousands of  marchers, many of them Black youth, union members and church leaders, occupied the streets of downtown Detroit for several hours April 25 outside General Electric’s national shareholders meeting at the Renaissance Center. 

They chanted non-stop, “GE, pay your taxes” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, corporate greed has got to go!” They came from metro Detroit, and from all over the Midwest in busloads, including Wisconsin and Ohio. 

Leaders skillfully coordinated the mass occupation of the streets, keeping the marchers in solid blocs behind the RenCen, where they were supposed to remain, and then down the side streets onto East Jefferson and up to the front doors of the RenCen. Despite threats and shoving by Detroit police on horseback and in dozens of cars, they were not able to make arrests. 

Protesters round the side of the RenCen to confront GE at front

Pastors William Rideout, Homer Jamison and Walter Starghill from Detroit and Inkster led the occupation after disrupting the shareholders’ meeting inside.  They tried to present GE CEO Jeff Immett with a bill for $26.5 billion, which they said the company owes the U.S.  in back taxes based on the 35 percent statutory rate. 

A GE spokesman said the company paid $2.9 billion GLOBALLY, but had its tax rate reduced due to falling sales in previous years. 

Many of the protesters have occupied DTE's headquarters as well.

The three pastors, along with Good Jobs Now! and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have also led militant occupations of DTE Energy’s downtown Detroit headquarters, again with large contingents of Black youth. A group of young women carried letter placards spelling out “D-T-E” during the march. 

Youth celebrate the rising of the 99 percent against GE

In a city where many youth have lost hope for their future, the numbers participating in the GE protest were astonishing. They danced and chanted, excited to be fighting the real public enemy, instead of each other. 

“This affects me,” said Jataveyis Price, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He carried a sign calling GE a tax dodger. “The youth could have education, jobs and health care by getting all these tax dodgers out and fixing our deficit.” 

Jetayvis

Jataveyis Price

GE is known for moving its plants overseas to take advantage of low wages, leaving hundreds of thousands jobless in the U.S. 

Jerome Jackson, who is fighting the foreclosure of his home in Inkster, came in his wheelchair. 

 “If GE paid their fair share, it could be used for bringing our city out of the red and into the green.” 

Jackson has another hearing pending June 7 at 2 p.m. in 22nd District Court, and is being supported by Moratorium NOW!, Occupy Detroit, and People Before Banks, who have rallied outside his home. 

Charles Whitmore is the regional coordinator for MoveOn.Org, representing western Wayne and Oakland Counties. 

Charles Whitmore and Chuck Altman (l), Jerome Jackson (r)

“GE is a criminal for not paying its fair share,” Whitmore said. “They are holding up the economic recovery with their tax breaks, along with the subsidies that the oil companies and other corporations get. Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided that corporations are people, they need to become good citizens. It’s so ironic that the corporations could actually make more money by cooperating with the people instead of laying them off and foreclosing on them, because they would have more customers. “ 

Chuck Altman added, “GE is a major defense contractor, with contracts from the Pentagon for equipment like jet turbine engines. This country needs more butter, not more guns.”

Carrying signs proclaiming, “Windmills not Weapons,” Carolyn Doherty and Charlotte Kish explained, “GE also makes machinery for nuclear reactors, which are unsafe at any price.” 

JOBS NOW!

Marchers wearing purple SEIU T-Shirts were everywhere. Chris Michalakis, president of the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, said the planning committee for the march included the United Auto Workers (UAW) and other unions as well. 

However, no signs from the UAW, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and other major unions were in evidence. 

Tax the 1% for Health Care

Before the march, the daily media including Nolan Finley of the Detroit News blasted the protesters’ plans.

“. . . there’s a real risk . . . investors will witness instead a confirmation that Metro Detroit is ground zero for the destructive war against wealth and business,” Finley proclaimed April 22. “Groups tied to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the United Auto Workers’ 99% Spring action SWAT team have been recruiting protesters to stage an anti-World Trade Organization-style protest in the streets around the RenCen.

“But if massive numbers of raucous demonstrators disrupt the GE meeting, it will be a disaster for Detroit,” Finley continued. “Other business gatherings will avoid the city like the plague, hurting the convention business and killing jobs. More broadly, it will affirm that Detroit is still in the clutches of militant unions, hostile to business and a lousy place to plant money.”’

Pastor leads prayer at front of RenCen; if pastors can organize the people, why can't union leaders?

The News later reported that UAW President Bob King was re-considering his union’s participation. 

SEIU was in the house: where were the other unions?

Despite the recent disastrous state takeover of Detroit, and the cut-offs of hundreds of thousands of state residents from public assistance, many major unions have refused to call on the economic clout still held by Michigan workers. So far, leaders have refused to declare an all-union general strike, like those in Greece which forced the international banks to reduce their demands for that country’s debt payments by 75 percent. 

The only time many union leaders appear to unite is to negotiate contract concessions as a group, despite the fact that such concessions have sapped both the union membership and living and working conditions for people everywhere, since the 1970’s. 

The turnout of thousands, predominantly youth, at the RenCen April 26 shamed  these other unions. Combined with the resources of the major unions, the national 99% movement could eventually triumph against the “destructive war” on working and poor people.

Protesters take the streets behind RenCen, backing off police


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