Stand up for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s life with us for an informational demonstration on Friday at the Spirit of Detroit statue downtown in solidarity with worldwide actions in support of Mumia.
Political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, former Black Panther and outspoken opponent against police brutality, is being tortured with medical neglect by the PA Department of Corrections and Fraternal Order of Police. The mass movement has saved his life before when he faced execution by the state – and we will do it again!
This ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ has been a long time inspiration for our movement against racist oppression. This is why the forces of reaction want to kill him behind the prison walls. Let’s do everything that we can to save our brother Mumia’s life.
Video above contributed by the Detroit People’s Platform
Groups demand moratorium on foreclosures
Treasurer extends payment deadline to May 1
But should people pay inflated, illegal bills to profit the banks?
Some say NO, demand a current assessment of home value, cancel county debt to banks
Protesters swamp sidewalks outside Treasurer’s office March 31.
By Diane Bukowski
April 8, 2015
DETROIT – Hundreds of Wayne County residents from numerous groups protested the pending property tax foreclosures of 37,000 homes, with an estimated 100,000 residents, during the tax payment deadline last month.
They confronted Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz at his home March 30, trying to deliver hundreds of petitions, and at his offices March 31.
“Detroit, the largest majority African-American major city in the country, now faces the largest forced housing evictions possibly in the history of the United States,” Linda Campbell of the Detroit People’s Platform told a crowd of 50 people before they got on a bus to travel to Wojtowicz’s home at 15310 Carlisle in Detroit.
Detroit People’s Platform holds candlelight vigil at Treasurer Wojtowicz’ home March 30.
She said the announced foreclosures affect nearly one-sixth of Detroit’s population. The People’s Platform is demanding at least a one-year moratorium on all foreclosures of occupied homes.
“Many Detroiters and Wayne County Residents are being foreclosed upon due to incorrect tax bills with exaggerated property assessments and disputed water bill liens,” Campbell continued. “Persistent and high rates of unemployment, government cuts to services Detroiters rely on and increased displacement and forced relocation will result in enormous physical and mental stress and trauma on children and families.”
Outside the Treasurer’s offices in downtown Detroit, at 400 Monroe, dozens more marched on March 31, while others poured into the building to try to negotiate deals with Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski, and pay their tax bills.
Cornell Squires tells protesters tax bills are illegal, demands no foreclosures, escrow payments until reassessment.
Protesters outside chanted, “Housing is a human right, fight, fight, fight,” and carried signs with slogans like “Tax Foreclosure is a Crime.” They included members of Moratorium NOW, Detroit Eviction Defense, the Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association, and the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association, among others.
They also called for a moratorium. They said delinquent taxes can be paid using $251 million of unspent federal Helping Hardest Hit Homeowner Funds. Those funds have largely been diverted to billionaire Dan Gilbert, head of Detroit’s “Blight Removal Task Force,” to demolish acres of properties across Detroit, creating in reality a virtual “Black Removal.”
Krystal Price of RICO Busters shows sign depicting foreclosure fraud in Wayne County.
“These funds could be used to prevent the thousands of foreclosures which will further destroy our neighborhoods. . . .[and help in] resolving the financial crises in Wayne County and Detroit, which in large part are a result of declining revenues as a result of tax foreclosures,” a representative of Moratorium NOW! said.
Shortly afterwards, to the uncritical acclaim of the mainstream media, Wojtowicz announced the deadline for payment would be extended six weeks. The date is not listed on the Treasurer’s website, but that should make it Tues. May 1. Wojtowicz has actually extended these deadlines for years, but he appears especially intent on getting his payments now. The County has been facing a possible state takeover due to its ballooning budget deficit.
Cornell Squires of We the People and RICO Busters said he was not impressed with Wojtowicz’s extension and called on people NOT to pay their taxes during the six weeks, until they get accurate assessments of their homes’ value.
Taxpayers line up to pay and make arrangements to prevent foreclosure inside 400 Monroe March 31, 2015.
“They’re just trying to put fear in the people so they will run out, borrow money and get into more debt, so they don’t lose their homes,” Squires said. “Those tax bills are illegal, essentially criminal false statements, because they are not based on annual reassessments of property value, required by state law. The Treasurer is just extending the time so he can rake in more money.”
Squires, who has helped hundreds of people with foreclosure issues, suggested that instead of paying their taxes, people should put the money into personal escrow accounts, pending a current assessment, and so notify the Treasurer.
Dr. Sandra Simmons (r) and Prof. Charles Simmons (in cap) of HUSH House join protest: HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT!
“Taxpayers can request that a city assessor come out to their house, like I did in 2012, and do a proper appraisal, inside and out, not just taking pictures,” Squires said. He said the assessor found a crack in his home’s foundation when he came out and eventually lowered his assessment. The Detroit Assessor’s office is located in Rm. 804 of the Coleman A. Young Center. Click on http://www.propertytax101.org/michigan/city-of-detroit/taxassessor for further information including phone numbers.
“The government charged Kwame Kilpatrick with perjury for making a false statement denying his affair with Christine Beatty,” Squires said. “Along with other charges, he ended up with 28 years in prison. How many years should Wojtowicz and his cronies get for making false tax reports and throwing 100,000 people in the street?”
Wayne County Treasurer (forever) Raymond Wojtowicz cooked Delinquent Tax Fund books, Wayne Co. Auditor General Willie Mayo reported last year; why wasn’t he charged?
Last year, Wayne County Auditor General Willie Mayo reported that Wojtowicz WAS committing fraud by cooking the books on the county’s Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund. He said Wojtowicz had concealed up to $127 million by placing it in “restricted” accounts.
After the exposure, Wojtowicz agreed to give up $150 million to the county’s general fund from the restricted accounts to decrease its deficit. The delinquent tax fund is comprised of taxes, penalties and fees charged on top of delinquent property taxes, then used as collateral to obtain loans from the banks to make more money and more debt. (Click on Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund to read document establishing fund.)
BELOW IS INTERVIEW OF DETROIT HOMEOWNER DESCRIBING WHAT SHE WENT THROUGH TRYING TO PAY HER TAXES MARCH 31./Courtesy Detroit People’s Platform.
That fund is another source that could be used to pay off delinquent taxes, in addition to the Hardest Hit Funds.
In February, newly-elected Wayne County Executive Warren Evans announced that he expects a much larger deficit this year than that former Executive Robert Ficano had predicted. So the money Wojtowicz is trying to rake in from property taxes will go first to pay off the banks to forestall another budget deficit and possible state takeover and/or bankruptcy.
Activist pastor Bill Wylie-Kellerman (left) takes part in March 31 protest.
On Feb. 6, Moody’s downgraded its rating of Wayne County’s General Obligation Limited Tax debt by three notches to a junk level of BA3, with a negative outlook, meaning interest on county debt will increase dramatically.
“The negative outlook reflects our expectation that the county faces hurdles in implementing significant cost reductions,” Moody’s said in its report. “Failure to reach structural balance in the near term will further degrade available liquidity and could raise the probability of state intervention and increase the risk of the county seeking to restructure its debt and other obligations.”
“We’re on the verge of another riot,” Cheryl West told Fox 2 News. She lost her family’s home of 60 years in 2014 auction.
It said the County’s rating could plummet further under various conditions, including “Lack of improvement in regional economic conditions that limits the stabilization of funding or exerts further downward stress on property tax revenues,” and “Initiation by [the] county of efforts to restructure debt obligations through consent agreement or seeking Chapter 9 protection.”
So will Wayne County become the next Detroit? If so, why should people throw their hard-earned money into the county coffers just to see it sucked up by greedy Wall Street banksters? Emergency management in Detroit and a subsequent declaration of Chapter 9 bankruptcy have left city retirees, workers, and other residents, particularly unemployed youth in much more dire circumstances, as the city’s assets including its $6 billion Water and Sewerage Department are sold off.
Protesters call for cancellation of Detroit’s debt to banks May 9, 2012; Wayne County’s debt should also be cancelled.
IT’S NEVER-ENDING WAR ON PEOPLE OF COLOR AND POOR IN THE U.S.!
Another white cop kills a Black man, shooting him in back, is charged
N. Charleston police are 80 % white in 47% Black city
By Bruce Smith and Jeffrey Collins
April 8, 2015
Walter Scott, now 50, killed by white cop Michael Slager. He was honorably discharged from Coast Guard, had no violent record.
North Charleston, S.C. — A white South Carolina police officer who claimed he killed a Black man in self-defense was quickly charged with murder after a bystander’s video recorded him firing eight shots at the man’s back as he ran away. Government authorities sought Wednesday to contain the outrage as protests began.
About 40 to 50 people gathered Wednesday outside City Hall in North Charleston, led by a group formed after the fatal shooting of another black man in Ferguson, Missouri.
The video, provided to the dead man’s family and lawyer by an unidentified person who shot the footage, shows North Charleston Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager dropping his stun gun, pulling out his handgun and firing at Walter Lamer Scott from a distance as he runs away. The 50-year-old man falls after the eighth shot, fired after a brief pause.
Protesters condemn white cop’s murder of Walter Scott outside N. Charleston city hall. AP
Scott’s parents appeared separately on TV shows Wednesday morning, a day after the officer was charged.
Walter Scott Sr. said that in the video, the officer “looked like he was trying to kill a deer running through the woods” as he shoots his son. He told NBC’s “Today Show” that his son may have run because he owed child support and didn’t want to go back to jail.
Judy Scott, the slain man’s mother, called the video “the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.”
Walter Scott’s parents and brother on the “Today” show.
“I almost couldn’t look at it to see my son running defenselessly, being shot. It just tore my heart to pieces,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
The bystander who recorded the scene provided the video to Scott’s family and lawyers, who made it available to the media on Tuesday. The man remains unidentified, but is assisting investigators.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey announced the murder charge at a news conference Tuesday, saying Slager had made “a bad decision.”
“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” Summey said. “When you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision.”
Killer cop Slager checks for pulse in Walter Scott’s neck after he killed him. Video goes on to show him dropping an object next to Scott.
Police initially released a statement that promised a full investigation but relied largely on the officer’s description of the confrontation, which began with a traffic stop Saturday as Slager pulled Scott over for a faulty brake light.
On Monday, Slager’s then-attorney David Aylor released another statement saying the officer felt threatened and fired because Scott was trying to grab Slager’s stun gun.
Aylor dropped Slager as a client after the video surfaced, and the officer, a five-year veteran with the North Charleston police, appeared without a lawyer at his first appearance Tuesday. He was denied bond and could face 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.
N. Charleston killer cop Michael Slager
The shooting comes amid a plunge in trust between law enforcement and minority communities after the officer-involved killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York. Nationwide protests intensified after grand juries declined to indict the officers in both cases.
“We have to take a stand on stuff like this,” said Lance Braye, 23, who helped organize Wednesday’s demonstration in North Charleson, led by a local “Black Lives Matter” group. “We can’t just shake our heads at our computer screens.”
Scott’s family and their attorney, L. Chris Stewart, appealed to keep the protests peaceful, saying the swift murder charge shows that the justice system is working so far in this case.
But Stewart said the video alone forced authorities to act decisively.
“What if there was no video? What if there was no witness, or hero as I call him, to come forward?” asked Stewart, adding that the family plans to sue the police.
The video shows an interaction between Scott and the officer, with the officer reaching at the man and the two seeming to touch near the hands before Scott tried to flee.
Walter Scott with one of his four children and mother.
The video shows Scott falling face-down from about 30 feet away after being shot in the back. The officer then slowly walks toward him and orders Scott to put his hands behind his back, but the man doesn’t move. Slager then pulls Scott’s arms back and cuffs his hands. Then he walks briskly back to where he fired the shots, picks up an object, and returns to Scott’s prone body, dropping the object by Scott’s feet, the video shows.
Scott had four children, was engaged and had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard. There were no violent offenses on his record, Stewart said. He also speculated that Scott may have tried to run because he owed child support, which can lead to jail time in South Carolina until it is paid.
The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are investigating as well. Proving that an officer willfully deprived an individual of his or her civil rights has historically been a tall burden for federal prosecutors, particularly when an officer uses force during a rapidly unfolding physical confrontation in which split-second decisions are made.
MICHAEL BROWN: NO JUSTICE FROM USDOJ!
The Justice Department spent months investigating the Ferguson shooting before declining to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson in that case. But it’s easier to make cases against officers who use force as an act of retribution or who can make no reasonable claim that their life was in jeopardy when they took action.
North Charleston is South Carolina’s third-largest city. For years, it battled an economic slump caused by the mid-1990s closing of the Charleston Naval Base on the city’s waterfront. The city has bounced back since, largely because of a huge investment by Boeing, which has a 787 aircraft manufacturing plant in the city and employs about 7,500 people in South Carolina, most in North Charleston.
The city’s population was about 47 percent Black in 2010, according to census figures from 2010 — the most recent data that breaks out population by race. [The city’s police department is 80 percent white, according to the New York Times.]
UPDATES April 9-10, 2015:
The AP is now trying to ameliorate the effects of the video at the top of the story by publishing dashcam video that shows Scott running out of his car after Slager “politely” asks for his license and registration and returns to his police car. The AP story says there is a gap between that video and the one above and questions whether something happened in the meantime to cause Slager to shoot and kill Scott.
Below is complete version of video at top of story, showing event in gap between police dashcam video and shortened version of video above. Slager appears to have caught up with Scott, something transpires regarding what is likely Slager’s stun gun, then Scott runs again. The object that looks like a stun gun is left on the ground.
Slager had a previous excessive force complaint brought by Mario Givens, whose home he invaded without a warrant, forcing him outside, and then repeatedly tasing him despite the lack of any resistance on the man’s part. Did Slager also tase Walter Scott, causing him to run from the extremely painful action?
Women, carrying Yemen’s flag, were part of huge protest in Dearborn March 29 against U.S.-Saudi air strikes on Yemen. Houthi rebels there had finally overturned pro-U.S. regime, counter-revolution n progress. Photo: Jose Juarez
TEHRAN (FNA)- Hundreds of Yemeni and Arab-American protesters took to the streets of the US city of Dearborn, Michigan state, and slammed the Saudi [and U.S.]-led air attacks on Yemeni people.
Waving flags, carrying signs bearing graphic photos of mutilated children and chanting in Arabic, the protesters gathered to protest the Saudi Arabian-led bombing campaign of Yemen, Detroit News reported.
“What’s going on in Yemen is genocide,” Yemeni-American activist Wali Altahif said during the protest outside the Henry Ford Centennial Library on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn that included area religious leaders and activists. “They’re bombing schools, hospitals and killing innocent civilians.”
Altahif said most of the Dearborn protesters have family in Yemen. “They’re terrified,” he said. “They have no food, no electricity, and the bombing has been nonstop, day and night.”
Dearborn crowd protests U.S.-Saudi airstrikes on Yemen.
Adnan Alwazer, shouting to be heard above the chants of the protesters in Dearborn on Sunday, said his mother and sisters are still in Yemen. “There is no reason for the bombing,” he said. “What they’re doing is against humanity.”
Altahif added: “War does not solve anything. The Yemeni people have agreed to a negotiation that is, ironically, a Saudi initiative. Unfortunately, the Saudis started bombing Yemen.”
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen for twelve days now to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The eleven days of the Saudi-led aggression has killed at least 887 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.
Houthi fighters in Yemen, after overthrow of former president Hadi.
Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by Ansarullah revolutionaries of the Houthi movement.
Despite Riyadh’s claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi warplanes are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.
Five Persian Gulf States — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait — and Egypt that are also assisted by Israel and backed by the US declared war on Yemen in a joint statement issued on March 26.
US President Barack Obama authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to the military operations, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said late on March 25.
US-backed airstrikes on Yemen kill civilians – and hopes for peace
Yemeni boy stands in front of a damaged house in the village of Bani Matar, a day after it was reportedly hit by an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition against Shiite Huthi rebel positions. Photograph: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images
The US has a central role in all of this. As US officials told the Wall Street Journal, “American military planners are using live intelligence feeds from surveillance flights over Yemen to help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb”.
Investigating US drone strikes on my country, I have seen the aftermath of aerial bombardment time and time again. The weeping father; the young girl unable to walk from shrapnel wounds; the mother, mute from shock. I try to record what has taken place; most of them just ask in return what my questions will do to bring back their loved ones. The few that find words express powerlessness and confusion as to why the might of a distant US military has been visited on their simple lives.
Yemen’s 2011 uprising occurred after Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, but did not displace government.
I represented the youth in Yemen’s revolution in 2011. I had never been particularly politically interested before the revolution, but those remarkable days changed my life forever, and I was proud to take my place in the process that was set up by the international community to guide my country to democracy. Over months of hard negotiation, we created the framework for Yemen’s new constitution.
Meanwhile, inexplicably, US drones continued to drop bombs on communities across the country . The blanket claims by the American government that these attacks were clinically picking off terrorists were patently untrue: I went to the attack sites, and met the bereaved relatives of builders, children, hitchhikers.
I know my country, and my fellow countrymen; the people I was meeting were simple souls, scraping a living in Yemen’s tough agricultural hinterland. Large political questions were far from their minds. When asked, they would all condemn the terrorist groups who had provided the pretext for the attacks.
Yemen lies directly south of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia.
We took reports of our investigations to President Hadi, and begged him to stop the attacks. They clearly destabilised all our genuine political efforts. Hadi would try and change the subject: he knew full well that the US economic support propping up our country was dependent on turning a blind eye to American counter-terrorism activities.
I understand that Yemen’s problems are complicated, and need time to resolve, but America’s desire to see my country primarily through a counterterrorism lens was a grave mistake. The National Dialogue was the forum for mending Yemen; US drone attacks consistently undermined our claim to be the sole, sovereign forum for Yemenis to resolve Yemeni disputes.
U.S. Pres. Barack Obama is Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military and could put a stop to dozens of U.S. wars overseas anytime.
The surest way to ensure America’s security isn’t bombing my countrymen and women; it’s to help countries build strong institutions, which doesn’t happen through the crosshairs of a drone feed. It’s been tried in Yemen. Please take our current pain as proof it won’t work anywhere else.
Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor speaks in Detroit Nov. 17, 2014.
Rev. Pinkney, serving 2.5-10 years in prison, will be at hearing April 14, 8:30 am, Berrien County Court, on motion re: lying juror
Funds still needed for legal defense
By Philip A. Bassett
April 7, 2015
Berrien County Courthouse at 811 Port St. St. Joseph, MI
For a lesson in bigotry, lies and sheer negativity, you could try the Berrien County courthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. Since 2006, I’ve been a witness there to many of the legal battles forced on Rev. Edward Pinkney and it has worn me thin.
The town of St. Joe itself is a little backward, to put it mildly. (Think movie town Pleasantville before the color change.) Residents of the almost all-white city seem to carry a perverse pride in how well they’ve barricaded themselves from the mostly Black folks across the river.
The main tool that keeps the status quo is that bloody courthouse. It stands guard over the St. Joseph River like a big ugly trophy, daring Benton Harbor residents to come across. Most don’t take the dare. In the words of Rev. Pinkney, “You couldn’t pay them to cross that river.”
Rev. Pinkney’s supporters comfort his wife Dorothy after he was hauled off to prison for 2.5-10 years Dec. 15, 2014 on fraudulent charges of altering 5 dates on election petition. Photo: People’s Tribune
Although court observing is never fun, here it seems worse. In addition to the hard benches and infinite rules (no book reading, for instance) court observers are subject to numerous other assaults—on your intelligence, conscience and dignity, to name a few. There seems to be an Alice in Wonderland-like logic that accompanies Pinkney hearings. Visitors tend to react in turns with puzzlement, amusement, anger, terror or frustration. Myself, I’ve taken to clutching my stomach and hightailing it out of there just as soon as the proceedings are over.
A close friend of his can’t even bear to attend Pinkney hearings anymore. She wants to support him but has a hard time watching the relentless assault on this African-American minister who is more than a little like Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rev. Pinkney leads march against 2006 frame-up, which ended with a hung jury; state brought it to trial again with a all-white jury, obtaining conviction.
Always ready to challenge unfairness, Edward Pinkney has been fighting the legal system hard-core since 2000, after what could arguably be called his first political imprisonment. It was an insurance fraud case involving the paltry sum of $123, which begs the question of why it was brought to court in the first place. Pinkney served time, but used it to go within and make a life change, emerging from prison an ordained minister. Since then, he has been an almost daily presence at the Berrien County courthouse, either leading protests outside or monitoring individual cases inside.
He turned to the election system in 2005, spearheading a successful recall campaign against local councilman Glen Yarbrough, only to have the victory crushed a week later by a judge with an iron fist.
To back up the judge’s decision, the city clerk, an impeccable woman named Jean Nesbitt, was fired. Then the State went after Pinkney. They charged him with possessing another’s absentee ballot, which, believe it or not, is a felony crime with a penalty of up to five years in prison. (I did an informal survey of fifty or so people in Kalamazoo in 2006; more than half didn’t know possessing another’s absentee ballot is a crime, much less a felony.) Prosecutors claimed Pinkney touched five of the ballots, pumping up the penalty times five.
Rev. Pinkney with his wife Dorothy at his side, speaking at first rally against PA 4, the predecessor to current PA 436, in Detroit, in 2011.
Of course, no actual evidence (like fingerprints) was ever offered when Pinkney was taken to court in 2006. In fact, the three week “trial” seemed entirely composed of smoke, mirrors and lies.
The prosecutor spent two full days of court time poring over Pinkney’s phone records, especially calls to the city clerk. The implication was that he and the clerk had somehow cooked something up, though it was never made clear what they were supposed to have done. The prosecutor spent two more days examining the applications for absentee ballots, which was a smoke screen since they had no bearing on the case. In addition, the State’s star witness was a woman with a known crack cocaine problem who kept contradicting herself.
None of this seemed to bother ten of the jurors, who voted to convict the reverend. Two held out, though, and the end result was a hung jury.
Rev. Pinkney, with wife Dorothy in front, is supported in his Detroit court battle to retain leadership of Benton Harbor NAACP.
Normally, this is as far as the State takes it, but prosecutors brought Pinkney to trial again in 2007, this time securing an all-white jury and, therefore, the conviction. The reverend was put on a tether at first, then wrote an article slamming the judge, and was sent to prison for it in 2008.
Seeing this major slap in the face of the Bill of Rights, the ACLU got involved, fought the good fight, and got the reverend out of prison on appeal the following year.
Rev. Pinkney returned to his rigorous schedule of court-watching, attending meetings, leading rallies, making speeches and taking numerous phone calls. He served for a few years as president of the local NAACP chapter though he later broke ties with the organization, citing them as ineffective. He pushed hard for a city income tax that would place some of the burden on wealthier Whirlpool employees and shore up the city’s economy.
Rev. Pinkney led anti-emergency manager protest in Benton Harbor May 26, 2012, calling for BOYCOTT OF WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION, the city’s overseer.
One of the more outspoken opponents of the tax was the mayor of Benton Harbor, James Hightower. Pinkney saw Hightower’s actions as not being in the best interest of city residents and became part of an effort to recall the mayor.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Many of us have circulated petitions; it’s not uncommon to dot an “I” or cross a “t”, when necessary. We might even have to correct a date or fill in a blank to make the signature valid. I know I have.
Police SWAT team invades home.
Imagine a police swat team coming to arrest you because there were a few of the aforementioned discrepancies. Imagine further that the government pins a forgery charge on you (times five) and makes it stick to the tune of two-and-a-half to ten years in prison. That’s exactly what happened in the case of Rev. Edward Pinkney.
To convict the reverend, the judge and jury had to ignore the fact that with all of Pinkney’s election experience, he wasn’t likely to be responsible for this mistake. Also, there was that troublesome lack of evidence tying the reverend to the “crime”. Finally, the judge had to ignore the fine print on every petition that states that alterers can be charged with a misdemeanor (only) punishable by a fine and/or up to 90 days in jail. That’s a far cry from what Rev. Pinkney got.
Pinkney juror Gail Freehling knew Berrien County Clerk, Sheriff, others involved in prosecution, lied about it.
If all this goofiness doesn’t show the cracks in Berrien County’s justice system, I don’t know what does. Add to that Pinkney’s insistence that he didn’t make any changes and three witnesses testifying that another person changed several dates, and this starts to look like a strategic attack on a politically active American.
Welcome to the Berrien County court system, where fiction is as good as fact, as long as you have the arrogance and paperwork to back it up. In some cases, like Rev. Pinkney’s, you don’t even need the paperwork.
An evidentiary hearing will be held on April 14th to decide whether one of the jurors [Gail Freewas biased by her friendship with the county clerk. It begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Berrien County courthouse. It should be an interesting showcase of how our system treats a political prisoner. Maybe I’ll see you there—if you think you can stomach it.
PLEASE COME TO HEARING AT BERRIEN COUNTY COURTHOUSE TUESDAY, APRIL 14, 2015, 8:30 AM. In Detroit, Marcina Cole is coordinating carpools, to leave from the Moratorium NOW! office at 5920 Second Avenue at 4 a.m. Protests to be held at court before and after hearing, bring signs. For further info, contact Marcina Cole, 248-383-3595.
SUPPORTERS NEED TO RAISE $20,000 FOR REV. PINKNEY’s APPEAL. Go to page for the Benton Harbor Black Autonomy Network Community Organization, BANCO, at http://www.bhbanco.org and hit Donate button. Donations can also be sent (checks made out to BANCO) to Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney, 1940 Union Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022.
Anthony Clark Reed, dead at the hands of Detroit police March 30, 2015.
He had asthma, told police, but they yanked him out of new Dodge Charger anyway, likely causing his death
Traffic stop took place at Vernor near Lawndale, two blocks from his father Pastor Kevin Clark’s church on Springwells
Mother Leda Reed: “This is ridiculous they are doing this to our children”
By Diane Bukowski
Updated April 2, 2014
Pastor Kevin Clark with Anthony Clark Reed’s twin sisters. Facebook.
DETROIT – Anthony D. Clark Reed, 24, took his last breath two blocks from his father Pastor Kevin Clark’s Springwells Avenue Baptist Church, after Detroit police officers stopped him on Vernor on the city’s southwest side March 30, allegedly because his car had tinted windows.
“I am devastated,” Pastor Clark said. “In a short time I have to bury my only son. This was definitely racial profiling. My son is 6’ 2” tall, and was driving a new Dodge Charger, right around the corner from my church. My son died on W. Vernor at the hands of the Detroit police.”
Clark said he talked to a witness who saw six police cars at the scene after his son’s body had been taken away. All the doors and the trunk to the car were open, indicating there had been a search.
Springwells Avenue Baptist Church during memorial April 1, 2015
He said a Lt. Mills contacted him two days after his son’s death to read him the police report, but that he still has not received a written copy. Mills did not tell him the names of the officers involved.
“They said they pulled him over because it looked like he was doing something under his seat,” Clark said. “I asked, don’t you realize he was probably looking for his inhaler because he has asthma? The first thing he said was ‘I can’t breathe.’ They yanked him out of the car, shortened his breath more, and increased his heart rate. That’s why he died.”
He said the police report claimed that the officers found his son’s inhaler, gave him two quick puffs, and when that didn’t work, performed CPR until EMS got there. EMS could not resuscitate him.
Anthony Clark Reed was pulled over on Vernor near Lawndale in the street in front of this liquor store, according to witnesses. His family is trying to obtain videos from all stores in area as well as police dashcam video. VOD did not find any direct eyewitnesses, but one woman said Anthony was a very good friend of her family. She said, “I live in the back of the building across the street. If I had been in front and saw what was happening, as a mother myself I would have gone done there.” Others in the area said police are constantly stopping people there, although there is a public library and youth center directly across the street.
Clark said it was amazing to him that there was no news coverage at all the night his son died, and that it took his son’s aunt calling Channel 7 from New York to get a brief broadcast on that station.
“I didn’t receive any information until 11 to 12 hours after my son took his last breath, when his mother called me to tell me he was in the hospital, after someone called her,” Clark said, adding that he drove as fast as he could from his home in Pontiac to meet her at Detroit Receiving Hospital.
“About 11 or 12 midnight, they took me downstairs to see his body,” Clark said. “There was no one from the Detroit Police Department, Internal Affairs, or the homicide division there. The only way we found out anything was from the chaplain at the hospital.”
Anthony’s mother Leda (misspelled above) Reed is interviewed at memorial by Channel 7.
Clark said he called the number the chaplain gave him, was told it the number for homicide, and that no one ‘was around,’ and ‘they had no police report.’
“Where are the officers that saw my son take his last breath?” Pastor Clark asked. He was told they were not around either.
“It is ridiculous they are doing this to our children,” Leda Reed told VOD in a phone interview. “Those tinted windows were factory-installed. Anthony was driving his girl-friend’s car, and the police hit the car. We finally found the car at the police impound.”
Ms. Reed said there was no cause to pull her son out of the car.
“My son was 24, and was going to Henry Ford College. He worked at the Chrysler plant in Wixom. I have three children, and I have made sure they got an education. He has twin sisters who are going to college, and they plan to be a doctor and a lawyer. My son just got a notice for an internship at Chrysler. I worked hard to raise and educate my children.”
On her facebook page, she added, “This is the time for everyone to stand up go get your t shirt the dpd said in a statement to channel 7 that my son is dead because they pulled him over for atinted window. When is that a crime. That’s on the car in question is how it came off the line. So in support get this pic with the statement I’M DEAD BECAUSE I HAD TINTED WINDOWS. Lets stop this before you lose your child, or loved one.
A friend of Ms. Reed’s, Yolanda Delgado, added: “Everybody in Michigan and BEYOND has to get out there and be vocal. . . .OUR CHILDREN are being murdered in the streets by the Men Who Swore to Protect Them. The death of my nephew is a repeat of the Eric Garner and Ferguson situations. How many more will die like this. Don’t wait until something like this touches your family or household. Do Something Now! . . . .pick up your phones and start calling people that hold the titles and offices in Detroit and Michigan state. Flood their lines and let them know this is not acceptable and they have to Do Their Jobs and Do Something about this. . . . . demand they step and push the Internal Affairs and local FBI units to launch an investigation against the officers involved. If we continue to stay silent our country will eventually become a military regime and all of our human rights preserved under the US Constitution will be erased forever.”
Ms. Reed referred VOD to her attorney, Wolfgang Mueller.
One of many national protests after NY grand jury refused to indict cops in death of Eric Garner in chokehold.
“Right now, details are scarce,” he said in an email. “The family has not been provided the names of the officers. I am doing a FOIA today. We are looking for surveillance video in the area, as there were cameras all around the area of the traffic stop. It appears the autopsy has not yet been performed. We will likely send the autopsy results to Dr. Werner Spitz. We will not know the cause of death until then. I don’t want to speak prematurely until we learn more.”
Pastor Clark said during a prayer service at his church for his phone, packed with relatives, and friends, many of whom had grown up with his family, that Police Chief James Craig had finally contacted him to apologize for the delay. (See photos of candelight vigil after prayer service below.)
VOD has not received a response from the Detroit Police Department regarding the following request:
I am requesting information regarding the death of Anthony Clark Reed on Vernor near Lawndale March 30, after being stopped by Detroit police. I would like the following: 1) A copy of the police report. 2) The names of the police officers who stopped Mr. Reed, plus the names of the other officers who came to the scene in six patrol cars. 3) Their reason for stopping him. His vehicle had factory-supplied lightly tinted windows. 4) Their reason for searching his vehicle. 5) A description of what they did to halt his death after he told them he couldn’t breathe. 6) A copy of the EMS report. 7) A statement regarding whether this was racial profiling, since this was a tall young Black man driving a new Dodge Charger in a multi-racial neighborhood.
No response to VOD request for info from Detroit Police Dept.
MLive reported that Detroit Police Officer Jennifer Moreno of the Media Relations Department said, “Officers did stop the gentleman for a traffic violation and subsequently he exited the vehicle … had an asthma attack. They gave him his inhaler (and) they administered CPR when the gentleman passed out and then (an ambulance) was ordered ..”
Channel 7, the Huffington Post, the Detroit News, MLive, and the Daily Mail have been the only news outlets to cover this case so far. The News article, by George Hunter, did not mention that Reed was Black, and carried no photo of him. The lack of news coverage of Reed’s death at the hands of the police is all the more startling because of the broad coverage given to the near-fatal choke-hold and beating of Floyd Dent in Inkster, MI. He too told notorious Inkster Robocop William Melendez, “I can’t breathe,” and said he was afraid he was about to die.
According to the group, Killed by Police, Reed’s death may bring the number of people killed by police in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2015 to 292.
FUNERAL FOR ANTHONY CLARK REED WILL TAKE PLACE AT SPRINGWELLS BAPTIST CHURCH; TIME PENDING COMPLETION OF AUTOPS(IES).
CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FOR ANTHONY CLARK REED APRIL 1, 2015 AT THE SPRINGWELLS AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH:
Many of Anthony’s young friends attended the prayer service and vigil.
(L to r) Luis and Cecilia Espinoza, with Cornell Squires, point out abandoned, burnt out properties next to their home (at far left). They have paid $16,000 in property taxes since 2011 but are facing foreclosure March 31. They have five children and little income.
“Largest mass foreclosure in one city at one time in U.S. history”
62,000 homes on auction block, 37,000 occupied, most by families
Tax bills are criminal “crap shoot,” violate state laws requiring annual re-assessments; opponents say people should demand reimbursement
Numerous groups call for moratorium on foreclosures, cancellation of past tax debt, use of federal “Hardest Hit” funds to pay bills and refill city, county coffers;
Protest set for Tues. March 31 at 400 Monroe
By Diane Bukowski
March 28, 2015
Luis and Cecilia Espinoza with their five children and friends, including Cornell Squires (center back row) in 2011.
Detroit—“I want to take my family back to Mexico,” Cecilia Espinoza says of her husband Luis and five young children, Leonardo, Genoveva, Gavino , Pedro, and Luis III, ages 7 t0 17. “We have paid $16,000 in taxes on our home since 2011, and now they want to force us out.”
Mrs. Espinoza has treasurer’s receipts for $13,424.41, paid through May 8, 2014. She has not been able to keep track of off of all her paperwork, but her family’s property is worth far less than even that amount.
The Treasurer claims the Espinozas still owe $10,009 in taxes, for a total of $26,000. They live in a two story home on Tarnow off McGraw, next to two horrific burnt-out and abandoned houses, and across the street from a vacant field that became a dumping ground after houses there were demolished.
Lot across street from Espinoza home.
The Espinozas cleaned up that field, but still cannot let their children outside to play due to the deterioration of the neighborhood. They struggle to make a living with intermittent jobs. Detroit Human Services has refused the family cash assistance, providing only $1200 a month in food stamps and Medicaid.
The property is on the list of 62,000 foreclosures pending in 2015, published by the Wayne County Treasurer’s office in the Legal News. It is likely the largest removal of a population in U.S. history, second only to the genocidal evictions of the land’s indigenous people, the Native Americans, and the kidnapping of millions of Africans from their homeland to support a slave economy whose effects redound to this day.
Cornell Squires of We the People for the People and RicoBusters said determination of property tax values has been nothing but a crap shoot in Detroit for the last 20 years, during which time no re-assessments have been performed, in violation of state law requiring annual assessments. (See MCL 211.1o, “Annual Assessment of Property,” at mcl-211-10 Annual assessment of property and State Provisions for Property Reassessment. )
“The assessor’s office told me during the Kilpatrick administration that they had only two full-time assessors,” Squires said. “This is nothing but outright criminal fraud and racketeering, because the tax bills people are being forced to pay are illegal. State law requires annual assessments, or at the very least, reassessments every five years. It is a CRIME to force people to pay these amounts. Instead, they should be reimbursed for overpayments for the last 20 years, and the politicians in charge should go to jail.”
During the last two decades, conditions in Detroit have deteriorated drastically, due to the exodus of major employers including the auto industry, the privatization for profit of the public sector, the destruction of the city’s public school system, rising utility bills and shut-offs, and rising insurance rates on cars, homes, and other property. (See for description of basis of property tax rate determination.)
Detroit “Mayor” Mike Duggan said in his state of the City address that he was initiating a re-assessment of all Detroit property taxes, to conclude in 2016. He said property taxes would be dropped from 0 percent to 20 percent according to neighborhood location. The southwest side is slated for only a 5 percent decrease.
Duggan pointing out selected areas of Detroit that will have taxes decreased.
He said the decreased taxes would allow more homeowners to pay. However, the Detroit bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment has tripled the city’s general fund debt through 2043, to $3 billion. That debt is backed by property taxes and state revenue sharing funds, so it is unlikely that the city’s debt holders will favor any moratorium or decrease in taxes.
“Those amounts will nowhere near reimburse taxpayers for the amounts they have overpaid in the last 20 years,” Squires said. He has had to battle for years to have his home on Detroit’s impoverished far southwest side re-assessed to a $900 a year payment, after buying it while it was burnt-out and refurbishing it. However, it is on the foreclosure block again, with the Treasurer listing $7,194.49 as the amount due, including taxes prior to the reassessment.
Cornell Squires’ home at 3380 Electric. It was burnt out when he bought it and he renovated it.
Neither Duggan, nor Wayne County officials Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz, Executive Warren Evans or Sheriff Benny Napoleon have called a halt to tax foreclosures and evictions while the re-assessment proceeds. Such a moratorium has a precedent—in 2009, Evans, then Wayne County Sheriff, declared a nine-month moratorium on mortgage foreclosures in the county.
But city and county leaders along with the non-profits that are supposed to fight foreclosures are waiting for the September and October tax auctions, during which foreclosed properties will be sold for as little as $500, many in bundles to wealthy speculators. These auctions are legally questionable as well, since the Treasurer does no title search on the properties being auctioned.
A heartbreaking tale of a neighborhood: block of Electric Street where Cornell Squires, his mother and his son still live in separate houses, in view of homes (l to r) where homeowner died, vandalized; Conrad Walker lived in middle home 50 years after parents died, lost to mortgage foreclosure, fire; 2012 tax foreclosure. Photos: Cornell Squires
A block over from Electric: Edsel street homes.
Homes destroyed by fire, Edsel Street
In 2013, Detroit was forced to reimburse Wayne County $117 million it had advanced to cover properties that did not sell at the auctions, according to the city’s 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. It expects to owe at least another $72 million in coming “post-bankruptcy” years, according to the Moratorium NOW! Coalition against Foreclosures, Evictions, and Utility Shut-offs.
Another Edsel home.
Total devastation on Edsel.
In February, according to the southwest Detroit-based newspaper El Central, 50 Detroiters sat in at the city’s Tax Assessor’s office to demand justice from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
“Homeowners were promised a massive reduction in interest and penalty rates, and an opportunity to have their property re-assessed to pay their fair share, a right granted to every Michigan homeowner” El Central said. “Instead, at last week’s Show Cause hearing at Cobo Hall, homeowners were met with demands by the Wayne County Treasurer’s office for huge down payments and unaffordable payment plans . . . .
“Homeowners said that the treasurer’s office wasn’t offering any type of reduction and that the fast-track payment plans were often in the range of $350-$400 a month extra on top of all their other bills. So essentially people must choose between putting food on the table or having a table with no home left to put it on.”
In addition to the residents who sat in at the assessors’ office in February, numerous other groups including the Moratorium NOW! Coalition Against Foreclosures, Evictions and Shut-offs, the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association, Michigan Welfare Rights, the Detroit People’s Platform, The North End Community Council, the Russell Woods Neighborhood Association, Detroit Eviction Defense, the Rosedale Park Improvement Association, and many more are battling the foreclosure Katrina.
Bill Davis, Pres. of Detroit Active and Retired Employees Ass. (DAREA) outside CAYMC March 24. He spoke at both county and city meetings to urge halt to foreclosures.
Since February, Detroit and Wayne County residents have filled meetings of the Wayne County Commission, on March 19, and the Detroit City Council, on March 24, calling for an immediate moratorium. While most officials were favorable to passing resolutions for moratoriums, a speaker at the City Council hearing pointed out that Wojtowicz doesn’t need resolutions, that he has the executive authority to halt the foreclosures himself.
A coalition plans to demonstrate at the Treasurer’s office on March 31, D-Day for final tax payments. Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz has not extended the deadline this year as he has in previous years, proving that he does have executive powers.
Krystal Price and Kamala El at Wayne Co. Commission meeting.
During the Commission hearing, Krystal Price and Kamala El of Ricobusters produced documents showing that there has been continuing fraud in the Treasurer’s office. They said some taxpayers are told to make out checks to “Raymond Wojtowicz” personally, not to the county, and that many foreclosures are carried out by non-authorized personnel in the Sheriff’s office.
“Two lives have already been lost due to the Treasurer’s practices,” El said, referring to the killings of two erstwhile landlords in Detroit’s Rosedale Park neighborhood who tried to evict a family by flashing guns. The Treasurer has not provided proper instructions to winning bidders to get legal evictions done through 36th District Court.
They noted that the day’s agenda included approval of the use of $4.5 million from the county’s “Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund” for the expansion of the first floor at 400 Monroe, the building where the Treasurer’s office is located on several floors. The County does not own the building, however. Eighty-six separate taxpayers occupy it according to the county’s own records.
The County builds the Delinquent Tax fund by borrowing money from the banks, based on delinquent taxes owing in all its municipalities. Thus it can actually pay the taxes of foreclosed homeowners directly. However, the funds are disbursed at the Treasurer’s sole discretion, according to the attached document from the Michigan Association of County Treasurers. Click on Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund.
Speakers from the Moratorium NOW! Coalition pointed out that $251 million of the $498 million in federal Helping Hardest Hit Homeowners funds provided to Michigan to help occupants stay in their homes remains unspent and can be used to pay off the delinquent taxes in a “win-win” situation. Residents would remain in their homes while the coffers of the county and municipalities would be replenished.
Instead, Detroit’s “Blight Removal Task Force,” headed by billionaire Dan Gilbert, has used most of the funds to pay for demolition of homes that were forced into foreclosure by the fraudulent lending practices of the country’s banks, leaving Detroit neighborhoods looking like war zones. Most of the funds are going to Adamo Demolition, a white-owned corporation with revenues of $13.4 million.
Gilbert and billionaire Mike Illitch are also busy gentrifying downtown Detroit and the former “Cass Corridor” for their profit, using public funds while driving Black Detroiters out of the areas.
The U.S. Treasury says on its website regarding the Hardest Hit progam, “Early in 2010, Treasury announced that the Hardest Hit Fund® would provide more than $7.6 billion in aid for homeowners in states hardest hit by the economic crisis. Since then, state housing finance agencies have used the fund to develop programs that stabilize local housing markets and help families avoid foreclosure.”
The Hardest Hit Fund language does not include demolition of properties. Many county residents complained at the hearings that they had been denied funds from Michigan’s Step Forward program, a part of the Hardest Hit Fund, while homes are being demolished.
Dawn DeRose at Wayne County Commission.
“Declare a State of Emergency!” Dawn DeRose demanded at the Commission hearing. “There is fraud going on. There are veterans being evicted who are not supposed to be foreclosed. We are never going to stop blight if we don’t stop foreclosures. We need a moratorium to keep people in their homes. Government is for the people, not for business.”
State Property Tax law does not permit the evictions of veterans with honorable discharges.
Charles Armstrong, an elderly Detroit resident, testified at both meetings that he is facing foreclosure on his home, located on Detroit’s east side near Mack and McClellan, for a bill of a little over $800.
“I had $5000 in escrow with the City of Detroit to cover my taxes,” Armstrong said. “But they didn’t apply it to my taxes, and they didn’t give me my money back.”
Charles Armstrong faces foreclosure for only $852.
The southwest side group which protested at the Detroit assessor’s office in February is demanding, “Wipe away all back taxes for anyone who could have applied for a poverty exemption,” another provision of state law that should apply to the majority of Detroiters. Detroit is the poorest large city in the U.S. Fifty-nine percent of its children live under the federal poverty level.
Pastor Bill Wylie Kellerman called for a “Jubilee” on debt, a concept originating in the Bible which declares that all debts shall be forgiven every 50 years.
Wayne County Commissioner Martha Scott, who sponsored a resolution for a moratorium on foreclosures several years ago, was essentially the only Commissioner who spoke out strongly on the issue, saying she has her staff members preparing a resolution now.
“We are providing hundreds millions to build the M1 rail system on Woodward, but we are allowing thousands of people to be foreclosed, and thousands of people to have their pensions cut,” Scott said. “It is horrible what we have done to people. The businessmen are getting it all, with 40 to 50 percent tax cuts. It is time for us to open up our mouths and hearts to get something done, because people are losing all hope.”
G. Errol Jennings
Prior to the City Council hearing, G. Errol Jennings, President of the Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association, led a protest outside with many of the area’s residents, members of Moratorium Now, and other groups.
“We need to stop all foreclosures now,” Jennings said. “People are paying ridiculously high property taxes. We are going to bring the heat from the street on this one. The Mayor said in his State of the City address that he wants to be judged on how many people move back into the city—well, he better act now.”
Joan Jackson said she is facing foreclosure after losing her job with the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, where she worked for 19 years. She said 60 to 70 others had also been laid off.
“I got denied unemployment because they hadn’t been paying into the state unemployment fund,” she said. “When I went to Michigan Step Forward for help with my taxes, I found out you had to have a job to qualify. Now my water is about to be shut off. I believe water should be free.”
Linda Campbell of the Detroit People’s Platform reads their demands to halt foreclosures to the city council March 24.
During the Council session, several members of the Detroit People’s Platform including Linda Campbell read their demands on the foreclosures into the record, saying they had delivered thousands of petitions demanding a halt on the foreclosures to the Treasurer’s office.
“Wayne County Treasurer Wojtowicz is in charge of foreclosing on 37,000 occupied homes for overdue property taxes on March 31st, affecting nearly 100,000 people,” Campbell said. “This represents the largest mass tax foreclosure in US history in one city at one time. Treasurer Wojtowicz has the power to stop it. Detroiters are being foreclosed upon due to incorrect tax bills with exaggerated property assessments and disputed water bill liens.
“Long-time residents are the heart and soul of Detroit. Ongoing displacement of our families from mortgage and tax foreclosures has been devastating. Public services are being cut and privatized, and Detroiters are being pushed out of their generational homes. To now lose another 100,000 residents would cut the city’s total population by 1/6 and tear a hole in the city’s cultural and economic fabric that can never be replaced.”
Mike Shane of Moratorium Now said, “This is an unprecedented crisis. This will mean that one out of every three families in Detroit have been foreclosed. The banks are responsible for this devastation of our neighborhoods. We need to sue them to force them to clean up our city.”
Cheryl West said she had lived in her home for 60 years, since childhood, but lost it to foreclosure in October, 2014.
“Now I have a landlady who is charging me $700 a month in rent, not including utilities. I applied for Michigan Step Forward funds before the foreclosure, but was denied four times,” West said.
One speaker summed it all up, quoting Ephesians 6:12, from the King James Bible:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
“Justice is having the person that did this to me locked up”—Floyd Dent
“[Melendez] said he was a Black man in a Cadillac and he was going to stop him”—Dent’s attorney Gregory Rohl
Melendez sued for brutality numerous times, tried by feds in 2004 as ringleader of “Ramparts”-style cop gang on Detroit’s southwest side
Inkster Police Chief Vicki Yost aided 3-time killer cop Eugene Brown in death of Lamar Grable while on Detroit police force
Protests planned to support Dent Wed. April 1, at Frank Murphy Hall of Injustice, in Detroit, 9 AM; April 1 4:30 – 6:30 PM at Inkster Police Dept., April 3, 10 AM NAN protest at 27301 South River Park, Inkster
By Diane Bukowski
March 26, 2015
Vicki Yost as Detroit Police Inspector. and DPD’s liaison to the USDOJ under the former consent decree.
Lamar Grable, 20, “executed” by Detroit killer cop Eugene Brown, with his partner Yost, 1996.
Update: Inkster officials held a press conference March 26 asking for patience during the investigation of this near-fatal beating. What is there to investigate? They have the videotape. Please note Inkster police chief Vicki Yost’s past role on the Detroit police force, and the fact that she lied about immediately inviting the MSP in as indicated in the story below. She had to have known about Robocop Melendez’ vicious past on the DPD since she was there in an executive position when he and other Detroit cops were tried by the feds in 2004.
Floyd Dent speaks at press conference March 25, 2015.
Inkster, MI – Former Detroit “Robocop” William Melendez has re-surfaced in Inkster, star of a police dash-cam video that shows him punching Black Detroit motorist Floyd Dent, 57, in the head 16 times while confining him in a chokehold January 28. Then a gang of white Inkster cops are shown tasing Dent, and beating and kicking him as two white State Troopers look on.
“Why are you doing this? What did I do?” Dent cries out as he is thrown up on the hood of a police car, bloodied and battered. Dent has been a Ford autoworker at the Rouge plant for 37 years and is a member of UAW Local 600. He was visiting a blind friend in Inkster when stopped, according to his attorney Gregory Rohl. He has no criminal record.
“Justice is having the person that did this to me locked up,” Dent said of Melendez, as tears flowed down his cheeks. He spoke during a press conference at Rohl’s offices in Novi. “I just saw this videotape for the first time the other day because I didn’t want to look at it. I just found out [about Melendez’s past record of brutality] and I couldn’t believe it. He’s a bad cop.”
William “Robocop” Melendez 2004/Photo Diane Bukowski,
Robocop Melendez in SWAT style armor.
Rohl said Dent sustained injuries including a fracture of his left orbit (around his eye), subdural hematomas (bleeding in the brain), and four broken ribs. He was charged in Inkster District Court with assault and battery on Melendez, two counts of resisting and obstructing police, and possession of crack cocaine. After viewing the videotape, an Inkster judge dropped all charges except the drug charge.
Dent is scheduled for a court hearing on that charge in the Frank Murphy Hall on April 1. He refused a plea bargain on the count. His supporters plan to protest that evening from 4:30-6:30 pm outside the new Inkster Police Department headquarters at
Inkster police: 95% white.
“I saw them plant the drugs in my car,” Dent said. “An innocent man does not plead guilty.” Meanwhile, his car has been seized by the Inkster Police department.
Dent tested negative for all illegal substances. Melendez and the other officers involved were not themselves tested.
Rohl said the Inkster police force is 95 percent white. Inkster is 73.2 percent Black, according to U.S. Census data.
“The police officer in charge clearly admitted to racially profiling my client,” Rohl said. “He said he was a Black man in a Cadillac, and he was going to stop him. Then [after the beating] he was thrown up on the car like an animal.”
Rohl said he has asked for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the beating. Earlier, protesters from the National Action Network picketed outside Inkster police headquarters, with some threatening to shut the city of Inkster down.
Family members of three people killed by Vicki Yost’s partner Eugene Brown demonstrate outside Frank Murphy Hall after demanding charges. They include (2nd from left) father of Lamar Grable, Herman Vallery, (6th and 7th from l) Lamar’s sister Arnetta Grable, Jr. and Mother Arnetta Grable, Senior, and the family of Darren Miller (4th, 3rd and 2nd from right). Cornell Squires, whose son was framed by Robocop Melendez in 2000, is shown 6th from r.) Despite expose of internal police report recommending charges against Brown, Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy again refused to do so. (Photo: Diane Bukowski)
Inkster’s Police Chief is former Detroit cop Vicki Yost, also white, shown in the video above. She moved on to that position after numerous promotions in the Detroit Police Department subsequent to her participation with her partner Eugene Brown in the killing of Lamar Grable, 20, in 1996.
Vicki Yost partner Eugene Brown
Grable’s sister Arnetta Grable, Jr. and Cornell Squires, of the Original Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, shown above, attended the press conference. Squires’ son was framed up by Melendez in 2000 for attempting to carjack him and Officer David LeValley, with a gun that was never found. The two were in plainclothes.
During a civil trial, Brown admitted to chasing and shooting Grable eight times, including three times in the chest as he lay on the ground. Police reports saidt Yost, who was in close proximity to the shooting, took the gun they claimed Lamar fired at Brown home overnight before she turned it into the police lab.
Eugene Brown killed (l to r) Rodrick Carrington in 1995, Lamar Grable in 1996, and Darren Miller in 1999.
After hearing testimony from Brown and Yost, countered by testimony from noted medical examiner Werner Spitz that Grable was “executed,” a civil jury awarded Grable’s family $4 million in 2003. The verdict was upheld at the appeals and Supreme Court levels.
Preceding Yost in her position, which she assumed in August, 2014, was Hilton Napoleon, brother of Benny Napoleon, acting Detroit Police Chief in 2000. Benny Napoleon ditched an internal report on Brown which recommended criminal charges be brought against him, but the Michigan Supreme Court later ordered it disclosed.
Melendez has been sued in federal court as least 12 times, with an early lawsuit involving the execution-style slaying of Lou Adkins, unarmed, on Detroit’s southwest side. Melendez and his partner shot Adkins 11 times as he lay on the ground after a traffic stop. The most recent lawsuit involves an incident in 2011, during his tenure with the Inkster Police Department. Separately, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted him and 17 other Detroit cops in 2003 for a “Ramparts”-style campaign in the Third and Fourth Precincts.
Witnesses testified that the officers planted guns and drugs on them, beat them, sexually abused and strip searched them, threatened to kill them, and then falsified reports and lied in court. The USDOJ called Melendez and Matthew Zani the “ringleaders” of the group. The indictment said Melendez had threatened to kill one witness if he testified against him.
(In fact, one witness who was scheduled to testify against the cops but did not, Kyle Smith, a 24-year-old Detroit woman, was shot to death outside the Superbowl in Detroit in Feb. 2006, under suspicious circumstances. Detroit police have never solved the case. See link to story below.)
In what federal prosecutors called a “nullification” verdict, the jury acquitted the first eight officers tried, including Melendez, even though 17 Black Detroit officers testified against them. U.S. attorneys had moved for a mistrial, after defense attorney Anthony Chambers said during his closing argument that “government witnesses with prior criminal histories would soon be moving into the jurors’ neighborhoods, unless officers like the defendants were allowed to stop them.”
Kevin Ernst, attorney for one witness, commented, “I’ve been a civil rights attorney for 14 years. And never in that time have I seen a police officer testify against another officer, because of the blue code of silence. When you have other officers testifying, it’s hard to believe that it’s not true. . . .In fact, Melendez pled no contest to falsifying a police report in an earlier case. It’s obvious to me that the jurors just didn’t care if the civil rights of the witnesses got violated, because some [of the witnesses] were not upstanding citizens. But they have rights like everyone else.”
Melendez (left) grabs Dent in choke hold that nearly suffocated him, and beats him in the head 16 times. Dent is clearly trying to protect himself.
Floyd Dent, blooded and seriously injured, thrown on top of police car.
During the press conference, Dent, who has two children and two grandchildren and is currently engaged, described the beating by Melendez and Inkster cops in detail.
“When he first pulled me out, he said, ‘I’ll blow your brains out,’” Dent said, referring to Melendez. “The officer must have had something in his glove. He was beating me upside the head while I tried to protect my face with my right arm. The officer damn near choked me to death. Then I heard someone say, ‘Tase the m-f.’
Dent said the brutal treatment continued as he was thrown in a police car and driven to the hospital, where he was chained to his bed and not allowed to use a urinal, under police guard for three days during which his family was not allowed to visit him. He added that “it’s been hard to go back to a normal life” since the incident. He is currently on medical leave from his job.
Floyd Dent and attorney Gregory Rohl, with Dent’s family members behind the, address the media March 25, 2014.
Dozens of Dent’s family members attended the press conference, wearing shirts demanding, “Stop Police Brutality,” but were barred from commenting by his attorney.
An aide in Rohl’s office told VOD that although Yost told Channel Four on camera that she contacted the Michigan State Police immediately to investigate Rohl’s beating, Yost was not being truthful. The aide said when she contacted the MSP during the law office’s investigation well after the beating, she was told they had just received a referral from Yost.
National Action Network of Michigan recruited Inkster residents to march for justice for Floyd Dent outside Inkster Police HQ March 25, 2015.
The aide said she was “amazed and flabbergasted” at Melendez’ arrogance when he testified during Dent’s preliminary examination. She said he winked at her as she left the stand.
In his report, Melendez said, “Due to Writer observations and the above Arr. [arrestee] refusing to pull over and Writer believing Arr. was fleeing from police exited the scout car with department issued weapon out. Writer approached the driver’s side vehicle and illuminated the interior of the vehicle and observed the Arr. open the above vehicle driver’s side door and turn his body to the right with his hands in the right and left hands on his right side body between his right hip and center council (sic—‘console’). Writer in fear that Arr. may be reaching for a weapon raised his department issued weapon at Arr. and advised Arr. to see his hands. Writer observed Arr. look at Writer with a blank stare as if on a form of narcotic. Writer then observed Arr. state “I’ll kill you” and continue to keep his hands away from writer. . . .Writer . . . .moved in to extract Arr. from vehicle. Writer then observed Aux. Officer Zielenieski grab Arr. left arm and pull Arr. to the ground. Writer then observed Arr. begin to struggle and resist officers. Writer then got on top of Arr. and placed arms around Arr. upper body head area in an attempt to control Arr. at which time Arr. then with his teeth bit down on Writer’s left forearm. . . .Writer in fear of being bit and un-aware if Arr. had any diseases struck Arr. several times with a closed right fist to Arr. Right side facial area.”
NAN protesters outside Inkster police HQ March 25, 2015.
Melendez then reports that Sgt. Kritzer pulled out his Tazer gun and shot it at Dent three times, with Dent pushing it aside twice, until a “third dry stun” took effect. He said Police Officers Arnica and Randazzo approached, and Randazzo kicked Dent in his right arm.
In the report, Melendez’ race is reported as “White,” although he is biracial, with one Latino parent.
Rohl noted during the press conference that the video gives the lie to Melendez’ report, since there is an interval of only 2.6 seconds between the time Dent is stopped and the time he is dragged out of the car. There is no evidence on the video of Dent resisting arrest, only trying to remove Melendez’ arm from his neck. Dent said he was about to take his last breath.
In 2003, after the acquittal of the “Robocop” gang on federal charges, Cornell Squires, who lives on the southwest side, commented, “It’s a sad day for all Detroiters. Surely the city will suffer greatly, and there will be more people, mostly African-American, framed up by these deviant cops if they are allowed back on the force.”
After the press conference, Arnetta Grable, Jr., also known as A.J., vowed to organize youth and others across the country to build a new world that her six-year-old son, named Lamar after her brother, can safely grow and prosper in.
Inkster Police Dept. at 26279 Michigan, Inkster, between Beech Daly and John Daly, west of Telegraph.
“EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT MISSISSIPPI GODDAM” — NINA SIMONE
By Diane Bukowski
March 22, 2015
Otis Byrd, lynched at Port Gibson, MS, 2015
Port Gibson, MS – The family of Otis Byrd, 54, found hanging by a white sheet from a tree 500 ft. from where he lived, weeks after he disappeared March 2, said they are planning to rally for justice for the riverboat worker March 23.
Byrd’s nephew Lee Kendrick Byrd told the AP that police who initially investigated the scene told them his uncle’s hands had been tied, but he had freed them and then tried to escape the noose.
Later reports from the police, the FBI and the Missouri Bureau of Investigation discounted that version. Even the head of the state NAACP has joined the authorities in calling for calm pending investigation, speculating that Byrd might have committed suicide.
But Byrd’s family and friends disagree.
“He tried to turn his life around. He was going to church every Sunday,” his stepsister, Tracy Wilson told the AP. “Anybody could have done this. I just don’t see him doing it to himself.”
High school classmates Lora McDaniel and Anita Smith said “he always had a smile on his face. I just can’t see him committing suicide,” and “He was a quiet man. He didn’t bother nobody. He had been out nine years and all of the sudden this happens to him? Impossible.”
Byrd had served 25 years in the Mississippi prison system for “capital murder” in the killing of a white woman, convenience store owner Lucille Trim, in 1980 during a robbery. He was paroled in 2006. In Mississippi, the penalty for capital murder is either execution or life without parole. It is unclear why Byrd was allowed a sentence with parole, if he was actually guilty of the crime. Trim was the mother of retired U.S. Air Force Major General Martha Rainville.
Coroner’s vehicle waits at Otis Byrd’s home.
The allegation that Byrd may have committed suicide is gruesomely similar to three other cases in the Mississippi of the 21st century.
The U.S. Department of Justice previously found that three other Black men, and one Asian woman, found hung in Mississippi committed suicide. A fourth man was deliberately run over and killed by teen white racists. They were:
Roy Veal, Woodville, 2004
Nick Naylor, 2003, Porterville
Donna Gaio Dao, of Vietnamese descent, found hanging in Philadelphia, MS, from a very high oak tree in 2010
Roy Veal of Washington State in 2004, found hanging in Porterville, MS, where he was laying claim to his family’s land;
Nick Naylor in 2003, found hanging by one of his dog’s leashes in Porterville, MS after he took them for a walk in an area frequented by white hunters, and
James C. Anderson, Jackson, MS 2011
Raynard Johnson, 2000 Kokomo
Raynard Johnson, 17, of Kokomo, MS, found hanging by his own belt in 2000 after he and his friends dated white girls in the community.
James Craig Anderson, although not subjected to lynching by hanging, was attacked, beaten and deliberately run down and killed by three white teens, Darryl Dedmon, Dylan Butler, and John Rice in 2011 in Jackson, MS. They had been assaulting Black residents of that city for some time.
They each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of committing a hate crime. A U.S. District Judge sentenced Dedmon to 50 years and five years, with his federal sentence to run concurrently with his state sentence; John Aaron Rice to 18 ½ years and five years to be served concurrently; and Dylan Wade Butler to seven years and five years to be served concurrently.
Deryl Dedmon, Dylan Butler, John Rice, killers of James Craig Anderson in Jackson, MS, 2011
Where they are currently located is questionable.
The Mississippi Dept. of Corrections website says regarding Dedmon, “NOT APPLICABLE OTHER CUSTODY/AT LARGE,” but he is not listed on the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website. Dylan Butler is listed in BOP files as “Not in BOP [Bureau of Prisons], release date unknown.” John Rice is listed as “Not in BOP custody, release date 4/11/2028.” Neither are listed on the state MDOC website.
Raynard Johnson’s hanging in his front yard occasioned a national outcry, including marches led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow: PUSH. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno assured his family that the Justice Department would thoroughly investigate the case.
Raynard Johnsons mother Maria Johnson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Mable Till Mobley, mother of Emmett Till, lynched in 1955.
But the final verdict was the same in all the hanging cases. Authorities told families to be patient and wait for autopsy results and further investigation, which they have said in Byrd’s case may take months, then declared they had committed suicide.
The likelihood of Black men committing suicide in the U.S. is extremely low. From 1999 through 2013, 70 percent of suicides were committed by white males, with only 5 percent by Black males, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control. Despite, or because of, the oppression endured in the Black community, many say they choose perseverance and life, not death by their own hand.
Oak Square plantation mansion, the largest in Port Gibson, invites guests for the night. Photo credit: Southern Living
Media reports have portrayed Port Gibson as a 90 percent Black town with a high poverty rate, discounting the likelihood that whites would have been involved in Byrd’s death.
However, the New York Times reported in 2002 that Port Gibson also has “an entrenched population of whites, many of whom are related and have some historical connection to cotton.”
In other words, they are often the descendants of plantation slaveholders. Many plantation mansions still stand in Port Gibson as an attraction to tourists, including the largest in the state, Oak Square. A main industry in the town is the processing of cottonseed oil.
In addition to these lynchings of the 21st Century, “between 1987 and 1993, twenty two (22) black men were found hanging in Mississippi jails. All of their deaths were declared to be suicides. All of us are aware of the history of blacks being lynched in Mississippi. Between 1882 and 1968 there were 539 blacks lynched in Mississippi. Their murders were not solved because law enforcement officials made no effort to bring their murderers to justice. In many cases law enforcement officials were complicit in the murders,” writes Solomon C. Osborne in an online blog.
Below: the lynching of Nick Naylor in 2003.
BELOW: American Atrocity of Lynching African People, by Kenny Snodgrass
The new Detroit City Council-elect comprises Gabe Leland, left, James Tate, Mary Sheffield, Scott Benson, Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, Andre Spivey, council president Saunteel Jenkins, Brenda Jones and George Cushingberry Jr. are sworn in Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, by Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey in the Wayne State Alumni House. / Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press
Did they swear to serve the public or themselves?
Demand audit of Council members’ budgets
Next public meeting of the Compensation Commission is March 23 at 6 p.m. at Coleman A. Young Municipal Center; salaries are on the agenda.
Cecily McClellan, V-P DAREA
Introduction by Cecily McClellan
Vice President of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA)
City Council has done little to nothing for long term residents of Detroit for numerous years. Turning a grant program (CDBG) into a loan program is cruel for low income residents living at or below poverty levels.
It’s amazing how this same council gave millions to millionaires to build a stadium, saved the DIA at the expense of workers/retirees [meanwhile giving away billions in art that belonged to Detroit] and gives tax abatements to the affluent. But fails to prevent the outsourcing of city job and services to its’ current residents, and refuses to demand community benefit agreements for city contracts. Welfare to the rich and loans to the poor. Low and moderate income residents no longer welcome in Detroit.
(VOD–Council President Brenda Jones voted in tandem with Mayor Mike Duggan to support the phony Detroit bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment, and along with City Clerk Janice Winfrey is pushing for the pay raises.)
By Joyce Moore
March 20, 2015
I spoke at the council meeting Tuesday, March 17, 2015, and I provided this information regarding the Community Development Block Grant Funds (CDBG) for Home Repair:
The United States Census Bureau Poverty Threshold for one person: under 65 is $12,316.00and over 65 is $11,354.00ANNUALLY. These are the people the CDBG – Home Repair GRANT was designed and slated for. These are the people who are below the average median of approximately $25,000.00 annually that U. S. Housing Urban Development (HUD) uses as a criteria for requesting the CDBG funds.
After I made this presentation at the council meeting, I made a statement that council members make over $100,000.00 a year. Council Member Cushingberry challenged me and said something to the effect, “that our salary is approximately $75,000.00, $78,000.00 a year”. That may be, let me clarify, what I meant when I said “you make over $100,000.00 a year”, this is to include the benefit package, that means, dental and medical, in addition, that means the car, the gas put in the car, the maintenance of the car, the credit cards for needed expense (not sure of the limit) and phone to name a few. These items inclusive of salary are over $100,000.00.
City Council Pres. Pro-Tem George Cushingberry
There is no law or statute that I have read so far that does not allow the Compensation Commission to request an Audit of each elected City Council member. Therefore, we as residents and citizens of the City of Detroit should be requesting that every council member be AUDITED by the Compensation Commission currently and in any future salary increases.
These are the council members that we VOTED for and these are the council members (except Council Member Sheffield) that supported Mayor Mike Duggan in “REPURPOSING” the Community Development Block Grant Funds for Home Repair. These Council Members supported changing the CDBG GRANT Program for Home Repair to a LOAN Program for Low to Moderate income residents, more specifically Native Detroiters. Again, it is about POWER, MONEY AND GREED, not about the PEOPLE!