REV. PINKNEY DEFENSE CAMPAIGN BUILDS; WIFE SAYS THEY REMAIN STRONG DESPITE RACIST IMPRISONMENT

Rev. Pinkney addresses rally in Benton Harbor against Whirlpool, Emergency Manager law May 26, 2012.
Rev. Pinkney addresses rally in Benton Harbor against Whirlpool, Emergency Manager law May 26, 2012.

 

Editor’s Note: HEARING ON PINKNEY PRE-SENTENCING MOTIONS JAN. 15

VOD spoke with Rev. Pinkney’s wife Dorothy Pinkney and their family spokesperson Larry Pinkney (not related) Dec. 28. They informed VOD that Rev. Pinkney’s attorneys filed two motions prior to Rev. Pinkney’s Dec. 15 sentencing to 2.5 to 10 years in state prison. Berrien County Judge Sterling Schrock refused to hear them at the time, but they will be heard in his courtroom Jan. 15, 2014, at the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan.

(L to r) Rev. Pinkney, wife Dorothy, staunch supporter and organizer Marcina Cole during support event at UAW Local 22 hall Sept. 8, 2014.

(L to r) Rev. Pinkney, wife Dorothy, supporter and organizer Marcina Cole during fund-raiser at UAW Local 22 hall in Detroit Sept. 8, 2014.

One motion alleges that the prosecution and court knowingly planted a juror, Gail Freehling, who is friends with one of the chief witnesses against Rev. Pinkney, Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler. 

It says Freehling also knows the Berrien County Sheriff, who initiated the raid on Rev. Pinkney’s home in May and continued terrorizing Benton Harbor residents  who signed petitions to recall Mayor James Hightower. The second is a motion for mistrial, which states there was no evidence for a guilty verdict. It also includes an appeals court decision affirming that violations of the election law are misdemeanors, not felonies. Both are included at Rev. Pinkney motions from attorney Tat Parish.

Rev. Pinkney's photo from Charles Egeler Reception Facility shows that he remains strong, optimistic and unbowed.

Rev. Pinkney’s photo from Charles Egeler Reception Facility shows that he remains strong, optimistic and unbowed.

Dorothy Pinkney told VOD,  “I cannot visit my husband yet because he is still in quarantine at Jackson prison, but I am able to receive calls from him. His spirit is good. His voice sounds like himself. He is still hoping to come out of this situation. He knows a lot of people are concerned and working on his behalf against this racist attack. We’re all waiting on the judge’s decision on the motions Jan. 15. An appeal is ready to go forth if they are denied.

“My husband is the only voice in the community for the people,” Mrs. Pinkney continued. It is so obvious how they pushed this trial even without evidence, in an attempt to silence him. He wants people to continue the battle to free Rev. Pinkney, and to boycott Whirlpool, Harbor Shores, and the Senior PGA in Benton Harbor. I am holding up, holding on to my faith and beliefs, strengthened by the support out there. I still remain hopeful that my husband will be released soon.”

Rev. Pinkney asks that everyone continue the boycott of Whirlpool, as well as the Harbor Shores development, and the Sr. PGA held at its golf course, all backed by Whirlpool

Rev. Pinkney asks that everyone continue the boycott of Whirlpool, as well as the Harbor Shores development, and the Sr. PGA  which is  held at its golf course, all backed by Whirlpool.

Dorothy Pinkney said when the appeal is filed if the motions are denied, the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) plans to become involved in the case. She said her husband is locked down 23 out of 24 hours a day, and is assigned only one hour a day to make phone calls, so she remains available at any time for his calls.  

Larry Pinkney said, “We view this horrendous attack not only as an attack against Rev. Pinkney, but on all of us. Our intention is to publicize his case nationally and internationally, and raise funds for his defense.”

Support Pinkney croppedHe said contributions can be made online through PayPal on the Black Autonomy Community Network Organization (BANCO) website at http://www.bhbanco.org/. Contributions through check or money order can be mailed c/o BANCO, 1940 Union Ave. Benton Harbor, MI 49022.

Rev. Pinkney is currently housed at the MDOC intake facility in Jackson. He can receive mail at the following address:

Rev. Edward Pinkney #294671

Charles Egeler Reception & Guidance Center (RGC)

3855 Cooper St.  Jackson, MI 49201-7547 


Supporters of Rev. Edward Pinkney comfort Dorothy Pinkney after his sentencing Dec. 15, 2014. They Include Detroiters Abayomi Azikiwe, Marian Kramer, and Monica Patrick. Photo by Joh Madill/donated to People's Tribune.

Supporters of Rev. Edward Pinkney comfort Dorothy Pinkney after his sentencing Dec. 15, 2014. They Include Detroiters Abayomi Azikiwe, Marian Kramer, and Monica Patrick. Photo by Joh Madill/donated to People’s Tribune.

Activists around the US are angered over racial injustice in southwest Michigan

Pinkney serving 2.5 t-10 years in state prison for alleged “forgery under the Michigan election law;” MSP tech testified there was no evidence

Sign petition to Eric Holder demanding release

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Pan-African News Wire

December 20, 2014

DETROIT – Michigan political prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney is now being held in Jackson state prison. He remains in good spirits despite what many Michigan citizens have labeled the “racial injustice” that has landed him in detention over claims he changed the dates on five signature entries on a recall petition designed to remove Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower.

$85 Million Whirlpool headquarters on St. Joseph River in Benton Harbor. Whirlpool shut down all its plants in Benton Harbor, laying off thousands, and is now in the midst of a massive land grab.

$85 Million Whirlpool headquarters on St. Joseph River in Benton Harbor. Whirlpool shut down all its plants in Benton Harbor, laying off thousands, and is now in the midst of a massive land grab.

During the course of the trial there was no material or circumstantial evidence presented that would implicate Pinkney in the purported five felonies. Many believe the Berrien County activist and leader of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO)  is being punished by the local authorities for opposing the corporate program of Whirlpool Corporation, which is headquartered in Benton Harbor.

In 2012, Pinkney and BANCO led an “Occupy the PGA” demonstration against the world-renown golf tournament that was held at the newly-created Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course on Lake Michigan. The course was carved out of Jean Klock Park, which had been donated to the City of Benton Harbor decades ago.

Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower at Whirlpool HQ event.

Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower at Whirlpool HQ event.

Berrien County officials were determined to defeat a recall campaign [in which Rev. Pinkney participated] against Mayor James Hightower of Benton Harbor who opposed a program to tax local corporations [like Whirlpool] in an effort to create jobs and improve conditions in the majority African American municipality. Benton Harbor, like other Michigan cities, has been devastated by widespread poverty and unemployment.

Statements of support pour in

This is not the first time that Pinkney has been imprisoned for his political activities. In 2007, he was convicted in a second trial, with the first ending in a hung jury, for “mishandling” absentee ballots during a recall election involving two Benton Harbor City Commissioners. The results of the elections removing the officials were overturned after criminal charges were filed against the BANCO leader.

Deutoronomy quotePinkney was sentenced to one year under house arrest and four more years of probation. Later in 2007, he was charged with violating his terms of the sentence for allegedly threatening a judge in Berrien County.

The threat charge stemmed from an article he wrote in the People’s Tribune newspaper based in Chicago where he quoted scriptures from the Old Testament. He was ordered imprisoned for 3-10 years.

[Full quote from Deuteronomy is at Biblical curses for disobedience to God.]

The charges were overturned in late 2008 by the Michigan Appeals Court after the activist received widespread support from the civil liberties, ecumenical and academic communities across the country. He was released at the end of 2008, and successfully completed his probation returning to full-time activism in Berrien County.

Rev. Pinkney ran for Congress against Whirlpool-sponsored Fred Upton on the Green Party slate in 2008.

Rev. Pinkney ran for Congress against Whirlpool-sponsored Fred Upton on the Green Party slate in 2008.

Pinkney, in 2008 from his prison cell, ran for United States Congress on the Green Party ticket in Michigan. He received 3,500 votes in a challenge to Fred Upton, a Republican congressman and heir to the Whirpool corporate dynasty.

In a Dec. 17 statement issued by Green Party Watch, the organization says, “The overt targeting of an African American activist for a politically-motivated prosecution is reminiscent of recent episodes involving Chuck Turner and Elston McCowan, both Greens who challenged the power structures in their communities. In a system where police officers regularly kill unarmed African American men without facing trial, it is especially galling that the same system sentences an African American activist to up to 10 years imprisonment on trumped-up, politically-motivated charges.”

The New Jim Crow bookBlack Agenda Report, a well-known media outlet opposing the corporate influence over African American politics in the U.S., wrote in an editorial last week, entitled, Whirlpool and Racism Imprison another Black Leader, “This may seem like an Old Jim Crow story, about a preacher from a small, mostly Black town who wanted only to help his people through the voting process, but is set upon by backward whites determined to maintain their monopoly on political power. And, it is true; Old Man Jim Crow is alive and well on the banks of Lake Michigan.”

The same editorial continues, “But it is the New Jim Crow, the Mass Black Incarceration State, that has snatched 66 year-old Rev. Pinkney away to what could become life in prison. The judge and prosecutor said Pinkney’s 12 past and present felony convictions make him a career criminal, even though each count stems from an elections process. The Old Jim Crow would have unapologetically sent Pinkney to the chain gang for being an uppity Black man, but the New Jim Crow simply piled on a bunch of felonies to put him away as a serial criminal, allowing the system to claim race had nothing to do with it.”

Truth OutA national conference call was held on Dec. 18, designed to build a defense campaign. Former Vermont State Senator Ben-Zion Ptashnik initiated the call through the People Demanding Action organization. (Ptashnik is also co-editor of Truth Out.)

The conference call included activist members of the clergy, electoral reform organizers, former Green Party candidates, progressive Democrats, the People’s Tribune newspaper, Moratorium NOW! Coalition, and others. The call provided an update on the case, plans to publicize the plight of Rev. Pinkney and the people of Berrien County, recruiting a legal team and a fundraising drive to proceed with an appeal.

Ptashnik and Victorial Collier wrote in on Dec. 16 that “Concerned activists and clergy associated with People Demanding Action, a national social justice organization, are circulating a petition to ministers and various organizations. The petition is to be forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for an investigation into the circumstances of Pinkney’s trial and sentencing. To sign the petition, click on:

http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/6405/c/10113/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=10735

Related stories:

http://peoplestribune.org/pt-news/free-pinkney/

Dorothy Pinkney article on Rev. Pinkney’s first jail term:  http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/1878  

http://www.greenpartywatch.org/2014/12/17/rev-edward-pinkney-is-latest-african-american-green-leader-targeted-for-political-prosecution/ 

BAR story on Pinkney sentence http://blackagendareport.com/node/14574

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/12/16/rev-pinkney-gets-2-5-10-yrs-as-cops-wilson-pantaleo-walk-on-mike-brown-eric-garner-murders/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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MARY ROWAN DENIES FAMILY VISITS TO DYING GRANDMOTHER; NOW CO-GUARDIAN IN ROBINSON CASE

Grand and great-grandmother Nora Rodman in hospital bed, has been crying to see her family members. Attorney Mary Rowan has refused them access.
Grand and great-grandmother Nora Rodman in hospital bed, has been crying to see her family members. Attorney Mary Rowan has refused them access.

 Family, anguished by guardian Mary Rowan’s refusal to let them visit Nora Rodman, 84, who is dying, contacts VOD after reading Robinson story

“My mom died 7 years ago. My grandma is the last piece of her I have left. I just want me and my kids to spend the time she has left with her.”

“My grandma calls out our names all day.”

Update on Gayle Robinson case: Judge orders 6-month co-guardianship including Rowan Dec. 9

By Diane Bukowski  

December 23, 2014  

Nora Rodman with cards on bedside table.

Nora Rodman with cards on bedside table.

Wayne County, MI—After reading VOD’s story on guardian Mary Rowan’s abuse of her ward Gayle Robinson, a third family has contacted VOD about Mrs. Nora Rodman, 84, another ward of Rowan’s.

They say Rowan is barring Mrs. Rodman’s daughters, grand-children, and great-grandchildren from seeing  her in hospitals and nursing homes. Ms. Rodman is likely dying.

“When my mom called Qualicare she was told that my grandma is not allowed to have any visitors,” a granddaughter of Mrs. Rodman’s told VOD. My grandma is in her last days with end stage CHF and renal failure. My grandma calls out our names all day and we do not understand how [Mary] Rowan can ban our family when it is clearly not in my grandma’s best interest.”

Rowan told one family member that she herself has not seen Mrs. Rodman, although guardians are required to visit every three months. She was appointed Aug. 4, 2014.

Wayne County Probate Court Judge June Blackwell-Hatcher. Photo from law school alumni newsletter.

Wayne County Probate Court Judge June Blackwell-Hatcher. Photo from law school alumni newsletter.

Mrs. Rodman had just been released from Providence Hospital after various other placements in nursing homes and hospitals, and is now at Qualicare on E. Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

Family members believe Rowan is causing her needless suffering through prolonged medical procedures.

Wayne County Probate Court Judge June E. Blackwell-Hatcher, the daughter of Robert Blackwell, appointed Rowan as guardian in Mrs. Rodman’s case Aug. 4, 2014.

Mrs. Rodman’s granddaughter Amanda Ulmen was in tears as she discussed Rowan’s refusal to let her see her grandmother in the hospital. Since Rowan is listed as guardian in hospital records, hospital personnel must abide by her decisions.

“My mom died seven years ago,” Ulmen said. “My grandmother is the last piece of her that I have left. I just want me and my kids to spend what time she has left with her. Two of my aunts went to see her yesterday and were refused time with her also. This is heart-breaking, sickening, and outrageous.”

Amanda Ulmen mother Kimb

Amanda Ulmens mother Kimberly Ann Fritz at her wedding. Mrs. Fritz was the youngest of Mrs. Rodman’s six children. She suffered an accidental death in 2007 at age 46.

Ulmen said Rowan had her grandmother placed in the Four Chaplains nursing home for several weeks beginning in August, and she and her children visited her there often, bringing flowers and cards. Mrs. Rodman was then sent to Garden City Hospital, and from there to St. Jude’s nursing home in Westland, which Ulmen said was in horrible condition. She was just in Providence Hospital with pneumonia and is “actively dying,” Ulmen said.

She said the hospital repeatedly called Rowan to get her permission to implant a stent, but could never reach her, so eventually two of her daughters signed for the procedure. A daughter said Mrs. Rodman was subjected to multiple colonoscopies at the earlier locations, even though she had colorectal cancer earlier. She had to receive four pints of blood at Providence to counteract the effects of the colonoscopies.

She said her mother is listed as “full code,” meaning all resuscitation efforts must be made  regardless of the will of either her mother or family members.

Rowan box 3“My four kids are also not allowed to see their grandmother,” a daughter said. She asked not to be identified because Rowan retaliates against any challenges to her, using denial of hospital visits as one option.

“Rowan keeps putting her through every test and surgery that she can,” the daughter said.  “My mother needs hospice. The head nurse at Providence agreed that it is time to let her go. But Rowan has threatened to move my mother to the other side of the state and ban all her children from seeing her if we don’t play her game.”

She said that Rowan has abused and humiliated both family members and hospital staff, even hanging up on them, when they have called her, even they are even able to get through to her.  She added that many medical staff members have told her that Rowan is the guardian for numerous patients at their institutions.

“She is punishing my mother for us girls,” she said. “I told her ‘I want to bring my mother home,’ and she told me, ‘that’s never going to happen.’” Rowan, Guardian Ad Litem Sean Heck, and Judge Blackwell-Hatcher had not responded to messages from VOD for comment on this case before press time.

“My family has had similar dealings with Mary Rowan,” Mrs. Rodman’s niece commented on-line after reading the Robinson story. “She is very curt and condescending. She does not display one ounce of compassion toward her clients or families. I do not know how she has gotten away with this treatment. She is very intimidating and threatening. I feel sorry for any family that has to tolerate this so called lady. Mrs. Rowan has NO business being a court appointed guardian.”

Hearing held on Gayle Robinson case Dec. 9; Rowan remains co-guardian for 6 months

Gayle Robinson, who along with her late husband Russell Sr. served in the Marine Corps, at 2010 Montford Point Marine Corps Black History Month Banquet.

Gayle Robinson, who along with her late husband Russell Sr. served in the Marine Corps, at 2010 Montford Point Marine Corps Black History Month Banquet.

Detroit — Meanwhile, Gayle Robinson’s son Randy Robinson said he and his sister Deborah Fox were put through a grueling and lengthy mediation session at Wayne County Probate Court Dec. 9, made all the worse when their mother was told to leave.

Gayle and husband Russell Robinson.

Gayle and husband Russell Robinson.

“My mother got upset because everybody was yelling,” Robinson told VOD. His mother’s own attorney Sean O’Connor did not want her back in the mediation, although Mrs. Robinson appeared to be perfectly capable of expressing her desires. During the hearing, she clearly stated to Judge Keith that she does not want the daughter and husband who initiated the probate court proceedings, OR their children, to visit her. She said that before that couple visits, they must pay back money they stole from her.

Mrs. Robinson, now 84, was sitting outside the courtroom when VOD arrived.

“It looks like when you get old, you don’t have the right to take your own money out of the bank anymore,” Mrs. Robinson told VOD. “I don’t need a guardian, but I want my brother to be my conservator and I want my son Randy and his daughter Lynette to stay with me.”

Gayle Robinson at recent Goodfellows holiday fund-raiser.

Gayle Robinson at recent Goodfellows holiday fund-raiser.

She was very lucid and personable as she chatted. She said regarding Mary Rowan and her assistant Katie McDonald, “Those two are against me.” The pair had police kidnap her from her own home without a court order, and confined in the psychiatric ward at Botsford Hospital for eight days Oct. 1. She told VOD the police who removed her tied her up in transit, and that she had a heart attack in the hospital.

Below is part of her admission record, which questions the validity of the “court order” Rowan’s assistant Katie McDonald and Westland Police Sgt. Randall Thivierge produced when they took her to Botsford after she, her son and her daughter refused to have her  go. She had already been thoroughly examined at Henry Ford Hospital, they said.

Botsford ER report on Gayle Robinson questioned legitimacy of alleged "court order."

Botsford ER report on Gayle Robinson questioned legitimacy of alleged “court order.”

Robinson said she was especially frightened at Botsford during what sounded like an MMRI exam. It involves putting the patient through a coffin-like tubular device. She said that she has a pacemaker and thought the test might affect it.

Gayle Robinson with friends at Montford Post Marine Corps Black History month celebration, 2010.

Gayle Robinson with friends at Montford Post Marine Corps Black History month celebration, 2010.

She added, “Mary and Ricky owe me all the money. Why should they take all of my husband’s insurance and it belongs to me? None of them have the right to kick Randy out.”

At a previous court hearing, several of Randy’s siblings insisted that he must be evicted from his mother’s home, but Judge Keith did not uphold that wish during the Dec. 9 hearing.

Judge Keith agreed to bar visits from that couple pending their adhering to a regular payment schedule of the equity loan they took out on Mrs. Robinson’s home, allegedly without her consent.

Despite Rowan’s request for sole guardianship, Judge Keith appointed Rowan and Mrs. Robinson’s brother James Brown as co-guardians on the case for the next six months, after which Brown will take over both guardian and executor duties.

Judge Keith assigned the job of working out visitation with Mrs. Robinson’s children to her brother, but Rowan remained active during the hearing.

Mary Rowan

Mary Rowan and her husband own this house/office at 1303 Nottingham, Grosse Pointe Park.

To prove that her mother is not “legally incapacitated” as she is listed in court records, Deborah Fox showed VOD numerous photo cards of her mother, who is a veteran and the widow of a veteran, attending functions including the Women Veterans’ Stand-Down at the Taylor VFW hall,  fund-raising in Garden City for the Goodfellows, and visiting with Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones.

Mary Rowan lives in and runs her office at 1303 Nottingham, Grosse Pointe Park. Court records show the property is in her name and that of her husband, John Cavataio. According to state records, he runs a specialty contractor business called John T. Cavataio, Inc., which handles new construction basement finishing.

It is unclear why Rowan is being assigned as guardian in so many Probate Court cases. In the earlier case of Lennette and Mailauni Williams, she testified the “court administrator’s office” selected her. Wayne County Probate Court Chief Judge Milton Mack, Jr. is in charge of the court, and runs it with a tight rein, according to reliable sources.

Related stories:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/11/25/home-for-the-holidays-mailauni-williams-back-with-mom-after-6-month-kidnapping/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/10/24/rosa-parks-godchild-mailauni-williams-found-judge-george-guardian-rowan-removed-from-case/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/10/23/serial-kidnapper-atty-mary-rowan-takes-second-adult-ward-from-home-without-court-order/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/07/21/amber-alert-rosa-parks-godchild-mailauni-williams-missing-judge-kathryn-george-loots-estate-bars-mortgage-payments-on-her-home/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/06/16/shady-probate-judge-kathryn-george-jails-mom-seizes-daughter-and-estate/


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MILWAUKEE PROTESTERS MARCH, BLOCK FREEWAYS AS COP WHO KILLED DONTRE HAMILTON WALKS

No charges for Milwaukee officer who shot man 14 times; DOJ investigating as family, protesters react in outrage

Starbucks workers called police because Hamilton was sleeping in park

Two other officers responded twice, but left after saying man not doing anything wrong

Manney shot Hamilton even after on ground, some witnesses say

Autopsy report showed one gunshot in back, seven others at a downward trajectory from some distance, numerous bruises, clean toxicology, contradicting cop’s report of hand-to-hand battle with Hamilton

Milwaukee Governor puts National Guard on alert

December 22, 2014

One reaction to killings of two NYC cops last week.

One Facebook reaction to killings of two NYC cops last week. Thanks to Agnes Johnson for posting it.

VOD: Hundreds of protesters packed downtown Milwaukee streets Dec. 22 after it was announced that no charges would be brought against Officer Christopher Manney for killing Dontre Hamilton by shooting him 14 times April 30. Earlier on Dec. 19, 74  were arrested for causing a three-mile traffic jam on I-43 to protest the killing.

They marched despite calls from New York’s mayor for protests to cease until two officers shot to death there were buried. The protests followed dozens of others in Milwaukee since Dontre’s killing, including occupations of city hall and shopping centers.

The U.S. Department of Justice has now initiated an investigation of the killing.

Milwaukee has a long history of police killings of African Americans, detailed in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal  at  http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/derek-williams-death-in-milwaukee-police-custody-repeats-history/ A Dec. 9 study by Thomas Frolich in Think Stock.com recently declared Milwaukee the worst of 10 largest cities and states in the country for Blacks to live. Michigan came in sixth. Click on MICHIGAN RANKS 6TH AMONG 10 WORST STATES FOR BLACK AMERICANS for print version of study.

Milwaukee traffic jam Dec. 19, 2014 caused by protesters.
Milwaukee traffic jam Dec. 19, 2014 caused by protesters.

 

USA TodayAamer Madhani, 3:15 p.m. EST December 22, 2014

A former Milwaukee police officer will not be charged with a crime for the shooting death of a 31-year-old man with a history of mental illness, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office announced Dec. 22.

Dontre Hamilton, 31. Family photo

Dontre Hamilton, 31. Family photo

The April 30 shooting of Dontre Hamilton in a downtown park by Officer Christopher Manney inspired a series of protests in Milwaukee, including one over the weekend that led to dozens of activists being arrested after shutting down I-43.

Manney shot Hamilton 14 times during an incident that occurred after workers at a nearby Starbucks called police to complain about him sleeping in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park.

“This was a tragic incident for the Hamilton family and for the community,” District Attorney John Chisholm said in a statement. “But, based on all the evidence and analysis presented in this report, I come to the conclusion that Officer Manney’s use of force in this incident was justified self-defense and that defense cannot be reasonably overcome to establish a basis to charge Officer Manney with a crime.”

The decision comes weeks after prosecutors in Missouri and New York cleared officers in high-profile cases in which police used force in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island that have spurred nationwide protests and anger over treatment of African Americans by law enforcement.

Killer cop Christopher Manney was fired but has appealed; now he faces no criminal charges.

Killer cop Christopher Manney was fired but has appealed; now he faces no criminal charges.

The national debate over police relations with the African-American community escalated after the killing of two New York City police officers on [Dec. 20] by a man who cited his anger about the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases on social media.

Jonathan Safran, an attorney for the Hamilton family, said they were “extremely disappointed” with the decision and that the case “cries out for justice, criminal charges against Christopher Manney, and accountability to Dontre Hamilton’s family.” Safran also called on the Justice Department to investigate whether Hamilton’s civil rights were violated by Manney.

“The federal government knows that justice has to come to the people,” said Nate Hamilton, the brother of Dontre Hamilton, at an afternoon news conference.

Nate Hamilton added: “The people have been calm. The people have not stood up. So when will we stand up?”

Dontre Hamilton (2nd from left), with his brothers. (Family photo).

Dontre Hamilton (2nd from left), with his brothers. (Family photo).

The ACLU of Wisconsin also blasted the decision.

“If Officer Christopher Manney did not violate the law, then is anyone legally responsible for Mr. Hamilton’s death?” the civil liberties group said in a statement. “Does the criminal law protect individuals like Mr. Hamilton from deadly force exercised by police officers? Are police officers above the law?”

Dontre's mother Maria and brother Nathaniel Hamilton after his killing.

Dontre’s mother Maria and brother Nathaniel Hamilton after his killing.

Manney showed up to Red Arrow Park after receiving a voice mail from his acting desk sergeant about “a homeless guy sleeping” in the park and asked him to respond, according to a report from Chisholm’s office.

At the time of the call, Manney was handling another unrelated incident and two other officers were dispatched to the park, but Manney was unaware of it. The two other officers checked on Hamilton twice and determined he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Hamilton’s family said he had battled schizophrenia and stopped taking his medication shortly before the shooting.

When Manney arrived in the park after the other officers had left, he said, he found Hamilton laying on the ground in the park and asked him to stand up. He said that Hamilton then stood up and turned his back to him. The police officer began patting-down Hamilton.

Occupation of Milwaukee's downtown mall: I'm sleeping, don't shoot.

Occupation of Milwaukee’s downtown mall: I’m sleeping, don’t shoot. Photo: Occupy River West.

As Manney was conducting the frisk, he told investigators, Hamilton twisted his body so he was facing Manney.

Manney, who says Hamilton’s right hand was balled in a fist, said he tried to disengage from Hamilton, according to the DA’s report.

Hamilton lunged and then tried to strike Manney with his fist, according to the police officer’s account. Manny blocked the punch and struck Hamilton with an open palm to the chin. Hamilton then grabbed Manney in the shoulder area, pulling the police officer towards him and struck him on the right side of his head, the report said.

Dontre Hamilton's family leads one of many protests since his killing April 30, 2014.

Dontre Hamilton’s family leads one of many protests since his killing April 30, 2014. Photo: Occupy River West.

At that point, Manney felt he was losing control of the situation and decided to use his wooden baton on Hamilton.

“Manney separated from Hamilton, removed his baton with his left hand and transferred it to his right hand,” the report said. “When Hamilton continued to be aggressive, Manney struck him once in the rib area with the baton. Manney states that Hamilton trapped his baton between his arms and his torso and spun away from Manney. Manney attempted to retain control of his baton but could not.”

Manney also told investigators that he attempted to hit the emergency button on his radio but couldn’t reach it because of the struggle. As he tried to push away from Hamilton, Manney said, he felt a blow from his baton on the right side of his neck.

Protesters at Milwaukee shopping mall, outside Starbucks whose workers called police about Dontre sleeping in the park.

Protesters at Milwaukee shopping mall, outside Starbucks whose workers called police about Dontre sleeping in the park.

He told investigators that he felt he was out of options and decided to draw his weapon in the hope that Hamilton would stop. But he said Hamilton continued to approach wielding the baton.

“Manney fired his weapon but it did not seem to have any effect on Hamilton, so he continued to fire while walking backwards from Hamilton,” according to Manney’s account to investigators. “Hamilton fell forward and Manney continued to fire because he perceived Hamilton still to be a threat. He stopped firing when Hamilton was completely on the ground.” (VOD: note autopsy report brief below.**)

Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm.

Chisholm said that a review of the incident by an outside expert on use of force by police, Emanuel Kapelsohn, concluded that Manney’s decision to fire his weapon was in line with his training.

“The Dontre Hamilton incident is quite unusual in that P.O. Manney appears to have tried every level of force on the Force Option Continuum before resorting to deadly force,” Kapelsohn wrote in his report.

As part of his report, the district attorney also released an autopsy sketch, detailing Hamilton’s wounds, as well as summaries of accounts from witnesses in and around the park that saw all or parts of the incident. Investigators heard conflicting accounts from witnesses who said that Manney continued to shoot Hamilton after he had fell to the ground.

Milwaukee police chief Edward Flynn.

Milwaukee police chief Edward Flynn.

But the autopsy revealed no conclusive evidence that any of the shots were fired while Hamilton was prone.

Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney in October, stating that the officer had identified Hamilton as mentally ill, but ignored department policy and treated him as a criminal by frisking him.

The Milwaukee Police Association condemned Manney’s firing as politically motivated, and members voted no confidence in Flynn soon after the firing.

Manney is currently appealing his dismissal.

Gov. Scott Walker has put Wisconsin National Guard troops on standby in case there is unrest in Milwaukee. He told reporters in Appleton on Monday that he didn’t anticipate violence, but had the troops ready out of an abundance of caution.

“It’s one of the great things about living in America—people have the right to protest,” Walker said. “They just don’t have the right to put other people’s lives at risk. I’m just asking that they be mindful of that.”

hamilton_autopsy**VOD: The following description of the autopsy report is from the website of http://occupyriverwest.com/.

Note that the killer cop in this case falsely portrayed Hamilton as a large beast-like individual who continued to advance despite multiple gunshots. He was only 5’7.”

Similar descriptions were given of Michael Brown and Eric Garner by their killer cops. These racist descriptions indicated the cops did not consider their victims human. Earlier, Detroit police attempted to have the use of hollow point bullets authorized for similar reasons (in one case, they said they needed them because they would have made it easier to kill a 16-year-old in a heavy winter jacket for an unsuccessful fast food robbery.) Their original use was by invading British troops against Africans in the 19th century, who the British also considered sub-human.

“According to the autopsy, seven of the shots that hit Hamilton had a downward trajectory, and one of the bullet wounds showed that Hamilton was shot in the back from behind.

The autopsy also showed “no stippling or unburned or burned gunpowder particles on [Hamilton’s] skin,” which the family’s lawyers say shows that Hamilton was shot from some distance.

Painting by C. E. Fripp, depicting British Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill in battle with Zulu soldiers at the Battle of Isandlwana. In this case, the Zulus triumphed against the invading army despite its weaponry.

Painting by C. E. Fripp, depicting British Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill in battle with Zulu soldiers at the Battle of Isandlwana. In this case, the Zulus triumphed against the invading army despite its weaponry, in just defense of their homeland.

The medical examiner’s account also says that Hamilton had bruises on the right side of his chin, scalp and arm.

Toxicology results also showed no traces of illicit drugs in Hamilton’s system.

The medical examiner’s findings call into question how Manney described Hamilton in a memo he wrote to Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn on Oct. 1.

In his memo, Manney wrote that Hamilton had a “muscular build” and “most definitely would have overpowered … me or pretty much any officer I can think of, to tell you the truth. He was just that big, that muscular … I would say he would be impossible to control if you were one-man.”

Manney also described Hamilton as being “considerably younger than me, in much better shape than me, and much stronger and more muscular than me.”

But the autopsy results do not support Manney’s description. In the report, the medical examiner said that at the time of his death, Hamilton was a 169-pound, 5-foot-7 “well developed, overweight … adult-black male.”


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

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

New homeowner violated proper court procedures, “brandished gun” 

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

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

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

By Diane Bukowski 

December 19, 2014

Alonzo D. Long, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He and another employee said the younger Franklin had paperwork from the treasurer’s auction which she showed to the occupants and to police when they came to the scene at the beginning of events. The Franklins called them around 3:30 p.m.

Police left shortly afterwards, after getting the Franklins to agree to give the occupants more time to move, according to DPD Chief Information Officer Michael Woody.

Williams and another employee identified Long during the hearing as the man they saw enter the house during the argument, which took place hours later, around 9:30 p.m.

Williams said he left the house when he saw guns being produced inside. On cross-exam, he said he did see the elder Franklin with his gun in hand. He said someone “got loud” with Franklin and put their hands on him.

He said a man in the house told Franklin that the police said they had time to “get their stuff out,” and “now you’re brandishing firearms.” He said the man said, “Go get Junior.”

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

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

Williams said Alonzo Long, Jr., who had been sitting in a car in the driveway, entered the house, crossing paths with Williams as Williams ran out.

He said Long had a gun held at his side “stiff-arm” style, pointing downward. He said after he left, he saw Long fire the gun but could not see where he was aiming. He said he saw three “muzzle flashes” and then heard five more gunshots as he ran.

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

There was no forensic or ballistics testimony given to identify the guns, bullets, or trajectories. Two police officers are still set to testify at a continuation of the exam Jan. 2, 2015. Defense attorney Longstreet moved for production of the court file at the end of the session, indicating that it was evidently not available at the time. He reserved comment for after the conclusion of the exam.

Eviction at gunpoint is profoundly illegal.

Eviction at gunpoint is profoundly illegal.

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

Although both employees said the younger Franklin bought the home in an October Wayne County tax foreclosure auction, Wayne County records show the elder Franklin purchased the home, which is registered in his name under Quit Claim Deed 2014439726, dated Nov. 10, 2014. (See Howard Franklin QCD.) VOD was not able to locate an eviction proceedings file on the address in 36th District Court.

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

Attorney Jerome Goldberg, who handles many foreclosure and eviction cases, said the new owners had no right to go to the home without initiating the eviction through 36th District Court. (See Eviction Procedures at 36th District Court Eviction procedures.)

Agnes Hitchcock

Agnes Hitchcock

Even the Wayne County Treasurer’s auction bidding rules say with regard to a winning bidder, “Occupied structures should not be entered without the occupant’s permission.” (See Wayne County Treasurer Bidding_Rules.)

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

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

Attorney Jerome Goldberg.

Attorney Jerome Goldberg.

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

Detroit Police Chief James Craig has repeatedly encouraged “law-abiding” citizens to arm themselves and obtain CCW’s. He said such action “translates into crime reduction.” He was featured on the cover of the June, 2014 issue of the National Rifle Association’s magazine as a result. Shootings by homeowners of people they suspected were trying to enter their homes  escalated after his remarks. In this case, however, the Prosecutor’s office appears to have blamed the occupants, not the intruders.

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

Note Michigan is not among the states

Note Michigan is not among the states

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

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

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

Some of 6,000 homes included in the Detroit "blight bundle" for single purchaser, likely for demolition.

Some of 6,000 homes included in the Detroit “blight bundle” for single purchaser, likely for demolition.

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

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

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

Cornell Squires

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

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

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

“I think the charges were brought against the young man because of the image of young Black men being portrayed in the media,” Squires said. “How are we going to protect our young Black men?”

Attorney Vanessa Fluker.

Attorney Vanessa Fluker.

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

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

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions, and Shut-offs, which fights such actions on a broad level, can be reached at 313-680-5508 or 313-319-0870. Its website is at http://moratorium-mi.org/. We the People for the People can be reached at 313-460-3175.


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

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

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

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

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

White House wants expansion of internet facilities in Cuba

Issue of political refugee Assata Shakur not addressed

HAVANA, Cuba

December 17, 2014

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

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

STATEMENT BY CUBAN PRESIDENT RAUL CASTRO ,

Fellow countrymen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama has executive authority to modify blockade 

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

______________________________________________________________

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

$1.1 trillion cost to Cuban economy

Cost to US economy $1.2B a year

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

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

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

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

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

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Obama Calls Cuba Embargo a Failure

Pres. Obama speaks on ties with Cuba.

Pres. Obama speaks on ties with Cuba.

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

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

Release from White House Office of Press Secretary 

December 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuban community center sign says: WE ARE HAPPY HERE!

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

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

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

Adjusting regulations to more effectively empower the Cuban people

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

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

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

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

Mass Puerto Rican rally against privatization of public services.

Mass Puerto Rican rally against privatization of public services.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unwavering Commitment to Democracy, Human Rights, and Civil Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the ANSWER Coalition: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were never terrorists; they were always fighting terrorism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT ABOUT CUBAN ASYLUM FOR ASSATA SHAKUR?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

By Diane Bukowski

December 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Brown

Eric Garner

Rev. Edward Pinkney

Rev. Edward Pinkney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benton Harbor County Commissioner Robert Wooley in mugshot.

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

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

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

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

Related Stories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 Bond BuyerBy Caitlin Devitt

December 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIBOR value of securities and loans

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Louis Arena on prime riverfront property.

Joe Louis Arena on prime riverfront property.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda van Dusen of Miller Canfield.

Amanda van Dusen of Miller Canfield.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City awaiting ratings from bond agencies

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

Wall Street ratings agencies Standard

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

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

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

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

“Remarketing risk is there”–Barclays loan

Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant workers protest second of Detroit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

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


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

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

 

VOD APPEAL FOR HOLIDAY FUNDS FOR AIYANA JONES’ FAMILY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black lives matter protest from flier

Detroit March Against Capitalism

Friday, December 12 @3:00pm

Spirit of Detroit statue (Woodward and Jefferson)

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

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

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

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

Mike Brown means we got to fight back

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


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Robin D. G. Kelly, UCLA professor

Robin D. G. Kelly, UCLA professor

Dec. 4, 2014

by Robin D.G. Kelley

San Francisco Bay View newspaper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Guard in Ferguson.

National Guard in Ferguson.

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

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

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

Tamir Rice, 12, killed by Cleveland police

Tamir Rice, 12, killed by Cleveland police

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

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

Tanisha Anderson/Family photo

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

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

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

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

Aura Rosser/Family photo

Aura Rosser, Ann Arbor

Roshad McIntosh, Chicago

Roshad McIntosh, Chicago

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

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

Darrien Hunt, Utah

Darrien Hunt, Utah

Dante Parker, CA.

Dante Parker, CA.

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

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

Akai Gurley, Brooklyn

Akai Gurley, Brooklyn

Ezell Ford, LA

Ezell Ford, LA

Omar Abrego, LA

Omar Abrego, LA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kids-dead-by-police-640x205

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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