WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is expected — as early as Tuesday — to ask Congress for new war powers, sending Capitol Hill his blueprint for an updated authorization for the use of military force to fight the Islamic State group.
Pres. Barack Obama ready to go to war again.
Haggling then begins on writing a new authorization to battle the Sunni extremists, who have seized territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria and imposed a violent form of Sharia law.
That will lead to the first war vote in Congress in 13 years — one of the most important votes faced by members of the House and Senate.
To get Congress to approve his request, Obama must find a balance between lawmakers who want wide authority to fight the Islamic State group and others, including members of his own party, who worry that a new authorization to use military force will lead to U.S. entanglement in another protracted war.
In 2002, Congress passed a resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to use force against Iraq — a vote that scores of Democrats have regretted and then-candidate Barack Obama used as a cudgel against his rivals to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
U.S. out of everywhere.
Obama so far has relied on congressional authorizations that former President Bush used to justify military action after 9/11. Critics say the White House’s use of these authorizations to fight the terrorist group is a legal stretch at best. The president earlier insisted he had the legal authority to deploy more than 2,700 U.S. troops in Iraq to train and assist Iraqi security forces, and conduct ongoing airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria. More recently, the president has said he wants a new authorization, but has not released details.
Lawmakers expect the White House to issue its language before the end of the week. Obama administration officials have had consultations with both Democrats and Republican lawmakers about provisions of the new authorization it is seeking. So far, no formal language has been submitted, although the White House has completed a draft, a senior congressional official said.
Another congressional official said the president will ask for a three-year authorization so the next president will have to seek renewed authority to fight IS. The official said Obama wants to leave open the option to send in combat forces if needed, but is not seeking an authorization that would permit a prolonged U.S. troop presence on the ground. The White House request also would not restrict the fight to certain geographic locations, but would limit the U.S. to fighting IS militants or any future group that evolves, the official said.
A congressional aide said Democrats will not rubber-stamp the White House version, but will seek to rewrite it to include bipartisan views. Another congressional staffer said the debate in Congress will not necessarily flow along party lines because, for instance, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats alike have disagreed about two major sticking points: deploying U.S. combat troops and restricting the geographical area served by the new authorization. The second staffer said a final authorization will depend on the language decided on regarding these two issues.
The four congressional officials and staffers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing negotiations with the White House.
U.S. spending on last war in Iraq: Money for homes, jobs, schools, hospitals, services in U.S.
Before Congress ended its last session in December, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who at the time was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pushed his version of an authorization that would have limited operations against IS to three years and allowed ground forces in some circumstances. The legislation passed out of the committee, but was never voted on by the full Senate before the session ended.
Menendez said Monday that he has not seen the final language written by the White House, but said more work will need to be done.
“I think a good part of it is how we started in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” said Menendez, now the ranking Democrat on the committee since Republicans took control of the Senate in January. “But there is a degree for some greater flexibility than what the Senate Foreign Relations (Committee) drafted.”
Menendez said: “Finding the balance is the challenge here.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the new authorization should be flexible enough so it can be used not only against IS, but also against whatever form the group takes in the future, as well as any groups that associate with or support it materially.
“Most importantly, the authorization should not impose any artificial and unnecessary limitations such as those based on time, geography and type of force that could interfere with our strategic objective of defeating Islamic State,” Hatch said Monday on the Senate floor.
He said he disagreed with those who want to prohibit the use of ground forces or set an expiration date for the authorization.
Other lawmakers want the new war powers to be narrowly defined in a way that gives the president the authority to train and equip local forces and conduct airstrikes, but not launch a combat mission on the ground.
“I’ve been clear in opposition to boots on the ground, but I’d like to see what they propose and hear them out,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. “It’s traditional and expected for an administration to articulate their strategy to the Congress, so we want to give them a chance to do so.”
Evidence exposing who put ISIS in power, and how it was done: U.S., CIA.
VOD editor: this article is especially pertinent now as the mainstream media builds up hysteria about ISIS executions of hostages, and the U.S.. Jordan and the UAE carry out air strikes on Iraq, Syria, elsewhere
The Islamic militant group ISIS, formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and recently rebranded as the so called Islamic State, is the stuff of nightmares. They are ruthless, fanatical, killers, on a mission, and that mission is to wipe out anyone and everyone, from any religion or belief system and to impose Shari’ah law. The mass executions, beheadings and even crucifixions that they are committing as they work towards this goal are flaunted like badges of pride, video taped and uploaded for the whole world to see. This is the new face of evil.
Would it interest you to know who helped these psychopaths rise to power? Would it interest you to know who armed them, funded them and trained them? Would it interest you to know why? This story makes more sense if we start in the middle, so we’ll begin with the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The CIA-backed Libyan counter-revolutionaries targeted Black Libyans for lynching, execution.
The Libyan revolution was Obama’s first major foreign intervention. It was portrayed as an extension of the Arab Spring, and NATO involvement was framed in humanitarian terms.
U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, CIA headed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, destruction of developed country’s infrastructure.
Not surprising, considering the fact that the leader of the Libyan rebels later admitted that his fighters included Al-Qaeda linked jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq. These jihadist militants from Iraq were part of what national security analysts commonly referred to as Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Remember Al-Qaeda in Iraq was ISIS before it was rebranded. With the assistance of U.S. and NATO intelligence and air support, the Libyan rebels captured Gaddafi and summarily executed him in the street, all the while enthusiastically chanting “Allah Akbar”. For many of those who had bought the official line about how these rebels were freedom fighters aiming to establish a liberal democracy in Libya, this was the beginning of the end of their illusions.
Muammar Gaddafi was respected across the continent of Africa. Here he is shown with other African leaders.
Mass protest against U.S. war on Syria in New York City’s Times Square.
Now after Gaddafi was overthrown, the Libyan armories were looted, and massive quantities of weapons were sent by the Libyan rebels to Syria. The weapons, which included anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles were smuggled into Syria through Turkey, a NATO ally. The Times of London reported on the arrival of the shipment on September 14th, 2012. (Secondary confirmation in this NYT article) This was just three days after Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi. Chris Stevens had served as the U.S. government’s liaison to the Libyan rebels since April of 2011.
While a great deal media attention has focused on the fact that the State Department did not provide adequate security at the consulate, and was slow to send assistance when the attack started, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh released an article in April of 2014 which exposed a classified agreement between the CIA, Turkey and the Syrian rebels to create what was referred to as a “rat line”. The “rat line” was the covert network used to channel weapons and ammunition from Libya, through southern Turkey and across the Syrian border.
Pres. Obama, Sec. of State Hilary Clinton; photo inset: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens
FSA Commander Jamal Maarouf enters his secret office.
This distinction, however, had no basis in reality. In an interview given in April of 2014, FSA commander Jamal Maarouf admitted that his fighters regularly conduct joint operations with Al-Nusra. Al-Nusra is the official Al-Qa’ida branch in Syria. This statement is further validated by an interview given in June of 2013 by Colonel Abdel Basset Al-Tawil, commander of the FSA’s Northern Front. In this interview he openly discusses his ties with Al-Nusra, and expresses his desire to see Syria ruled by sharia law. (You can verify the identities of these two commanders here in this document from The Institute for the Study of War)
Moderate rebels? Well it’s complicated. Not that this should really come as any surprise. Reuters had reported in 2012 that the FSA’s command was dominated by Islamic extremists, and the New York Times had reported that same year that the majority of the weapons that Washington were sending into Syria was ending up in the hands of Jihadists. For two years the U.S. government knew that this was happening, but they kept doing it.
The U.S. and its covert allies want to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
And the FSA’s ties to Al-Nusra are just the beginning. In June of 2014 Al-Nusra merged with ISIS at the border between Iraq and Syria. So to review, the FSA is working with Al-Nusra, Al-Nusra is working with ISIS, and the U.S. has been sending money and weapons to the FSA even though they’ve known since 2012 that most of these weapons were ending up in the hands of extremists. You do the math.
[UPDATE 9.03.14]: Retired Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney admits: “We Helped Build ISIS”: Note that the first version of this video I uploaded (here) was quickly taken down. To insure that this clip does not disappear we have provided a secondary download link here. So if the video below isn’t playing then use that link and upload it elsewhere.
Syria, we backed I believe, in some cases some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that’s a little confusing to people. So I’ve always maintained, and go back quite some time that we were backing the wrong types. I think it’s going to turn out maybe this weekend in a new special that Brett Baer is going to have Friday that’s gonna show some of those weapons from Benghazi ended up in the hands of ISIS. So we helped build ISIS.
In that context, the sarin gas attacks of 2013 which turned out to have been committed by the Syrian rebels, makes a lot more sense doesn’t it? If it wasn’t enough that U.N. investigators, Russian investigators, and Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh all pinned that crime on Washington’s proxies, the rebels themselves threatened the West that they would expose what really happened if they were not given more advanced weaponry within one month.
By the way, this also explains why Washington then decided to target Russia next. This threat was made on June 10th, 2013. In what can only be described as an amazing coincidence, just nine days later, the rebels received their first official shipment of heavy weapons in Aleppo. After the second sarin gas fiasco, which was also exposed and therefore failed to garner public support for airstrikes, the U.S. continued to increase its the training and support for the rebels.
Syrian government air strike destroyed a large part of the Douma area in Damascus where CIA-backed rebels are holed up on Feb. 5, 2015.
In February of 2014, Haaretz reported that the U.S. and its allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, were in the process of helping the Syrian rebels plan and prepare for a massive attack in the south. According to Haaretz Israel had also provided direct assistance in military operations against Assad four months prior.
Then in May of 2014 PBS ran a report in which they interviewed rebels who were trained by the U.S. in Qatar. According to those rebels they were being trained to finish off soldiers who survived attacks.
“They trained us to ambush regime or enemy vehicles and cut off the road,” said the fighter, who is identified only as “Hussein.” “They also trained us on how to attack a vehicle, raid it, retrieve information or weapons and munitions, and how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush.”
U.S.-backed ISIS executes civilians in Iraq.
This is a blatant violation of the Geneva conventions. It also runs contrary to conventional military strategy. In conventional military strategy soldiers are better off left wounded, because this ends up costing the enemy more resources. Executing captured enemy soldiers is the kind of tactic used when you want to strike terror in the hearts of the enemy.
It also just happens to be standard operating procedure for ISIS. One month after this report, in June of 2014, ISIS made its dramatic entry, crossing over the Syrian border into Iraq, capturing Mosul, Baiji and almost reaching Baghdad. The internet was suddenly flooded with footage of drive by shootings, large scale death marches, and mass graves. And of course any Iraqi soldier that was captured was executed.
U.S. ignored ISIS atrocities in Iraq while it carried out drone atrocities in Pakistan.
Massive quantities of American military equipment were seized during that operation. ISIS took entire truckloads of humvees, they took helicopters, tanks, and artillery. They photographed and video taped themselves and advertised what they were doing on social media, and yet for some reason Washington didn’t even TRY to stop them.
U.S. military doctrine clearly calls for the destruction of military equipment and supplies when friendly forces cannot prevent them from falling into enemy hands, but that didn’t happen here. ISIS was allowed to carry this equipment out of Iraq and into Syria unimpeded. The U.S. military had the means to strike these convoys, but they didn’t lift a finger, even though they had been launching drone strikes in Pakistan that same week. Why would they do that?
Though Obama plays the role of a weak, indecisive, liberal president, and while pundits from the right have had a lot of fun with that image, this is just a facade. Some presidents, like George W. Bush, rely primarily on overt military aggression. Obama gets the same job done, but he prefers covert means. Not really surprising considering the fact that Zbigniew Brzezinski was his mentor.
Those who know their history will remember that Zbigniew Brzezinski was directly involved in the funding and arming the Islamic extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to weaken the Soviets. By the way Osama bin Laden was one of these anti-Soviet “freedom fighters” the U.S. was funding and arming. This operation is no secret at this point, nor are the unintended side effects.
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was aimed at protecting secular socialist government.
Officially the U.S. government’s arming and funding of the Mujahideen was a response to the Soviet invasion in December of 1979.
However in his memoir entitled “From the Shadows” Robert Gates, director of the CIA under Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior, and Secretary of Defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, revealed that the U.S. actually began the covert operation six months prior, with the express intention of luring the Soviets into a quagmire. The strategy worked. The Soviets invaded, and the ten years of war that followed are considered by many historians as being one of the primary causes of the fall of the USSR.
This example doesn’t just establish precedent, what we’re seeing happen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria right now is actually a continuation of a old story. Al-Nusra and ISIS are ideological and organizational decedents of these extremist elements that the U.S. government made use of thirty years ago. Continue reading →
Baxter Jones and friend Pat Driscoll leaving apartment late Feb. 5 to take him to a hotel, after landlord refused DTE access to restore his power.
Disabled walkway inaccessible, Jones misses doctor’s appointment
Landlord Patrick Dorn of CCNDC: “Jones brings all his problems on himself”
By Diane Bukowski
February 6, 2015
Editor’s note Feb. 7: For unknown reasons, the protest referenced above was canceled. Voice of Detroit was not told about the cancellation until we arrived to cover the protest.
Jones niece Psyche shows snow blocking entrance to disabled walkway. She feared her small car would get stuck. Later another car parked there, further blocking access. “Handicapped sign” is not visible for drivers.
DETROIT – Baxter Jones, a widely known activist with the Beat Back the Bullies Brigade and other organizations, had a traumatic day Feb. 5, 2015. Jones is wheelchair-bound. He could not get out of his Cass Corridor apartment building, the Coronado Apartments, to keep a doctor’s appointment due to mounds of snow that blocked the “handicapped” walkway.
Then DTE abruptly shut off his lights and heat, leaving him trapped in his apartment in subzero temperatures with no power for his breathing apparatus and other necessities. He repeatedly checked his blood pressure with a monitor as the day wore on.
That evening, his landlord, Cass Community Neighborhood Development Associates (CCNDA), whose executive director is Patrick Dorn, denied DTE access to the building that night. The DTE worker had come out on an emergency call to restore his heat. The landlord’s action forced Jones to relocate with great difficulty to a hotel.
The same day, Fox 2 News reported that Hazel Park veteran John Skelly, 69, died of hypothermia in his house after the power was cut.
Full view of street on Selden next to Coronado Apartments
“I’d been sick in bed all week with a cold,” Jones said the next day. “DTE did call me this morning and tell me they were able to get in today to turn on the power. But I should have been able to get in last night. I couldn’t sleep in the hotel because it was cold there and I was thinking about everything that happened during the day. The landlord and the people who work for him don’t understand what people with disabilities go through. The whole city is out of compliance. No one is enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Katie Levy shovels a small portion of street so Jones’ niece can get her car in to get her uncle out of freezing apartment.
As this reporter drove down Second Avenue to Jones’ apartment that morning, there were numerous pedestrians, many elderly, with walkers and motorized wheelchairs in the streets. Many of the curb cuts for them were covered with snow, some of them after the plows came through and blocked them.
Jones’ niece, who had come to take him to the doctor, stayed with him through a frantic day and night as friends from around the city came to his support. One woman shoveled part of the road. Another contacted DTE to let them know that this was a medical emergency. That evening, a DTE supervisor called Jones to tell him his power would be back on that evening. Shortly thereafter, a DTE worker arrived to turn it on.
Patrick Dorn at his house next door after DTE was denied access to building Feb. 5, 2015.
Jones and his niece called the after-hours maintenance number so DTE could get into the basement. Then they waited—and waited—and waited, along with the extremely patient and sympathetic DTE worker. They were first told that maintenance would be out there in a half-hour. An hour later, they received a call back that maintenance was not coming because it was not an “emergency.” The DTE worker stayed with them as they called friends again for help, but finally had to leave.
This reporter spoke with Patrick Dorn, the Executive Director of the “non-profit” CCNDC, which renovated the building. Dorn lives right next door at 3547 Cass, in an antique building still sparkling with Christmas lights and decorations, evidently well supplied with heat and lights.
Dorn was told that Jones’ power was off. He was asked about several other complaints Jones had including the walkway, and insulation of Jones’ apartment, particularly the hardwood floor which has no sub-flooring to prevent heat escaping, the door which accesses the “handicap” ramp outside, and blockage on the ramp plus the landlord’s refusal to install a light on the dark corridor.
Patrick Dorn’s festive house next door to Coronado Apartments
“Jones brings all his problems on himself,” a hostile Dorn responded. He said the city had inspected the building and cleared it, and that the building was a historic building so changes to the floor could not be made.
He asked why Jones’ utility bill wasn’t paid. Jones pays $620 a month for rent, and an additional $200-$300 in utility costs during winter months. The Coronado Apartments and other buildings in the area were renovated for “low-income” occupants, beginning with $16.7 million in city, state and federal funds for two of the properties, according to Crain’s Detroit business (see link to article at end of story).
Walkway to Jones apartment, blocked by various appliances. Jones said landlord refused to install light in the dark corridor,
The Crain’s story lists the following public grants that went to the CCNDC development:
“One of the largest investors is Great Lakes Capital Fund, which invested nearly $9 million in equity by financing housing tax credits for the buildings. Other funding partners include:
Michigan State Housing and Development Authority
Detroit Economic Growth Corp.
City of Detroit HOME loan funds
Wayne County HOME loan funds
Cass Corridor Development Neighborhood Development Corp.
Dearborn Federal Savings
Michigan State Brownfield and Historic Tax Credits
Federal Historic Tax Credits
Smart Grant from the Detroit Economic Growth Council
Green Grant from Enterprise”
Dorn said the other buildings also charge tenants for heat, a practice becoming common among “non-profit” developers such as Southwest Housing Solutions. Traditionally, most apartment buildings in Detroit have charged only for lights.
After the non-productive maintenance call, Dorn told a friend of Jones that he didn’t have a key to the basement, despite his position with CCNDC and the fact that he himself could have called maintenance to tell them to let DTE in. Dorn was clearly quite comfortable with heat and electricity in his decorated house next door.
Pat Driscoll and niece Psyche help Jones out of her car so he can retrieve needed belongings for night at hotel. Driscoll had to shovel the street first.
When this reporter returned that night, Jones, his niece, and another friend were helping Jones remove needed items from his apartment so that he could spend the night in a hotel. He did not get there until after 11 p.m., a situation that was totally unnecessary since DTE was ready and available to turn his power back on.
“This morning, this guy Dorn can say a whole bunch of words,” Jones’ niece said. “But he already accomplished what he wanted to last night. His attitude was that he rules, and it’s not his problem. Last night Uncle B suffered for that. Nobody can live like that. I guarantee you that with Mr. Dorn it will not be long before there is another whole situation. I know he wants my uncle out of there, and he’ll keep making him uncomfortable, then he can let a whole other tenant move in and claim money for him. This is a money-collecting organization.”
In fact, IRS forms 990 for the “non-profit” CCNDC show that the vast majority of their income does not come from public grants or other public sources, but from “services,” meaning rent. Their non-profit status is thus questionable.
“Handicap” parking sign near disabled access walkway is not visible to drivers, even when vehicle not parked there, unless they happen to glance to the side while passing. Jones said he asked for a “reserved” handicap sign so others could not park there, but was refused. There is also no parking for tenants of the building except on the street, although there is a vacant lot in the rear of the building.
They are partnered with a dozen other FOR-PROFIT groups that own the various buildings they renovated, ostensibly for “low-income” residents.
“It’s false advertising,” Baxter’s niece said.
Addendum: Baxter Jones later told VOD that he was pressured to sign a lease with the building by Jan. 1 of the year he moved in, in order for the owners to get tax credits for having a disabled tenant. But he was not able to move in until March because of access problems. CCNDC, however, charged him rent for January and February. Later, they gave him an eviction notice because he had not put the utilities in his name, which was evidently specified in the lease. Jones, having been pressured to sign so quickly, had not seen that clause, which may have resulted in his NOT signing.
Members of DAREA sign appeal of Detroit bankruptcy plan of confirmation on Jan. 27, 2015.
Detroit bankruptcy appeals briefs contend:
Michigan state constitution AND PA 436 protect public pensions
Retirement systems separate from city, should not have been included in bankruptcy filing
Raid on Annuity Savings Funds illegal
Judge Friedman denies city motion to consolidate appeals
Victory in Stockton case gives hope to appellants
By Diane Bukowski
February 3, 2015
DAREA Pres. Bill Davis (2nd from l) , VP Cecily McClellan, and retiree Ezza Brandon confront AFSCME Council 25 Pres. Al Garrett after he said union would not appeal bankruptcy plan of confirmation, July 31, 2014.
DETROIT – “The city better realize we’re serious, because we intend to take this appeal of the bankruptcy plan all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary,” William Davis, president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), told VOD after the organization filed its brief for the appeal Jan. 27.
“City of Detroit retirees suffered the brunt of the cutbacks and debt reduction in the Detroit bankruptcy,” DAREA says in its brief. “A reading of the Plan of Adjustment reflects that of $7.1 billion in debt reduction accomplished through the bankruptcy, $3.85 billion was accomplished by the virtual gutting of retiree health benefits, with expenditures reduced from $4.3 billion to $450 million. An additional $1.7 billion in debt relief came though cuts in pension payments, with the city not even contributing directly to the pension fund for the next 10 years. Thus, a total of $5.5 billion, or 78 percent of the total bankruptcy relief, comes off the backs of the city’s retirees.”
Later, DAREA cites two particularly egregious cases of the plan’s effect on city retirees.
Octavius Sapp, retired Detroit Substance Abuse Counselor with Masters Degree/WSU photo
“Octavius Sapp decribed how the cost of the 12 medications he needs to treat his end-stage renal disease have gone up from $10 to $20 per medication to a cost of $160 to $200,” DAREA says. The costs are a matter of life or death.”
DAREA says the cost of health care for Jesse Florence and his retiree wife Belinda Myers-Florence have skyrocketed from $152 a month to $1062 a month, in addition to a $3,000 annual deductible. After putting their children through school, DAREA says, they now face the possible loss of their home.
DAREA will hold its next membership meeting Wed. Feb. 5 at 5:30 p.m., at St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s Church at Woodward and Holbrook. The organization’s membership has been growing by leaps and bounds. They also have a very active fund-raising committee, committed to raising the necessary money to take the appeal all the way.
Three other major briefs have also been filed with U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman, by Jamie Fields (the Ochadleus appellants), John P. Quinn, and Irma Industrious/Dennis Taubitz. A total of eight appeals were filed, but it is unclear whether the other four will be considered due to technical issues.
Speaker at Detroit City Council, wearing “NO JONES DAY” button opposes hiring of firm April 9, 2013. A strong campaign was waged by hundreds of Detroiters to stop the contract. Jones Day previously represented the State of Michigan to engineer the bankruptcy.
U.S. District Court has authority over the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court above them.
The City of Detroit, still represented by Jones Day attorneys on contract, earlier asked Friedman to consolidate the cases, and allow it to reply to all of them in one 120-page brief, but he refused to do so Jan. 26.
“The appellants in each appeal are entitled to frame their arguments and cite to the evidence of record they choose,” Judge Friedman said. “While all of the cases arise from the same bankruptcy case, it is not apparent that the appeals will raise the same issues or rely on the same facts. To say the least it would be confusing for the Court, and most likely for the parties as well, to attempt to track the parties’ arguments if appellants’ individual briefs are countered by appellees’ ‘omnibus’ 120-page brief, which in turn are countered by appellants’ individual reply briefs.”
Friedman’s denial of the City’s first motion in the case contrasts sharply with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ handling of the bankruptcy trial. From the outset, Rhodes granted nearly every motion by Jones Day and other law firms filed on behalf of the city under Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. Rhodes promptly recognized Orr’s authority to file the bankruptcy, stayed all related proceedings in state and other federal courts, and held that federal law “trumped” Michigan state constitutional protection of public employee pensions.
The last finding was part of Rhodes’ eligibility decision Dec. 5, 2013.
Attorney Jerome Goldberg is interviewed June 10, 2013 after Kevyn Orr’s talk on bankruptcy.
“This is the worst decision in the country,” Attorney Jerome Goldberg, representing city water department retiree and objector David Sole, a leader of the Detroit Debt Moratorium Coalition, said at the time.
“It gives the green light for municipalities all over the U.S. to take similar actions,” Goldberg explained. “Judge Rhodes bought the arguments of Jones Day attorneys lock, stock and barrel. He made no mention of the global banks’ role in the destruction of Detroit. He summed up the malevolent character of his decision at its end, where he said that retirees, who have worked all their lives for their pensions, should now look to charitable institutions and social services to survive.”
In contrast, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Klein later approved a plan of confirmation from the second stage of the Stockton, CA bankruptcy that protected pensions according to that state’s law, on Oct. 30, 2014. The plan still subjected public workers to hefty wage cuts and the loss of health care benefits, but pensions were held sacrosanct.
The Wall Street Journal reported then, “The resolution of the Stockton case is ‘unlikely’ to lead other U.S. cities to view bankruptcy ‘as an attractive option for resolving serious financial challenges,’ said Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services in a statement.
Marchers in Dublin, Ireland demand cancellation of bank debt that is destroying countries around the world.
The appeals of Detroit’s Plan of Confirmation, coming in the wake of the Stockton ruling, are thus in a strengthened position. They raise some key issues in common.
They all say Michigan’s constitutional ban on impairing pensions cannot be overruled by federal law, which requires a balance of powers between the state and federal governments. They also raise the fact that the city’s two retirement systems are structured as legal entities separate from the City of Detroit, which filed as the debtor. Therefore, the briefs say, the retirement systems should never have been part of the bankruptcy filing as debtors.
Marchers demand “Orr out the door” at hotel where he was living in Detroit, May 1, 2014.
“ . . . Judge Rhodes erred in ruling that the retiree pension benefits were subject to being impaired or diminished in the Chapter 9 bankrutpcy, despite the Michigan Constitutional ban on doing so encompassed in Article IX Section 24 of the Michigan Constitution,” DAREA’s appeal brief says.
It also prominently cites the fact that the state constitutional ban on impairing pensions is fully incorporated into Public Act 436, requiring any Emergency Manager such as Kevyn Orr to comply with it. In other words, even if PA 436 were to be found to be constitutional, the city had no right to hit pensions in the bankruptcy filing.
The DAREA appeal incorporates the Fields, Quinn and Industrious contentions that the recoupment of $190 million from workers’ Annuity Savings Funds (ASF), which are similar to bank savings accounts, is illegal and flawed.
“The funds in a pension trust belong to their beneficiaries,” say Jamie Fields and the Ochadleus appellants. “The retiree maintains an equitable property interest in the trust corpus and any investment gain generated therefrom. The City cannot use the fund’s assets for anything but their intended purpose.
Hundreds of thousands of anti-austerity protesters fill square in Madrid Feb. 3, 2015. Attack on workers’ pensions, wages, benefits, safety net is world-wide.
“The trustees are the ultimate arbiters of the pension trust, as long as they are acting within the law. The ASF program was legal. The pension trustees only owe their fiduciary duties to the retirement system’s beneficiaries, not to the City. The Michigan Court of Appeals addressed this very issue in a decision holding that pension trustees could use 25 million dollars in ‘excess earnings’ to reduce the City’s required annual contribution.”
Fields, Quinn and Industrious contend that raiding of the ASF funds is also discriminatory within a class, a violation of bankruptcy law, because only those who retired from 2003-13 are affected. Several briefs argue that there was nothing illegal about the 13th check that used to be given to retirees, because it was derived from excess earnings on investments, some of which were also turned over to the general pension fund.
Detroiters march outside Jones Day Cleveland office March 35, 2013.
Judge Friedman has granted an extension for the City to file its reply to the Fields/Ochadleus brief to Feb. 26, from Feb. 10, but also ordered that the appellants be given 30 days after receipt of the city’s appeal brief to allow time for them to rectify any errors in their own brief.
Jones Day has been contacting all the appellants since Friedman’s order denying their motion to consolidate briefs, to ask them to agree to more time to reply.
To donate to DAREA’s LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, click on http://www.gofundme.com/pensiondefensefund. Or checks can be made payable to the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), at P.O. Box 3724, Highland Park, Michigan 48203.
Committee meetings Mondays, 11 AM, at Nandi’s Knowledge Café, 12511 Woodward, Highland Park, 48203. General membership meetings every Wednesday at 5:30 PM, at St. Joseph’s and St. Matthew’s Church, Woodward and Holbrook. To receive notices of meetings, updates on the appeal and events information please provide your email address and phone numbers via email at Detroit2700plus@gmail.com or call DAREA at 313-649-7018.
“Don’t ever doubt we are still in this struggle for Aiyana Monay Stanley-Jones”—grandmother Mertilla Jones
“So much wickedness against Jones family it is ungodly”–friend
Jessie Hernandez, Denver: “Officers came up to the car from behind, fired four times into the driver’s side window” – witness in car
Kristiana Coignard, Longview, TX: “They (3 cops) are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us.” — aunt
Defense attorney Steve Fishman mocks Mertilla Jones’ testimony that Joseph Weekley pointed gun directly at Aiyana Jones’ head. In fact, ME testified that direct contact gunshot wound was possible. Fishman as well as much of local media has derided Aiyana’s family unmercifully since Weekley killed the little girl.
DETROIT – In an atmosphere figuratively still smoking with tear gas from national rebellions against the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury verdicts, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has dismissed the only charge remaining against Detroit killer cop Joseph Weekley, Jr. Weekley shot seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones to death with an MP5 submachine gun on May 16, 2010 during a horrific SWAT-style raid on her home.
The announcement comes the same week as two 17-year-old girls, Jessica Hernandez and Kristiana Coignard, were literally slaughtered by Denver and Dallas police in circumstances condemned by witnesses and family and community members.
“Please continue to pray and hold our families up in prayer,” Aiyana’s grandmother Mertilla Jones said on Facebook. She was sleeping on a front-room couch with Aiyana when Weekley blew the child’s head apart.
“When I say our families I mean the Jones and Stanley families; don’t ever doubt we are still in this struggle for justice for Aiyana Monay Stanley-Jones,” Mrs. Jones continued. “But I speak for Mertilla Jones when I make certain statements. As my future daughter-in-law Dominika Jones has shown the City of Detroit and the rest of the world, she has a voice and she will be heard. I am so very proud of her. And to Prosecutor Moran [and] Officer Weak Assly y’all have got the battle but there is yet a war and when you meet your maker I don’t know if that’s going to be heaven or hell.”
Cornell Squires, a member of the Original Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, told VOD, “There is no justice in our court system, it is all corrupt. There has been so much wickedness brought against the Jones family it is ungodly. But God sees everything and he is going to do justice in good time.”
Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy testifies at state legislature; Asst. Prosecutor Robert Moran is at her side. He prosecuted both Weekley and Aiyana’s dad Charles Jones.
In a statement, Worthy said, “Today we personally informed the family of Aiyana Stanley–Jones that we have made a decision that we would not be going to trial for a third time in the Joseph Weekley case. It is unfortunate that Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway granted a directed verdict dismissing the felony Manslaughter charged, leaving only the misdemeanor count of Careless Discharge Causing Injury or Death. Under the law her decision cannot be appealed. On Friday, January 30, 2015 at 9:00 a.m., we will move to dismiss the case.”
There was no explanation of why Worthy dismissed the charge of careless discharge of a firearm. During both of Weekley’s trials, which each ended in hung juries, extensive evidence was presented that his gun could NOT be fired accidentally, and that officers are trained to keep their fingers off the trigger under any circumstances. A confidential source who knows Weekley told VOD recently that his gun safety latch was not engaged.
Firearms expert who testified at both Weekley trials said his MP5 gun, shown in photo, could not be discharged accidentally. However, local media continues to claim Weekley killed Aiyana “accidentally.”
VOD predicted this dismissal in earlier stories, based on confidential statements from an individual close to the prosecutor’s office. He wrote last February that the planned scenario was to dismiss the felony charge and get Weekley to plead to the misdemeanor, with Weekley serving no time. He added that many members of the prosecutor’s office were upset at the handling of the case.
Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller, communications director for Worthy’s office denied this was the case.
“As Prosecutor Worthy noted in her statement we were very disappointed that Judge Hathaway dismissed the manslaughter charge. She didn’t do so in the first jury trial and she heard the same evidence in the second jury trial so it was not in any way expected. As Prosecutor Worthy stated we believe she [Judge Hathaway] did not look at the facts properly and did not follow the law. The standard is that the judge must look at the facts that are most favorable to the prosecution when ruling.”
In fact, Worthy did appeal the dismissal of the felony charge, but an appeals court headed by notoriously right-wing, racist Judge Michael Talbot confirmed Wayne County Circuit Judge Cynthia Gray-Hathaway’s ruling.
Rafael Hardy, 14, leads march for Justice for his cousin Aiyana and her father Charles Jones April 23, 2012 at Frank Murphy Hall in downtown Detroit, grandmother Mertilla Jones at left, aunt LaKrystal Sanders at right.
Gus Burns, writing for Mlive.com, noted in an article titled Appeals Court Upholds Shocking Ruling in Aiyana Jones Manslaughter Case, “What made Hathaway’s decision so surprising is that she’d heard Weekley’s attorney, Steven Fishman, make the same motion during the officer’s first trial in 2013 — it ended with a mistrial because the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous decision — yet ruled in an opposite way. Fishman’s motion is one made almost customarily by defense attorneys after the prosecution ends it cases. They’re almost just as customarily rejected.”
Miller said, “Under the law a directed verdict cannot be appealed. Even though we knew that this is the law but we thought we had a very narrow opening because of the fact that the judge heard the evidence in the first trial and did not grant a directed verdict and the fact that she granted the dismissal in the second case with the same evidence should be considered by the court. Once we had a ruling we did not think that the higher court was going to rule differently.”
Video above shows earlier view of raid on Jones’ home. Man lying prostate on street with cop’s foot in his back is Aiyana’s cousin, who cried out to raid team that there were children in the home before they entered and killed Aiyana. Her two toddler brothers, with their parents, were also present.
Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran prosecuted both Weekley and Aiyana’s father Charles Jones in what Jones’ attorney called a clear conflict of interest. Jones was in the home when his daughter was killed, with Dominika and their two toddlers. He was forced by police to crawl through broken glass, blood and bits of her brain during the raid, to sit for hours on the couch where she died, along with Dominika, both not being told their child was dead.
From Dominika Jones Facebook photos: collage showing Dominika and Charles at upper left, with photos of Aiyana. A love that will never die.
Jones is now serving a 40-60 year sentence on first-degree murder charges based almost exclusively on statements from jail-house snitches, which an appeals court allowed into evidence. Charges were not brought until 17 months after the killing of Jerean Blake, 17, the case in which he was charged. When Jones was arrested, police charged into his home with weapons drawn again, despite the presence of his young sons.
Dominika Jones, front, collapses after first mistrial in Weekley case. Her uncle Londell Fields (behind her) had to carry her out of the courtroom.
Aiyana’s mother Dominika Jones has said before that she wants an end to the mockery of two previous trials against Weekley, due to the trauma she has suffered attending and testifying at them.
She wrote on Facebook that she talked with Charles Jones after the announcement.
“Just got off the phone with my love so not a good day for me but I am going to make the best of it and always hearing his voice make it better even tho the situation we both going thru gets the best of us,” she said.
Dominika’s Facebook page is filled with photos of their family, the tale of a love that will never die. An attorney with the law offices of Geoffrey Fieger has filed an appeal of Charles Jones’ conviction. He is being held at the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee, Michigan, with a Security Level II classification, the second lowest.
Some community advocates have said they will file an appeal with the U.S. Department of Justice. However, the USDOJ just told Fox 2 News that they will not file charges in the case of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, shot to death 8 times by Ferguson, MO cop Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014, sparking uprisings in Ferguson and St. Louis as well as protests across the country.
(VOD editor: this reporter has covered the Aiyana Jones case since the morning she was killed, in hundreds of stories. Put “Aiyana” in VOD search engine to see entire background of case.)
UPDATE: Hathaway congratulates prosecution, defense as she dismisses last Weekley charge, downplays Aiyana’s death as one of many.
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway (l) has now dismissed all charges against killer cop Joseph Weekley (r) for shooting Aiyana Jones, 7, to death with an MP5 submachine gun.
By Diane Bukowski
Calls defense and prosecution attorneys “gentlemen and scholars”
Jan. 31, 2015
Aiyana’s mother Dominika Jones grieves at her firstborn’s grave. Facebook
DETROIT – Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway dismissed the last charge, reckless discharge of a firearm, against Detroit killer cop Joseph Weekley in the 2010 death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, during a hearing Jan. 30. Hathaway earlier dismissed the most serious charge, involuntary manslaughter, at the request of the defense in Weekley’s second trial, although she denied the same motion during Weekley’s first trial.
This time, instead of defense attorney Steve Fishman, it was Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy moving for dismissal. The hearing ended with Judge Hathaway congratulating both prosecution and defense for their behavior during the trials as “gentlemen and scholars.”
“A baby is dead and no one is held accountable,” courtroom observer Brenda Hill, of Mothers of Murdered Children (MOMC), told VOD. “We’re back at the Dred Scott decision. A child’s brains were blown out, and those who were supposed to protect and serve her failed her. She could have grown up to change the world. They used a Keystone cop defense that it was ‘accidental.’ But we are going to continue to fight so that Aiyana’s death will not be in vain. Detroit is the cradle of this nation and the world, but the police force here and across the U.S. is becoming more militarized every day. This is about Aiyana and all the Aiyanas to come.”
Andrea Clark said, “That child never had a chance to interact with the police, a chance to speak. She did not make a decision when she went to bed that she was going to die. The judge overstepped her bounds when she dismissed the manslaughter count. They set out from the beginning to distract us, throwing the blame on Aiyana’s family. This was not about Aiyana’s family or anyone else, it was about Aiyana, about her being killed by Joseph Weekley. No other names should have been attached.”
In rendering her ruling, Hathaway attached other names.
“This was a tough case, not only because one child lost its (sic) life, but the genesis of this case was that another child lost its (sic) life, and one was intentionally murdered,” Hathaway, who is married to a Wayne County Deputy Sheriff, said.
JeRean Blake, 17, killed May 14, 2010. VOD has published this photo numerous times.
“A high school student [JeRean Blake] was shot down for no apparent reason, which brought us this case. All young people deserve to become adults. To the media, have you ever showed a picture of this young man? I am disturbed that he was not brought to the attention of the public. Two juries decided that they could not reach a decision, one on both charges and one on the [gun charge]. The judge submitted the charges to the juries that I thought should be looked at. It isn’t the judge’s decision that caused these jurors not t0 make a decision.”
Judge Hathaway neglected to observe that while she was dismissing all charges against Weekley, Chauncey Owens and Charles Jones, Aiyana’s father, are serving lengthy prison terms, in the case of Owens, life without parole, related to charges in his death.
In fact, the media broadly covered the case of JeRean Blake, beginning with the first press conference on Aiyana’s killing, held by Attorney Geoffrey Fieger three days after Aiyana was killed. The first reporter’s question was, “Didn’t Charles [Jones] give the gun to Chauncey [Owens]?”
Atty. Geoffrey Fieger at second press conference with ( l to r) Aiyana’s father Charles, mother Dominika and grandmother Mertilla Jones. Aiyana’s Princess gym shoes are on table. Photo: Diane Bukowski
Fieger, looking shocked, asked the reporter, “What has THAT got to do with it?” Fieger has said that his law firm will continue with the civil suit it filed in the case, which was stayed pending the conclusion of the Detroit bankruptcy case.
Police had contended they were looking for Owens, who lived upstairs from the Jones family, when they conducted the raid. Police testimony showed, however, that they saw Owens several times during the day and could have arrested him on the street instead. But the raid team was being filmed by A&E’s “The First 48,” which considered Weekley and other team members TV stars.
Jones and Owens were eventually charged with first-degree murder in the Blake case, and convicted in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt. In Jones’ case, most testimony came from two jail-house snitches, after Skutt’s ruling to bar one snitch’s testimony was overturned on appeal.
Co-defendants Allison Howard of The First 48 and Joseph Weekley.
Judge Hathaway repeatedly delayed Weekley’s trials, stating in open court that she was waiting for Jones and Owens to be tried first, although there was no legal connection between the cases. Weekley’s co-defendant was Allison Howard, the “First 48” producer who provided their tape of the raid to a third person, during a party she attended with a police officer. Hathaway let her off on a charge of obstruction of justice with probation, served long-distance in her home state and on-line.
No charges were ever brought against her or A&E executives for being accessories to the killing of Aiyana Jones. Many have contended that the raid team, whose photos including that of Weekley are featured on the previous A&E “Detroit Swat” website, was clearly playing to the cameras.
Meanwhile, Blake’s mother Lyvonne Cargill was featured on numerous talk shows and interviewed in the mainstream media repeatedly, casting aspersions not only on Jones and Owens, before they were even convicted, but on the entire Jones family.
George Hunter (Twitter photo)
Detroit News reporter George Hunter typified much of the mainstream media’s treatment of the Jones family when he asked this reporter in court, before Hathaway took the stand, “Did you know I had a photo of Aiyana making gang signs, taken at her house, but I didn’t publish it?”
Hathaway allowed Fishman to present Facebook photos from a Jones family member’s website to the jury at Weekley’s first trial, showing some members allegedly holding guns and making what he described as gang signs. The photographers were not identified, nor were the time, date and place the photos were taken. There were no guns found in the Jones family home, or upstairs where Owens resided, during the raid that killed Aiyana. Moran objected at length to presentation of the photos, without the jury present. He only briefly noted his objection while the jury was in session, not describing its content. Then the photos were passed out to the jury. The jury in the second trial was not present when Hathaway dismissed the manslaughter case against Weekley, and no explanation was given to them.
Jessica Hernandez, 17: Friend disputes Denver police account of teen death
Sadie Gurman, Associated Press
January 28, 2015
Protest immediately after Denver police killed Jessie Hernandez. The Denver Post reported that 200 more protesters swamped the prosecutor’s office yesterday.
Denver — A passenger who was in a car when a 17-year-old girl was shot and killed by Denver police has disputed authorities’ account of her death, saying officers opened fire before one of them was struck by the vehicle.
The passenger, speaking late Tuesday to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, said her friend, Jessica Hernandez, lost control of the vehicle because she was unconscious after being shot.
Police have said the Monday morning shooting in a residential alley came after Hernandez drove a stolen vehicle into one of them.
Prosecutors on Tuesday promised a thorough probe of the shooting as a small group of angry protesters demanded swift answers and called for a special prosecutor to investigate the death.
Laura Sonya Rosales Hernandez, Jessica’s mother, is asking for an independent autopsy in her daughter’s death.
The shooting occurred amid a national debate about police use of force fueled by racially charged episodes in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.
It was also the fourth time in seven months that a Denver police officer fired into a moving vehicle after perceiving it as a threat, and the city’s independent police monitor now says he will investigate the department’s policies and practices related to shooting at moving vehicles, which he said poses unique safety risks.
Police spokesman Sonny Jackson offered no new details about the case on Tuesday, citing the department’s open investigation.
Protesters at prosecutor’s office demand answers in case of Jessica Hernandez.
The shooting happened after an officer was called to check on a suspicious vehicle, Chief Robert White has said. A colleague arrived after the officer determined the car had been reported stolen. Police have said the two officers approached the car on foot when Hernandez drove into one of them, and they both then opened fire.
The car’s passenger said police had surrounded the car in the alley, and Hernandez was trying to flee, attempting to drive around one of the squad cars.
The officers came up to the car from behind and fired four times into the driver’s side window, narrowly missing others inside, the passenger said.
Hernandez wrecked the car into a fence after she was shot, according to the witness. Police said the officer suffered a leg injury for which he was treated at a hospital and released.
Memorial for Jessica Hernandez.
Officers with their guns drawn then pulled people out of the car, including Hernandez, who they handcuffed and searched. (VOD: Hernandez had already been killed.)
The passenger was unaware the vehicle was stolen and provided only vague details about what the group of teenagers was doing earlier in the night.
By law, police are allowed to use force to stop and overcome the resistance of another person. They can use it to match the force and overcome it.
Both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on routine administrative leave pending the investigation.
VOD: They have now been identified by Denver police as Daniel Greene, a 16-year veteran, and Gabriel Jordan, a 9-year veteran, both assigned as Patrol Officers in District 2.
Three cops, a 17-year-old and ‘a cry for help': why did Kristiana Coignard die?
By Tom Dart
January 28, 2015
Houston, Texas –Just after sunset last Thursday, 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard entered a police station in Longview, Texas, a small city two hours east of Dallas with a history of police violence not all that different from the rest of the United States – but no less mysterious.
Coignard picked up a red, wall-mounted phone in the police department lobby and asked to speak with an officer – for reasons that also remain unclear.
The teenager may have been “wielding a knife”, according to the mayor. Police say “they were confronted by a white female who threatened them” – after which she brandished some sort of weapon, “made threatening movements toward the officers and was shot”. Motives on either side are still relatively unknown.
What is clear, nearly a week later in Texas and six months after police killings and community relations starting coming under renewed scrutiny across the US, is that another teenager has died after being shot “multiple times” by local cops. Three officers are on paid leave, the Longview police told the Guardian. A preliminary autopsy report has ruled the death a homicide.
And in the case of Kristiana Coignard, as in what advocates and sheriffs agree constitute more than half of US police killings each year, the victim appears to have had mental health problems.
Call it “justifiable homicide”: FBI statistics counted 461 encounters between police and those they killed with the threat of violence in 2013. Some have dubbed it “suicide-by-cop”, as about one-third of such cases can be classified – in addition to undoubtedly many more undercounted deaths. The hacktivist collective Anonymous prefers “trained to kill”.
Doris A. Fuller of Treatment Advocacy Center
Whatever you call the overlapping patterns of police violence and brief encounters with young and possibly unstable citizens, mental health advocates insist the United States is “not keeping track”.
“We’ve deputised America’s police to be mental health workers,” Doris A Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, told the Guardian. “We’re asking cops to make a split-second decision about whether someone is actually a threat to them.”
The teenager was taking medication, seeing a therapist and living with her aunt, Heather Robertson, according to an interview with Robertson at ThinkProgress. She told the website that Coignard had struggled with depression and bipolar disorder since her mother’s death when she was four years old. Robertson said her niece had been “only violent with herself”.
Kristiana Coignard Facebook cover photo, recently updated. Another photo declares, “We are in this world but not of it.”
“I think it was a cry for help,” Robertson said of the incident in the police department lobby. “I think they could have done something. They are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us.”
There is video of the killing, Coignard’s aunt said the police told her.
A Longview police spokesperson, Kristie Brian, told the Guardian there are currently no plans to make footage available to the public. She declined to confirm the type of weapon Coignard allegedly brandished but said the department expects to release more details about the shooting later this week. The Texas Ranger Division is investigating the incident.
Brian said Longview officers “are trained in all kinds of different situations”, including dealing with people with mental health problems, and that the county has a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), which sees specially trained officers dispatched to urgent psychiatric situations. She said she did not know whether the three officers currently on leave had been CIT-trained.
Detroiters including Marcina Cole (center) and David Sole (l) belatedly celebrate Rev. Pinkney’s birthday at rally Nov. 17, as Pinkney wipes tear away. His trial began on his birthday, Oct. 27, 2014.
Pinkney: “outstanding amount of support given by prison inmates.”
Rev. Pinkney asks supporters for email contact
By Diane Bukowski
January 28, 2015
Marquette Branch prison, isolated in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a long drive the rest of the state.
DETROIT – World-renowned political prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney has been sent to Michigan’s Marquette Branch Prison, isolated in the Upper Peninsula. It houses maximum-security inmates at Level 5 along with minimum security Level 1 prisoners, the Level to which Rev. Pinkney has been assigned.
As he awaits a hearing in St. Joseph, Michigan on four pre-sentencing motions, scheduled for Feb. 24, 2015 in front of Judge Sterling Schrock, Rev. Pinkney has sent the following up-beat message to his supporters.
“I am now in Marquette prison over 15 hours from wife & family, sitting in prison for a crime that was never committed. Judge Schrock and [prosecutor] Mike Sepic both admitted there was no evidence against me but now I sit in prison facing 30 months. Schrock actually stated that he wanted to make an example out of me. (to scare Benton Harbor residents even more…) ONLY IN AMERICA.”
Rev. Pinkney, who is 66 years old, is a long-time people’s advocate, in particular for the majority Black, impoverished and disproportionately incarcerated population of tiny Benton Harbor, Michigan, the first to fall under Michigan’s hated Emergency Manager Law, Public Act 436.
Benton Harbor child participates in protest May 7, 2011.
He is serving a term of 2.5 to 10 years on five counts of “forgery under the Michigan election law.” There was no concrete evidence presented during his pre-trial exam or his trial that he changed dates on five recall petitions directed against Whirlpool-backed Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower. He was convicted by an all-white jury, despite the fact that Berrien County is 15.2 percent Black, on Oct. 3, and sentenced by Judge Schrock on Dec. 15.
The petitions cited Hightower’s backing by the Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corporation, which has closed all its local plants and taken over large swaths of the city’s public land. A Michigan State Police forensics lab technician testified twice that there was no way to tell who had changed any dates.
“I now have an army to help fight Berrien County,” Pinkney continued. “When I arrived at Jackson state prison on Dec. 15, I met several hundred people from Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo, & Grand Rapids. Some people recognized me. There was an outstanding amount of support given by the prison inmates. When I was transported to Marquette Prison it took two days. The prisoners knew who I was. One of the guards looked me up on the internet and said, ‘Who would believe Berrien County is this racist.’
“Tell everyone they can jpay.com me as I will write them back. We must continue doing things to keep the pressure on this corrupt system. The conditions are impossible for a person to understand unless you are here — the inhuman conditions, the transportation is another money maker.
This is big business. Nobody will understand what this country has become. We are living in a time where the people must take control or they will crush us. Keep the struggle alive. Who would believe the prison system is a money maker. The prison system transportation system is how the prison is stealing money from the people, plus the food is not really food. The clothes are nothing but summer clothing, the shoes are rubber and the sox you must wear three pairs as if they were one.
(VOD: Marquette prisoners demonstrated against MDOC food, now provided by the notorious Aramark Corporation, on Nov. 12, 2014. Maggots have been found in food at a number of MDOC facilities. See Free Press story links below).
“We must make this struggle a victory for all who are victims of the economic crisis in every city, town, state and the country. We must boycott, boycott, boycott all Whirlpool products.”
JPay allows Michigan prisoners to send and receive emails and photos for a cost of 1 cent per page. It is also used to send money to prisoners to allow them to purchase food and health products within the prison. To sign up for JPay to communicate with Rev. Pinkney, go to https://www.jpay.com/login.aspx. New users must first input the prisoner’s ID number. Rev. Pinkney’s number is 294671, then enter information regarding their email addresses and method of payment.
Rev. Pinkney can also receive letters at the following address: Rev. Edward Pinkney, #294671, 1960 U.S. Hwy. 41 South Marquette, MI 49855.
Rev. Pinkney confers with appeals attorney Tim Holloway at earlier court hearing. Photo: Daymon Hartley
Motions filed Nov. 11, 2014, well prior to Pinkney’s sentencing, are scheduled to be heard Tues. Feb. 24, 2015 at 1 p.m. in the Berrien County courthouse, at 811 Port Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085. Rev. Pinkney’s defense committee is asking his supporters to turn out en masse. Rev. Pinkney himself should be present at the hearing, where he will be represented by Attorney Tat Parish, according to his appeals attorney Tim Holloway. According to state records, Holloway earlier filed appellate motions to quash the charges and to stay any verdict pending appeal, after Rev. Pinkney’s preliminary exam. Both motions were denied at the Appeals and Supreme Court levels. If Judge Schrock denies the new motions, an appeal should be filed with the State Court of Appeals.
The hearing was originally scheduled for Jan. 15, 2015, and should actually have been held prior to Rev. Pinkney’s sentencing. It is clear that Judge Schrock is deliberately delaying this process.
The motions include one for a directed verdict, which calls on the judge to overturn the jury decision and find that there was no evidence to convict him, a motion for a new trial based on the violation of Rev. Pinkney’s right to impartial jurors, and a motion for bond pending appeal. Among other issues, the motions cite improper charging in the case, based on an Oct. 23, 21o4 Court of Appeals decision in People v. Hall, which found that election petition violations are misdemeanors, not felonies, and the presence of juror Gail Freehling on the panel that convicted Rev. Pinkney.
Pinkney juror Gail Freehling.
Freehling is well-acquainted with the County Clerk, Sharon Tyler, a key witness, as well as other parties seeking Pinkney’s conviction, and did not disclose those facts during voir dire.
“My husband is the only voice in the community for the people,” Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney told VOD earlier. “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.”
Pinkney supporter Cornell Squires said, “The fact that they sent Rev. Pinkney all the way up to Marquette Prison just shows how vicious this system is.” Pinkney has been assigned a Level One clearance, the lowest-security designation, while Marquette is a maximum security prison.
Rev. Pinkney and wife Dorothy in earlier photo.
Aside from the travel distance to Marquette, many family members of those incarcerated in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula prisons complain that their loved ones are subjected to blatantly racist treatment by guards, and even torture, largely because of their isolation.
The website for Rev. Pinkney’s own organization, Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizations (BANCO), is at http://www.bhbanco.org/. It includes a PayPal donation button to send badly needed funds for Pinkney’s legal defense, or they can be mailed to BANCO, 1940 Union Avenue, Benton Harbor, Michigan 49022.
DFT President Steve Conn has called a mass DFT membership meeting for Sunday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. at the Adoba Hotel in Dearborn, 600 Town Center Drive. It is imperative that all members show up and voice their concerns about rebuilding the union and saving public education. Remember to bring your DFT card or identification. This is a DFT membership only meeting.
CANCEL DPS DEBT, NO EM, NO LAY-OFFS, REBUILD PUBLIC EDUCATION AMONG DEMANDS PUT FORTH BY DFT’S NEW LEADERSHIP
By Diane Bukowski
January 24, 2015
Protest demanding cancellation of Detroit and DPS debt May 9, 2012 outside the Bank of America in downtown Detroit. Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights holds sign.
DETROIT – Newly-elected Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) President Steve Conn, Exec. Vice-President Ivy Bailey, and DFT board members have hit the ground running, setting a mass union membership meeting this Sunday in response to teachers’ petitions. They plan to discuss “re-building the union and saving public education,” Bailey said on the DFT website.
DFT Local 231 has 4,000 members, the largest of any union local based in Detroit.
“With the support of my fellow teachers, of our students, and our community, I believe that we can stand up for the real hope and progress that has long been denied,” Conn said earlier. “I believe that our impoverished city can have a bright future, because I know the great potential of the students I teach, and I know the deep compassion of the teachers with whom I work.”
Conn called in particular for the cancellation of the district’s debt, a key issue since debt payments to the banks, on loans initiated by state emergency managers, have for years swallowed up a large portion of state per-pupil aid to DPS, at one time as much as 90 percent.
New DFT President Steve Conn (in rear by red post) and board members including Exec. VP Ivy Bailey (in rear by white post) are sworn into office by Michigan AFT Pres. Dave Hecker Jan. 20, 2015.
The DFT’s new leadership was sworn in Jan. 20 by Michigan American Federation of Teachers President Dave Hecker, who told VOD the key issue now is “unity.” The swearing in was preceded by a small but enthusiastic rally of teachers, community members, and students. The board held its first meeting immediately afterward.
“We finally have a leadership that won’t be afraid to challenge the state government and its sold-out, racist politicians,” DPS teacher Chrystal Bonner told VOD during the rally. “EON/BAMN won’t allow Steve to sell us out. They have an overall agenda to fight for equal justice for teachers, students and the city of Detroit.”
“EON/BAMN” stands for “Equal Opportunity Now, By Any Means Necessary,” the slate which Conn, who has been a respected DPS teacher for 30 years, led.
Elected Detroit Board of Education members Elena Herrada and LaMar Lemmons said they were elated at the DFT election results. Under emergency management, the board has been left with virtually no powers, so they refer to themselves as the “board-in-exile.”
“I’m very happy, and hopeful for change,” Herrada, who represents District 2, told VOD. “I’m hopeful to confront the corruption of emergency management. We are no longer afraid. This will be a new day.”
Lemmons said, “I believe Mr. Conn will stand up to the Governor Snyder’s unrelenting attack on our children and the voting rights of the people of Detroit. DPS is controlled by Snyder through his emergency managers. My greatest concern is that Snyder will do to DPS what he did to the school districts of Inkster and Highland Park—dissolve them and declare them insolvent. We must have a massive mobilization of Detroit’s people along with our suburban district brothers and sisters like those in Garden City. Snyder is only attacking that district as a sacrificial lamb so Public Act 436 will not appear to be racist.”
Detroit Board of Education members LaMar Lemmons and Elena Herrada.
DPS graduate Leroy Lewis, who was active with BAMN throughout his years in the district, said, “The DFT now has a big opportunity to return to what it used to be, a true union, a place people can come for protection and support. The attacks on DPS are not just on teachers but on students, taking away our schools, books and supplies and increasing our class sizes. They are a racist attack on the entire city of Detroit.”
Mike Mullholland, retired Vice-President of AFSCME Local 207, which formerly represented over 1200 workers at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, said the DFT now may be able to revive the struggle as city workers were not able to do in the current climate. Under the Detroit bankruptcy, DWSD is being dismantled and handed over to a regional authority, along with much of the city’s assets.
Steve Conn confers with student supporters after swearing-in Jan. 20, 2014.
“DFT has 4,000 members,” he noted. “To the people of Detroit, anything centered on our youth is the most important matter. Steve has always helped mobilize the youth, and he will continue to do so. The youth are the key to Detroit’s future.”
Candace Martinez, a senior at Cass, sat with her classmate, Conn’s daughter Edie, as she told VOD, “We need people like me and Edy to start the movement, to begin opening up more schools, not to be afraid. If we stand up, others will follow.”
Edie Conn said, “With my dad leading the way, we will win changes for the whole city, not just DPS. Right now we’ve got 40 kids literally suffocating in a classroom with not enough desks, books, and supplies. We have no toilet paper. We must open up more schools, bring the EAA (Educational Achievement Authority) and charter schools back into the district so that we will have more students.”
Detroit leaders under Dave Bing used New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as an example for dismantling DPS and Detroit.
Over half of Detroit’s students attend charter schools now, the result of years of public school closures. Along with the district’s debt, the exodus of pupils has decimated funding for DPS. Many of those who have controlled the district from on high have lauded the example of New Orleans. Leaders there have used the excuse of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina to wipe out public schools altogether.
The mainstream media has focused largely on Conn as a lone wolf radical who won election by 16 votes. But he has had broad support from a large number of teachers for years. DFT members showed that in 2010 when a large portion of the membership, not Conn alone, disrupted the swearing-in ceremony for a slate led by former DFT President Keith Johnson. The teachers claimed the close election had been stolen.
Heather Miller tells fellow teacher to look after her daughter Edie as she is arrested during protest against the closure of Northern High School.
Conn and his wife Heather Miller, also a DPS teacher, have helped lead numerous student-teacher protests against over 110 school closings, half of the district. At one protest in 2007, outside the former and fabled Northern High School, Conn and Miller were arrested, and students as young as fourth graders were pepper-sprayed and brutalized by police. Conn and Miller were later fired, but won their jobs back.
Snyder’s appointment Jan. 13 of yet another DPS emergency manager, Darnell Earley, who formerly served as emergency manager for Flint and city manager for Saginaw, shows that the DFT, DPS students, and the people of Detroit have their work in the struggle to come cut out for them.
New DPS EM Darnell Earley with his boss, Gov. Rick Snyder.
Earley has already said he plans to lay-off DPS staff, on top of tens of thousands laid off since the first state takeover in 1999, to make up for a $178 million budget deficit.
He claimed he will not include teachers, likely in light of the DFT’s new militant leadership. Conn said he is nothing but another Snyder lackey. His demand is to CANCEL THE DISTRICT’S DEBT instead.
VOD editor Diane Bukowski covered Detroit Public Schools issues for the Michigan Citizen for eight of the ten years she was there; those articles are mostly not accessible now. However, a partial list of VOD articles on the schools is below. It begins with the articles most applicable to the devastation of DPS by the banks (Steve Conn has demanded cancellation of the debt) and goes backwards in chronological order, with older stories after the break.
Packed DAREA meeting Jan. 21, 2015 at St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Detroit.
Current and retired employees mobilizing people, legal and financial support for their cases
Next DAREA meeting Mon. Jan. 26 11 am, Nandi’s Knowledge Café, 12511 Woodward at Glendale
Stockton bankruptcy resulted in “pension-protecting” plan Oct. 30, 2014
Detroit EM Orr now on Atlantic City’s “emergency management team”
Senior resource list at end of story
By Diane Bukowski
January 23, 2015
DAREA Vice-President Cecily McClellan addresses packed meeting as Pres. Bill Davis listens at right.
DETROIT –Eight groups and individuals, including three retired City of Detroit attorneys, have appealed U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ confirmation of Detroit’s bankruptcy plan. Briefs to go with their initial notices of appeal are due Tues. Jan. 27 in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Senior Judge Bernard Friedman.
The City of Detroit, still under state oversight, has moved to consolidate the eight cases, claiming, “The relevant law and facts underlying the issue of equitable mootness will be identical in every Appeal.” The motion is being challenged by appellant and attorney John Quinn, on the grounds that once briefs are filed, it will be clear that issues they cover differ substantially. Quinn said he is not averse to consolidation if all the appellants are included in the Court’s “ECF” filing system, to avoid heavy costs otherwise.
“The Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA) is working on the final development of its brief, and it WILL be submitted Tuesday,” DAREA President Bill Davis told VOD. DAREA had a record turnout for its meeting Jan. 21 at St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, with active and retired workers packing the large church hall.
Detroit retirees protest outside Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.
The City of Detroit plans to implement severe cuts to its retirees March 1, with many losing large chunks of their monthly checks as well as large portions of their total Annuity Savings Funds (ASF) accounts. Detroit General Retirement System workers average only $19,000 a year from their pensions. It is expected these cuts will drive at least 20 percent of the retirees below the poverty level. (An extensive list of senior assistance programs, compiled by retiree supporter Jean Vortkamp, is at the end of this story.)
“I’m going to fight this to the end,” Davis said. “They plan to rob me of $142,000 from my ASF, money that I planned to use to send my two sons to college. That money would be turned over to the banks, not city services.”
DAREA VP Cecily McClellan said their appeal will focus on issues of law, in particular the bankruptcy’s violation of the Michigan Constitution, Art. IX, Sec. 24, which says, “The accrued financial benefits of each pension plan and retirement system of the state and its political subdivisions shall be a contractual obligation thereof which shall not be diminished or impaired thereby.”
Bankruptcy protester demands overturn of PA 436.
Even Michigan’s dictatorial Emergency Manager Law, Public Act 436, under which Gov. Rick Snyder and his corporate allies contrived Detroit’s bankruptcy, says, “The emergency manager shall fully comply with the public employee retirement system investment act, 1965 PA 314, MCL 38.1132 to 38.1140m, and section 24 of article IX of the state constitution of 1963, and any actions taken shall be consistent with the pension fund’s qualified plan status under the federal internal revenue code.”
It also mandates “The timely deposit of required payments to the pension fund for the local government or in which the local government participates.”
The City of Detroit has not paid into its two retirement systems since Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr filed for bankruptcy. Under terms of the confirmed bankruptcy plan, it will not pay regularly due amounts until at least 2023, if then.
Henry Gaffney, then president of ATU Local 26, opposes cuts in bus routes during 2009 meeting.
City of Detroit worker Tony Brown said at the DAREA meeting, “We got screwed. The law never came into play. They did it to us in Detroit because we are a majority Black.”
Henry Gaffney, retired President of ATU Local 26, representing city bus drivers, said, “The D-DOT family, including members of AFSCME Locals 214 and 312 (bus mechanics) are angry. The city has saved millions on retirement and pensions under this plan, and they’re putting it on the backs of those who are still alive.”
Cornell Squires, who retired from the city on non-duty disability, told VOD he received a receipt for his notice of appeal from Friedman’s court and plans to file a brief Tuesday.
Cornell Squires believes criminal fraud involved in city debt is key issue to overturn bankruptcy plan. Squires was a city EMS technician who has been fighting for disability benefits since 1993. He said he was denied a ballot to vote on the Plan of Adjustment.
“I believe a very key issue should be that the bankruptcy involved criminal fraud,” Squires said. “Orr should never have withdrawn his lawsuit in the bankruptcy court against the $1.5 Billion COPS (Certificates of Participation) loan that called it ‘void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable.’ He and the Jones Day attorneys had a duty to report criminal actions to the authorities.”
Instead of issuing bonds, which would have put the city over the state debt limit and required a public vote, the loan’s executors, including global bank UBS AG, which has faced fraud lawsuits all over the world, and city leaders including CFO Sean Werdlow, created paper corporations to issue the debt. The city defaulted on the debt at least three times and it ballooned to $2.28 billion with penalties. Werdlow got a high level executive position with lender SBS Financial the same year and is now the company’s COO.
But the lenders and their insurance companies, FGIC and Syncora, made out like bandits in the Plan of Adjustment, not only receiving huge cash awards but getting city assets including Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel revenues, other priceless riverfront land, and revenues from the Grand Circus Park garage.
Squires said Detroit was specifically selected for the bankruptcy in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, because it is a majority Black city with a majority Black work force.
Jan. 31, 2005: (l to r) Detroit CFO Sean Werdlow, Fitch Ratings’ Joe O’Keefe, Standard and Poor’s Stephen Murphy, and Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams campaign for fraudulent $1.5 B COPS loan at City Council.
Attorney Jamie Fields represents the Ochadleus Appellants, a group of over 130 retirees, many from the Detroit Police and Fire pension system. He told VOD he will also file their appeal by Jan. 27. He said he suspects the city wants to consolidate the appeals, then argue that the plan is already in effect, and attempt to have the appeals dismissed.
“Issues in our appeal are very very broad, covering a lot more than the ASF issue, including pension protection,” he said. “In the long run, however, the underlying issues are political, not legal, so I am telling appellants not to bet the farm on success in court.”
Detroit EM Kevyn Orr (r) appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (l) engineered phony bankruptcy with Jones Day and right-wing think tanks. Here they announce bankruptcy filing July 18, 2013.
The City of Detroit bankruptcy, based on a 2010 white paper authored by Jones Day, a global law firm largely representing banks and corporations, was meant to set a precedent for numerous other municipal and state governments across the country on how to raid pension funds. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder got Public Act 436, the Emergency Manager Act, established with their assistance as well as that of right-wing think tanks.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has just appointed Orr to an “Emergency Management Team” for Atlantic City, N.J., where several casinos have gone bankrupt.
But on Oct. 30 last year, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein approved a Chapter 9 bankruptcy plan for the city of Stockton, California Oct. 30 which protects public pensions in accordance with that State’s constitution, while making hefty cuts in workers’ pay.
Bloomberg News reported, “Stockton, California, won court approval of its plan to exit bankruptcy by paying bond investors pennies on the dollar while shielding public pensions, in a case watched by other cities facing heavy retiree costs.”
The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest in the U.S. with 1.72 million members, voiced strong opposition to pension cuts, threatening to dissolve its contract with Stockton.
Bloomberg said, “Ending the contract with CalPERS would have reduced pensions by 60 percent and caused many employees to leave, Marc Levinson, Stockton’s lead bankruptcy attorney, has said. It would have taken years to set up a new pension system, he said.”
Levinson was hired by the city’s elected government, not an emergency manager as in Detroit’s case.
CalPERS, along with other pension systems and the AARP, filed amicus briefs to support Detroit’s retirement systems and unions in their appeals to the Sixth Circuit Court of Rhodes’ eligibility decision. However, those organizations decided to withdraw their appeals in exchange for the hotly-disputed “Grand Bargain,” which many re-named the “Grand Theft.”
It involves voluntary contributions of $466 million over 20 years to the retirement systems from the private sector, and $194.8 million from the state. They will in no way compensate for the loss of city contributions to the systems, in addition to widespread outsourcing of city assets including the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, meaning a drastic loss of retirement system members.
Bernard Friedman, Senior Judge for the U.S. District Court of Southeastern Michigan, was nominated to the bench by former President Ronald Reagan in 1988. From 2004-2009, he served as Chief Judge of the Court.
U.S. District Court Senior Judge Bernard Friedman
His record has been somewhat contradictory.
In March 2001, Friedman ruled that the University of Michigan Law School affirmative action admissions policies were unconstitutional because they “clearly consider” race and are “practically indistinguishable from a quota system.” His ruling was overturned by the Sixth Circuit Court. In the landmark case Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld U of M’s policies, saying that the school had a compelling interest in promoting class diversity.
On March 21, 2014, however, Friedman struck down the state’s initiative-instituted ban on same-sex marriage in DeBoer vs. Snyder, finding it unconstitutional. He did not grant a stay, and the day after over 300 Michigan same-sex couples married. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his ruling the day after, but those marriages remained in place.
To donate to DAREA’s LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, click on http://www.gofundme.com/pensiondefensefund. Or checks can be made payable to the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), at P.O. Box 3724, Highland Park, Michigan 48203.
Mondays, 11 AM, at Nandi’s Knowledge Café, 12511 Woodward, Highland Park, 48203. These may be interspersed with evening meetings to allow day-time city workers to attend. To receive notices of meetings, updates on the appeal and events information please provide your email address and phone numbers via email at Detroit2700plus@gmail.com or call DAREA at 313-649-7018.
Jean Vortkamp protested AFSCME Council 25’s withdrawal of bankruptcy appeal July 31, 2014.
From Jean Vortkamp: Detroit pensions are being stolen by lazy stupid rich people who think they will buy bigger boats and homes to fill their empty scrooge hearts with hard-earned Detroit pension money. First, of course, pensioners should fight in the streets and in the court. However, there may be a temporary setback for many Detroit pensioners until we win.
Below are places that provide assistance. The age “senior” starts at many different ages so if you are under 65, take a look and see if they will help you. These are not endorsed, just given for your information. If you know of others or if any of these is not useful, please let me know. Warning, strong language below. – Jean Continue reading →
Global media has shown video of ‘looting,’ along with individual still photos, asking people to contact police for rewards
USDOJ “will not likely go forward with civil rights charges” against Wilson
Black Peoples’ Grand Jury indicts Wilson for first-degree murder
By Diane Bukowski
January 22, 2015
Michael Brown, killed by white cop Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO on Aug. 9, 2014
FROM FERGUSON ACROSS THE POLICE STATES OF AMERICA: Police-released videos and individual photos of people re-appropriating the wealth in a Ferguson, MO store after a grand jury refused to indict killer cop Darren Wilson are spanning the globe as far as the United Kingdom. Many media outlets are advising people to call police if they know any of the individuals portrayed, and advertising a $1,000 reward for a successful arrest.
‘I’m thinking that everybody should be held accountable for their actions,” the owner of the Dellwood Market, Jan LaLani, shown in the Fox News video above, says.
What about holding police accountable for the murders of thousands of Black and Latino men and women, many of them youth, escalating every day?
Mike Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden is comforted by her husband, Louis Head, the day her son was killed.
The police witch-hunt is a continuation of ongoing police arrests of youths who allegedly rebelled against the murder of Michael Brown last year, as reported in a VOD article published Dec. 3, 2014. The Ferguson County prosecutor was considering pursuing charges against Louis Head, Brown’s stepfather, who mounted a car to hold his weeping wife, Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden, after the grand jury verdict was announced. Enraged, Head called out, “Burn this bitch down.”
VOD reported: “In the wake of the outrageous grand jury decisions in the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, St. Louis-area police are pursuing charges not only against Brown’s family, but against dozens who participated in rebellions against his murder and the grand jury decision.
“They include three young men charged with throwing items at police (photo below) another man, Nicholas Green, charged with interfering with police radio dispatches, who was beaten up during his arrest, and at least 24 others.
“Two possible witnesses in the grand jury case, Shawn Gray and De’Andre Joshua, have been found dead in suspicious circumstances as well.”
Andrew Brady, Korey Haulcy, Cedric James, charged in Ferguson rebellion,
Nicholas Green, beaten after arrest
Meanwhile, Fox News reports in the video above that the Justice Department will not likely go forward with civil rights charges against Officer Darren Wilson for slaughtering Michael Brown.
If there has been any doubt about the type of regime running this country, it must now be laid to rest, permanently. Property owned by a man who is not among the majority population of the community is being held sacrosanct, while the precious lives of Mike Brown and hundreds of other people of color and poor people, particularly the youth, are being taken at an unbridled pace, with no punishment for the perpetrators.
It is time for a new movement. Those who have divided the movement so far by insisting on “peaceful protests” must desist. Demand that Darren Wilson and the armies of police occupying the nation’s communities be “peaceful” first.
Ferguson youth take it to the streets during #FergusonOctober. Photo: Final Call
“While youth are organizing and pursuing peaceful protest they are neither in a compliant mood nor in a mood to capitulate,” Final Call editor Richard Muhammad said in an earlier article on #Ferguson October.
“Their peaceful protests are nose-to-nose with police officers and youthful rage over injustice is nearly boiling over. They are unafraid of police and have little patience with those seen as apologists for injustices they face and the murder of their brothers and sisters. When mocked outside a Cardinals baseball game, young demonstrators chanted: “Who do you want Darren Wilson? How do you want him? Dead!” Youth who are not necessarily part of the organizations want justice too. When police shootings have happened in St. Louis, their cry has been, “Hands Up! Shoot back!”
Interview with Robert F. Williams (Feb. 26, 1925-Oct. 15, 1996), president of the Union County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Monroe, N. C., 1959. Video courtesy of Prelinger Films, published on YouTube March, 2009 by noted historian Paul Lee. For Lee’s full commentary on Williams, click on Interview with Robert F Williams.
Black Peoples Grand Jury Indicts Cop for First Degree Murder of Michael Brown
Darren Wilson is a killer, and he’s out there, but he’s not out there by himself.”
“The most ‘expert’ witnesses on institutional racism are its victims.”
By BAR executive editor Glen Ford
January 7, 2014
A Black People’s Grand Jury in St. Louis, Missouri, this weekend delivered a “true bill of indictment” for first degree murder against former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Black teenager Michael Brown. Black people “can and must take matters into our own hands,” said Omali Yeshitela, one of four prosecutors that presented evidence, not only of Wilson’s personal guilt, but the institutional culpability of the entire regional criminal justice system in the murder and subsequent whitewash of the crime.
“Darren Wilson is a killer, and he’s out there, but he’s not out there by himself,” said Yeshitela. “He was doing what U.S. police have done historically and traditionally to African people in this country.” It wasn’t Wilson’s decision to leave Brown’s uncovered body on the asphalt roadway for nearly four and a half hours in 100 degree heat – a collective insult and threat to the victim’s community that harkens back to the ritual public displays of mutilated and burned Black corpses in the time of lynch law. Wilson was later rewarded for his crime “with almost one million dollars” in contributions “by white people.”
The 12 jurors, all of them from greater St. Louis, spent January 3rd and 4th reviewing some of the same evidence presented by county prosecutor Bob McCulloch to the mostly white grand jury that failed to indict Wilson, in November. McCulloch’s mission was to obfuscate the facts and confuse the jurors; to free the cop and convict the victim – as attested to by one of his own jurors, who maintains, in a suit asking permission to speak publicly, that McCulloch made the “insinuation that Brown, not Wilson, was the wrongdoer.”
The Black People’s Grand Jury also heard testimony from local residents with personal knowledge of police behavior in the region, including Black former police officers – a method of truth-seeking grounded in the logic that the most “expert” witnesses on institutional racism are its victims, who have experienced the phenomenon in all its dimensions.
At root, the Black People’s Grand Jury is an exercise in self-determination, a collective response to a collective assault on a people that have been criminalized by the Mass Black Incarceration State. “We cannot trust our children, the future of our community, in the hands of this establishment that has proven to us over and over again its disregard for black life,” said Yeshitela, whose International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement teamed with local Black organizations to convene the proceedings.
Obama and Holder ignore Mass Black Incarceration State.
Most importantly, the Black People’s Grand Jury model is easily replicable throughout the U.S., just as the Mass Black Incarceration State operates in near-uniform fashion in every precinct of the country. North, South, East and West, whether the Black population is relatively large or small, the State’s mission is to contain, control, terrorize and criminalize Black people, and to incarcerate them in enormous numbers. The St. Louis model, and longer-form variations on the theme, such as Black People’s Boards of Inquiry, can go far towards exposing and deconstructing the police/prison regime that over the past two generations has killed innumerable Michael Browns and spawned a gulag so huge and so disproportionately Black that one out of every eight prison inmates on the planet is an African American.
“Resistance to the Black Mass Incarceration State, in all its manifestations, must be rooted in the struggle for self-determination.”
The Mass Black Incarceration State, erected in response to the Black Liberation Movement of the Sixties, is the driving force and organizing principle of the U.S. criminal justice system. (Ironically, its predatory mechanisms have caused more white Americans to be imprisoned, as well – collateral damage inflicted by structures designed to ensnare masses of Blacks.)
Militarized police patrol streets of Ferguson after Michael Brown’s murder.
It is an inherently militarized system of counterinsurgency that begins with hyper-surveillance of Black communities and ultimately warps every aspect of Black internal and external social relations. Inevitably, the white supremacist, profoundly anti-democratic and ultimately lawless nature of the U.S. police-prison mission has facilitated the rise of the national security state and the general degradation of bourgeois liberties for all Americans – a strong basis for building multi-racial alliances.
However, African American resistance to the Black Mass Incarceration State, in all its manifestations, must be rooted in the struggle for self-determination – freedom on our own terms, which is inseparable from demands for justice.
Black People’s Grand Jury in Ferguson, Jan. 3-4, 2015
Black People’s Grand Juries can be part of the process of building local self-determinationist institutions of resistance to the ruling order, particularly in bolstering demands for genuine community control of police. For these reasons, the model can help prevent Black people’s righteous anger and energies from being dissipated by diversions concocted by the matrix of elected officials, their appointees and commissions, along with the Black misleaders and accommodationists who act as agents of the Democratic Party and the rich.
The steady drumbeat of protest must be accompanied by institution-building projects aimed at dismantling the Mass Black Incarceration State – the transformational task of the current movement.
Michael Brown’s body lies in Ferguson, MO street Aug. 9, 2014 after the unarmed 18-year-old was killed by cop Darren Wilson. It stayed there for over four hours in the summer heat until the blood pouring from eight gunshot wounds turned black.
(VOD editor: below is a brief AP story published in the Detroit News today showing no video, although the video is referred to in the original headline. The video, obtained by the South Jersey Times, is shown above. It appears that the Bridgeton cops gave conflicting orders to Reid: “Don’t move” and “Get out of the car” before he complied with the second order, holding his hands out.
The South Jersey Times story is below the AP release. Mr. Reid was killed Dec. 30, 2014, but this is just now making national news. Is there a deliberate conspiracy to keep such killings quiet in the wake of the killings of two cops in NYC? Were those killings possibly a set-up to quiet the flood of protests since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO Aug. 9, 2014, followed by numerous other killings by police nationally, along with acquittals by grand juries? Photos below represent only a fraction of those killed across the U.S. since Mike Brown. Also see http://globalgrind.com/playlist/justice-for-a-list-of-people-killed-by-police-in-2014-photos/item/4043664/.
Video shows man raised hands, then fatally shot by cops
January 20, 2014
Bridgeton, N.J. AP — A video shows a man stepping out of a car and raising his hands as he was fatally shot by police in New Jersey last month.
Video from a police car dashboard camera shows Bridgeton Officers Braheme Days and Roger Worley ordering two men in a Jaguar to show their hands after they were pulled over for running a stop sign on Dec. 30. Days says a gun is in the glove compartment.
Driver Leroy Tutt is seen showing his hands. It’s not clear what passenger Jerame Reid is doing, though Days warns him not to move.
Reid then steps out of the car, raising his hands. The officers fire at least six shots, killing him.
The video was first obtained through an open records request from the South Jersey Times.
Dashcam video shows man’s fatal encounter with Bridgeton police
Cop Braheme Days knew Reid from previous encounter
Jerame Reid with 3-month old son, superimposed on TV footage.
BRIDGETON — Video and audio released by the Bridgeton Police Department on Tuesday shows officers Braheme Days and Roger Worley ordering Jerame Reid not to move before Reid appears to push his way out of the passenger side door. The video appears to show Reid with his hands in front of him as he stands to get out of the car and is shot and killed by the officers.
The altercation with police, which began with a traffic stop, escalated in a matter of two minutes as police described finding a gun, according to the video which was recorded on a patrol car’s dashboard camera that was released after an Open Public Records request.
Days and Worley had pulled the car over at the intersection of South Avenue and Henry Street, in Bridgeton, at about 9:20 p.m. on Dec. 30. The video shows the officers driving through he city’s streets and coming up on on blue Jaguar, driven by Leroy Tutt, 46, of Long Branch. They pull the car over moments later, and after Days approaches the passenger side and introduces himself, he tells the driver he’s being pulled over for going through a stop sign on South Pine Street, which is adjacent to Henry Street.
Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly welcomes Braheme Days as newest full-time officer of police dept.
Days asks the driver to get his driver’s license and seconds later, the officer is seen pulling his gun.
“Show me your hands, show me your (expletive) hands!” Days says, as Worley approaches the driver’s side with what appears to be his gun drawn. The driver puts his hand out of the window and Days appears to attempt to open the passenger side door, as he says “Don’t (expletive) move!” repeatedly.
“Get ‘em out the car, Rog. We’ve got a gun in his glove compartment,” Days said.
Days reaches through the window and retrieves what appears to be a silver object, removing it from the car.
They continue to tell the men inside the car not to move, and try to open up the front doors of the vehicle.
“I’m telling you, I’m telling you! Keep your (expletive) hands right there. Eh, eh, Jerame, you reach for something, you’re going to be (expletive) dead,” Days said.
Days shouts, “He’s reaching! He’s reaching!”
In the passenger seat, Reid, 36, can be heard saying what sounds like “let me out of the (expletive) car” and seconds later, the passenger side door opens and Days goes backward.
Reid gets out of the car with what appear to be his hands in front of his chest.
Walter Hudson leads protest Jan. 7 against Reid killing. He asked why the media always brings up past actions of those the police kill, but never investigate the cops’ backgrounds. He said Reid’s mother said as her son’s coffin was going into the ground, “I always knew they planned to get you, son.”
Both Days and Worley discharge their weapons.
Roughly nine shots are heard between them.
Reid previously spent about 13 years in state prison for shooting at three New Jersey State Police troopers when he was a teenager. Reid was also arrested this summer on charges of obstruction, resisting arrest, possession of narcotics and failure to appear in Millville Municipal Court. Authorities said Days was one of the arresting officers at the time.
The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the use of deadly force in the fatal shooting. An autopsy was conducted the following day, but the results haven’t been made public.
The Bridgeton Police Department released the video on Tuesday after an Open Public Records Request made by the South Jersey Times.
Capt. Michael Gaimari, of the Bridgeton Police Department, issued a news release Tuesday afternoon saying, “The Bridgeton Police Department as a law enforcement agency does not, as a routine, consider the posting of any such video as compassionate or professional.”
“In absence of the OPRA request this video would not be released to the public out of respect for the family of Jerame Reid, basic human dignity and to protect the constitutional rights of all those involved,” Gaimari said.
“Since this remains a criminal investigation being conducted by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office with assistance from the New Jersey State Police the administration of the Bridgeton Police Department will refrain from any further comment other than that it fully supports the officers involved as well as the legal process this incident is subject to.”
The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office has only said that “during the course of the stop a handgun was revealed and later recovered.”
The prosecutor, Jennifer Webb-McRae, recused herself from the investigation last week because she knows Days from the community, according to Cumberland County First Assistant Prosecutor Harold Shapiro who has taken over for her.
In the weeks since the shooting, there have been protests in downtown Bridgeton, demanding answers about the shooting and justice for Reid. During one of the demonstrations, protesters used the phrases “Hands up, Don’t shoot” and “No justice, no peace,” similar to what was said during racially-charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.
Days is black, Worley is white and Reid was black. Both officers have been placed on paid administrative leave.
Wife ‘extremely upset’ by video of Bridgeton police shooting husband
The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is heading the investigation, with the New Jersey State Police Crime Scene Investigation Unit assisting.
Benedetto confirmed Tuesday evening that his office has issued a letter to the county prosecutor’s office requesting that the entire department recuse itself from the investigation and that the probe be handed over to “either the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General or some non-conflicted law enforcement agency.”
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae had recently recused herself from the investigation because she knows Days from the community, and delegated the investigation to Cumberland County First Assistant Prosecutor Harold Shapiro, according to a previous South Jersey Times article.