Detroit retirees and supporters blockaded downtown streets, banks and other facilities May 1, 2014 to protest bankruptcy deal.
Michigan lawmakers hear from Detroit retirees
By Keith Davis, sent courtesy of Cecily McClellan
May 16, 2o14
(Report posted on Facebook in WWTP Retirees section)
Keith Davis, a DWSD retiree with 31 years
LANSING — Three of us went to testify before the senate today in Lansing. Our DRCEA rep [Shirley Lightsey] showed up as well. She testified that the majority of the retirees would receive only a 4.5% cut. There was a small group that would be clawed back 15.5%. But that was better than the alternative, which would happen if the vote was no. So, she would be recommending a resounding yes vote.
Sen. Harvey Santana asked her how could she do that, because at all the community meetings he attended, he was constantly told not to accept this bad deal. Moreover, that there was a lot of confusion about the exact nature of what the members stood to ultimately lose.
Shirley Lightsey, Pres. DRCEA; under terms of plan, DRCEA, a voluntary association, gets 50 percent control of new VEBA health benefits board. Photo: Facebook
She admitted that the letter was confusing. That there would be some informational meetings held by the pension board, but none by DRCEA. (Please note, she lobbied heavily against ALL informational meetings. I understand the DRCEA board has turned against her.We came up next. First there was a 26 year employee. She was forced to retire because they laid her off. Her pension is less than $1000 dollars a month; $250 went for Obamacare. She couldn’t afford that, let alone a claw back. With the rest, she had to support herself and her family. They asked her, in her circumstances, how would she vote?She said, because she could afford neither, she had no choice but to vote NO!
I said the medical cuts alone amounted to a 20-30% slash, and that we always had co pays of 20% or more and nothing had changed with the ACA. That basically, the conspiracy theorists have been proven right over and over again. This was nothing more than a take over.
Why was a 20-year oversight placed in our package? It wasn’t done with Pontiac, Flint, Benton Harbor or anyone else? Why did the strict constitutional republicans ignore the state constitution on this and not defend it? Why were the winners corporate interests and losers senior citizens?
Cecilly McClellan, of Detroit Concerned Citizens and Retirees, calls for no vote, blasts bankruptcy plan. tells retirees vote
I told them that none of the so called surplus was to take back the new taxes you placed on the retirees. Should I then call them tax and spend republicans? I told them these cuts are going to send thousands of retirees into emergency rooms instead of doctors and then death. Because we can’t afford the $600 – $1000 a month in real dollars out of our checks.
I told them thousands of retirees would lose their homes. Because they could no longer afford to pay the rent or mortgage. I told them this will place thousands of retirees on food stamps. Because they could no longer afford to eat. This is not how people who worked all their lives are supposed to be treated.
Cuts will kill retirees, Davis testified at hearing.
I told them I go to all my senior and AARP meetings. I tell them who is attacking us and has done it from day one. We may have senior moments, but we vote and have very long memories. Defend our state constitution and protect us like you promised. Because if I lose everything, I guarantee many of you will lose your jobs. I was then asked how I would vote?
I told them to me, the choice is the devil and the deep blue sea with a large stone around our neck. And Orr dropping buckets of blood in the water to draw sharks. If I vote no, at least we have a chance with the legal [appeal]. If vote yes, you’ll all say, you took it yourselves, don’t whine to us. I would be voting NO!
The last person was a D-DOT driver. He said, I went to work every day. I paid my dues. I paid my bills. I raised my kids and put them thru school. I did it right. My reward is to come out after 33 years with nothing? They all had their heads down after his testimony. We were mobbed by reporters afterwards.
VOD will be publishing a comprehensive analysis of the Bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment and Disclosure Statement this weekend. The Detroit Concerned Citizens and Retirees meets every Monday at 11 a.m. at N’Namdi’s on Woodward in Highland Park. The Stop the Theft of Our Pensions Committee meets every Monday at 7 p.m. at 5620 Second, Detroit.
D-DOT workers honor one of the last militant union leaders, Leamon Wilson, at his funeral April 16, 2013. He was only 55.
Monica Patrick in green and Debra Taylor at left rally a crowd of 10000 April 13 2011 in Lansing during protest against PA4, the predecessor to the current EM law, PA 436. PA 4 was thrown out by Michigan voters.
FYI, These bills target Detroit and are designed to manage Detroit and its assets from Lansing for years and years. The state is using this bankruptcy to control the population of Detroit. This is unconstitutional and taxation without representation. Too many of our local officials are quiet, just to get a pay check — Cecily McClellan
BY JEAN VORTKAMP
May 14, 2014
DETROIT — The Michigan House of Representatives bills I am about to describe are as shady as the “Grand Bargain” (named the same as the phrase for putting social security onto the market) itself. Crawling out the slime of Lansing…this is based on a Free Press article just from today. More in depth research is warranted, but it would probably make me sick.
Warning, below is crabby cussing.
Protest against ALEC/Photo Popular Resistance
HB 5568 sponsored by Gail Haines (R), who was herself a contributor to Duggan of at least $1000 and raised $37,550 at a dinner for him is sponsoring the suspiciously ALEC-esque bill to switch city pensions to defined contribution plan. (See http://www.alec.org/?post_type=model-legislation&s=pension for ALEC’s model bill.) HB 5566 creates a seven- member commission to oversee the finances of Detroit. It “must meet monthly and can contract for services BUT THEY WON’T BE REQUIRED TO BID COMPETITIVELY FOR THOSE CONTRACTS. ” Read whole bill at HB 5568 2014.
It is run through treasury for $900,000. In the old days (maybe before I was born) , there was a really elected mayor & city council, city departments, audits, and the FBI. Already paid for. Idiots.
HB 5567 for cities with over a 600,000 population (um, Detroit) with revenue estimating conferences twice a year for $100,000. Who the hell has a $50,000 conference to estimate costs? Isn’t that called the budget and a budget review that our tax money already pays for? What the hell is wrong with these people? Read whole bill at HB 5567 2014.
HB 5570 establishes an investment committee to recommend or reject pension investments (perhaps to be sure their friends are the investment managers and the entities invested in). It seems this is already in the Fourth Plan of Adjustment so I am unsure why they need this twice. Insurance for their sub-par F- bankruptcy plan? Hello, RICO. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations_Act)Read whole bill at HB 5570 2014.
HB 5571 no future tax on DIA. Considering that the current $900,000 of tax money from the tri-county area will be quietly transferred to this new DIA governed only by greedy pigs…Whole bill at HB 5571 2014.
HB 5575/HB 5574 Michigan Settlement Administration Authority. Just what the world needs, another authority with little to no responsibility to voters. Icing on this cake of corruption is that it “provides release of any current or future claims against the state regarding the bankruptcy terms.” This is ALSO in the 4th plan of adjustment. Why twice? HB 5575 2014 and HB 5574 2014.
HB 5573 Really, is that the proper use of tobacco money? I thought it was to prevent smoking, not pay for banks’ stealing. Rainy day fund again. (Budget Stabilization Fund – sounds like a load to me) And really, we can’t have our revenue sharing, our hardest hit money, but these dumb asses can do all this dumb expensive shit. HB 5573 2014.
Unassigned bill: something about arbitration for police and firefighters. Maybe setting up for when they privatize it all (see the Detroit Public Safety Foundation…ready to go!)
Are the car companies jumping on board because of Syncora’s probable argument, if this crap newspaper is right, to get to the $100 million just so the bankruptcy can go through? Greedy pigs sticking together. It would mean they would also have a say in the governance of the pension fund. It also mentions that the J. Paul Getty Trust is interested in giving. Don’t they have something to do with Eli Broad? That’s no good to have an art collector like that lurking in this. http://www.philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/los-angeles-times-reports-on-broad-deal-with-getty-trust
But whatever, this bankruptcy seems to be attracting every unethical vulture for thousands of miles.
(VOD editor: Chapter 9 bankruptcy rules preclude creditors from demanding dissolution of a municipality’s assets, “UNLESS THE DEBTOR CONSENTS.” Our allegedly unbiased bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes immediately declared Kevyn Orr to be the City of Detroit at the beginning of this whole scoundrels’ paradise. Orr is the one who is consenting to these actions. Detroit is the only entity in the country going through Chapter 9 which is governed by an UNELECTED emergency manager dictator.)
Family members of Aiyana Jones demanded justice for her family and other victims of police brutality during a protest outside the Frank Murphy Hall Oct. 21, 2013.
Inside source says prosecutor plans to bring perjury charges against family members
By Diane Bukowski
Aiyana Jones in her mother Dominika Jones’ favorite photo of her.
May 13, 2014
DETROIT – As the fourth anniversary of the brutal slaying of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, by the Detroit police approaches May 16, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy may be planning to bring yet more unfathomable grief to her family. An inside source has reported that perjury charges against Aiyana’s family members who testified during hearings related to the case are imminent.
Aiyana’s father Charles Jones was sentenced April 18 to 40-60 years in the killing of Je’Rean Blake, 17, for allegedly giving the shooter the gun involved. Contradictorily, he was acquitted of any weapons charges. He said during his sentencing that he was innocent.
Aiyana Jones’ father Charles Jones is comforted by her great-aunt JoAnn Robinson, sitting on couch where she died, below window shattered by police grenade during raid April 16, 2010. Joann Robinson, who saw her great-niece killed, died a short time later. Photo by Diane Bukowski
“All you’re doing is trying to cover up my daughter’s death because of a reckless officer,” Jones said. “I hope you go after him like you did after me.” He said police have been harassing his entire family since his daughter’s killing.
The Blake killing took place two days before the horrific military-style police raid on the sleeping Jones family’s home. Officer Joseph Weekley shot Aiyana in the head with an MP5 submachine gun immediately after entering the house according to testimony at his trial.
VOD earlier reported that a source with contacts in the prosecutor’s office said a no jail time deal for Weekley was in the works subsequent to Charles Jones’ conviction. Involuntary manslaughter charges against Weekley would be dropped in exchange for a plea to reckless use of a firearm, a misdemeanor.
“It makes me sick to see prosecutors like [Robert] Moran knowingly lie to put innocent people in jail,” the source said in a letter. “I still know good people in Worthy’s office who feel the same way I do. . . .My friend fears the prosecutor may be trying to pass the blame of Aiyana’s death onto the Jones family. . . .Please give the Jones family my deepest sympathies and condolences for their tragic loss. I only hope they can find peace in God.”
Wayne Co. Asst. Prosecutor Robert Moran.
The source also said, “I realize this is a theory based on hearsay, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they bring more perjury charges against other family members.”
Today, the source reported that those perjury charges are imminent, expected as early as tomorrow.Prosecutor Worthy is allegedly considering using undated Facebook photos of young men from the family, showing them with guns or facsimiles thereof, to claim family members lied about the presence of guns in the Jones home. The photos were admitted into evidence at Weekley’s trial in August last year, which ended in a hung jury.
However, numerous police officers and technicians testified at the trial that the surprise raid recovered no weapons whatsoever from the home or from the persons of family members present. They included Charles Jones, Aiyana’s mother Dominika Jones, grandmother Mertilla Jones, and various uncles and cousins inside and outside the house.
Moran, who ironically is the prosecutor in both the Weekley and Jones/Owens cases, objected extensively to the use of the Facebook photos, while the jury was out. He was overruled by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway. With the jury present, he hurriedly declared his objection on the record, with no details. Copies of the photos were then distributed to the Weekley jury.
Mertilla Jones during press conference Oct. 29, 2012, shows Aiyana’s photo.
Aiyana’s grandmother Mertilla Jones, who was sleeping with Aiyana on a front-room sofa on the day of the raid, and witnessed her brutal death, testified during the trial that she recognized various family members in the photos. She said, however, that she was not sure whether the guns in the photos were real and that she had no idea who took the photos, when, or where.
The source alleged that prosecutors are also considering bringing perjury charges against unspecified family members who testified that they had no knowledge of Jones’ presence at the scene of the Blake killing.
Only Sherrod Hurt, Owens’ brother, who defense attorney David Cripps said was likely the real killer, and a young classmate of Blake’s who had seen Jones on TV coverage of the death of his daughter testified that Jones was at the scene.
Jay Schlenkerman prison photo after latest incarceration in Kinross Correctional Facility.
Two jail-house snitches gave the only testimony that he gave the gun involved to Owens. One, Jay Schlenkerman, is now serving a sentence of six to ten years at the Kinross Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on charges of “Police Officer – Fleeing – Third Degree, and Operating Intoxicated/ Impaired / Controlled Substance, 3rd.” According to prison records, he had ten previous such charges.
Owens refused to testify against Jones. During a videotaped police interrogation shown at his trial, he identified another man as the one who gave him the gun. Still in shock from learning that Aiyana died during the raid, he appeared confused and gave several versions of the incident, but never fingered Charles Jones.
Detroit Sgt. David Pomeroy and St. Clair Shores Sgt. Michael Notoriano.
The source compared Worthy’s alleged plans to charge Jones family members to the perjury charges her office brought against Robert Cureton. In a well-publicized case, Cureton and two other Detroit men accused two police officers, St. Clair Shores Sgt. Michael Notoriano and Detroit Sgt. David Pomeroy, of armed robbery and felonious assault at an east-side gas station, while they were off duty. See Perjury article.
According to an article in the Macomb Daily, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Callahan dropped all charges citing Cureton in the incident May 2. Pomeroy’s attorney Michael Rataj said after Callahan’s ruling, “In my mind, the rest of the charges should be dismissed as well.”
The Prosecutor’s office is seeking to extradite Cureton from West Virginia. A motion hearing on the officers’ case in front of Callahan was scheduled for May 14. Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller, communications director for the office, said in a statement,
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy
“David Pomeroy and Michael Notoriano – Detroit and St. Clair Shores police sergeants charged with crimes in connection with a an iPhone stolen from Notoriano’s 16-year-old daughter. Today Judge Michael Callahan granted a motion to quash all felony counts against Pomeroy finding that the district court erred in binding the case over. The following counts were dismissed: one count of Armed Robbery, two counts of Unlawful Imprisonment, one count of Larceny of a Firearm,one count of Public Official- Willful Neglect of Duty, and Felony Firearm. The two misdemeanor counts of Public Official- Willful Failure to Uphold the law remain. The court indicated that a stay of proceedings would be granted if the case was appealed. ‘The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office disagrees with court’s decision today and will appeal the ruling,’ said Maria Miller.
The judge denied the motion as it relates to Notoriano and his case will proceed on the following charges: Armed Robbery, two counts of Unlawful Imprisonment, two counts of Felonious Assault, two counts of Ethnic Intimidation, one count of Public Official-Willful Neglect of Duty,Felony Firearm and two misdemeanor counts of Public Official-Failure to Uphold the Law.”
Miller had not responded to a request for comment on any pending perjury charges against Jones family members before press time.
May 1, 2014 –Detroit protesters take Shelby to federal courthouse in ongoing blockade of streets and banks..
FROM: DETROIT CONCERNED CITIZENS AND RETIREES (DCCR)
Cecily McClellan of Concerned Citizens and Retirees speaks at rally May 1, 2014.
Retirees demand pension board ask for Judge Rhodes removal due to conflict of interest
Detroit — On April 23, 2014, May 1, 2014 and May 7, 2014 a group of concerned citizens and retirees attended the Pension Board Trustee Meeting(s). During public comments the trustees were asked “why” they had agreed to the Bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment dated 4/16/2014. The only individuals that spoke during this meeting were Michael VanOverbeke, Pension Board Legal Counsel and Rev. Wendell Anthony, community representative, all other trustees were silent. Mr. VanOverbeke stated that the trustees had not voted or agreed to the plan.
Rev. Wendell Anthony, Detroit NAACP
He further stated that they had only supported the economic issues like (1) 4.5% reduction in pensions, (2) up to a 20% claw-back and (3) elimination of cost of living adjustment (COLA). Mr. VanOverbeke emphasized later that support and approval are two different things legally, and that the pension board had not voted to approve. Sounds like splitting of hairs. He also stated that the board were trying to get the best deal and the final vote or decision was up to the retirees.
Rev. Anthony echoed Mr. VanOverbeke’s statements, but further stated the media had misrepresented the actions of the pension board. During the discussion between the board and retirees it was unclear whether they had supported only the 4.5% or all three economic items stated above. The retirees requested a copy of the minutes from the 4/16/2014 GRS Pension Board Meeting and submitted a request Freedom of Information Request Act (FIOA) for the minutes over the last year. “See minutes attached received today” (link below). The following are issues presented to the GRS Pension Board by retirees:
95 million spent by Kevin Orr (EM) on consultants and 5.5 million spent by Mike Duggan on new staff while retiree’s pensions are cut.
State cut of $732 million in revenue sharing to Detroit, millions in tax abatements to millionaires/billionaires, while retirees are cut.
No guarantee of future cuts or changes in plan of adjustment.
Pension board will be run by outsiders, 5 of who will be appointed by the mayor from a list provided by the governor.
No active city employee, family member, contractor or union member can be a trustee.
Retirees requested a general meeting of all retiree before voting ballots are sent out to discuss the details of the Bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment
Retirees demanded that the pension board not agree to cuts to our pensions.
Retirees stressed that the bankruptcy court is rushing to conclude Detroit bankruptcy plan before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rule on whether it violates State constitutionality of pension protection (10th Amendment US Constitution, Section 903 of Bankruptcy code) and Federal law protecting contracts.
See article below briefly covering meeting “Plan Elements Still Fluid”
On May 7, 2014, retirees inquired about the national support Detroit retirees had received from AARP, California Pension Plan and Texas Pension and public employees. These plans represent over 2 million people and are worth over 2 trillion dollars. This is powerful support! Rev. Anthony stated that the pension board had solicited the support from these groups. However, very little has been stated by the pension board of this support. The local corporate media will not be balanced or tell the whole story. See attached articles, copies of brief are included:
Diane Bukowski discussed her official objection to Judge Steven Rhodes’ participation in a pro emergency manager conference before he was appointed as judge in the Detroit Bankruptcy case.
Judge Rhodes (center) chaired one-sided forum on Chapter 9 and EM’s on Oct. 10, 2012 with (l to r), Treasury Dept. rep. Frederick Headen, who has led many takeovers; Edward Plawecki, EM trainers Douglas Bernstein and Judy O’Neill (also a co-drafter of PA 4), and accountant Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, a major witness for Orr at bankruptcy trial.
Charles Moore of Conway Mackenzie, a financial expert witness in this case for Kevyn Orr, also attended this one-sided conference, along with Judy O’Neill, a co-author of Public Act 4, and others who spoke in favor of Chapter 9 Bankruptcy and emergency managers. Diane Bukowski EARLIER asked that judge Rhodes recuse himself due to this conflict that has not been disclosed. See link to article on this issue and Diane’s official objection with the court below. Diane Bukowski demanded that the pension board file an objection to this conflict of interest. This is a bombshell, maybe this is why Judge Rhodes is being conveniently replaced by Mark A. Random.
The legal counsel for the pension plan stated that the city was paying about $180 million for health care, that cost has been reduced to $40 million. This is a 78% decrease in health care cost primarily due to dropping retirees. This saving has and will change the city’s financial state.
The 4th Detroit Bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment was submitted Monday 5/5/2014. All active and retired City of Detroit Employee should weigh the “pros and cons” of voting yes or no. Indicated below is just a brief comparison, added your pros and cons:
Bankruptcy Voting Pros and Cons
Pros – YES
Cons – NO
Fearful of press reports that deal will get worse
Judge must rule on City’s actual financial status not propaganda from Snyder, Orr or Media
You believe your pensions were not earned
Employees paid into the plan and their funds were used for investments (annuity savings)
You believe Orr that federal law trumps state law
US constitution 10th amendment recognizes state’s right-Section 903, trumps is a false issue.
The courts are on Snyder and Orr’s side.
Pension Plans are protected by the State constitution, “not to be diminished or impaired”
Snyder, legislature, and corporation will give money to GRS and PFRS, 350 million
Only an elected official can file bankruptcy, not an emergency manager
If PA 436 is found to be unconstitutional, then this bankruptcy is also
You give up all future rights to sue or appeal any decision or person related to bankruptcy.
The pension boards will be taken over by the state and private interests with high administration costs.
No guarantees, the plan can change how much you will be paid now and in the future, greater than 27%.
Current city’s financial status unknown annual financial report (CAFR) , Orr given extension
City will save $140 million in health care cost this year per pension board, 78 % decrease from $180 million.
GRS had an 11% and PFRS 18% return last fiscal year, This equates to millions of dollars.
City will eliminate the death benefit
The pension is not underfunded the city is withholding pension obligations
Retirees are forced to pay high health care costs.
Recoup revenue sharing, tax abatements, tax giveaway to millionaires and billionaires
Reductions 4.5%, 20% Clawback, Elimination of COLA, not guaranteed or required.
We are not under-funded per actuary firm Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Company We are funded better than the State and County.
“The General Retirement System Board of Trustees plans to hold two informational meetings for retirees after the Plan of Adjustment ballots are mailed. The meetings are planned to help retirees understand the Plan of Adjustment ballots. We will mail postcards to notify retirees of the details for each meeting.” — NOTE ON MAY’S PENSION CHECK STUBS.
Protesters begin civil disobedience in downtown Detroit, blockading Jefferson Avenue.
Hearing Friday, May 30, 8:30 a.m. on felony voter fraud charges vs. Rev. Pinkney in Berrien County Courthouse, 811 Court St. Joseph, Michigan (Hearing has been changed several times to discourage attendance; go to Black Autonomy Community Network Organization [BANCO] website to check for any updates at http://www.bhbanco.org/.)
Rev. Edward Pinkney leads rally against Whirlpool-sponsored PGA in Benton Harbor May 26, 2012.
Under house arrest until a hearing May 16 on voter-fraud charges, the Rev. Edward Pinkney maintains a surprisingly upbeat demeanor, calling it “just the latest effort to beat us down in the battle we’ve been waging here.”
“Here” is Benton Harbor, Mich., an almost all-black town that has seen its population plummet from 45,000 to about 10,000 residents, 70 percent of them unemployed and 90 percent at or below the U.S. poverty level. But it is a “beachtown,” on the shores of Lake Michigan, and major corporations have their eyes on its real estate.
Whirlpool Corp. wants it all, Pinkney says, and it’s been very aggressive in getting its way—including co-opting local political leadership and paying off civil-rights organizations like the NAACP. His house arrest, he says, stems from his leadership of a campaign to recall the mayor, who he calls a “stooge of the corporations.”
The pastor of the nondenominational God’s House of Faith, discusses his abiding faith in the power of grassroots people to create change, even when the odds appear to be against them. They must be prepared—as he is, he says—to deal with “corruption and co-optation of their own.”
A court ruling postpones elections amid questions about voter signatures and fears of high level political intimidation
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (FinalCall.com) – The Benton Harbor mayoral recall election did not take place on May 6 as scheduled. Berrien County Judge John E. Dewane granted a preliminary injunction halting the vote.
Marcus Muhammad announces candidacy for Mayor. Photo Melanie Yuill Fox 28
The election has Benton Harbor Commissioner Marcus Muhammad challenging current Mayor James Hightower. It was halted after signatures needed to demand a recall, just under 400 were needed, and an outspoken local activist and recall supporter who collected signatures were arrested and charged with voter fraud. Fewer than 40 signatures were challenged.
In a written ruling issued May 1, Judge Dewane determined there was not enough time to sort out the facts prior to the scheduled recall election and granted a request from Berrien County Clerk Sharon J. Tyler to stop the election.
Berrien County Judge John Dewane.
It was also Ms. Tyler who approved the signatures and allowed the recall to originally go forward. The judge decided it was in the “best interests” of Benton Harbor voters and Berrien County’s elected officials to keep the vote from happening
Despite the talk of procedure, signature verifications and eligibility questions, some worry the hold-up isn’t about voters but about who will rule the small majority Black town and challenge the awesome power of giants like the Whirlpool Corp., which is based in Benton Harbor. There have been debates about whether corporations have too much power and too many benefits while giving Benton Harbor’s Black residents little. Meanwhile just across a bridge, literally, sits St. Joseph, a majority White city thriving locality.
A judge’s ruling and questions
“The election is scheduled in five days. I cannot hold a trial to determine the facts before the election. Therefore, Clerk Tyler has requested a preliminary injunction to preserve the status quo pending a determination of the facts. Granting a preliminary injunction is within my sound discretion,” Judge Dewane wrote. “While the alleged altered dates on sheet 38 escaped Clerk Tyler’s detection on initial cursory examination, they now appear to be in some instances obvious.”
Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower at reception in Whirlpool HQ,
Rev. Edward Pinkney, 65, leads the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO) and is an outspoken area activist highly critical of Whirlpool as a corporate interloper he believes exploits the poor. He believes legal hurdles are being erected late time to prevent a recall vote and keep Mr. Muhammad from becoming mayor.
“They want to postpone it indefinitely they figure that their man (Mr. Hightower) doesn’t have a chance. They have even lost faith in their own man,” said Rev. Pinkney. “We had enough signatures, the city clerk verified, the county clerk certified it. So there’s a problem. If the county clerk certified then she should be held accountable that’s how I look at it,” he added.
Mayoral candidate Marcus Muhammad with James Cornelius.
Rev. Pinkney has been charged with five counts of election forgery, each a felony carrying up to five years in prison, and six misdemeanor charges connected with allegedly allowing people to sign more than once.
James Cornelius, listed as the sponsor of the move to recall Mayor Hightower, also faces two misdemeanor charges. Mr. Cornelius is a proud member of BANCO, the organization run by Mr. Pinkney. This is nothing but political harassment, said the 59-year-old. He told The Final Call that Berrien County Sheriffs have questioned him multiple times and he is not afraid of the consequences of being an activist. He does not believe he did anything wrong—even if someone did in fact accidently sign a petition multiple times.
Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower’s wealthy home in Benton Harbor.
“I’m going to still be out here being a champion for the people, and that’s my job in the community. Everybody’s job should be that, but they’re putting fear in them so they are scared to even do anything. I ain’t scared! I’m a soldier,” said Mr. Cornelius. “The very people trying to work for Mr. Muhammad as far as the election—they are targeting us.”
Shortly after the ruling on May 1, Mr. Muhammad expressed respect for the court decision, but plans to continue to campaign.
“Despite the prevailing circumstances, I’m encouraged and eventually the people will have their day,” said the hometown hero who led Benton Harbor High School’s basketball team to success as a player and coach and hopes to lead his struggling town to progress, as well.
Most of Benton Harbor’s neighborhoods are full of homes like this. It is the city of any size with the highest poverty rate in the country.
Mayor Hightower said he is glad some time is being taken to “sort things out.” He said his inspection of petitions found 190 violations and he wondered why the Benton Harbor City Clerk and the Berrien County Clerk certified the signatures.“In my opinion, they never should have been certified in the first place,” said the incumbent mayor. “To have an election based upon possible fraudulent circumstances would be a travesty for the residents of the city. We have to ensure the integrity of our elections.”
But even he admits, “There’s a disconnect between the state board of elections and the legislators. You can’t give me a list of rules to go by to challenge these petitions and then there’s another set of rules that the clerk goes by to certify them. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Although there may be questions regarding some of the signatures, it has not come from residents. In fact, some residents felt intimidated by Berrien County Sheriffs who questioned them about signatures.
Helen Jones, who has lived in Benton Harbor for over ten years, said she felt “scared and intimidated” when sheriffs came to her apartment asking her about her signature and “shoving a recorder in my face.”
Evelyn Canaga had the same experience when officials came to question her about her signature.
“I did not like it at all,” said Ms. Canaga. “I got so scared when they approached me,” she added. She said she talked to her neighbor who was also uncomfortable by the presence of the sheriffs mentioning that she might not ever sign anything again. Residents of the small town were looking forward to the May 6 vote to have their voices heard and their feelings known.
Many Benton Harbor residents expressed support for Muhammad over the man currently in office.
Rev. Pinkney gives award to actor Danny Glover at Justice Dinner in Benton Harbor last year.
Joseph Outlaw is 40-years-old and has lived in Benton Harbor all his life. Mr. Outlaw believes the political establishment fears those who want to actually improve conditions. The future depends on making change, not just having rallies and talking about making change, he said. Mr. Outlaw cited that as the reason he supports Mr. Muhammad for mayor.
“He can bring change—they don’t want to change the conversation around this place. They want to keep having something to argue and fight about. He’s fixing to get rid of that arguing and fighting and that’s what they don’t want. They want us to stay at this standstill. He can bring opportunity, he can bring movement,” said Mr. Outlaw. “Right now we are not moving and that’s what they’re scared of. They’re scared of real change.”
Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor
John Howard, 40, has lived in Benton Harbor for the last two decades. He was the director of the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor until April 18. He was asked to resign after being photographed at a campaign rally for Mr. Muhammad. Numerous associates of Mr. Howard who knew of his work called him an asset to the community as mentor for youth. He’s unable to go into details about his resignation because of an agreement with the Boys and Girls Club. However he did say leaving the position “was not my choice.”
“In our community we are at a turning point,” said Mr. Howard. “We live in a community that publicly wants some people to stay neutral, and I have never been a neutral person.”
Political opponents targeted?
Mr. Muhammad recently walked throughout the community to smiles and waves, stopped to speak with residents and visited Mr. Pinkney who is under house arrest pending a court appearance.
“Reverend Pinkney has already been persecuted as a political prisoner,” said Mr. Muhammad. “All politics are local and given that he is a strong freedom fighter on a local level, the political attack and persecution is beginning right there. As I have said, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but as I see it, the charges are frivolous and trumped up.”
Marcus Muhammad with NOI Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Members of the Nation of Islam from Benton Harbor and Grand Rapids, Mich., as well as community residents, showed support for the outspoken activist. Rev. Pinkney said change and a new direction is needed. The current mayor only cares about himself and his personal needs, he added.
Mayor Hightower’s goals are more aligned with corporate interests than the needs and desires of those in the community, he continued.
“I think where Hightower is leading us is towards failure for the residents of Benton Harbor, not for Whirlpool Corporation, not for Lakeland Hospital—because those are the people he supports—I’m thinking about the residents, the people that’s on the ground, the people that live here, the people that are unemployed, those are my concerns,” said Rev. Pinkney.
Youth of Benton Harbor take part in May 26, 2012 march against PGA and Whirlpool.
“We can’t wait. Black people always wait. We wait so long for everything and we never get it. Next year I might be gone I might be deceased, anything could happen. I think the time is now,” said Rev. Pinkney. “I think we need a change and I think Marcus Muhammad is the man to be in there as mayor.”
Rev. Pinkney denies knowingly allowing people to sign a recall petition more than once. If it happened, it was an administrative or clerical error and not done with intent to deceive, he added.
“If you sign twice the signature becomes null and void, so that would have been defeating my whole purpose of being out there,” the activist said.
Joseph Taylor, the Benton Harbor Area School Board treasurer, was one of those who also met with Rev. Pinkney and supports Mr. Muhammad for mayor. He describes the state of affairs in Benton Harbor as “chaotic.”
Slavesmaster Rick Snyder goes after Michigan’s Black cities, schools.
“The future of Benton Harbor is gentrification, which is going on all across America,” said Mr. Taylor.
Emergency financial managers have been placed in control of several cities in Michigan, including Benton Harbor, Detroit and Flint, and the voters have been disenfranchised, said Mr. Taylor. All of the cities have large or majority Black populations. What is happening now with the corporate takeover of Benton Harbor has been years in the making, he said. Those corporate interests have taken precedence over the needs of the people, he added.
Mr. Muhammad believes the political attack against Rev. Pinkney and other supporters is aimed at stopping a political awakening taking place in Benton Harbor largely due to his mayoral campaign.
“The former director of the Central Intelligence Agency said every time there is an assassination there is a cover story, and the cover story only covers or camouflages the real story,” said Mr. Muhammad. “The real story in this case was to stop the election because in all of the polls and in all the predictions, they had Marcus Muhammad becoming the next mayor of a city that just had nearly $600 million in corporate and private dollars invested. Big money and big business would have a hard time at the bargaining table with an administration that is not favorable to their desires,” he said.
Rev. Edward Pinkney at conclusion of May 7, 2011 March against Snyder fascist takeover of Michigan.
Supporters of the McGruder/Simmons family protested earlier outside family court. Tamikia McGruder is top left, Arthur Simmons top right. Cornell Squires is top center, other CPS victims Helen and Debbie Williams hold banner.
Atjamino Simmons placed with white suburban couple at 2 months old
Referee Mona Youssef further delays return of McGruder/Simmons children
One child attempted suicide, claims sexual abuse in foster care
Children being forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs
By Diane Bukowski
May 4, 2014
Atjamino Simmons, taken from her grandmother at two months old.
DETROIT – Wayne County Family Court Referee Mona Youssef delayed the return of the six children of Tamikia McGruder and Arthur Simmons during a hearing April 28, despite evidence of severe harm they have experienced during the supervision of Child Protective Services (CPS), and of the literal CPS kidnapping of their baby Atjamino.
Youssef set a new hearing date for July 28, although the parents’ attorneys called for the immediate return of the children, particularly baby Atjamino, or at the very least for an earlier hearing.
Atjamino Jakiaanti Simmons, born Dec. 22, 2013, was evidently illegally taken from her paternal grandmother’s home by CPS worker Willie Campbell on Feb. 25, 2014, according to court documents. An order by Referee Nicolas J. Bobak dated Feb. 6, 2014 placed the baby with her paternal grandmother, Doris Davis. (See order below.)
“Atjamino’s grandmother told the worker she wanted the baby back,” Ms. McGruder told VOD. “But Mr. Campbell told her it was too late in the process and it had already been done in the courts. There is no court order to take my baby and put her in foster care. She is with a white couple in Oakland County who have other foster children. When I have visited her at the Children’s Center, I saw rashes on her chest and in her vaginal area, plus I saw cat hairs in her diaper bag.”
Tamikia McGruder shows cell phone photo of Atjamino.
She said she doesn’t even have the couple’s last name or address.Below is an affidavit signed by grandmother Doras Davis swearing that she had informed CPS she wants her grandchildren and that CPS removed baby Atjamino from her home on Feb. 25, 2014 without a court order. A message was left with CPS Investigor Willie Campbell May 6, 2014 for his response to these allegations, but he had not returned the call before press time.
Samantha Burks, referred to in the affidavit, is the family’s CPS foster care worker, who also testified in court. She did not explain why Atjamino was taken.
According to court documents, a referee ruled last year that Ms. McGruder and Mr. Simmons should be allowed unsupervised visits with their children, but CPS never complied. The couple has seen their children only at the offices of the DHS on Hamilton in Highland Park and the Children’s Center, with CPS workers and foster parents always present.
Arthur Simmons, Jr. holds child during DHS visit, after the little boy ran outside crying, “DADDY, DADDY!”
Referee Youssef ruled that Ms. McGruder would have to wait four weeks before seeing her children in unsupervised visits, while Mr. Simmons would have to wait eight weeks. She conditioned the visits on orders that the couple undergo psychiatric evaluations. There is no medical documentation from qualified medical doctors or psychiatrists in CPS records that the parents have any psychiatric disorders.
Referee Youssef did admit a sworn statement from the parents, handwritten letters from Ms. McGruder, and photos of their newly-rented, immaculate three-bedroom ranch home into evidence at the request of Ms. McGruder’s attorney Ray McDonald. Both parents testified on the stand for the first time since their children were taken May 30, 2013.
Despite Burks’ depiction during her testimony of Arthur Simmons as belligerent and uncooperative, he was calm and forthright during his testimony.
Simmons said he is the biological father of four of the children and has helped care for and loves the others. He said he has told Burks several times that he is complying with CPS requirements to see a counselor.
“I did refuse to sign the treatment plan regarding medication for my children and myself,” Simmons said. “I was in prison for a time during which they put me on 17 different medications [including Risperdal which caused severe enlargement of his breasts]. When I came home, I weaned myself off all the medications. I didn’t want my children treated like that.”
Timothy Searcy outside courthouse during previous hearing.
The couple’s 12-year-old son was taking Risperdal, which can also cause depression and suicidal ideation, while under CPS supervision, until he tried to hang himself in October and was removed from foster father Timothy Searcy’s home.
“I planned for Atjamino ever since 2006, when I named her,” Simmons testified. “There is no valid reason why we don’t have her now. This was the baby that was going to change my life.”
Simmons said he was incarcerated in 2006 when he planned for Atjamino, but was looking forward to returning home to Ms. McGruder and continuing their family. He said he had not visited the baby since she was seized from his mother’s home because he was told his visits might endanger the return of the infant.
“I have never been diagnosed with a mental illness by a professional doctor,” Simmons testified. “But everyone at the DHS office thinks I need to be on medication. I told [CPS worker] Desiree Johnson that they TRIED to diagnose me at the prison with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but I have not yet had any doctor diagnose that.”
The family’s file is replete with references to “undiagnosed mental health illnesses” and NOS (“not otherwise specified”) psychological disorders with respect to the parents. But the only documentation of these assessments is from CPS and foster care workers who are not licensed physicians or psychiatrists.
Family Court Referee Mona Youssef has three young children herself. She was also the referee in the case of the Louis and Cecilia Espinosa family (links to previous VOD stories below).
Ms. McGruder then took the stand, also calm and firm in her testimony. Despite some of its shocking character, which included one son’s suicide attempts, allegations of sexual abuse by his foster father, and Ms. McGruder’s temporary death during the Caesarian delivery of Atjamino, the many social workers lining the courtroom wall barely reacted.
Instead, during a break, several laughed and joked with each other. One was heard repeatedly saying during the parents’ testimony under her breath,“That’s a lie.” Another jumped up from the audience and loudly objected to admission of the parents’ written statement before Referee Youssef told her she was out of order and admitted the statement at the request of Attorney McDonald.
Ms. McGruder said she is opposed to the entire family being on psychotropic medications as implied in a recent treatment plan.
“If everybody in the family is on medications, who is going to take care of us?” she said.
“When I was younger in foster care, they had me on medications but as an adult I have never been prescribed any psychotropic medications,” Ms. McGruder said. She added that her placement on the CPS central registry caused her to lose her job as a home care worker with the responsibility of giving medications.
Ms. McGruder is described in some CPS records as “slow,” so many who read her handwritten notes and letters sent to former Referee David Perkins and DHS Executive Director Maura Corrigan appeared surprised. All the letters are well-written and very expressive of her concerns for her children and her desire to have them returned.
Both Ms. McGruder and Mr. Simmons keep extensive documentation from the courts and CPS regarding their family’s time with CPS.
Tamikia McGruder with one of her four sons at visit held at DHS offices on Hamilton.
“My children were never hospitalized for psychiatric reasons when they were with me, and they were never on medications,” Ms. McGruder said. “I’m opposed to [two sons] being on medications. [One son’s] arms look swollen like they are about to pop off his body. I need way more information about that medication. [Another son] was on Risperdal and I have seen many TV commercials about what that does to children, so I wouldn’t give it to him when he was with me and they told me that constituted neglect.”
After CPS removed the children that child was administered the drug by his new caregivers. [The older children’s names are not being used in this story to avoid any detrimental effects in their social circles.]
Ms. McGruder continued, “[That son] never hung himself while he was in my care, but since then he has tried to hang himself four times. He accused his foster father of sexually inappropriate touching, and I told Ms. Burks but nothing was done.” The family has since filed a police complaint regarding those allegations. The suicide attempts have been documented in hospital records.
Cornell Squires (r) with his friend, the late Mayor of Jackson, MS. Chokwe Lumumba.
Cornell Squires, a paralegal with the advocacy group We the People for the People, said Ms. McGruder’s allegations during the hearing of sexual abuse of her son should have immediately occasioned investigative action by the court, but Ref. Youssef appeared non-responsive.
“Professionals are required to report such allegations to the police,” Squires said, “or they can be held liable.”
Ms. McGruder said she had signed a treatment plan at the beginning of the family’s involvement with CPS and was told her children would be returned if she completed its requirements. She said she fully finished all the requirements including family counseling, parenting classes, and visits with her children.
Two of Tamikia and Arthur’s other sons during visit at DHS offices.
In response to CPS worker Burks’ allegations that she missed some visits, Ms. McGruder said that she had a Caesarian delivery of her baby in December and “died on the table.” She said she had to be resuscitated. She said she sometimes missed appointments due to the extreme lateness of bus transportation, but that she loves her children, has bonded with Atjamino, and is ready for them to come home.
She testified that the family has rented a beautiful new three-bedroom home which just passed inspection by Ms. Burks and Sherry Howard. Photographs of the home were included in the package admitted into evidence.
Attorney McDonald said, “The record is clear that [Ms. McGruder] has completed all different components of the treatment plan. The presumption is that she benefited from these. She is not an abuser in this case. To lose custody of her newborn baby right after birth has left her very distraught and frustrated. It seems like the system comes up with something additional every time. It’s never-ending. Ms. McGruder is desirous and willing to take her children home. It’s detrimental for Atjamino to be away from her mother. I am asking the court to return the children, or at the very least the baby, and to order that meanwhile unsupervised visits including overnight take place.”
His plea and that of Simmons’ attorney, however, apparently fell on deaf ears for the time being. Meanwhile, Ms. McGruder and Mr. Simmons say they yearn every day for the return of their children to their loving arms.
Tamikia McGruder and Arthur Simmons show crib and supplies ready for their baby Atjamino.
(VOD: The McGruder/Simmons story typifies literally thousands of cases across the country and even the world, due to the financial connections among the state, juvenile courts, foster care agencies, foster parents, and drug companies, all of whom profit from federal funding for every child seized from his/her family.
The defiant stand of Maryanne Godboldo against the police seizure of her daughter in 2011 brought much of this to light locally. Agencies and websites across the U.S. are increasingly coming forward to document similar criminal abuse of children by the system, particularly in poor communities and those of color. See story coming on the situation of Debbie Williams, shown in photo at top of this article.)
Related articles on Espinoza case handled by Referee Mona Yousseff:
Councilwoman Emeritus JoAnn Watson speaks at May Day rally with “VOTE NO” on Plan of Adjustment banner behind her.
Demand this case be heard ASAP by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court
Judges Rhodes has compromised his authority
From: City Employees
Subject: Supporters Filing Lawsuits on our BehalfDate: Sun, 4 May 2014 19:17:28 -0400
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has filed a lawsuit along with the California Public Employees Retirement System (CALPERS), National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems and the Texas Association of Public Employees Retirement Systems in support of the appellants [Detroit retiree systems and groups, and unions] and in support of the reversal of the decision.
Protesters demand end to emergency management May 1, 2014 in Grand Circus Park.
I am not for certain since I am not an attorney, but I am fearful that these [Plan of Adjustment] agreements being drawn up behind closed doors can hinder us. Why are the mediators pushing everything on the fast track? Could they be fearful of their decisions being overturned?If I am right today I will be right tomorrow and next week. If I am wrong and stand a chance of decisions being overturned I have got to move as fast as possible to dodge the bullet. If I am reaching any attorneys and you have knowledge of how this fast tracking and agreeing may affect us please e-mail me at email@example.com .
The definition of amicus curiae—- a brief presented by someone interested in influencing the outcome of a lawsuit but who is not a party to the lawsuit.
Thank you for your time and please pass the word along.
AARP filed an amicus brief late this afternoon with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in each of seven appeals filed in the Detroit bankruptcy case, according to AARP Michigan State Director Jacqueline Morrison.
The decision of Michigan voters to protect the pensions of state and local government employees through their ratification of the 1963 State Constitution is supported by the AARP brief.
The brief provides context for the legal decision in terms of the case’s impact on the lives of retirees.
AARP’s brief discusses the economic implications of the proposed benefit reductions on City of Detroit workers and retirees, as well as on the City of Detroit itself.
Specifically, the brief notes that through reductions in retiree benefits and cost of living adjustments, the amount of income that retirees receive will be diminished. At the same time, retirees will face a significant increase in their health care costs. This creates a recipe for drastically reducing the standard of living of a median income retiree to an income that in many instances will fall below the poverty level.
Marchers blockade Jefferson Avenue in downtown Detroit May Day, 2014.
Marchers demand no sell-out by unions, pension systems in secret talks
By Diane Bukowski
May 2, 2014
DETROIT – As “retiree groups” allegedly began caving in to a Detroit bankruptcy deal, thousands of marchers, largely city retirees, blocked traffic downtown and invaded the corridors of Chase Bank and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s residence May 1. They chanted, “No Pensions, No Peace,” “Show Orr the Door,” and called on retirees to VOTE NO on any deal.
City retiree Ezza Brandon addresses rally at Hart Plaza, as school board member Elena Herrada (to her left) and others listen.
“May Day! May Day!” cried city retiree Ezza Brandon, who co-chaired a kick-off rally at Hart Plaza with Abayomi Azikiwe of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition.
Jan Kruszewski condemns banks including UBS.
“What happened to our rights under the state Constitution?” Brandon asked. “They want retirees to take pension cuts of 4.5 percent, then go back 10 years for another 28 to 29 percent from our annuities, while the banks get 75 to 100 cents on the dollar. Their wasteful spending on consultants is only eclipsed by their brutal attacks on our seniors. Vote NO on the Plan of Adjustment!”
Protester Jan Kruszewski said, “[Detroit creditor] UBS has been found guilty of $1.5 billion worth of municipal fraud, along with many other banks. They should be thrown in jail, not bailed out.” Another speaker pointed out that Vietnam recently sentenced criminal bankers to death.
The marchers, representing a broad spectrum of grass-roots and national community, legal and religious groups, started the day with an “Ecumenical Unity Breakfast” at UAW Local 600’s Dearborn headquarters, then caravanned downtown to Hart Plaza.
Abayomi Azikiwe leads off Hart Plaza rally.
CalPERS, Nat’l Retirement Conference sue to support Detroit retirees
The same day, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the world’s largest pension system, and The National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems filed scathing critiques of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ eligibility decision in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judge Rhodes (center) chaired one-sided forum on Chapter 9 and EM’s on Oct. 10, 2012 with (l to r), Treasury Dept. rep. Frederick Headen, who has led many takeovers; Edward Plawecki, EM trainers Douglas Bernstein and Judy O’Neill (also a co-drafter of PA 4), and accountant Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, a major witness for Orr at bankruptcy trial.
Their amicus briefs, supporting appeals by Detroit’s retirement systems and unions, said Rhodes’ ruling essentially makes Chapter 9 bankruptcy illegal under the U.S. Constitution, and called for its immediate reversal. The suits constituted the first concrete, substantial national showing of support for Detroiters under attack.
Workers wear May Day T-shirts at rally.
If unions and “retiree groups” participating in ongoing secret mediation sessions on the Detroit bankruptcy agree to a deal, they would have to withdraw the Sixth Circuit appeals and forego that support. They would also have to deny that the Michigan Constitution firmly guarantees public employee pensions under Article 9, Sec. 24, a key issue in the amicus filings. (More on these briefs at conclusion of this story.)
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh is hearing a class action suit challenging the constitutionality of Public Act 436, the Emergency Manager law which was used to declare Detroit bankrupt. (See separate story to come.)
Hart Plaza rally – “Detroit is Ground Zero”
Councilwoman Emeritus JoAnn Watson speaks.
“We have the right to democratic and constitutional rule, and to have our unions protected,” Detroit City Councilwoman Emeritus JoAnn Watson told the Hart Plaza rally. “Our children are being assaulted under EM rule, even though 2.3 million Michigan residents voted NO to emergency managers.”
Elena Herrada, a Detroit School Board member in exile while EM Jack Martin runs the Detroit Public Schools, said Mayor Mike Duggan plans to snatch DPS up under his rule.
Cecily McClellan of Concerned Citizens and Retirees.
“Evict Kevyn Orr from OUR building, the Coleman A. Young Center,” Jerry Cullens of Detroit Eviction Defense (DED) demanded. He said he joined DED when they mobilized dozens against the police to stop the eviction of his family from their home, one of tens of thousands of evictions which have devastated Detroit and suburban neighborhoods.
Cecily McClellan of the Detroit Concerned Citizens and Retirees was forced to retire when the city shut down its Human Services, Health and Workforce Development Departments, all nearly 100 percent federally funded.
“Detroit is Ground Zero in this national attack orchestrated by the Koch Brothers and ALEC,” McClellan said.“It’s based on divide and conquer, just like the whole country was, because Detroit is mostly Black. The retirement systems are worth $6 billion that they want so they can skim their money off the top. It’s about a wealth transfer by the super ungodly rich.”
ALEC is the powerful, corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, which holds secret meetings involving corporations and state legislators who draft ‘model bills’ to benefit corporate profits at public expense.
Youth from FIST and Good Jobs Now were part of the rally.
Boycott churches if they don’t join fight to save Detroit
Rev. Ed Rowe of Central United Methodist Church fired up the crowd, striding back and forth as he declared, “I don’t live in a bankrupt city; I live in a city that is run by a morally, spiritually and physically bankrupt system.”
Pastor Ed Rowe of Central United Methodist Church.
He called on protesters to get their ministers and pastors to throw the full weight of their churches against the assault on Detroit, or to cease attending and funding those churches.
Representing Detroit youth, Demeeko Williams of Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM), said, “They want to take away our rights and jobs and throw us in prison. We’ve got to take our city back! Take back Belle Isle!”
Demeeko Williams points to CAYMC — That building belongs to us!
Since EM Orr gave the State of Michigan an open-ended, unpaid “lease” on the island in February, state troopers have shown an increasingly aggressive presence there. The arrests of over 200 largely Black males so far have been reported. Meanwhile, a huge blue State Police prisoner bus stands in the parking lot of the island’s casino.
A representative also spoke on behalf of undocumented workers in Detroit, who daily face mass deportations facilitated by police, sheriffs and the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division.
Marchers block streets, occupy Chase Bank, Orr’s home at Book Cadillac
A well-orchestrated campaign of civil disobedience then took off. (See photo at top of story.)
Marchers head down Woodward toward Chase Bank.
Protesters moved out onto Jefferson Avenue, spreading their banners and signs across its entire southern width. Although one Detroit police officer tried to get a driver to run down a marcher, law enforcement eventually backed off and re-routed incoming traffic from the John Lodge freeway.
“Ain’t no confusion, pensions are in the constitution,” marchers chanted. “Hey Judge Rhodes, our rights won’t be sold. Bail out Detroit, not the banks!”
The blockade continued for half an hour as police sirens wailed. Then marchers turned down Woodward, blocking that street as they headed for Chase Bank’s Detroit headquarters. Without pause, they invaded the broad marble lobby of the bank, carrying their banners and picket signs and loudly chanting.
Marchers pack lobby of Chase Bank, which has been sued many times for fraudulent lending and eviction practices.
Eventually, the entire lobby was filled with demonstrators as bank security guards locked doors into the teller area and stood back, unsure what to do.
The street blockaders then took off down Fort to the Westin Book-Cadillac hotel at Washington Blvd. Here EM Kevyn Orr lives in a luxury suite paid for by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, while selling off and privatizing Detroit assets including the Detroit Water and Sewerage, Public Works, and Public Lighting Departments, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Belle Isle.
Marchers pack lobby of Westin Book Cadillac, where Orr resides.
Here and in the city’s own offices, Orr consults with the partners of Jones Day, his allegedly “former” law firm which along with Miller Canfield, Ernst & Young, Conway McMenzie and /Stiffel have presented themselves as the legal representatives of the City of Detroit in bankruptcy proceedings.
Marchers crowded outside, then proceeded straight through the doors of the hotel, packing the entire circular lobby with signs raised, chanting “Not one penny, not one dime, stealing pensions is a crime!” and “No more Orr—show him the door!”
Marchers leave Book Cadillac triumphantly.
Despite some shoving by hotel security, no one was arrested, and the crowd emerged triumphant at the end.
“Dan Gilbert—shame on you! Housing is a right!”
The blockade proceeded down Washington Blvd. to Capitol Park, which billionaire racist Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Greektown Casino, and swaths of downtown Detroit property, is seeking to turn into a residential and playground area for well-to-do whites.
Marchers pass Griswold Apts. in Capitol Park.
Developers associated with Gilbert are evicting over 180 senior, disabled and largely Black Section 8 residents of the Griswold Apartments, many of whom have lived there for up to 30 years in beautiful large apartments with stunning views of downtown Detroit.
Dan Gilbert/LeBron James
Gilbert infamously excoriated Miami Heat basketball star LeBron James for leaving the Cavaliers, comments which many civil rights leaders took as plantation-owner treatment of Cavaliers basketball players.
Ironically, Gilbert has since condemned L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his recent similarly racist rant. In a statement, Gilbert’s office said, “The diverse staff members of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise are unified in encouraging commissioner Silver and the NBA to respond with swift and appropriate action consistent with a strong zero tolerance approach to this type of reprehensible behavior.”
The Albert’s new multi-racial ad.
VOD earlier raised complaints about picture window sized ads for “The Albert,” the new name for the complex, which depicted all white residents and patrons, a violation of the U.S. Fair Housing Act. Ironically, the developers have redone the ads to show multi-racial residents, at the same time they are forcing multi-racial long-time tenants out.
Griswold Apartments, LLC, the alleged developer, received a 10-year tax break from the Detroit City Council last November after Ted Phillips of the United Community Housing Coalition assured the Council that his group would find other non-downtown placements for the tenants.
As they passed the Griswold Apartments, marchers chanted, “Shut down Capitol Park, shut down GM! May Day every day! Occupy the USA!”
Marchers block streets in front of Federal courthouse on W. Lafayette.
Marchers then took Shelby to Fort Street to block traffic outside the Federal Courthouse on W. Lafayette where bankruptcy proceedings are being held, for an extended period of time.
Cops try to block marchers’ exit off Fort St.
The marchers spread across the street while police, taken off guard by the winding nature of the march, rushed cruisers and mounted cops over to the scene, seeking to block the demonstrators’ exit at the west end of Fort.However, the march adroitly snaked through an opening and re-took the streets, proceeding back to Woodward Ave.
Marchers foil cops’ blockade.
Back down Woodward to rally at Hazen Pingree statue
The marchers resumed their journey to Woodward Avenue, where their full numbers could be seen. Black, white, young, old, babies, seniors, retirees and their supporters, they demanded to know, “Land of the Free? Where’s our democracy?” and “Make the Banks Pay!”
Babies and youth take the march back down Woodward.
They appropriately concluded their downtown occupation at the feet of the statue of former Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree, which bears a plaque calling him the “people’s mayor.” It says, “He was the first to warn the people of the great danger threatened by private corporations.”
Plaque on statue of “people’s mayor” Hazen Pingree.
After the 1891 “Trolley Car Riot,” Pingree helped establish the public sector in Detroit, including the Detroit Street Railways (DSR), meant to be just that, the Public Lighting Department, originally meant to power all city residences, and Detroit Receiving Hospital, which remained public until it was taken over in 1980 by the Detroit Medical Center. With current Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan at the helm of the DMC, it became part of a for-profit hedge-funded corporation.
Marchers from the National Action Network cheer as Rev. Chas. Williams II speaks.
The Rev. Charles Williams, Michigan coordinator of the National Action Network, addressed the group, among others.
“Fifty years ago, your people and activists from across the country left their homes to fight for voting rights in the South,” Williams recalled. “But here we are 50 years later still fighting to protect the voting rights of people in Michigan and in Detroit. We are going to continue to protest and march in the spirit of civil disobedience, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., SNCC and the SCLC. You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Undefatigable activist Monica Lewis Patrick said, “This is all about you and your children, to make sure that they have pensions too. Don’t give in to the tyranny of austerity. The financial crisis was manufactured by the banks. Most of you have been on the front lines for a long time, resisting, unifying, fighting back. Don’t you back up! This is the beginning, not the end. We still have not put all our feet on the ground. Go out in the neighborhoods, talk to your families, your friends and your neighbors. Many of them don’t know, and they don’t know that they don’t know.”
Some groups who organized march with contact info and meeting times:
Moratorium NOW! and Stop the Theft of Our Pensions: Phone: 313-680-5508 http://moratorium-mi.org/Meets every Monday night at 7 p.m. at 5920 Second Avenue, Detroit, MI
Detroit Concerned Citizens and Retirees: Phone 313-444-0061; Meets Mondays at 11 a.m. at N’namdi’s, 12511 Woodward Ave. Highland Park, MI
DWSD worker and union official Laketa Thomas (l) at rally in Detroit May 1.
DETROIT – Representing the first national support of substance for Detroit retirees and residents, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), and The National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems filed amicus briefs May 1 in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court to support Detroit retirees and residents in their battle against bankruptcy and pension theft.
Michigan’s state constitutional protection of public employee pensions is central to the arguments of both groups in demanding reversal of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ ruling that Detroit is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy and can cut pensions.
“The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (“CalPERS”) is the largest State-run pension system in the United States, and one of the largest sovereign pension funds in the world. . . .” says CalPERS in its 64-page brief. “It currently administers the pensions for nearly 1.7 million current and former public employees, who are drawn from over 3000 California public employers. It has been involved in at least five chapter 9 bankruptcies in California, and is currently involved in the second and third largest municipal bankruptcies in United States history–the cities of Stockton and San Bernardino.”
Protesters begin civil disobedience in downtown Detroit, blockading Jefferson Avenue.
CalPERS, through its attorneys from K & L Gates, LLP, said that Rhodes’ decision, which authorized state officials to raid Detroit pensions, “ . . . .was the first of its kind, determining that a municipality can impair the rights of a public pension system in bankruptcy despite express State law prohibitions to the contrary.”
It notes that Rhodes’ ruling is relevant to all public pension systems nationally because it “can be misconstrued for the broad proposition that all pensions are subject to impairment under Chapter 9.” At least 24 states have provisions protecting public pensions.
Detroit protesters: system is bankrupt.
The CalPERS suit says Section 903 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code “expressly preserves a State’s laws governing its creatures [i.e. municipalities] notwithstanding the filing of a chapter 9 petition. . . .the court misconstrued the Tenth Amendment and the limitations it places on a State’s ability to “consent” to violations of State laws and constitutional provisions.”
It says Rhodes’ interpretation of Section 903 would make the very existence of Chapter 9 federally unconstitutional.
“In essence, the bankruptcy court decided a constitutional question, not because it was unavoidable, but because it believed that putting the issue behind it would facilitate negotiations and the administration of the case. This was not appropriate,” said CalPERS.
The brief also questioned whether the Detroit’s “good faith” requirements were met in filing bankruptcy. “ . . . . the eligibility requirements, including good faith, must have real meaning and force,” CalPERS asserts.
Detroit protesters take Shelby to federal courthouse.
It says further, “Congress envisioned that municipal debtors would come to bankruptcy with clean hands by expressly including a good faith filing requirement. Here, despite the fact that the bankruptcy court acknowledged there is “some substantial truth” in the claim that the City did not file in good faith . . . .it nonetheless concluded that the objectors had not overcome the extra-statutory “strong presumption” of a good faith filing. Exactly what the result would have been had the court not improperly injected its own notions of Congress’s purposes into the analysis is unknown, but this Court [i.e. the Sixth Circuit] should review this finding with a ‘jaded eye.'”
Detroit protestor: Orr speaks with Snyder tongue.
Opponents of the bankruptcy have argued that the Jones Day law firm and others planned the raid on the city’s pension systems as early as 2011, using Chapter 9 to circumvent state law. Detroit EM Kevyn Orr himself boasted, “Federal law trumps state law.” His “former” law firm, Jones Day, authored a “white paper” in 2011 laying out its plan for using Chapter 9 to attack public pensions, and has since gone on to use that plan to effect a takeover of Puerto Rico’s systems.
Judge Rhodes himself chaired a one-sided forum on Chapter 9 and Emergency Managers on Oct. 10, 2012, which included proponents of emergency manager rule as well as a chief witness for EM Kevyn Orr in the bankruptcy case. He did not disclose his participation. When challenged, he refused to recuse himself because of it.
The brief notes that municipalities are not merely “creatures of the state,” as Orr and his advisors contend ad nauseum, but that individuals residing in municipalities are protected by the Tenth Amendment as well.
Detroit marchers with their babies take Woodward Ave.
“Because federalism’s protections are not designed solely to protect the States alone, those rights cannot be consented away by the State,” CalPERS says. “How can a State give something away that it does not solely possess? The answer is: It cannot. It is far too simplistic to say that Michigan, or any other State, by authorizing one of its creatures to file for chapter 9, consented away the enforcement of State statutory and constitutional law protecting individuals to benefit a single, financially distressed municipality.”
The National Conference on Public Employment Retirement Systems (NCPERS), with the Texas Association of Public Retiree Employment Systems, filed the second brief of 19 pages through Tarcza & Associates, based in New Orleans, LA.
Protester with SnydOrr mask.
In addition to points made in the CalPERS brief, it condemns the use of an unelected emergency manager, and cites the vital importance of public retiree pensions to the health of state and national economies, as well as to that of the stock market.
“In this particular case, the bankruptcy court has given unprecedented power to an un-elected government official, the Emergency Manager for the City of Detroit,” says the NCPERS brief. “When Michigan voters inserted Article IX, Sec. 24 into their constitution, they could not in their wildest dreams have imaged than an un-elected government official could use the federal bankruptcy process to override the will of the people.”
The brief goes on, “According to the United States Census Bureau, there are more than twenty million working and retired state and local government employees in the United States. Retired public employees live in virtually every city and town in the nation. Nationally, state and local pensions support 2.9 million jobs and $443 billion in economic activity. In Michigan alone, 301,626 residents received $5.9 billion in pension benefits from state and local plans in 2009.”
Protester on bicycle.
NCPERS says that public pension plans hold “more than $3 trillion in assets.”
“These payments . . . .provide a robust economic stimulus to local economies throughout the nation . . . .In Michigan, it is estimated that the economic impact of state and local pensions accounted for 72,000 jobs and contr200ibuted $9.2 billion to the state economy in 2009. . . .Likewise, the assets of these plans are an important source of liquidity and stability for the nation’s financial markets. . . .Public pension plans account for over 1/6 of the ownership of the U.S. stock market. Creating instability within these funds would have a ripple effect on the entire U.S. economy.”
Monica Lewis Patrick, former City Council candidate, is interviewed at rally to save Belle Isle Aug. 1, 2012
Please share this information with persons that you would personally recommend for employment! This is an opportunity to prepare our Youth, Returning Citizens, the Unemployed and the Underemployed for upcoming employment opportunities in Detroit.It is urgent that you inform your candidate that a drug screen is required, please do not apply if they cannot pass the test at this time. We the People of Detroit is committed to holding the Federal Government, State and Local government responsible for the distribution of funding for the purpose of training, employing and contracting with the Citizens of Detroit!
A HUD Section 3 Plan can be demanded to create the mechanism for creating jobs that we so desperately need and deserve, but we must have capable, trained, willing and determined candidates! They are hoping that we cannot get candidates to enter the program and they truly don’t expect them to succeed and achieve! Let’s prove them wrong!
Thank you for your service to the Citizens of Detroit!
Monica Lewis-Patrick, M.A.L.S.
We the People of Detroit
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