Monday, March 20, 2017

A friend of Rev. Pinkney, Lynne Stewart, 1939-2017

The Extraordinary Lynne Stewart

Two incidents serve well to highlight peoples’ attorney Lynne Stewart’s extraordinary life in the service of humanity.
Charged with “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,” Lynne took the witness stand in early 2005 at the close of her nine-month frame-up trial presided over by Federal District Court Judge John Koeltl in New York City. Stewart was asked by her attorney, Michael Tigar, why she had issued a press release on behalf of her client, the “blind” Sheik and Egyptian cleric, Omar Abdel Rahman, when she knew that doing so was a violation of a Special Administrative Order (SAM) that prohibited Rahman from engaging in contact with anyone, anywhere, other than his attorneys. Rahman had been falsely convicted in 1995 of participating in a New York City terrorist conspiracy and was serving a life-sentence in Rochester, Minn.
The answer to that question, put to Stewart full square, stood at the core of her case. “Why not just appeal the SAM’s restrictions to a higher court?” Tigar continued.
The remainder of her life in prison rested on Lynne’s answer. The jury, 12 New Yorkers, sequestered during a trial in the same courtroom where in 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to execution at the height of the McCarthy era, listened more than intently. The stakes were high. The prosecution was demanding a 30-year jail sentence.
Lynne’s sensational trial had all the earmarks of a government, in the name of its “war on terrorism,” preparing to shred whatever semblance of fair play remained in the criminal “justice” system. To put an attorney in jail for diligently representing her client was close to unprecedented—“a chill on the bar,” significant parts of the legal profession proclaimed.
The obliging Judge Koeltl, undoubtedly aware that government prosecutors aimed to directly link Lynne to terrorism, by hook or by crook, allowed the horror of the Sept. 11, 2001, Twin Towers terrorist bombings to enter and pervade his courtroom. He chose to base his heinous decision on the findings of an FBI search of Lynne’s law offices, where photos of Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists around the world were found. The judge disregarded the fact that all the photos and related files on worldwide terrorist activities belonged to one of Lynne’s co-defendants, her professional Arabic translator, Mohamed Yousry, whose NYU Ph.D. thesis and associated research on terrorism had been approved by his faculty adviser.
Lynne’s attorney, Michael Tigar, objected to the introduction of this material as hearsay—that is, as having no connection to Lynne or to the case at hand. In U.S. law the introduction of hearsay “evidence” is virtually banned. But Tigar’s motion was essentially circumvented by Koeltl with a deadly twist. He agreed that the material was hearsay and instructed the jury that it was not to be considered as fact or having any relation to the charges against Stewart. Yet he nevertheless allowed its introduction to, as he explained,“enable the jury to learn about the mind of the defendant.” I will never forget Koeltl’s vicious and duplicitous words.
His decision squared with the prosecution’s objective to link Stewart and her two co-defendants to terrorist activities everywhere. Delighted, the terrorist show trial was on as prosecutors proceeded to flood the walls of the courtroom, replete with giant and multiple theater-sized screens, with photos of terrorist activities—all aimed at associating Lynne with the government’s conception of an ongoing “worldwide terrorist conspiracy.”
In the end, some 90 percent or more of Lynne’s nine-month trial focused on this hearsay evidence, while the prosecution presented just a single witness to state that he had issued the SAM to Lynne. Not a single witness testified that Lynne had any connection to any terrorist activities anywhere.
Thus, Lynne’s answer to the question as to why she didn’t appeal this SAM to a higher court was crucial to her life itself. She might have argued that the SAM itself was ambiguous, that in the normal course of events when an attorney violates a SAM they are reprimanded or punished by being denied contact with their client for three months, and/or required to sign a new SAM.
I paraphrase Lynne’s remarks as I remember them in that rapt courtroom. I was astonished when she stated, “I have a friend in prison, Mumia Abu-Jamal. He filed a lawsuit to prevent his prosecutors from opening his mail, including from his attorneys.” Lynne continued, “Mumia Abu-Jamal won that suit but it took him some five years. My duty to my client required that under such circumstances, we not wait five years with regard to a harmless press release.”
Here was Lynne, at her personal, uninhibited, spontaneous best andcraziest. With her life on the line she decided to bring the case of a dear friend and a convicted world-renowned “cop-killer,” Mumia Abu-Jamal, to the attention of the New York jury. No serious attorney would have recommended it. But Lynne, cut from another cloth, believed that Mumia’s case needed to be once again brought to public attention.
Her remarks were not scripted, not carefully presented to evoke sympathy, not offered to mitigate her SAM violation, but only to tell the jury, and the world, who she was—a human being who stood by Mumia to the end. This single incident tells us precisely what Lynne’s life and record as a people’s lawyer for the poor and oppressed was all about.
The final question asked to Lynne by her attorney was the clincher. “Lynne,” said Tigar, “if you had to do it all over again, would you have issued that press release?” I was within some 15 feet of Lynne and holding my breath for her answer. Lynne, once again, had a choice, the easy road of contrition, apology, and a plea for forgiveness, or the road to hell—in Lynne’s mind to socialist heaven—paved only with Lynne’s life-long humanistic and loving intentions and faith that she could penetrate the hearts and minds of the jury.
She responded, as her eyes welled up with tears, “I would hope,” she began and then paused. “I would hope that I had the courage to do it again.” She paused again, unable to speak—momentarily overcome by her emotions. She continued, “I would do it again!”
No apologies from Lynne Stewart. No legal or self-serving pleas to the jury that she had a made a mistake and should have taken the SAM to the courts. Lynne’s response evoked the passion of a movement fighter, of a champion of all that is beautiful in the human soul. Lynne Stewart, for whom the truth was required to preserve her very being, put it on the line that day, perhaps never stopping to think of the consequences. Would it be that we all had that courage and expressed it collectively in the kind of mass struggles that are capable of bringing this damn racist, sexist, imperialist system down forever. And when we do this, our martyrs will be resurrected in their full stature.
Full article:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Whirlpool closing Benton Harbor, MI schools

Whirlpool Corporation closing Benton Harbor, MI schools

Rev. Pinkney leads a march against the development of the public Jean Klock Park, where a private golf club and luxury housing has been built, pushed through by the Whirlpool Corporation’s money and power.

BROOKS/FREMONT CORRECTIONAL FACILITY —  Let the truth be told. Capitalism generates inequality and wealth, status and power. You must recognize the unfairness of a system that allows wealth to accumulate to an unlimited degree and claim to provide equal opportunity for the people. It is a system that undermines democracy by concentrating power and wealth in the hands of a few.
The oppressor is the establishment, which operates the system that oppresses the people. The establishment no longer needs educated workers as it once did. It once took 50 people to make one automobile. Now one person makes 50 automobiles. Education is the last thing on the oppressor’s list for the minorities.
The factory jobs previously provided were for workers of the predominantly Black Benton Harbor and the predominantly white St. Joseph (across the river). The jobs provided stability and a good standard of living. Then in the 1990’s, a pattern typical of the Rust Belt, emerged. The jobs began to disappear. Jobs were replaced by globalization, sent elsewhere, or replaced by robots.
Whirlpool Corporation, a global appliance manufacturing company, is the largest single employer and single biggest political influence on local government in Berrien County, MI. Whirlpool controls the county commissioners, Berrien County Courthouse, its judges and prosecutors, Benton Harbor Commissioners and Benton Harbor School District and Board.
Whirlpool set its sights on turning the city of Benton Harbor into a lakeside resort for the wealthy. Whirlpool and other corporations teamed up and began transitioning the area from an industrial based economy to a tourist, real estate and service-based economy. First, they built a $500 million arena plus the Jack Nicholas Signature Golf Course complex that would take 465 acres of Benton Harbor and deprive the city of its greatest assets, which includes Jean Klock Park.
Whirlpool no longer needs educated workers from Benton Harbor. Whirlpool Corporation now plans to close all of Benton Harbor schools. The city of Benton Harbor is down to five schools and now Whirlpool and Gov. Rick Snyder are going for the throat to close three more schools.
I Rev. Edward Pinkney have for years gone to school board meetings to tell the board what needs to be done to educate the students and that parents must get involved. I am afraid the parents, teachers and school board members have been misled and lied to by Whirlpool. Now we have three schools closing, overcrowded classrooms and there is no telling what kind of education the children will get. In addition, the school system has gotten many loans from the state. Where is that money? Who is responsible and accountable for our students’ education? Who is responsible for the attack on our school system?
The Whirlpool Corporation is determined to crush the residents of Benton Harbor. The economy and social equality is the essence of democracy and is the antithesis of capitalism. We must confront the Whirlpool Corporation at all cost.

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Berrien County Sheriff's Department Looks More Like Nazi Germany

The goal was to immediately sterilize fourteen million people in the United States and millions and millions more worldwide. The lower tenth and then continuously eradicate the remaining. The Holocaust, the destruction of the Jews, the Gypsies, the rape of Poland, and the decimation of Europe. All this reminds me of Berrien County in the state of Michigan.

The fascist newspaper, the Herald Palladium, stated the community comes through to help keep cops secure. Who will keep the residents of the community secure and safe from the Berrien County Sheriff's Department and law enforcement in general?

We are outraged over the death of unarmed African-American citizens and the general lack of police accountability for those killed in the year after the death of Michael Brown and the Ferguson outbreak alone, including Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Natasha McKenna, Tony Robinson, Anthony Hill, Meagan Hockaday, Mya Hall, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Alexia Christian, Icarus Randolpha, Sandra Bland, Sam Dubose, Christian Taylor, and Aura Rosser. The conditions of the police encounters that ended in the loss of each of their lives and the lives of thousands and thousands of other innocent citizens that will never be known. It is beginning to look like Nazi Germany every single day.

Foundation President Lisa Cripps-Downey said the money was raised after Berrien County Trial Court Security Officers Joseph Zangaro and Ron Kienzle were shot and killed by jail inmate Larry Gordon on July 11th. Larry Gordon said he would never, ever go to trial in the most corrupt county in the whole wide world. Gordon said he would rather die than go to trial, because you do not have a chance in Berrien County because of the corruption.

The county was in shock, but the community was not. Joseph Zangaro and Ron Kinezle were just pawns and were expendable for the corrupt system to accomplish their goal, that is to keep the citizens in total fear to remove their human rights.

Foundation President Lisa Cripps-Downey, are you willing to present a check to Martell Hadley's family who was beaten and murdered by the Berrien County Sheriff's Department inside the jail? He was found hanging by the neck and beaten. What about all the women that were molested by the Berrien County Sheriff's deputies: are you going to send them a check?

Berrien County is well-funded off taxpayers' dollars and supported by major political and non-intellectual leaders. Perhaps most startling, it directly inspired racism and the rise of Nazism in Berrien County today. This is chilling. Berrien County conveys the evil depth and breadth of Nazism, which unleashed a war against society's most vulnerable citizens.

Corruption is deep in Berrien County. It is looking more like Nazi Germany every single day. This is chilling, shocking, and gripping. We must confront Berrien County's Nazism.

-Rev. Pinkney

Friday, February 24, 2017

Injurious Statutes, Court Rulings, and Orders That Must Be Set Aside, Repealed, or Amended

Thesee could be the 28 most important laws from the last century or so that need doing away with, etc.  The list still needs some work.  

(Ways To Cheapen Human Life - original title; might not keep it.)

Injurious Statutes, Court Rulings, and Orders That Must Be Set Aside, Repealed, or Amended

1. The Senate Filibuster Rule (Rule XXII) “gives a minority of 41 Senators . ... . the power to prevent the Senate from debating or voting on a bill or resolution, or a Presidential appointment.  A “filibuster” is the use of unlimited debate not to inform or persuade, but to obstruct the proceedings of a legislative body ”. Emmet J. Bondurant in his article THE SENATE FILIBUSTER RULE clearly shows that the filibuster is unconstitutional. Also, the filibuster rule has been used to commit fraud on numerous occasions.

2. The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (Pub. L. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224, enacted September 18, 2001), The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq(AUMF) Resolution of 2002 and Legislation appropriating fund for the War on Terror are unconstitutional, null and void as outlined in Proof of the Unconstitutionality and Illegality of U.S. Wars/Occupations and Use of Force in the Mideast

3. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 which established the Federal Reserve System (The Fed) is clearly unconstitutional. Congress does not have the Constitutional authority to delegate its power to coin money or to write rules and regulations to the Federal Reserve which is a private corporation owned by bankers.
The Federal Reserve, has been an abject failure at most of its duties which according to official
Federal Reserve documentation, are to conduct the nation's monetary policy, supervise and
regulate banking institutions, maintain the stability of the financial system and provide financial
services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions”.
On September 23, 2009, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA)
released a report card demonstrating the poor record of the Federal Reserve in using the tools
provided by Congress to protect consumers from abusive financial industry practices. Chairman
Frank cited several examples of the Federal Reserve’s unsatisfactory performance and stated:
The Federal Reserve's inattention and inaction on consumer protection is a key reason why
Democrats are working to create the Consumer Financial Product Agency in the coming weeks
and months. As the above report card shows, consumer protection has long been overlooked
by federal regulators, and their motivation to protect consumers has been driven more by
congressional pressure rather than a sense of duty to the protect the American public.
The Federal Reserve has also failed to insure that there is maximum employment, stable
prices, and moderate interest rates which the Federal Reserve Act requires.
Their main job, appears to protect, not regulate large banks. The Feds actions have increased
the frequency and severity of boom-bust economic cycles such as the Great Depression of the
1930s, the late-2000s recession, and the current rate recession.

4. Corporate Personhood - Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (118
U.S. 394) (1886), The legal theory that corporations are entitled to protection under the
Fourteenth Amendment is based on a clerical error and is null and void. A passing remark by
the chief justice was erroneously summarized in the headnote by the court recorder. This
clerical error set the stage for the future worldwide damage of our environmental,
governmental, and cultural commons and must be corrected.

5. The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission on
January 21, 2010, which wrongfully and unlawfully, attempts to give corporations unlimited
influence over our elections, fails to distinguish between domestic and foreign owned
corporations and knowingly leave America vulnerable to the latter, is null and void.
Corporations are not people, and nothing in the Constitution supports any such interpretation.

6. The Monetary Reform Act (also cited as Depository Institutions Deregulation and
Monetary Control Act) (P. L. No. 96-221; 94 Stat. 132) (1980) Highlights: Allows banks to
merge, and institutions to charge any interest rate they choose. Forces all banks to abide by
Federal Reserve rules, and raised deposit insurance of banks and credit unions from $40,000
to $100,000

7. Truth in Lending Act “Reform” (Sept. 30, 1995) Eased regulations on creditors. This bill
was powered through by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL), a key recipient of finance, insurance, and
real estate (FIRE) donations ($136,000 in 1993-94).”

8. Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (1999) A bank deregulation bill that repealed much of the
Glass-Steagall Act by allowing commercial and retail banks to engage in investment activities,

9.  The Glass-Steagall Act (48 Stat. 162) (1933) Created the regulatory framework for banking; established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and other speculative trading and mergers opening up competition among banks, securities companies and insurance companies. It passed the Senate 90-8 and was signed by President Clinton. It led to a wave of mega-mergers “too big to fail.’ The driving force was Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) who had received $4.6 million from the FIRE sector over the previous decade. This act is credited as the major contributor to the 2008 financial collapse.

10. Commodity Futures Modernization Act (Dec. 14, 2000). Sen. Gramm attached a 262 page
amendment that deregulated derivatives and credit default swaps trading to an omnibus
appropriations bill just prior to the Christmas holiday in December of 2000. Gramm's
amendment was supported by then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and then Treasury
Secretary Larry Summers. The amendment was never debated by the House or Senate and
by-passed the substantive policy committees in both the House and the Senate so that there
were neither hearings nor opportunities for recorded committee votes. This law unleashed the
derivatives market, paved the way for banks to become more aggressive about investing in
mortgages, and opened the door to an explosion in new, unregulated securities. The
amendment also contained a provision lobbied for by Enron, a generous contributor to Gramm
that exempted energy trading from regulatory oversight, allowing Enron to run rampant, wreck
the California electricity market, and cost consumers billions before it collapsed.

11. American Home Ownership and Economic Opportunity Act (Dec. 27, 2000). This act
makes it harder for consumers to get out of lender-required insurance.

12. Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (April 20, 2005) The act
makes it harder for consumers (but not businesses) to discharge debts. The strict means test
that would force more debtors to file under Chapter 13 (under which a percentage of debts
must be paid over a period of 3-5 years) as opposed to Chapter 7 (under which debts are paid
only out of existing assets), the additional penalties and responsibilities the bill placed on
debtors, and the bill's many provisions favorable to credit card companies.

13. Suspension of the uptick rule that required that short sale transactions be entered at
prices that are higher than the price of the previous trade. This rule prevents short sellers from
adding to the downward momentum when the price of an asset is already experiencing sharp

14. De-regulation that allowed reduced margin and position limits for speculators.

15. Administrative Procedure Act (APA) (Public Law 79-404) (1946) This is one of the most
important pieces of United States administrative law. It enabled bureaucrats, instead of
legislators, to write law.

16. The National Security Act (P. L. No. 235, 80 Cong., 61 Stat. 496, 50 U.S.C. ch.15) (1947).
This was the granddaddy of all the others. (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA], The
Patriot Act, Anti-Terrorism Act, etc.) It was the start of the national security state we are now
under, and the beginnings of a fascist state.

17. Taft-Hartley Act, The Labor-Management Relations Act (80 P.L. 101; 61 Stat. 136)
(1947) Federal law which monitors activities and power of labor unions. Labor leaders have
called it the "Slave-Labor" bill. It tilts labor-management balance.

18. Cap and Trade (Emissions Trading) (1970) A market-based carbon-trading scheme which
banking reforms. It placed legal restrictions on speculation and forbid combining
banking and financial service firms. The 1999 repeal of this act is credited as the major
contributor to the 2008 financial collapse. is an expression of the inability and unwillingness of legislators to address environmental problems which arise from our mode of energy use (in large part carbon emissions). Although Caps are needed. Trading these Caps does nothing for the environment, or people and enriches Wall Street and hurts the economy.

19. War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541-1548) (1973) The Constitution is explicit in
allowing only Congress the ability to declare war. This resolution opened the door slightly for the

president to be involved in the decision. Since 1973, however, presidents have often flung the
door open, ignoring this resolution and the Constitution.

20. The Monetary Reform Act (also cited as Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary
Control Act) (P. L. No. 96-221; 94 Stat. 132) (1980) Highlights: Allows banks to merge, and
institutions to charge any interest rate they choose. Forces all banks to abide by Federal
Reserve rules, and raised deposit insurance of banks and credit unions from $40,000 to
$100,000. (An aside: the Fed. Reserve is a private bank.)

21. The Fairness Doctrine repealed under Reagan 1987 (Federal Communications
Commission [FCC] policy) (1949) Required broadcasters to present controversial issues in an
honest, balanced manner. In 1988 FCC commissioner Johnson wrote that bringing back the
Fairness Doctrine would be "nothing less than possession of the First Amendment: Who gets to
have and express opinions in America."

22. World Trade Organization (WTO) (1995), North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
(1994), Central American Trade Agreement (CAFTA) These have functioned principally to pry
open markets for the benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of national and local
economies - workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, women and other social groups - health and
safety - the environment - and animal welfare. In addition, in the WTO system, rules and
procedures are undemocratic, un-transparent and non-accountable and have operated to
marginalize the majority of the world's people.

23. Telecommunications Act of 1996 (P. L. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56) (1996) The Act was
claimed to foster competition. Instead, it continued historic industry consolidation reducing the
number of major media companies from around 50 (1983) to 6 (2005). It led to a drastic decline
in the number of radio station owners. Example of corporate welfare spawned by political
corruption - it gave away to incumbent broadcasters valuable licenses for broadcasting digital
signals on the public airwaves.
Lesson from this act: Deregulation before meaningful competition spells consumer disaster.

24. Welfare Reform Act (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation
Act, H.R. 3734, P.L.104-193) (1996) Sets time limits on entitlements and cash assistance to
welfare recipients; requires most recipients to get jobs; changes disability definitions for SSI for
children; denies many legal immigrants from collecting SSI and food stamps, and much more.
Inherent in the Act: misogyny, racism, and exploitation of women (do whatever job you can get
and don't complain - or risk homelessness). Attention should have been directed to conditions
of low-wage labor market - living wage, health care, and child care all desperately needed.

25. FDA Modernization Act of 1997 (FDAMA, P. L. 105-115, 21 USC 301) (1997) FDA relaxes
rules of prescription drug advertising. Eases restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising of
prescription drugs. Allows manufacturers to disseminate journal articles describing the results
of trials for unapproved uses of drugs. And much more.

26. The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-16,
115 Stat. 38, June 7, 2001) ("The Bush Tax Cuts")

27. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010

28. Restoring American Financial Stability Act (RAFS) of 2010

Thursday, February 23, 2017

“Whirlpool is a dictator in Benton Harbor, MI,” says Rev. Pinkney

By Rev. Edward Pinkney           

February 2017

Reverend Edward Pinkney.

BROOKES/FREMONT PRISON, MI —The Whirlpool Corporation has committed genocide in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a group of people, especially of a particular ethnic group.
Benton Harbor is over 90% Black and over 60% of the people live in poverty. Benton Harbor has rich lake Michigan beachfront property and parks. The Whirlpool Corporation, which rules the region, joined forces with the government to steal the town’s property and to systematically eliminate the residents of Benton Harbor by any means necessary.
Whirlpool is known for its leading role in the gentrification of the city. Gentrification is a process of renewal and rebuilding with an accompanying influx of affluent people to a deteriorating area. Gentrification often displaces and destroys poor residents.
US Congressman Fred Upton, heir to the Whirlpool Corporation’s fortune, voted to give Whirlpool a welfare check of $500 million to save the corporation. This shows the merging of the corporations and government. We call it fascism. What do you call it?
Whirlpool is among the major corporations that control the state legislature—which passed Public Act 4. This act turned the Emergency Financial Manager into the Emergency Manager, giving corporations broader powers to overrule elected officials and take control of cities and school districts.
Benton Harbor was one of the first cities to have an Emergency Manager, thanks to the power of Whirlpool. Emergency Managers can replace local officials, sell public property and assets, privatize public services, dismantle collective bargaining agreements and more. They are dictators in the service of the corporations. The Whirlpool Corporation is a dictator in Benton Harbor.
The Benton Harbor Parks Conservancy Board works directly with Whirlpool against the people of Benton Harbor. The board is a potentially disastrous instrument used against the people of Benton Harbor. It is a non-profit organization created by Whirlpool to manage and dissolve 13 parks in the city.
Whirlpool controls all of Berrien County: the courthouses, Benton Harbor commissions, Benton Harbor city government, the Conservancy Board, even the fascist media, Herrald Paladium. Whirlpool is a poster child of the post industrial destruction of the manufacturing we once knew.
As the economic crisis continues to deepen and grip America, people in working class communities across the country, especially in former industrial towns like Benton Harbor, are beginning to stand up and demand that the government serve the people’s interests, not the corporations. As the people stand up, they come under fire from the corporate-government. This is especially true in Benton Harbor. The city of Benton Harbor and leaders of the people, such as myself, have felt the wrath of Whirlpool Corporation.  We must confront the corporations.
We encourage reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source. Copyright © 2017 People’s Tribune. Visit us at
We encourage reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source.
Copyright © 2017 People's Tribune. Visit us at

Monday, February 20, 2017

From a Michigan prison: An organizer speaks out

From a Michigan prison: An organizer speaks out

Michigan solidarity with Kinross prisoners’ uprising.
Gonzales was a participant in the September 2016 mass demonstration and protest by prisoners at Michigan’s Kinross Prison. He has been singled out and punished for being “a leader.” These remarks are excerpted from a longer account in the San Francisco BayView on Feb. 3.
All the inmates at what is now known as Kinross were transferred as a whole to that facility in the fall of 2015. The “new” facility was abhorrently below the health and safety standards required to open it. When we arrived, there was no heat, the plumbing didn’t work, the room and cell furnishings that are required by Correctional Facilities Administration (CFA) policies could not be met, i.e., blankets, sheets, washcloths, towels, etc. …
Kinross just created a united mindset to stand against it finally. Suddenly, everyone was an activist, willing to support in any way they could.
We exhausted all the avenues for legal redress on the issues to the kangaroo judicial system — it just happened to be the same system we were seeking redress from: “Big Business MDOC,” the same people who approved and allowed us to be transferred there. Clearly, they were not going to answer in our favor and give in to the most hated enemy of Big Business: “liability.” …
Suffice it to say the work stoppage was organized and put in effect the morning of Sept. 9. The protest had taken on a national aspect, where it was no longer just about Kinross, but the idea and concept of mass incarceration, built with racial overtones, unfair and unethical sentencing practices, unjust taxation without representation, such as the 6 percent sales tax on anything we order except food from the store, even shipping and handling, “the New Jim Crow.”
The warden knew of the protest and the truth of why it happened at his facility, a fact that can be logically proven by his stance of inaction against it. He instructed his staff not to write tickets or fire inmates for not working. If you check the records, no tickets were written and no one lost a job for not working that day. Clearly, he knew we had legitimate gripes against his facility.
His staff, however, was of a different opinion. They chose to try and exorcise the protest out of us through mistreatment: malicious shakedowns, breaking property and underfeeding us with dated, spoiled food; and when seeking redress, we were told to “deal with it.”
This sparked off the assembly on Sept. 10, 2016. …
So I ended up out there and, yeah, when things started to turn dark (mindsets, not the time of day) and people — scared, tired, frustrated, with hope almost gone — asked me to be the spokesperson for the inmates with the administration, I did it, and peacefully ended the assembly. This action has me labeled as the “leader” of the incidents, when in actuality I ended a situation that could have turned ugly for everyone. I thought I did a good thing for us: no one hurt, good discussion with the warden, a positive tone all around.
But “Big Business” couldn’t allow it to end like that. It had too much attention and they couldn’t allow the focus of the incident to be on the issues, so they literally sent in the guns to an already agitated, anxiety-filled, desperate group of individuals who were barely talked out of violence, to aggravate and intensify their aggression.
They intentionally incited a riot-type atmosphere so the department would back their past transgressions — they would have no choice! They intentionally collage all the events together to paint the picture of a bunch of inmates storming out of units rioting, when in fact the assembly had been over for at least two hours, inmates were in their units in their cubes and peaceful when they sent in the “storm troopers.” Inmates in my unit were on their bunks and still they gassed us repeatedly.
We were taken out of the unit and myself and 102 other inmates were taken to Marquette Prison, to a condemned block that had been closed down for four years prior to our arrival. We were placed in filthy cells here also, plumbing didn’t work, and supplies and treatment were below standards. We were always fed the same bag meals, although they had a functioning kitchen with workers, and already fed everyone else there in their cells hot meals.
After the second day, I was separated from the rest of the transferred Kinross prisoners and placed in another block, where I was informed that they “knew” I was the “leader” and I had nothing coming. They meant my property was “lost.” Everything I possessed — hygiene, legal transcripts, coat, shoes, appliances, photos, etc. — everything gone. I was denied toothpaste the whole time I was there.
Twenty-seven days later, 88 of us were transferred again to Baraga Maximum Facility, where again I was separated from the rest of the inmates. I was immediately called into an office, told they “knew” I was the “leader” of the “rebellion” and that I should plan to be there in segregation for two years. …
[But before, on] Aug. 19, 2016, I was a level one-one prisoner, the lowest security achievable. I was a father with an 8-year-old son I have never seen face to face, not living in the best of circumstances, striving diligently to reach him. I had three years left on an 11-year sentence. …
We need help! I’m shouting out from this 8-by-10 cell, help us!
Don’t let them quiet our voice; be an amplifier for us. Don’t let what they are doing to us and throughout the MDOC fade into oblivion. We were not angels, but we don’t deserve this! …
Show your support and write to Harold Gonzales, 194496, Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility, 13924 Wadaga Rd., Baraga, MI 49908-9204.