Tuesday, July 19, 2005

From IPPN's Ted Glick

July 17, 2005

Benton Harbor Minister Under Attack

By Ted Glick

It's time for the progressive movement to come to the defense of one of our courageous African American community leaders, Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan.

A little over two years ago, in mid-June, hundreds of unemployed African American young people in Benton Harbor rose up in anger after 28-year-old Terrance Shurn died following a high-speed chase after him by local police. When 50 people gathered the next evening for a prayer vigil, police moved in and ordered them to disperse. When they didn't immediately do so, the cops threatened arrests, tensions escalated, and the people's anger broke open.

For two nights hundreds of people demonstrated in the streets, setting fire to approximately 30 buildings and battling with police. According to local United Church of Christ minister F. Russell Baker, all but two of the buildings were abandoned: "The rioting was focused in two areas. One was anger at the police. The other was at the abandoned houses. The reaction of those who were rioting was against the neglect. But it was a focused riot."

For several days national media attention was riveted on this small town, 92% black, on the southeastern side of Lake Michigan, about two hours from Chicago. Predictably, many articles referred to the poverty and unemployment in Benton Harbor, where 1/3 of its households have annual incomes below $8,000 and unemployment is at 65%. Democratic Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm said, "I can promise them an ear, I can promise them that I will send in a team, I can promise them we will make Benton Harbor a priority as we are with our cities. Benton Harbor is an example of why we've got to focus on our urban centers."

Also predictably, after a period of time, media attention and state politician attention virtually disappeared.

But local minister Rev. Edward Pinkney and others in the organization, Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO), stepped up their efforts to address the burning issues of Benton Harbor. One of their actions was to organize a successful recall of one of the town's city commissioners, Glen Yarbrough, who was a strong supporter of many of the most racist and abusive police officers. Yarbrough also worked closely with the Whirlpool Corporation, the largest employer and the major power in Benton Harbor. Yarbrough and Whirlpool have been collaborating on plans to knock down a senior citizens building and replace it with upscale homes in an area by the lake, as well as to build an exclusive golf course.

After the successful recall, Yarbrough and other city officials produced a witness, Mansel Williams, a substance abuser and ex-offender, who told prosecutor James Cherry that Rev. Pinkney had paid him $5 to vote against Yarbrough. He later made a tape in the mayor's office and signed an affidavit stating that Yarbrough had paid him $10 to say that Pinkney had paid him $5. Mansel never came to court to testify. Another government witness, Brenda Fox, was threatened with a prison sentence if she did not testify that Pinkney had paid people to vote; she had earlier signed an affidavit stating that she was paid to pass out flyers and work the polls, nothing more.

Pinkney's supporters in the area have rallied to his side. In late May a supportive demonstration was held which included both local people and people from throughout Michigan and Illinois. Desperately-needed funds are being raised for his legal defense.

Rev. Pinkney is facing the threat of bankruptcy because of this and other attacks against him.

It's a familiar scenario for progressive leaders of color who refuse to back down in the face of government/corporate injustice.

It's another example of the racist nature of our so-called "criminal justice system," its susceptibility to corruption in furtherance of the agenda of the rich and powerful.

And it's a situation which calls for support, financial and otherwise, from all those who consider themselves progressive. Let's not emulate the corporate media and the two-party politicians who speak words of concern when the daily reality of injustice and oppression is cracked open a bit but who then take no action afterwards.

We must defend our leaders and expose those who trample on our rights so they can maintain oppressive power and gross economic and racial inequality.

Donations can be made or information obtained by writing to BANCO, 1940 Union St., Benton Harbor, Mi., 49022, calling 269-925-0001, or emailing banco9342@sbcglobal.net.

Ted Glick

"How to bring into being a world that is not only sustainable,
functional and equitable but also deeply desirable is a question
of leadership and ethics and vision and courage, properties
not of computer models but of the human heart and soul."
Donella and Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers


Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding me!!!!!

The riots were started by a group of 50 people "praying"? Prayng on what? Innocent, hard-working citizens and passerbys, who did not deserved to be attacked or have their homes destroyed.

The riots were started by a group of bored kids with nothing else to do. The victims of the riot were citizens of Benton Harbor and surrounding areas who drove through the area for the most part unkowing what was occurring.Anyone who would support this should be subjected to the same type of activity.

Although the city gained national recognition by doing this, it was mostly in part due to the lack of law and order. I will agree that because of the riots, a large amount of funds and grants were provided to the City of Benton Harbor, but at what cost.

Innocent people lost their homes, became injured, and suffered long term consequences as a result of the riots. This should not be condoned, nor should it be promoted as acceptable behavior.

In the first place, motorcyclist Terrance Shurn should never have sped away on his motorcycle. If he would have abided by the law and pulled to the side of the road, none of this would have happened.

Police officers, white or black, are not to blame for a person's blatant disregard of the law. It is not their fault that Mr. Shurn made a bad decision, nor is it the fault of the innocent citizens of Benton Harbor whose homes, pride, and general trust in people were destroyed by a few brick throwing, fire setting idiots.

Grow up Benton Harbor.

Anonymous said...

The social reality and consciousness of the oppressed as forged by their oppressor motivating them to functionally perpetuate their own oppression.
The most potent weapon in the arsenal of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed .He understood in order to maintain their hegemony over a people who out number their adversary.The oppressor and his institutions must eventually attempt to manipulate,The thinking of the target group,so the oppressed accepted their oppression,but their benefactors or at the least as invincible.We must first admit ,We are at war ,Then who our enemies are.It is not black against white ,It is not white against black,It is rich against poor.When must deal with this accordingly.

love you

Anonymous said...

Shurn should not have ran from the police. If he would have stopped then there would have been no riots. Write something worth while. Get off the past. The riots where the fault of young immature people that had nothing better to do. Police are the mecca of our society, if we did not have them then we would be living in caos. And Pickeny is no reverend he is a ant in this society that should go to prison.

Anonymous said...

Rich against poor. Well not even taco bell will hire you if you go to apply for a job wearing a white t-shirt and sagging jeans so everyone can see your underwear.

The reality is if you dont want to be poor start to assimilate to the society that is in power. The only way to change things is from within.

To blame anyone but the rioters for the riot is plain ignorance. If you made me do it or people on the other side of the bridge have more money than me cause i dont work then no one would ever be guilty.

Get a life.

This country needs to work on PERSONAL RESPONSIBILTY not making excuses for why society is keeping me down.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Glick.

Have you seen racist or abusive police. Have you been a police officer? Do you know what all police officers go through on a daily basis? I am not a police officer but I have been on ride alongs. I would not ask for their job. I would say thou I have seen Benton Harbor police work for years and I have never once seen a police officer abuse any one. In fact the other day I was on Empire and saw two officers chasing a guy on foot. They caught him next to my vehicle. One of the officers even said to the man that they chased " Are you o.k or do you need to rest for a second". And the guy said back to the officers F you, you F%$^& piece of S^&%# Honky.

Now what do you say to that. Rev. Pickney is no savior he is a man that started crap where ever he goes. We live in a society that focuses on the rich and could care less about the poor. It is no longer a black white issue. It is no longer poor me cause I am black. It is poor me cause I am poor. Get a clue with what you write. I do not know what your job is but I sure one thing it is not a police officer. Do not rip on a job that you know nothing about. Do you personally know all the officers on the Benton Harbor police dept. Cause I have met some of them and they are all good people. If you want to talk bad about them why don't you step up and go to the BHPD and talk to them. Tell them that they are all racist and abusive to there face. Don't just write it.

Cause if you write it then you should not be afraid to express it. So I challenge you to go to the BHPD and tell the officers there that you dislike them and that you think that they are racist and abusive. Actually you should get everyone that hates the police to comfront them on a question and answer basis. Voice your concerns to them in person not on paper.

Just a concerend citizen that reads BANCO garbage all the time.

Anonymous said...

i have a dream that one day even the city of st joseph and the county of berrien.a city swelling with the heat of injustice.swelling with hate ,swelling with oppression, swelling with racism,swelling with lies, will be tranformed into an oasis of freedom and justice for all.i know it is just a dream.


Anonymous said...

HEY RACIST WHITE GUY; WHO READ BANCO GARBAGE ALL THE TIME KEEP READING.YOU DON`T HAVE A CLUE WHAT IS GOING ON IN BENTON HARBOR AND YOU REALLY DON`T CARE DO YOU.i believe you are a homosexual guy or gal,who throw a rock and than hide his hands and than blame it on the black guy.who the police is not going to believe because you are white. you may have live in benton harbor twenty years ago,you don`t live there now and you don`t and you won`t have a clue why the riot took place.the riot was not started by a group of bored kids get you facts straight.you see i also read banco news letters ,newspapers and web site.i have not read nor have I heard one thing that Rev pinkney have said not was not true.check your facts.
80 millions in grants was already coming to the city of benton harbor. the grant money was given to white people who never used the money for benton harbor residents
the reason shurn ran,the police was going to beat him to death any way that why he ran.if you lived in benton harbor you would have know that.so get your facts straight ok ! ok!

Sam Atkins

Anonymous said...

HI mr judge and jury ;
you are just another white guy who don`t live in benton harbor who don`t have the facts straight.did you know that in the month
of feb, there was over 30 police brutilty complaint filed with the benton harbor police.that have been turn over to several lawyers.
white people like you talk about the black problem in benton harbor , there is no black problem.the problem is whether berrien county have loyalty enough honor enough ,patriotism enough to live up to their own constitution.
innocent people lost their home because injured and suffered life time consequence as the result of racism.racism should not be condoned nor should it be promoted as acceptable behavior. mr judge and jury. mr concern citizen you are not concern about about the people that live in benton harbor, because if you were concern you would demand and request justice for all.
i am go to call you a liar that police incident never happen. mr judge and jury/mr concern;

work toward justice for all black ,white.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Atkins, It is strange that when someone writes something and it is abusive towards the views projected on this web site they are deleted. Yet when you question the sexuality of someone and are being blatantly sexist and racist it stays on the blog.

Hmmm. Makes you think.

If there were 30 cases given to lawyers where are those cases???

There has been nothing in the papers or courts about these?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Atkins...

Obviuosly you really have no clue about this city. I am a history major and once Benton Harbor was the MECCA of the western half of Michigan. It did not make it thru hard times because it was a small city. Not because the white man took it over or becuase african americans came here. IT was just a small city that in a hard time could not overcome it. Now Benton Harbor is starting strive again. The only thing that holds it back is people like you that keep the racial tension alive.

I do know what I am talking about. And also let's talk about police stuff. Name one complaint that in the last 5 years that has actually won in the courts. Truth be told that you know nothing about the police department. Where as in myself have gone there and talked with officers of both races. And I gatherd a great group of guys and girls. Actually I went out with them and asked them about thier job and what they go thru. All they said was " I wish that citizens would quit with the racial tension and making shit up to make us look bad." In fact one officer who was african american even said " This group of officers are all class and none of them have I ever seen do anything more then give what they take."

I ask you MR. ATKINS if you where a cop and black in the city of Benton Harbor do you think the citizen's would resepect you? Because I would have to tell you that if you where the badge it does not matter what color you are the citizen's will hate you and that is sad.

Do something for yourself go to the BHPD and meet some of the officers and talk with them and get their prespective and maybe you will see what I saw and that is a great group of guys and gals that are hard working and also that do not care about race.

Do that and then write what you want becuase you do not know any of the officers so dont talk about em them..