Monday, December 31, 2007


(from California)

Reverend Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan, spent Christmas in jail this year when his probation was revoked for quoting Deuteronomy 28 in a newspaper article.

On Thursday, December 20, Judge Alfred Butzbaugh ruled that the quotation from Moses was inflammatory and threatening and therefore a violation of Rev. Pinkney’s probation.

Rev. Pinkney is a longtime community leader in the Benton Harbor area and an outspoken opponent of corporate oppression of the poor. He was convicted earlier this year of “voter fraud” in a hotly contested trial that many viewed as racially motivated and riddled with constitutional irregularities.

Judge Butzbaugh has made the profound error of confusing Biblical law and prophecy with human threats. Without exception, the role of Biblical law and prophecy is to point out the very serious divine consequences for sinful and disobedient behavior.

In his newspaper article, Rev. Pinkney stated that he believes the Judge’s actions are contrary to God’s commandments. He then quotes from Deuteronomy 28: 15-16, 18, 22, and 45 to warn him of the consequences of his actions according to the Word of God. (The article appeared in the November issue of the Peoples Tribune.

At no time did Rev. Pinkney state, suggest, or imply that he, Rev. Pinkney, would commit any of these actions. Indeed, the idea that a human being can cause another to be cursed by God or to be smitten with consumption, fever, and inflammation is a far-fetched and bizarre interpretation.

Furthermore, Rev. Pinkney clearly states that none of these evils will come to pass if Judge Butzbaugh “hearkens unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe and do all that is right.” So if Judge Butzbaugh is obedient to God he has nothing to worry about.

The Mosaic law and virtually every prophet in the Bible – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Jonah to name a few – repeatedly predict dire consequences for those who disobey God. Even Jesus often uses highly inflammatory language and warns us starkly to “repent or perish”. The Apostle Paul teaches that we will reap what we sow. These are profound Biblical truths.

To throw someone in jail for simply pointing them out is a fearful assault on the religious rights of every American.

We are asking anyone concerned with the religious freedom aspect of this case write letters of support for Rev. Pinkney and send them to his attorney at the following address before January 4:

Hugh M. Davis, Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C., 450 West Fort Street, Suite 200, Detroit, Michigan, 48226. Phone: 313-961-2255; Fax: 313-961-5999; email:

We also especially encourage Biblical scholars who can further explain the issues in this case and would like to testify or write a support statement to contact the attorney as well.

Sandy Perry
CHAM Deliverance Ministry
San Jose, California

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Truth About the June 2003 Riot

A young black man by the name of Terrance Shurn was trying to outrun the police on his motorcycle and was killed in June 2003.

A misconception by many is that this was the cause for the riot. Just the opposite, the blacks of Benton Harbor have suffered these types of demeaning actions for years, and have always held back from over reacting.

They held a candlelight vigil as a funeral ceremony and prepared a religious offering in honor of this young man, and the police chief sent his officers in to break it up. In doing so, they denigrated this religious offering, and at that point people started to object.

The police chief then gave the order: “shoot to kill.” Since the police officers were related to many of the people they were supposed to kill, they said “no way.” These were old men, women, and children that he wanted them to shoot.

I am familiar with the plight of the people of Lee Township with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department, and it becomes very frustrating trying to earn a living and fight the police a the same time. It is a crime in our country to be poor, and our prisons are the proof of that. I was told that young black men run from the police all the time, because if they don’t , they just may end up dead or beaten severely if they are caught.

--from the excellent e newsletter: West Michigan News Company. (subscribe:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Robert Jensen article

Here's a segment from this fairly short article by Robert Jensen:

Imagine that you could line white people up in front of a door and get them to really believe that if they walked into a "race-changing room" they would emerge on the other side with black skin ... Then ask whites to set their price -- the amount of money it would take them to agree to enter that room. Imagine ... an attendant ... with stacks of cash to hand to the white folks. ... let's say the cash award is tax free. ...when white people really had to face the possibility of being black -- knowing all they know about the reality of life in white-supremacist America -- what would the price be?

My guess is that a significant percentage of whites would not become black for any amount of money. I also am fairly confident that the median price set by the whites who might be willing to go into the room would be considerably more than $1 million.

In that moment of choice...the problem wouldn't be that we whites don't know enough. We know plenty. The issue would be whether or not we had transcended the deeply rooted white supremacy of the culture. In that moment, we would find out about the depth of white people's commitment to a color-blind society. [or not]

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wise words from Mr. Wise

At you can read Tim's review of the movie "Crash." It's an excellent read. Our resident racist here on the banco weblog may even like it. Below is a segment. (p.s. - We need you, mr. racist....we learn how you think and rationalize.)

"Racial conflict has emanated from a very particular history, which has been anything but random, whether in Los Angeles or anywhere else in the United States. Racial conflict in L.A. hasn't just happened, as if by accident. Particular patterns of oppression, including police brutality, the exploitation of immigrant labor, racist housing patterns that have kept people of color isolated from opportunities, and deindustrialization, have all conspired to produce the toxic mix of hostility and desperation that has so often played out in the city. So too with America more broadly: we are not randomly crashing into each other, as if by coincidence. We are not suspicious of one another by accident. The history of the U.S. has been one in which opportunities have been racially contingent, in which whites have been favored in every avenue of life, and people of color relegated to either de jure or de facto second-class citizenship...That Crash gives us little in the way of insight as to that backdrop...only lowers the probability that audience members will come to appreciate just how deeply ingrained the damage of racism truly is."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Michigan Public Radio

Reports are coming in from various Michigan locales that Public Radio aired a fair and even-handed broadcast on Benton Harbor, the Judge, Rev. Pinkney, etc. during the past couple of days. We've heard that it lasted from 2 to 3 minutes. Mainstream media attention outside of southwestern Michigan is what has been sorely lacking, and we hope this is only the beginning. The following are some of the countless websites where this topic is mentioned.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Constitutional Law meets "Berrien County Law"

the following is from:

Rev. Pinkney's Attorney, Hugh M. Davis, tells an attempt to get Pinkney out of jail at a hearing on Thursday, December 20th failed. Davis says Judge Alfred Butzbaugh accepted their argument that the following statement was protected by the first ammendment right of free speech:

"The corruption and the deceitfulness continues in Berrien County Courthouse. Judge Butzbaugh has violated his oath. I support the constitution of the United States and the State of Michigan; we are still waiting on this racist corrupt judge to do the same. Judge Butzbaugh has failed the people, the community, his duties and his office."

However, Davis says the Judge ruled that the following statement by Pinkney calling on God to curse the judge and his family was not protected by the first ammendment and it was a violation of the probabtion terms prohibiting inflamatory remarks:

"Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass; if thou continue not to hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe to do all that is right; which I command thee this day, that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, curses shalt be in the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall come upon you and your family and over take thee; cursed shall be the fruit of thy body. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They the demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist."

Both of the above quotes are part of an article that originated in the People's Tribune PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, written by Rev. Pinkney. There is an online version of the People's Tribune.

Attorney Davis also tells BC he is puzzled by the ruling and has never heard of anything like it before. Another hearing on the matter will take place in about two weeks.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This actually happened yesterday in Berrien County Courthouse

[This is exactly why Rev. Edward Pinkney has been a daily court observer for approximately 6 years, and why he's now in jail. Oversight organizations like state gov., the ACLU, the NAACP, the Dept. of Justice, etc. know about this courthouse and do nothing. The media knows also. Organizations and media are just people. People who are busy looking the other way as lives and families are ruined.]

It happened yesterday, Wed. Dec. 19, 07. There were only 2 witnesses in court, Belinda Brown and Dorothy Pinkney, who were waiting for Rev. Pinkney's hearing which was eventually postponed until later today.

Judge Butzbaugh was on the bench as a young black woman (20's) was pleading guilty. Remember that Berrien County judges are accustomed to meting out their brand of justice without anyone watching.

After pleading guilty, the young woman asked if she could say something else. The judge said "yes." (Remember, he had witnesses.) She cried as she began to explain that the court appointed atty. told her that if she pled guilty she could go home and be with her children. But, she said she wasn't guilty, that she was the one who was assaulted.

The atty. began explaining to the judge that he had already discussed all this with her. Then, something totally unexpected happened: Judge Butzbaugh displayed anger and walked right out of the courtroom without adjourning. At this point, the 2 witnesses left the courtroom and decided his anger was motivated by their presence.

This courthouse has the highest rate of innocent convictions in Michigan - Mrs. Pinkney and Mrs. Brown only observed one example. Judges here are known to say, "I know you're innocent, and I'm putting you away." It's also common knowledge that cops are always around town stirring things up, accusing people of things, parking in places where people can be harrassed, making false arrests, and much worse.

Larry Pinkney (no relation to Edward) and David Love will appear on Make It Plain with Mark Thompson on Sirius Radio - Left Channel 146 today (December 20, 2007) at 7pm Eastern Time. They will be discussing the Rev. Pinkney case.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hunger Strike: Day 6

Rev. Pinkney's hearing in front of Judge Butzbaugh has been
postponed until 4pm tomorrow, Thursday 12/20.

Funny, Whirlpool's company paper, the Herald-Palladium,
reported on yesterday's front page that the judge might revoke
Pinkney's probation today! This begs the question: how would
they know that before it happened? Is it all one big corrupt club in Berrien County?
Media, corporation & corp. real estate, gov., courts, law enforcement, Rep. Fred Upton......
Good luck finding articles on the paper's website. They are
not a member of with other city papers in Michigan,
and make their site almost impossible to navigate. Certain things must
remain secret where corruption runs so deep.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pinkney's Hunger Strike: Day 5

News flash: Judge Butzbaugh has ordered Rev. Pinkney to
be in court tomorrow (Wed) at 8:30am. We know that this courthouse
is all about making money. Judge B. could decide to "free" Pinkney on
bond. In essence, they falsely arrested him, and may now make him pay
money to return home to House Arrest. This would be beyond imagination.
We'll see what happens - a report will be forthcoming tomorrow.
(The public is welcome to attend his court appearance tomorrow.)

The following is from -

Until Friday, Rev. Pinkney was under house arrest –
having to pay $84/week for the court tether he was
required to wear in order to avoid serving time in jail.
He was the only one under house arrest in Michigan
who was being monitored by satellite.

Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney, wife and fellow campaigner for justice, reports that the sheriff's deputies presented a bench warrant to arrest the Reverend for violating the 15th condition of his probation (which she said they were totally unaware of) by being quoted in the Peoples Tribune newspaper as follows:

”The corruption and the deceitfulness continues in Berrien County Courthouse. Judge Butzbaugh has violated his oath. I support the constitution of the United States and the State of Michigan; we are still waiting on this racist corrupt judge to do the same. Judge Butzbaugh has failed the people, the community, his duties and his office."

What about Rev. Pinkney’s right to free speech under the Constitution? And why have they seized his computer? Have the sheriffs of Berrien County, Michigan nothing better to do than to persecute Rev. Pinkney? No violent crimes to solve, no rapists to catch, no people to protect?

The police examining Rev. Pinkney’s computer will find he and BANCO have supporters all over the world. For example, a delegation from the Global Women's Strike representing South America, Europe and the Caribbean visited Rev. and Mrs. Pinkney in mid-November, and are committed to gathering global support for him. “Benton Harbor’s struggle against racism and to survive in their own home city is our struggle,” they said.

Legal abuse and persecution of Afro-Americans in the Jim Crow South is flourishing in Michigan. We must not stand by while the white elite of Berrien County attempt again to silence a man whose only ‘crime’ is to be the voice of Benton Harbor’s Black community, calling out the racism and corruption of local government, police and courts.

ACT NOW. Demand Rev. Pinkney’s immediate release!

Demand that all charges be dropped against him and that he be released from house arrest!

1) Call or write with your objections
Call the Sheriff’s Dept, Berrien County Michigan and inquire about Rev. Pinkney’s well-being.
Sheriff Paul Bailey
Berrien County Sheriff’s Department
919 Port Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
(269) 983-7141

Copy Letters to: Hugh M. Davis, Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C., 450 West Fort Street, Suite 200, Detroit, Michigan, 48226. Phone: 313-961-2255; Fax: 313-961-5999; email:

2) Demand Rev. Pinkney’s pardon and immediate release.
Gov. Granholm has the ability to pardon Pinkney or commute his sentence.
All individuals and organizations are urged to immediately write letters or post cards DEMANDING his pardon.
Governor Granholm
P. O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909

3) Send donations to BANCO
Legal Fee Donations (non-profit so it's tax-deductible):
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

4) Write to the Editor of the main newspaper of Benton Harbor/St Joseph and say what you think of this outrage against freedom of speech.
Herald Palladium Newspaper (letters to the editor)
P.O. Box 128
St. Joseph, Michigan 49085

5) Support Rev. Pinkney and Sign the Petition:

6) Boycott Whirlpool and its subsidiaries, and spread the word:
Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Gladiator, GarageWorks, Inglis, Estate, Roper, Magic Chef, Acros, Supermatic. ABROAD - Bauknecht, Brastemp, Consul, Eslabon de Lujo.

Let Whirlpool know that’s what you’re doing:
Whirlpool Corp. (World Headquarters and N. America Region)
2000 N. M-63
Benton Harbor, Michigan 49022-2692 Tel: 269-923-5000

7) Demand an immediate investigation into this injustice. Contact:

The Congressional Black Caucus. Phone 202-226-9776, mail to 2264 Rayburn House Office Bldg, Washington, DC 20515.

Your Congressional Representative CONYERS. For phone number and address call 202-224-3121.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington DC 20510, demanding a full investigation into the Whirlpool corporate takeover of the city of Benton Harbor. Phone 202-224-7703.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Reverend Pinkney's Fight Against Racism, Gangsterism and Land Stealing - Color of Law - David A. Love, Editorial Board


In Benton Harbor, Michigan, the injustice against Rev. Edward Pinkney continues

An outspoken leader in the fight against racial injustice, poverty, corruption and corporate greed, Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to jail by an all White jury for voter fraud. His crime was leading a successful effort to unseat a city powerbroker, and resisting corporate development of his poor Black community. In a May 10, 2007 commentary, Benton Harbor 2007: A Case Study of State Sanctioned Suppression of Voting Rights, Black Commentator editorial board member Larry Pinkney (no relation) sets the stage by providing an insightful analysis of the situation in Benton Harbor.

Benton Harbor is a mostly poor (90 percent), mostly unemployed (70 percent) and mostly Black (94 percent) town of 11,000 people, located 100 miles east of Chicago. In fact, it is the poorest place in Michigan, and was called "the worst place to live in the nation" by Money magazine in 1989. Today, foreclosures abound and families are being decimated in Benton Harbor, while its residents are intimidated by police brutality and controlled by an unfair criminal justice system.

At the same time, Benton Harbor rests on prime waterfront property on Lake Michigan, adjacent to the predominantly White and affluent town of St. Joseph, home of the Whirlpool Corporation, the largest company in the area. Both communities are located in Berrien County, Michigan, which is less than 16 percent Black and has transitioned from an industrial economy to a tourist, service and real estate economy. Whirlpool has had machinations regarding its poor, isolated and economically depressed Black neighbor. It bought 465 acres of Benton Harbor's prime real estate for $1 million - a modern-day equivalent of beads and trinkets - in order to pave the way for a $750 million to $1 billion private development project called Harbor Shores. The resort development will include two hotels, 880 luxury housing units, a marina and a Jack Nicklaus golf course. The project is of no benefit to the predominantly Black Benton Harbor residents. Pinkney and his organization, BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community Organization) waged a recall election battle in 2005 to unseat Glen Yarborough, the powerful City Commissioner who was instrumental in making the land steal, or rather, land deal, happen.

Yarborough lost by 54 votes. A local judge, Hon. Paul Maloney, said there was fraud, threw out the election and ordered a new one, in which Yarborough won by 40 votes and was reinstated.

Maloney, who, as an election commissioner had voted against authorizing the language in BANCO's recall petition, and had alleged ties to the Harbor Shores project, should have recused himself. But President Bush rewarded Maloney with a seat on the federal bench in the Western District of Michigan. This makes sense, given the energy spent by the Bush Justice Department on the manufactured issue of voter fraud - a pretext for the elimination of voting rights for Black, Brown and poor people, in order to facilitate Republican electoral victories across the nation.

Meanwhile, Yarborough sought payback. Pinkney was arrested and charged with voter fraud, amid sketchy allegations that Pinkney paid voters to vote against Yarborough, and that Pinkney handled absentee ballots. The prosecutor made use of a 1995 state law that makes it a felony to handle an absentee ballot of a person not a family member, even without evidence of ballot tampering or criminal intent. Pinkney provided poor Benton Harbor residents with address labels and postage stamps, but asserted that he did not handle the ballots.

Pinkney's first trial in March, 2006, had two Black jurors. Witnesses were allegedly intimidated. There was a hung jury on all five counts against him. The prosecution called for another trial. This time, the National Lawyers Guild provided Pinkney's defense. The second jury was all White, not surprising, given the county's history of excluding African Americans from juries, a condition Rev. Pinkney spoke against for years. On March 21, 2007, the jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation. He was placed under house arrest.

The selective prosecution of Black men is nothing new in America. Nor is the targeting of truth tellers and change agents. As hate crimes go unpunished, and as politicians and lawmakers commit criminal offenses against humanity, with impunity and without penalty, and pay no price for making deceitful decisions that cost thousands of lives, the Reverend Edward Pinkneys among us are fair game for prosecutors with lots of spare time, warped priorities, secrets to hide and interests to protect.

And surely, they believe that a community leader who fights against poverty and racial injustice, exposes corruption and unseats the powerful, poses a great threat to the status quo and must be silenced. This gives the impression, firmly grounded in reality, that this is not our justice system. "There is a problem here," says Rev. Pinkney. "They are like gangsters here. They're pushing them out of the community."

Although it is easy to conclude that hicktown justice is limited to the deep South, one could say that Benton Harbor and Berrien County, Michigan are little more than Jena, Louisiana North. The case of Rev. Pinkney is proof that these things still happen, and the struggle continues. His fight is everyone's fight, and how the story ends is up to ordinary, everyday people. Rev. Pinkney deserves clemency from the Governor of Michigan, and must be made whole for the injustices perpetrated against him. And Whirlpool products--including Maytag, KitchenAid, Magic Chef, Amana, Jenn-Air, Gladiator, GarageWorks, Inglis, Estate, Roper, Acros, Supermatic, Bauknecht, Brastemp, Consul, and Eslabon de Lujo - deserve a boycott by the public. Editorial Board member David A. Love, JD is a lawyer and prisoners' rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to the Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service and In These Times. He contributed to the book, States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons. (St. Martin's Press, 2000). Love is a former Amnesty International UK spokesperson, organized the first national police brutality conference as a staff member with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and served as a law clerk to two Black federal judges. His blog is Click here to contact Mr. Love.

Reverend Edward Pinkney Jailed for Speaking Out

David Love writes in the Black Commentator:

At approximately 1:30 pm Friday, December 14, 2007 Eastern time the Sheriff's Department in Berrien County Michigan arrested Rev. Edward Pinkney and took him to the Berrien County Jail in St. Joseph (the adjoining township to Benton Harbor, Michigan).

The sheriff also seized/confiscated Rev. Pinkney's computer when he was arrested.

Pinkney's wife Dorothy tells the sheriff's deputies presented a bench warrant that stated Pinkney was being arrested for violating the 15th condition of his probation by writing the following words about a white Berrien judge in an article published in the Peoples Tribune newspaper.

"The corruption and the deceitfulness continues in Berrien County Courthouse. Judge Butzbaugh has violated his oath. I support the constitution of the United States and the State of Michigan; we are still waiting on this racist corrupt judge to do the same. Judge Butzbaugh has failed the people, the community, his duties and his office."

Dorothy Pinkney tells BC her husband and his lawyer were completely unaware of any condition of the probation prohibiting "inflammatory behavior". Ms. Pinkney also tells BC that her husband feels he has the authorities in Benton Harbor, Michigan exactly where he wants them and the situation is in his favor because there is now undeniable proof of the existence of the injustice he has been protesting.

Rev. Pinkney's charge is related to a quote of his in print media which criticized the court system. Free speech is guaranteed by the first amendment!!

Please see recently published article on Pinkney from the well-respected website

Gov. Granholm has the ability to pardon Pinkney or commute his sentence. All individuals and organizations are urged to immediately write letters or post cards DEMANDING his pardon. He is only one (the most vocal) in a city of people under a severely repressive government. THEY WANT HIM SILENCED. So far, with the complicit media, they have been successful. Let's do what we can to free him since his leadership is crucial.

Governor Granholm
P. O. BOX 30013
517-335-7858 (call may not be recorded)

Legal Fee Donations (non-profit so it's tax-deductible):
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Herald Palladium Newspaper (letters to the editor)
P.O. Box 128
St. Joseph, Michigan 49085

Whirlpool Corp. (World Headquarters and N. America Region)
2000 N. M-63
Benton Harbor, Michigan 49022-2692

Support Rev. Pinkney and Sign Petition:

Boycott Whirlpool and it's subsidiaries: Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Gladiator, GarageWorks, Inglis, Estate, Roper, Magic Chef, Acros, Supermatic. ABROAD - Bauknecht, Brastemp, Consul, Eslabon de Lujo.

Buy NON-Whirlpool brands! - Frigidaire, General Electric, LG, Samsung, Viking, Subzero, Dacor, some Kenmore, etc.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Benton Harbor struggle update

ACTION ALERT: Please mark your calendars and stand with Rev. Pinkney in his heroic struggle against racism and oppression in Benton Harbor - July 19, 2008: Mass Demonstration in support of justice for the earth and it's people.

UPDATE: Pinkney is still on House Arrest wearing an electronic tether. Despite lack of evidence or credible witnesses for the prosecution, on March 21, 2007 an all-white jury found Rev. Pinkney guilty of election fraud. One of the jurors lied and stated that Rev. Pinkney's attorney was in the parking lot making a drug deal. She was not removed. On May 14, 2007 six motions for retrial were put forward. On August 24, 2007 all were denied. The reason? Rev. Pinkney failed to object on ALL the motions--corruption just keeps rollin'.

On Nov. 21, 2007 Pinkney filed in the State Appeal Court for a new trial demanding justice. Rev. Pinkney is bankrupt and funds are urgently needed. He must reimburse Berrien County for the first transcript of $2800., court costs of $6,405.00, probation fee of $4,000., and transcript fee of $5,000.

Fascism is Rule by Corporation

As this truism becomes more and more applicable to our nation we see the silent drama of this reshaping of governing institutions to suit corporate power being played out in our own small communities, townships and moderate sized cities all across the country.
Nowhere is the gut wrenching human cost of these practices more palpable than in Benton Harbor, a once thriving community of African American businesses and vibrant neighborhoods. Whirlpool, the corporate giant whose headquarters are located here, is relentlessly engaged in grinding the residents here into the dirt with no regard to their legal rights, the historical integrity of the community, or for modern ethics of any sort.
This gigantic corporation has, through blatantly fraudulent means, placed their pawns into key positions to ensure procurement of the public land held in trust for the Benton Harbor citizens. They plan to use this land to establish exclusive private parks, fenced golf courses and gated compounds for their highly paid executives and management personnel.
After devouring all the valuable park and lakefront realty here for a pittance of their true value, Whirlpool then plans to "give back to the community" in the form of the most menial and hopeless employment opportunities--janitorial and landscape maintenance. This "new jobs success story" will then allow Whirlpool to take the poverty stricken state of Michigan's tax breaks as a reward for having "created" the new jobs. The tax payers in Michigan will thus supply corporate welfare to an entity that is destroying their communities, usurping their treasured public lands and parks, and racially oppressing the people in them.
Racism, fascism and corporate greed have traditionally gone hand in hand worldwide.
Nowhere is this more evident than here in our very own state of Michigan in Berrien County.
Let the horrifying statistics speak for themselves:

Race breakdown
Benton Harbor 94% black
St. Joseph 99% white

Average income
Benton Harbor $8,000
St. Joseph $65,000

Unemployment rate
Benton Harbor 70%
St. Joseph 3%

These two communities are adjacent to opposite sides of the same river; the stark numbers tell a story and the story includes the grinding poverty, the systematic dehumanization most often associated with the world's most notorious fascist dictatorships such as Nazi Germany, with its walled compounds, economic enslavement and ultimately -- death camps.
How is this happening here in our United States, the onetime beacon of freedom and liberty to a weary world?

Ask Rev. Pinkney this question -- a man who has waged a David and Goliath struggle against the giant Whirlpool for years here in Benton Harbor--and you will hear a tale of-out-of-control law officers and the senseless killing of a young black man, ensuing riots and the beginning of an intense monitoring of courtroom proceedings at the Berrien County Courthouse. Pinkney and his loyal band, BANCO among them, also picketed the local papers (including The Herald Palladium owned by a wealthy Paxton, KY family) demanding that they supply objective news reporting and coverage of those involved in these racist and corrupt proceedings.
BANCO and Pinkney were successful in obtaining the recall of a corrupt city commissioner named Glen Yarbrough who was in the pay of Whirlpool. This recall was overturned by the power elite and they attempted retribution against Pinkney in the form of charges of election fraud and vote tampering, saying that Pinkney paid for votes and had absentee ballots in his pocket, both of which charges were completely unfounded.
The first trial, with a jury which included two blacks, resulted in a hung jury. A new trial was ordered and the residents of Benton Harbor came out in support of Pinkney both inside the courthouse and in the surrounding parking area.
The residents of Benton Harbor are united in their opposition to the usurpation of their community by Whirlpool and they are demanding a full investigation into this affair by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

By attacking and criminalizing Rev. Pinkney--who has done nothing but demand fair court proceedings and truthful news coverage for his community--the power elite hope to stop any further initiatives among the oppressed community to stand up to racism, economic exploitation and the passing of public land and funds into corporate hands.
We can't wait for others to defend us. Corporate fascism and racism MUST STOP. Will our communities and loved ones be the next in line for corporate take over?
Your support is urgently needed both in Rev. Pinkney's heroic struggle for justice and fair courtroom proceedings and the ongoing battle to stop the corporate takeover of public land and community assets.
We must all demand the resignation of corrupt Judge Alfred Butzbaugh and his dishonest prosecutor Gerald Vigansky.

All individuals and organizations are urged to immediately sign up, write letters, etc., in favor of clemency. We already have hundreds and hundreds of letters that we obtained for sentencing. We need updated letters. Benton Harbor and Pinkney need many letters (5000 would be fantastic) sent to:

Hugh Davis Constitutional litigation
450 West Fort St.
Detroit, MI 48226

Gov. Granholm has the ability to pardon Pinkney or commute his sentence.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
P. O. BOX 30013
517-335-7858 (correct)

to email the gov:
(click Contact Gov., then click Share Your Opinion)

Legal Fee Donations (non-profit so it's tax-deductible):
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Herald Palladium Newspaper (letters to the editor)
P.O. Box 128
St. Joseph, Michigan 49085

Whirlpool Corp. (World Headquarters and N. America Region)
2000 N. M-63
Benton Harbor, Michigan 49022-2692

Support Rev. Pinkney and Sign Petition:

Boycott Whirlpool and it's subsidiaries: Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Gladiator, GarageWorks, Inglis, Estate, Roper, Magic Chef, Acros, Supermatic. ABROAD - Bauknecht, Brastemp, Consul, Eslabon de Lujo.

Buy NON-Whirlpool brands! - Frigidaire, General Electric, LG, Samsung, Viking, Subzero, Dacor, some Kenmore, etc.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


December 12th, 2007 at 8pm,Rev Ed Pinkney will be special
program guest on Brother WilliamX Blogtalk's radio program
RIGHTS TO BE HEARD. This is a worldwide broadcast on the
internet, but callers will be able to call into the program by
calling the program's toll-free number 1(646) 716-8675.

To be able to hear the program visit
Once you are on the site scroll down to where you see the mike, and
highlight the mike. This program is a special feature of the National
Community Actions Coalition. Who has headquarters in Augusta Ga,
and RIGHTS TO BE HEARD is a blogtalk radio program creation of the
Midwest CAC Regional chapter. Where Brother WilliamX, is the newly
appointed regional director.

Thanks, Sister Michelle Vann, who is the National CAC director. For
allowing the RIGHTS TO BE HEARD broadcasted worldwide, and for
a rewarding two hours of information tune into the broadcast Dec 12th,
8pm - 10pm to support Rev Pinkney's fight against Unfair justice.

(*** The toll-free numbers is for those who would like to call in***)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Meet Cynthia McKinney in Benton Harbor, 12/13!

At 1pm, Thursday, December 13, 2007, former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney will be speaking at the Benton Harbor Public Library, 213 E. Wall St. (directions at end)

This is an unusual opportunity for people in Michigan and the midwest to meet one of our most courageous leaders.

Find a Cynthia McKinney for President website (with important support articles by Stan Goff and others) at:

Brief Bio: McKinney was born in Atlanta, Georgia, daughter of Bill McKinney, one of Atlanta's first black law enforcement officers and former Georgia state representative. McKinney earned her B.A. in International Relations from the U. of So. Calif. and a Master of Art in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
She is currently a Phd student at UC, Berkeley.
Her politcal career began in 1986. In 1992 she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1991 McKinney spoke out against the Persian Gulf Invasion causing many legislators to walk out in protest of her remarks.
On July 22, 2005, the first anniversary of the release of the 9/11 Commissioners' Report, McKinney held a well attended congressional briefing on Capital Hill to address outstanding issues regarding the September 11, 2001 attack.

Directions: From I-94 take exit 33 toward downtown Benton Harbor/St. Joseph
Merge onto I-94 BR W.
Turn LEFT onto 5TH ST.
Turn RIGHT onto E WALL ST.
End at Benton Harbor Public Library,
213 E. Wall St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Tuesday, November 13, 2007



Some judges, prosecutors, lawyers and police officers are corrupt.
These public officials work for us. We, the people, do not work for them. Through the taxpayers’ money, our money, we have taxation without any representation in Berrien County, Michigan

Judges, prosecutors and police officers have sworn an oath to protect every U.S. citizen, to make sure that justice is served according to the state and federal regulations, through legislative laws and to protect our constitutional rights.

When these various officials violate our rights, they need to be exposed and held accountable for deliberate actions of violating our rights. Many times corruption stems from their motivation of greed.

Judge Alfred Butzbaugh, who sent his denial of a retrial to the news media first for the third time instead of sending it to the defendant’s attorney, has been known for his corruption. He is a liar, dishonest, corrupt and a disgrace to every respectable judge in the nation. He violated or watched as over twenty of Rev. Pinkney’s constitutional rights were violated during his trial. He watched prosecutor Gerald Vignasky bribe, threaten and coerce witnesses to perjure themselves on the stand.

Our forefathers felt that in order to have justice we must have a jury of our peers. It is obvious that a jury of ones peers must be people who actually know the defendant, ones who have the same rank, are equal before
the law and have the same values. How else would they be able to judge motive and intent?

Juries today are pro-prosecutor which is against the law and they are motivated by something other than truth and justice. Peers of the defendant, like the rights of juries, have been severely tarnished. We must say no more to all white juries in cases with non-white defendants.

Our mission is to work for the reform of a broken system that destroys far more individuals and families than it helps. This is at an immense cost to the taxpayers of this country and is outright criminal.

In order to bring about changes in the system, it will take a community of people to rise up and take a stand against the corruption in the system in an effort to save and protect our rights. We need your help in this cause!

Berrien County, Michigan is out of control. Anytime we have a corrupt judge like Judge Alfred Butzbaugh and a corrupt prosecutor like Gerald Vignasky, we must change the system. There is power in numbers so please join us in our goal to protect every U.S. citizen and their human rights.

It is not possible have a shut down of news in modern America. However, you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news. You already have is a news media directing a stream of false information that is so relentless it is
Increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. It is not just the
lies that count but the muddying. When citizens cannot tell real news from fake they give up their real demand for accountability bit by bit.
The Herald Palladium, led by Julia Swida , Scott Aikens and Dave Brown is known as the “herald pollution” because of all the racist garbage the newspaper writes. The paper is owned by Paxton Group Media, whose headquarters are located in Paducah, Kentucky.

You are not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it or does it. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.

Join us on July 19, 2008 in our mass demonstration for justice against police brutality against Black, Brown and Poor Whites.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Oct. 28 Event Report

We would like to comment on the inspirational meeting on Western Michigan University's campus last Sunday. Clearly, Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor need to blend in their efforts to establish a voice from the People regarding racisim, corporatism, and police brutality. Other cities, too.....

Kalamazoo resident, Mary Watson sadly spoke about the police beating of her son. He received a concussion, broken facial bones, ringing in ears, and no white can be seen in one of his eyes. He has never carried a weapon in his life. He is still in the Kzoo county jail and cannot get medical help. Mary Watson has NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND ANY HELP OF ANY KIND IN KALAMAZOO. Another speaker said people die every week in that county jail and no one knows about it.

Kalamazoo's speakers, particularly Joseph Anderson ( as well as two other excellent speakers), echoed speakers from Lansing and Detroit. The establishment, as witnessed through the police force, the city councils, and the land developers are getting away with practices that diminish the poor, and the people of color of Southwestern Michigan. Benton Harbor is the worst. Kalamazoo needs to reach out to the citizens of Benton Harbor (highest unemployment in the country) who live in a horrifying state of institutional poverty and fear.

Whirlpool is currently working on stealing BH land for a corporate develoment and a multimillion dollar golf course. As identified by the speakers, institutions are getting away with practices of racial profiling, jailings, land acquisitions while deteriorating the cities of Michigan because little ethical behavior can be seen on a federal and state level. Clearly, the passivity of Michigan residents is catching up. WE cannot rely on the judicial system. Corruption has become an acceptable precident as set by the federal government ( e.g. Blackwater, etc., etc..etc.).

Why do we turn away from Benton Harbor? Why do we accept what Whirlpool has done to them? Take a drive to Benton Harbor and then look for the parks, the museums and the art centers that Fred Upton's company has so generously built in St. Joe (a quarter of mile down the road). Drive around the East side of Kalamazoo and the North side of Kalamazoo. Drive around all of inner city Detroit. Drive around Lansing or Division St. in Grand Rapids. Then take a trip to the county jail in Benton Harbor (housed in St. Joe) or watch a court hearing in any one of the these cities. You may be video taped if you are watching in Berrien County (by the police).

Most of us can barely live with the horror of Iraq. Most of us need to barely live with the horror of Benton Harbor. Watch for civil rights fighter, Rev. Pinkney. They have him on house arrest (5 YEARS) for watching over the racial profiling in Benton Harbor and for speaking about the racisim of Whirlpool. They locked him up, then again...... he has black skin.

The Speakers last Sunday made significant connections between our federal and local policies and the resulting behaviors/acts of inhumane treatment of black people. If we care about the humanity abroad, we also must care about the humanity at home.

Legal Fee Donations (non-profit, ie, tax-deductible):
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

(World Headquarters and North America Region)
Whirlpool Corp.
2000 N. M-63
Benton Harbor, Michigan 49022-2692

Boycott Whirlpool and it's subsidiaries: Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Gladiator, GarageWorks, Inglis, Estate, Roper, Magic Chef, Acros, Supermatic. ABROAD - Bauknecht, Brastemp, Consul, Eslabon de Lujo.

Buy NON-Whirlpool brands! - Frigidaire, General Electric, LG, Samsung, Viking, Subzero, Dacor, some Kenmore, Electrolux, etc.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Analysis of Pinkney Trial and the Movement Ahead

On March 21, 2007 (when day and night are equal), justice in Berrien County, Michigan took a big step backwards into the darkness of fear and bigotry when an all-white jury convicted a black community activist, Reverend Edward Pinkney, of five counts of improprieties in connection with a 2005 recall election involving the City of Benton Harbor’s most powerful commissioner.

The facts and the history are stark. Benton Harbor is ninety-four percent (94%) black, ninety percent (90%) poor and seventy percent (70%) unemployed. It is directly across the river from affluent and practically all-white St. Joseph, Michigan, the world headquarters of the Whirlpool Corporation. Benton Harbor is still the largest city in the county and was once the site of most of the county’s governmental functions, including the Federal building. But, as industrial stagnation and flight increasingly gripped the area and the St. Joseph/Lake Michigan coastline was increasingly dominated by the tourist economy, Benton Harbor has been systematically drained of any economic vitality. Its citizens are unwelcome in other parts of the county and the criminal justice system operates to arrest, imprison, intimidate, control and marginalize them. Benton Harbor’s governmental and educational institutions are characterized by infighting and petty corruption.

The City festered in that condition until the summer of 2003, when the police killing of a young black man erupted into a short and destructive outburst of rebellious anger. Pinkney helped keep the peace. Public officials poured in to deplore Benton Harbor’s conditions and promised that something would be done. Nothing was. Progressive and radical organizations also went to Benton Harbor and linked up with the local community.

The Reverend Edward Pinkney, working in cooperation with his wife, Dorothy, had affiliated with BANCO (Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizations) and had meetings in Benton Harbor. By the time of the 2003 rebellion, Pinkney was publicly identified as the leader of the disadvantaged and dissident community in Benton Harbor, based in large part on his daily presence at the Berrien County courthouse. He exposed what he saw as the inherent racism of the criminal justice system and the willful inadequacy of the defense provided to the poor (mostly) black defendants. Pinkney picketed the courthouse and the local newspaper, openly naming individuals he believed to be involved in corrupt and racist practices.

In the fall of 2003, in a notorious incident, the Benton Harbor Chief of Police (who was not a certified law enforcement officer or licensed to carry a gun), fired into the air in order to disperse a group of black youths who had gathered on a corner. Despite the fact that both the possession and the use of the gun were illegal under state and local law, nothing was done. Pinkney led protests. The primary protector of the Police Chief was a City Commissioner named Glen Yarbrough, who was and is the most powerful political figure in Benton Harbor.

Although the transition of Berrien County from an industrial to a tourist, real estate and service-based economy increasingly isolated Benton Harbor, it sits on some very valuable real estate on the St. Joseph River. In 2003-2004, the former CEO of Whirlpool began advocating a development plan for what was projected to become a five hundred million dollar ($500,000,000) marina/residential/golf course complex, which would take four hundred sixty five (465) acres of Benton Harbor. It would take the City’s only beach and the City would be paid less than a million dollars ($1,000,000) for the property. Ultimately, it is projected that the land will be detached from the City and put in the more-white adjoining township. BANCO and Pinkney opposed this development because it would do nothing for the poor and permanently deprive the City of some of its potentially greatest assets. Commissioner Yarbrough was the key local politician supporting the plan.

In the fall of 2004, Pinkney and BANCO circulated recall petitions for Yarbrough, using his failure to discipline the Police Chief as the reason. Once the recall election was put on the ballot for February 2005, Pinkney used his grassroots and BANCO network to get out the absentee vote. He knew that, with his limited resources, he could never hope to compete with the Yarbrough “machine” on Election Day.

Pinkney was successful. There was a forty-two percent (42%) absentee voter rate and Yarbrough lost the recall by fifty-four (54) votes.

Yarbrough immediately swung into action. He went to the County Clerk complaining about the absentee votes. She referred him to the Prosecutor, who personally called the Sheriff to have an investigation opened. Within days, Yarbrough had “found” a young man named Mancel Williams, who alleged that Pinkney paid him $5.00 to vote for the recall. A week later the same Mancel Williams went to City Commissioner Etta Harper and made a tape recording, indicating that Yarbrough had paid him $10.00 to claim that Pinkney had paid him $5.00. The tape was turned over to Mayor Wilce Cook, who turned it over to the Benton Harbor Police. Nothing happened. The County Sheriff’s investigation did not mention it. Mancel Williams is in prison on another charge and has refused to testify for either side, fearing retaliation by the police and prosecutor.

Brenda Fox, a drug-user and prostitute whom Pinkney had helped in the past, was interviewed by the police, who were working off the absentee voter list. The day before the election, she had volunteered to go to the local soup kitchen and recruit 10-15 people for $5.00 each to pass out leaflets about the election the next day. It turned out that a number of the clients of the soup kitchen were registered to vote and wanted to do so. They went to the Clerk’s Office, got absentee ballots and voted. Brenda Fox, under pressure, claimed that Pinkney had told her to pay them $5.00 to vote against Yarbrough and make sure that they did so. She was given immunity from prosecution. None of the people who supposedly got paid to vote admitted it or testified against Pinkney. A number of witnesses denied the $5-a-vote claim by Brenda Fox, supporting Pinkney. They passed out fliers.

But Brenda Fox’s most important task was to testify in the lawsuit filed by the Prosecutor against the City Clerk to set aside the recall. The City refused to defend her. Although there was not enough evidence to invalidate 54 votes, a local judge, now nominated by George Bush to the Federal bench in Western Michigan, ordered a new election.

The clerk lost her job. The next day the Prosecutor arrested Pinkney for voter fraud and hit him with a $100,000 bond. Although Pinkney’s bond was reduced and he was later released, Yarbrough was reinstated to the Commission in the second recall election. Obviously Pinkney, facing charges and with his supporters intimidated, still campaigned valiantly but was unable to overcome the resources poured in by the local establishment. The vote was down and Yarbrough won by 40.

For three days after she testified in the election lawsuit, Brenda Fox holed up in her apartment sending people out for drugs and alcohol, indicating that the money came from testifying against Pinkney. She told one witness, Douglas Bragg, that he was the only one not getting paid to testify against Pinkney. A year later, Bragg saw her get picked up for prostitution by the Benton Harbor Police and then dropped off 20 minutes later. She said that she did not have to worry about the police as long as she was testifying against Pinkney. The Judge refused to let most of that evidence into the trial.

In Pinkney’s most recent trial, Brenda Fox, under questioning by one of Pinkney’s lawyers, Elliott Hall (former counsel to the Detroit NAACP, Vice-President of Ford Motor Company and Chief Assistant of Wayne County Prosecutor), broke down completely on the stand, began crying and could not go on. She was described by Hugh [Buck] Davis (a veteran civil rights lawyer) as incredible as any witness he had seen in 38 years. Davis told the jury in closing argument “You couldn’t send a dog to the pound on the testimony of Brenda Fox.”

Nevertheless, the all white jury convicted Pinkney of paying for and influencing votes through Brenda Fox, shocking the audience and arguably surprising even the Prosecutor. When the jury convicted Pinkney on the false vote counts based on the testimony of Brenda Fox, Davis commented that the willingness of the jury to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt relying on her testimony was an indication that they violated the sanctity of their oath and were motivated by something other than the pursuit of truth and justice.

But the most dangerous charges against Pinkney did not concern corruptly buying or influencing votes, but simply inadvertently having possession of an absentee ballot (voted or unvoted) of a person who was not a family member or a member of his immediate household. The Michigan Legislature passed that new law in 1995. In essence, it is a “gotcha” law. The mere allegation that an individual handled an absentee ballot (even with no bad intent or evidence of tampering) is a five (5) year felony. The Prosecutor brought three (3) such charges against Pinkney, giving the jury the option of eight (8) different voters who claimed they turned their ballots over to Pinkney.

Pinkney admitted that he gave those voters stamps and address labels to mail their ballots, but did not handle them. He knew that they were so poor that they might not have postage. The Prosecutor admitted that Pinkney gave them the stamps. The defense asked, “If Pinkney was going to take the ballots, why give them stamps?”

In the first trial in March 2006, Tat Parish (an able and progressive Berrien County attorney) represented Pinkney. There were two (2) blacks on the jury. The jury hung on all five (5) counts.

Given the fact that the Prosecutor had already set aside the election, gotten Yarbrough back in office and gotten rid of a City Clerk believed to be friendly to Pinkney, they might have been satisfied. But Pinkney’s militance and outspoken opposition to the administration in Benton Harbor and to the proposed “Harbor Shores” development required that he be distracted by having to continue to defend himself and, if possible, removed as a leader.

Defense attorneys, Hall and Davis, long associates in civil rights cases in Detroit, volunteered for the second trial as a National Lawyers Guild project. Pinkney inspired substantial publicity and support, particularly in Michigan, but also nationally. Timothy Holloway (an appellate specialist) also volunteered and wrote a motion and brief attacking the “possession of an absentee ballot” statue on the grounds that it is unconstitutional to create a strict liability felony where the act itself is only handling someone’s ballot without tampering and without knowledge or bad intent. The Judge denied the motion. Pinkney attempted to appeal before trial. The Court of Appeals would not hear the case. It is now one of the major issues on appeal.

Secondarily, Pinkney had complained for years about the systematic exclusion and under-representation of black jurors in the Berrien County court system. Pinkney, several of his courthouse observers and his original attorney filed affidavits indicating that out of an average panel of potential jurors, rarely were more than 2 or 3 minorities among them (3-5%). Frequently, there were none.

Berrien County is 15.5% black. The statistical disparity is constitutionally significant and presents a case for systematic racial exclusion, whether intentional or not. Wayne Bentley, a Jury Commissioner in Kent County (Grand Rapids, Michigan) who has helped reform the jury system there, agreed to act as an expert. Approximately 100,000 jury questionnaires from the last three years were obtained and an evidentiary hearing was held the week before the trial. There, Bentley explained the ways in which the jury system resulted in the systematic under representation of minorities:

1. Failure to use up-to-date address lists (statistically, poor and black people in Benton Harbor move more);
2. Failure to send follow-up letters for undelivered or unreturned questionnaires;
3. Failure to follow-up on summonses to appear for jury duty;
4. Treating anyone with a temporary medical problem or with a handicap as permanently disqualified (the medical problem/ handicap rate in Benton Harbor is 47%);
5. Treating one-time absentee voters as permanent exemptions.

The Clerk testified without any documentation, that approximately 6 out of every 45 potential jurors in the pools were black, bringing the percentage to a constitutionally permissible 12-13 percent. In fact, she testified that there were 6 blacks in the jury pool called for that very day, March 6, 2007. Unfortunately for the Clerk, Pinkney’s court-watchers were in the hall when that panel was escorted to another courtroom. There were indeed 45 potential jurors, but only 2 of them were black (4%). Their affidavits were filed with Pinkney’s Judge, alleging perjury by the Clerk. He ignored them. He denied the jury challenge on the first day of the trial, but by the end of the trial had not issued a written opinion. That will be another basis for the appeal.

When Pinkney’s second jury turned out to be all white, there was some hope that the liberal sentiments of the white community to defend the rights of minorities could be aroused. But the jury was clearly intimidated by the large numbers of Pinkney supporters in the courtroom and around the courthouse, most of them obviously poor. A posting to the BANCO website from a supporter was monitored by the authorities. The e-mailer regretted that he had been out of town during the first part of the trial and commented that the white judge and prosecutor would eventually “go down.” It was treated as a threat and turned over to the police.

Midway through the trial, the Judge locked the courtroom to spectators, who could only come in before the session began or on break. A juror reported that she thought she had seen an illegal transaction take place in the parking lot between one of Pinkney’s lawyers and one of his witnesses and supporters (the lawyer gave him a cigarette). Security was increasingly beefed up. The jury wanted to make sure that Pinkney’s lawyers did not have their jury questionnaires. They were returned before the verdict.

The effect of all of the above was to make the jury even more afraid and suspicious of blacks in Benton Harbor in general and of Pinkney and his supporters in particular. Their reaction was to retreat into the sort of blind desire to uphold the system as in the South, where a black man’s word meant nothing, regardless of how obviously false and fabricated the evidence against him.

But it should also be pointed out that these jurors were ordinary working class and middle class whites, themselves on the edge of economic insecurity. As the economy of Berrien County continues to decline, they needed to believe that what has happened to Benton Harbor will not happen to them. They needed to believe that what is good for Whirlpool is good for them. They needed to believe that somehow the “Harbor Shores” development for rich people from somewhere else will be good for them. They failed to understand that they are one layoff, one injury or one illness from needing the same social services as the people in Benton Harbor. They failed to understand that the campaign for universal health care, education, productive jobs, limited development, protection of the environment, etc., can only be achieved when they unite around the protection of the poorest and most dispossessed, as opposed to running away from the obvious horror of life in Benton Harbor.

Pinkney’s sentencing is May 14, 2007 at 1:30 p.m. Between now and then, all fair-minded individuals, particularly those who have had the privilege to meet Reverend Pinkney or follow his work, should write letters of support. THEY SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO: The Honorable Alfred M. Butzbaugh, Berrien County Circuit Court, 811 Port Street, St. Joseph, Michigan, 49085-1187, regarding the case of People v. Reverend Edward Pinkney.

BUT THEY SHOULD BE SENT TO: Hugh M. Davis, Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C., 450 West Fort Street, Suite 450, Detroit, Michigan, 48226. Phone: 313-961-2255; Fax: 313-961-5999; email: .

The purpose of the letter is not to accuse the Judge, the Prosecutor or even the jury of being racist, but rather to point out how distressing and suspicious it is that an all white jury would sit in judgment of a black community activist, 50 years after the high point of the civil rights movement. Also, emphasize the nature of Reverend Pinkney’s work, how important it is that we have dissident voices in every community and that free speech must be protected. The letters should also indicate that, no matter what view one takes of the evidence against Pinkney, the worst that he did was innocently handle some ballots and become the victim of the testimony of some very shady characters, particularly including Brenda Fox. Tell the Judge that prison is NOT the place for a person like Pinkney, but that he is needed in the community, whether one agrees with him or not. Tell the Judge that the prisons are already filled up with too many black men and are already too much of a drain on the state and local economies. Tell the Judge that prison should be reserved for only dangerous and violent individuals who have to be removed from society. That is clearly not Reverend Pinkney.

Finally, everyone should personalize their letter and, if you have any direct experience with Reverend Pinkney, describe it – what he did, how he helped, what you saw and whether he got any personal gain out of it.

The last important issue is bond pending appeal. Pinkney’s attorneys intend to push hard on the validity of the statute and on the denial of the jury challenge. Those efforts could take years. Let the Judge know that you believe that Reverend Pinkney should not be required to serve a sentence, even a short one, when these serious issues are still undecided on appeal. Since it is the Judge himself whose decisions are being challenged, he should not presume the outcome by refusing Pinkney bond.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ann Arbor News (today)

Development threatens Lake Michigan park

We urge you to pay attention to the issue of Jean Klock Park on Lake Michigan, Benton Harbor. We are very concerned that this park is being quietly taken from public use by private corporate interest. The park was dedicated and given by the Klock family in 1917 to Benton Harbor and surrounding communities explicitly and forever as a public park and bathing beach and was dedicated "for the children.'' A proposed development that threatens this also threatens wetlands and delicate species.

Perhaps most troubling is that corporate interests can be allowed to take what was given forever to the public because they promise jobs. As the intended use is a golf course - what positions /jobs are they suggesting will be available for the good people of Benton Harbor: caddies? This is an outrage and our great lakes should NEVER be a bargaining point where jobs are concerned. Additionally, our fresh water Great Lakes will become, if they are not already, as or more valuable than oil, and should therefore be carefully managed and protected from any private or corporate encroachment.

The children of Benton Harbor and its surrounding communities deserve to have free and open access to the Lake Michigan shore. An excellent carefully prepared source for information can be found at

Barbara A. Neri and Ralph O. Neri, Pinckney

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Absolutely Fantastic Article About Benton Harbor

“For the Children”: Class, Race, Place, and Late Capitalist Eco-Enclosure in Benton Harbor

by Paul Street September 23, 2007

“One of the great gifts we can give our children is to make sure they connect with the amazing natural resources we have in Michigan. Whether we take them fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain-biking or simply let them discover the beauty of nature, helping our children connect with the outdoors is essential to making sure our natural resources are protected and respected in the future.”

- Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, March 2007 (Niles Daily Star, 2007)

“Here is another case of the rich taking from the poor, while those we have elected to protect our best interests, including our governor, tout what a great thing it will be for the community….The rich will get richer, while the working class and poor lose a little more of what they already have little access to: the lake. Soon, if developers have their way, there will be no such thing as public parks or scenic lake views in Michigan for the masses to enjoy.”

- Michigan resident Mary Smith, August 10, 2007 (Smith 2007)

“We’re using economic development to change people’s lives.”

- David Whitwam, former CEO of Whirlpool, July 2007


A smaller example can be found in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a desperately poor and 92 percent black town directly adjacent to Lake Michigan. Containing 11,000 people and located 100 miles east of Chicago, Benton Harbor is an especially graphic reminder that concentrated racial oppression lives beyond the metropolitan core. The town was designated “the worst place to live in the nation” by Money Magazine in 1989. Even at the end of the long 1990s “Clinton Boom,” more than half of Benton Harbor’s children and 40 percent of its families lived in official poverty. The city’s poverty rate was three and a half times that of the U.S. as a whole. (full article:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

U of M Business School Promotes Whirlpool Corruption

Michigan has become one of the most racially divided states. Benton Harbor is the place to look if you want to see a tragic example of how corporations and extreme racisim combine to destroy a community. One of the lead players in pursuing this agenda is Jeff Noel, the Vice President of the Whirlpool Corporation.

It is important to understand his ability to create a smoke screen. Noel has the skills to look like a helpful corporate leader enhancing communities while leeching the resources out from under the poorest citizens.

Jeff Noel was recently asked to speak at the Gobal Urban Symposium at University of Michigan Business School. At this event (Sept. 21, 2007) he openly revealed his strategy of advertizing an alignment with a humanitarian organization as a means of getting a community to give his corporation what it wants, e.g. pulling in Habitat for Humanity and giving all their new homes applicances as a means of getting the poor community to give up land. After all is said and done, the community ultimately loses but the corporation is enriched. He states this strategy unabashadly. He is so conniving and single minded as revealed in his corporate history. He has worked for the tobacco industry, one of the greatest corporate deceivers of our time.

Benton Harbor is his latest community to deceive and ultimately destroy. Whirlpool has continued to eek away at the resources once held by a successful mostly black community. With leaders such as Jeff Noel, land has been given away, community services have vanished, and housing, jobs, community resources and the welfare of the citizens are at an all time low. But, every new Habitat House has a dishwasher. Jobs that are created by Whirlpool are low paying. Drive through Benton Harbor and see what Jeff’s company has really done for the city. Try and find a museum, a park, or a stock of decent housing for the city. Drive across the bridge and see what Whirlpool has done for the white population of St. Joseph. You will find an art museum absurdly funded, a children’s museum, parks, a concert shell, a shopping district with boutiques, even a horse drawn carriage to carry the white children around.

Don’t get fooled by Jeff Noel’s agenda. Whirlpool is racist and is headed by corporate spin doctors who take the most well-meaning citizens by the nose and attain submission. Some are coming up dizzy, wondering where the land went, where the decent paying jobs are, and why all these wealthy white people are sneaking around talking to real estate agents about the future of a golf course and gated community on the Benton Harbor beach. Meanwhile everyone with black skin wanders around trying to figure out what Jeff Noel really did.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

National Park Service Rejects Conversion Proposal for Jean Klock Park

October 17, 2007

Jean Klock Park supporters elated over decision that protects
historic park

For Immediate Release

(Benton Harbor, Mich. October 17, 2007)—The Friends of Jean Klock
Park and supporters applauded a decision by the National Park Service
today that rejected the conversion proposal submitted by the City of
Benton Harbor through the State of Michigan, to lease Jean Klock Park
to private interests to construct part of a golf course in the park.

Jean Klock Park, a pristine park with dunes and a half-mile of
lakefront on Lake Michigan, was deeded and gifted to Benton Harbor
residents 90 years ago. Residents won further protection for the park
in 2004 as a result of a lawsuit that allowed the carving out of some
acreage for a residential development with the stipulation that the
remaining acres of the park be kept as a public park.

The City of Benton Harbor received $1.74 million in federal and state
grants for the park over the years, including a grant from the
federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, administered by the
National Park Service which has strict guidelines against taking
public parkland away from the public.

Jean Klock Park also was developed using grants from the Michigan
Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Clean Michigan Initiative and other

In a letter to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the
National Park Service rejected the entire conversion proposal that
would give control of the entirety of Jean Klock Park to the private
organization Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Incorporated and
its affiliates. One of the affiliates, Cornerstone Alliance, the
local economic development organization, also would have benefited
from the privatization plan.

The National Park Service called the proposed replacement lands for
the Jean Klock Park acreage that would be lost “insufficient in
magnitude, capacity, and viability to mitigate the subject 22.11 acre
or any larger conversion.”

“Justice has prevailed, the law was upheld and the clear intent of
Mr. and Mrs. Klock's gift will be protected,” said Carol Drake, of
Friends of Jean Klock Park and a plaintiff in the lawsuit a few years
ago to protect the park.

“The National Park Service correctly recognized the injustice that
was proposed for Jean Klock Park,” said LuAnne Kozma, Michigan
Director of Defense of Place, an organization that assisted the
Friends group with their fight. “This decision reaffirms that public
parks rightfully belong to the public."

The National Park Service soundly rejected the proposal on all
grounds including the lease agreement between the City and the

Emma Kinnard, a Benton Harbor resident who worked to save the park,
said, "It's a blessing the National Park Service could see to the
heart of residents' concerns and honored the fact that this park was
a gift to us to be here for our future generations. I was told over
and over again this was a done deal. This is proof that it wasn’t true."

Jean Klock Park was dedicated to the children of Benton Harbor and
future generations in large public ceremonies in the park’s dunes in
1917 when donors John and Carrie Klock gave the parkland as a
memorial to their deceased daughter Jean.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Letter to Jena Mayor from

(apologies for the length)

Complicity Has Its Cost:
An Open Letter to Mayor Murphy McMillin of Jena, Louisiana

By Tim Wise October 8, 2007

Dear Mayor McMillin,

I hear that you're angry.

Me too.

But it appears our outrage is directed at decidedly different targets.

I, for one, am angry at the three young white men in your town who, last year, hung nooses from a tree after a black student dared sit under it, thereby touching off several months of racial tension. And I'm mad at their parents for whatever it is they taught their kids--or failed to teach them--that would allow their children to believe such a thing appropriate.

But it is not these persons who have elicited your anger.

I'm mad at the school superintendent, who declared the noose hanging an "innocent prank," and refused to as much as criticize those responsible, let alone truly punish them.

But it is not the superintendent with whom you are upset.

I'm angry at the District Attorney, who threatened black students in Jena that he could make their lives disappear with a stroke of his pen, if they didn't stop all the complaining about the noose incident. And I'm even more enraged by his decision to charge six young black men with attempted murder for beating up a white student (one who had been taunting them prior to the attack and whose family recently had a leader in the white supremacist movement as a guest in their home), while only charging a white man with misdemeanor battery for beating up a black kid a few days earlier.

But the D.A. is not the target of your ire. Indeed, I'm told that you two are friends.

I'm angry about the conviction (since overturned) of one of the young black men, Mychal Bell, by an all-white jury, and by the utter incompetence with which his court-appointed attorney defended him--calling no witnesses to impeach the testimony of those called by the prosecution, even though there were several who had made clear they were available.

But neither the jury, nor the incompetent public defender seems to concern you, at least not enough to have inspired you to write or speak as much as one solitary sentence to that effect.

Yet, today you broke your silence and showed us all your anger, an anger that is aimed not inwardly at those in your town who openly express racism or at those who sit by silently and do nothing in the face of it, but rather, outwardly, at singer-songwriter John Mellencamp for daring to release a song about it.

You might have been a Mellencamp fan in the past. Lots of folks in small towns are, seeing as how he has long sung the virtues of such places. So long as he wrote about little pink houses, he'd have been alright by you. But with his latest release, in which he implores your town to "put away your nooses," Mellencamp has, apparently, gone too far.

I guess you feel it isn't fair, all this negative publicity. You (and most whites in Jena) think your town is getting a bad rap. The actions of a few, you insist, shouldn't be allowed to paint an entire community with the broad brush of bigotry.

That's understandable, I suppose.

Of course, I do find it interesting that neither you nor any white elected official in Jena have seen fit to label the noose-hanging a racist act and its perpetrators racists. It's as if you can't come to say the words, no matter how obviously they fit. Oh sure, you said the act was "hurtful," but nothing more. And you wonder, dear sir, why 20,000 people descended on your town to let you know what they think of you?

Does it not give you pause that two-thirds of Jena's white folks voted for neo-Nazi, David Duke in 1990 and 1991, when he ran for U.S. Senate and Governor?

Or perhaps you were among those two-thirds? After all, you did recently tell white supremacist leader Richard Barrett that you were grateful for the counterdemonstrations he's been seeking to foment in Jena, in answer to the mostly black protests of last month.

Maybe you too supported Duke: a man who not only led the nation's largest Ku Klux Klan group in the 1970s, but who, as head of the National Association for the Advancement of White People (with which he remained affiliated until the early 90s), called for dividing the U.S. into racial sub-nations and breeding a master race of high-IQ whites. From the back of Duke's newsletter, he even sold books praising Nazi Germany and denying the Holocaust, but perhaps that wasn't a big concern of yours.

Perhaps you voted for Duke, as most of your white brethren in Jena did, even though you must have heard the radio ad that was airing right up until the Gubernatorial election in 1991: the one featuring a tape recording from just five years earlier, in which Duke responded to a fellow Nazi's boast that "Hitler started with just seven men," by noting, "We can do it here too if we just put the right package together."

Yes indeed, how dare John Mellencamp besmirch the good name of a town like yours, filled with such stellar exemplars of racial amity as could vote for someone like that. How dare he, and how dare we--those of us who have spoken out against the perverted system of justice you dispense in your hamlet--offer our opinions about people and places we don't know.

But here's the thing Mr. Mayor: we do know you.

Oh sure, Jena is not any worse than a lot of other places. And yes, it's always easy to beat up on some little southern town, making it the presumed seedbed of everything racist, rather than seeing the racism therein as symptomatic of a larger national problem. I'll give you that much. As a proud southerner that burns me up too.

But we know you just the same.

The one thing we know for sure, that I know as certainly as I know my own name, is that your town is filled with good Germans. The kind who, irrespective of their own racism, almost uniformly refuse to condemn the racism of their fellow citizens, fellow churchgoers, neighbors or family.

Your town is filled with people who never expressed any concern about this case until it brought them, and you, bad publicity. Some white folks now are saying that those attempted murder charges were extreme, but where were they a year ago? Nowhere to be seen or heard from, Mr. Mayor, that's where. Mychal Bell and the other five could have rotted in jail for the rest of their lives for all you could have cared, and so long as the media never made mention of it, everything would have been fine.

Thus the lesson for today, Mayor McMillin, and please make note of it: complicity has a cost.

And here's the sad irony embedded within that lesson--one which you and your compatriots utterly fail to recognize, and which whites have failed to understand going back to the days of slavery, when most whites didn't own slaves, but also never spoke out against or challenged those who did: namely, that all of this could have been avoided. You and yours could have prevented it. You could have made it all go away: the angry denunciations, the demonstrators, the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson, the T-Shirts reading, "Free the Jena Six," Mellencamp--all of it.

If you had only taken racism seriously from the beginning, none of your current embarrassment would have been made necessary. Had you stood up as whites, after those nooses were hung at the high school--had you stood up and said "We as whites are offended by this act of racial intimidation"--and called for the expulsion of the students, your town could have remained an obscure outpost, familiar to no one beyond central Louisiana.

Had you stood up to the school board--had you demanded that black students be allowed to speak at a board meeting in September, after that body refused to let them raise concerns about racial tensions at the school, because, in the mind of the white-dominated board the noose incident had been "adequately resolved"--then perhaps the issues in Jena could have been addressed, productive dialogue furthered, and you would have been able to avoid the public spotlight altogether.

Had you stood up in December of last year when that white man beat up a black student outside a party, breaking a bottle over his head, only to receive probation--had you stood up and demanded that the assault be treated like the serious crime it was--perhaps you could have remained anonymous to the rest of the world forever.

Had you stood up when a white student pulled a gun on black students outside a convenience store the next day and yet wasn't charged (while the black kids who got the gun away from him were charged with stealing the white kid's firearm)--had you stood up and demanded that the charges be dropped and perhaps that kids shouldn't ride around with guns in their pickup trucks--none of this would have happened.

And had you risen up in opposition to your D.A. buddy when he charged those six young black men with attempted murder, claiming with a straight face that their tennis shoes were a deadly weapon--had you risen up and said, these charges are ridiculous, and had you sought to recall him perhaps--I assure you, Jena would have never come to the attention of anyone. And if it did, it would only have been to praise it, for having so many whites willing to stand in solidarity with their black neighbors, and demand equity and justice for all.

But you did none of this. You did nothing even remotely like it. Good Germans never do. They remain silent in the face of such things and then complain when others give them a hard time about it.

There is a cost to pay for your silence, Mayor McMillin. A cost that grows in direct proportion to the degree of your complicity. It has always been so. Had whites stood up and demanded better of our own, of ourselves, beginning centuries ago, so much about this nation's history could have been different. Had more whites chosen to be allies to black and brown folks, joining them in resistance to oppression and domination, all the anxiety we feel now--the fear of being called racist, or thought of as such by folks of color--could have been mitigated.

That tradition, the tradition of resistance, is there Mr. Mayor, for the joining. It has always been there. And the fact that you know nothing of it--that none of the whites in Jena likely do--merely suggests the glaring failures of the American educational system, which has spent years teaching us even the smallest, most insignificant detail of our history (so long as it serves to boost the patriotic mood) but which has told us next to nothing about white antiracism through history. No wonder whites in Jena feel under siege. You don't even realize that the fight of those 20,000 people who visited your town is your fight too. It is a fight for human liberty and justice, and one in which whites have joined with folks of color for generations. Not enough of us, to be sure, but some just the same. What's more, it is a fight to break out of the boxes in which we as whites have been placed by our own collaboration--it's a chance to say that we will not be defined and have our humanity limited by the weight of history and the fear of forging a new path.

You could choose to be a part of that fight. Your entire town could. If it does, you will be welcomed to the struggle, I assure you. But if you don't, if you choose instead to remain on the side of white denial and silence and obduracy, then please know, you will pay a price. You will not escape judgment, and you will have to get used to many an article, many a speech, and many an unflattering reference in the songs of artists, all condemning your community to a special place in hell, whether viewed in literal or metaphorical terms.

And your protestations of innocence will fall like raindrops in the Seattle autumn: so common as to not even be noticed or justify so much as a moment's consideration.

Here's hoping that you make the right choice.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Blinded By The White: OJ Simpson vs. The Jena Six

by Sally Kohn

Why is it that mainstream white media and white folks in general are so obsessed (once again) with OJ’s guilt but paying little or no attention to the innocence of the Jena Six?

Of course, we all know about OJ’s recent arrest. It’s been all over the news. But if you don’t know about the Jena Six, you’re not alone. On, for instance, there are four times as many recent news stories about OJ as there are about the Jena Six.

As I’m writing this, the town of Jena, Louisiana — population 3,000 — is preparing for a civil rights rally Thursday with an expected 50,000 demonstrators from across the country. But OJ Simpson is on the front page of USA Today site.

In the small town of Jena last fall, two black high school students sat in a schoolyard under a tree. The tree was known as the “white tree” because only white kids are allowed to sit under it. The day after the two black students defied this unspoken rule, nooses were hung from the tree. The school principle dismissed it as a “prank”. Black students protested by sitting under the tree, in growing numbers. The District Attorney came to the school and threatened them, saying, “I can take away your lives with the stroke of a pen.”

There was a series of violent incidents were white students attacked black students. The government and school administrators ignored those. But when a white student was beaten up by six black students in a schoolyard fight — after provoking the black students with racist taunts — the District Attorney charged the black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They were charged in adult court. Meanwhile, the white student they beat up suffered only minor cuts and bruises.

One of the black students, Mychal Bell — age 16 — has been in prison since December. Last month, an all-white jury decided that Bell was guilty — not guilty of beating up a student who racially taunted him, but guilty of attempted murder.

It reminds me of the African American five-year-old in Florida earlier this year who was acting up in kindergarten so the teacher called the police and the little girl was handcuffed and arrested and taken to jail. Or countless other examples. How is it that white folks are so predisposed to presume that black folks are sinister and guilty and yet equally as quick to deny the pervasiveness of racism in every crevice of our society and rail against affirmative action and other remedies to structural injustice?

At the time of OJ Simpson’s trial for allegedly murdering his ex-wife and her friend, polls showed that most white people thought Simpson was guilty while black people thought he was innocent. Another poll conducted 10 years after the Simpson verdict found the same thing.

What gives? Why in case after case do blacks and whites see things so, well, black and white? Racial profiling is a documented phenomenon; studies show that African Americans are far more likely to be arrested and convicted of crimes than whites who commit the same offenses. People of color recognize that the system is biased. Why can’t whites? And why can’t whites recognize their own role in perpetuating that bias — not only directly but also indirectly by denying that that such racism even exists?

Thursday, Mychal Bell will be sentenced. He faces up to 22 years in prison for a schoolyard scrape that he didn’t even start. While many whites in Jena are saying the case has been “overblown” (USA Today’s wording), over 11,000 busloads of demonstrators are on their way to Jena in protest. To show their solidarity with Jena’s black community, all of the demonstrators will be wearing black.

Rather than us white folks reading the news about OJ and assuming, “There he goes again…” we should be reading the news out of Jena and thinking, “There it goes again!” — the “it” being racism, injustice, systematic oppression, an entrenched double standard based on race. We must start to recognize that, when it comes to crime, the problematic pattern in our society is NOT the criminal behavior of communities of color. That’s a myth. It’s wrong. White people commit far more crimes than blacks. We must recognize that, when it comes to crime, the problematic pattern in our society is us white folks over and over again presuming the criminality of people of color while denying that we do so, thus allowing injustice to accumulate in often subtle but just as often egregious ways. When we don’t acknowledge our own racism and the racism of those around us, we lay the groundwork for an all-white jury to convict Mychal Bell and call it justice. As the saying goes, if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

On Thursday, September 20th, white folks around the United States should rise up and denounce the Jena Six verdicts and the atrocious handling of this case in side-by-side solidarity with the African American community. We should make it clear that we won’t stand for racism in our schools, our criminal justice system, our hearts or our minds. Not in Jena. Not anywhere.

On Thursday, September 20th, we should see a sea of white folks nationwide wearing black to show their support for the demonstrations in Jena. This means you! Racism is perpetuated by white folks who like the system the way it is, with them at the top and people of color at the bottom. But just as much, racism is perpetuated by white folks who aspire to a world of equality and justice but nonetheless turn a blind eye when racism rears itself again and again and again. Don’t be part of the problem. Be part of the solution. Wear black, sign the Color of Change petition to free the Jena 6, donate to their defense fund, tell your friends and neighbors about this injustice, and do something to resist racism and build an America where we’re truly all in it together.

Sally Kohn is director of the New York-based Movement Vision Project, working with grassroots organizations across the United States to advance our shared values of family, community and humanity. She has interviewed progressive leaders across the country on their vision for the future.