Mass Demonstration against Voter Suppression in Benton Harbor

Voter suppression led by Whirlpool Corporation and Berrien County Sheriff Department. Protest all injustices being forced on our town, your town and all around the country! It is not one thing it is everything. The murder of Benton Harbor residents, gentrification by Whirlpool, Governor Snyder’s Emergency Manager dictatorship. Find it on the ActivateHub community calendar!

May 24, 2014 11:00am - City Hall, 200 Wall St., Benton Harbor, MI, 49022 (11:30am - press conference)


Friday, July 31, 2009

How the Right Distorts Crime Data to Justify Unequal Policing
Rationalizing Racial Oppression
[These are national figures; you can imagine how much worse it is in the county of Whirlpool & Rep. Fred Upton]
By TIM WISE

...police are much more likely--on the order of 2-3 times as likely--to physically search blacks, once stopped, than they are to search whites. And this is true, even though blacks, when searched, are less likely to actually have drugs or other contraband on them than whites are. Indeed, as for drugs, data show that usage rates are roughly equal between whites and blacks: in some years whites have slightly higher rates of usage, thus possession, while in other years, blacks have slightly higher rates (1). In any case, there is no logical reason for police to assume blacks are significantly more likely, if at all more likely, to have such items on them, given the evidence, and yet they apparently do.

...blacks and whites are stopped in roughly the same percentages by law enforcement, though it may seem to indicate parity of treatment, actually doesn't, for one very important reason: namely, because African Americans, on average, drive 2200 fewer miles per year, per capita, than whites. In other words, whites, collectively have millions more hours and miles on the road and thus, opportunities to be stopped than blacks (2). Thus, given the greater opportunity for whites to be stopped, and the lesser opportunity for blacks to be stopped, the fact that the two groups are stopped at the same rate--especially given the evidence that there is no substantial difference in driving behavior or moving violations which could justify the disparity (3)--suggests a substantial amount of unfair and unequal treatment meted out to black folks. counterpunch.org
Harbor Shores' claim of altruism is ridiculous

Editor, (7/18 HPalladium)

In response to Karla Tacy's letter on Wednesday, "Jean Klock Park revitalization is a joy," all I can say is enjoy it while you can. According to Benton Harbor City Manager Richard Marsh, it will soon cost "outsiders" like Ms. Tacy $8 to drive through the park. City residents may only have to pay half that much - a mere $4 more than they have ever had to pay in the past. It remains to be seen whether even that will be sufficient when special events such as golf tournaments and corporate picnics take place. The majority of us should probably start getting used to the idea of being outsiders at JKP.

Once again, Ms. Tacy repeats the myth that those of us who are against the taking of invaluable and irreplaceable public land by private developers are "opposed to the Harbor Shores project." This comes as no surprise considering the amount of money the developers have spent in perpetuating misconceptions, as to their motives as well as ours. The city's attorneys claim that our aim is to "sap the life blood" out of the project. This kind of absurd rhetoric has little value other than giving me the idea for a Halloween costume.

The biggest myths of all are that Harbor Shores' motives are primarily altruistic, and that private control, which effectively amounts to ownership, of the city's entire lakefront is its only hope for salvation. We all know that money is behind almost everything, and that it has pretty much always been that way. Harbor Shores' insistence and considerable investment in pretending otherwise would raise red flags in a community not quite as brain dead as this one apparently is.

Those of us who have invested virtually all of our financial resources, not to mention our lives, in the revitalization of Benton Harbor have not only the right but a responsibility to oppose the blatant theft of our greatest asset.

As for responsibility, when Mr. Marsh was questioned at a hearing in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, he had to acknowledge that he had never even read the Harbor Shores proposal. "We have lawyers for that," he said. And Commissioner Ricky Hill's repeated assertions that not only has he never read it, but he would vote for it again, should tell you all you need to know about our city government.

Money may make the world go 'round, but Harbor Shores is giving Ms. Tacy the runaround.

Unless, that is, Ms. Tacy is connected to Tacy Bros. Excavating of Coloma, which is employed by Harbor Shores. In that case, it is Ms. Tacy who is giving the rest of us the runaround.

Scott Elliott

Harbor Shores course is destined to fail

Editor, (7/19)

Try as I may I still cannot see the justification for the Harbor Shores development in Benton Harbor. I do realize that in the process of building the new golf course they did manage to clean up some contaminated property. That is a plus.

In my estimation there is no way that a golf course can attract enough outsiders in order to have a positive economic effect on the city of Benton Harbor. After all, that was the entire purpose of the project in the first place. The downside is the area having to sacrifice some valuable park land.

In my opinion the heyday of golf is past and many courses are now being converted into other uses, mostly residential subdivisions.

You can attach as many famous names to the project as you can find, but I still feel it is a project that has an uphill fight to be successful. Maybe I am a lone wolf out here howling at the moon, but this is the way I feel.

Charles Knapp

Dowagiac

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wendy Dant-Chesser, Harbor Shores CEO, Wants a Strip Club for Benton Harbor

It's not enough for Whirlpool/Harbor Shores to commit genocide and environmental devastation; now they will force a crime-causing enterprise on Benton Harbor


It won't surprise most that Rep. Fred Upton and gang, ethics in the gutter, need a strip club to while away their time. Never in St. Joe, though. Dant-Chesser attended the Benton Harbor 7/20/09 city commission meeting asking for permission to allow Harbor Shores to open a strip club in Benton Harbor. Not all commissioners voted yes. However, enough did, including several of Muslim faith, and one pastor. (see first web search headline below...) Harbor Shores has it's strip club, thanks to the continued selling out of Benton Harbor by the majority city commissioners.

A simple web search brings up the following descriptions of the ways strip clubs have
affected some different areas of the US:

It is our understanding that some city officials received “favors” to approve the license...We also found out that the club is doing illegal work in the premises and the Department of Building is looking the other way...They are playing dirty.
http://curbed.com/archives/2008/08/12/sapphire_strip_club_threatens_west_chelsea_renaissance.php

Strip Club License May Be Stripped - Days after a shooting rampage at a Springfield strip club, the establishment has closed, and it's license may be revoked.
http://www.cbs3springfield.com/news/local/47885267.html

Strip club keeps license despite having 12-year-old runaway as a "worker"
http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2008/03/strip-club-keep.html

Iowa Strip Club Features 17-Year-Old Dancer, Claims Artistic License
http://www.nerve.com/CS/blogs/scanner/archive/2008/07/21/iowa-strip-club-features-17-year-old-dancer-claims-artistic-license.aspx

The West Side Scores has been closed since May, when the State Liquor Authority took its license after a prostitution bust...honey trap for out-of-town businessmen, who blew expense accounts on lap dances and champagne magnums, only to have their hangovers worsened by mind-boggling tabs.
http://www.nydailynews.com/money/2008/12/10/2008-12-10_famed_sex_den_scores_once_a_top_moneymak.html

The council revoked the club's license after a dancer was convicted of soliciting prostitution, an act the Davaris had promised would never happen at their club.
http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2005/Feb-17-Thu-2005/news/25884772.html

Saturday, July 25, 2009

When they don't like who's running for city commission in Benton Harbor, illegal actions are taken by Berrien County judges, prosecutors, and attorneys

Make sure you're sitting down for this one.
Dennis Knowles, a citizen of Benton Harbor who is running for city commission, was recently charged by the Berrien County prosecutor with a misdemeanor. Apparently, a local radio station that asked him to come on and talk about the politics of BH had not filed a report years earlier with the chief of police. Berrien County actually charged Mr. Knowles because this report was not filed by the radio station. His public defender told him that this was a nuisance charge, since one cannot be charged for someone else's crime. The Berrien County "justice" system leaves a lot to be desired.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Gates Incident
Living in a Police State


It is common practice for police in America to abuse their authority and to arrest people on a charge of “disorderly conduct” when those people simply exercise their free speech rights and object strenuously to how they are being treated by an officer

By DAVE LINDORFF 7/22/09

...[Harvard] Prof. Gates, who was understandably outraged at the whole situation, properly told the sergeant that he wanted his name and his badge number, because he intended to file a complaint. Whether or not the officer had done anything wrong by that point is not the issue. It was Gates’ right as a citizen to file a complaint. The officer’s alleged refusal to provide his name and badge number was improper and, if Gates’ claim is correct, was a violation of the rules that are in force in every police department in the country.

But whatever the real story is regarding the showing of identification information by Gates and the officer, police misconduct in this incident went further. Gates reportedly got understandably angry and frustrated at the officer for refusing to provide him with this identifying information and/or for refusing to accept his own identification documents, and at that point the officer abused his power by arresting Gates and charging him with disorderly conduct.

There’s nothing unusual about this, sadly. [certainly not in Berrien County!] It is common practice for police in America to abuse their authority and to arrest people on a charge of “disorderly conduct” when those people simply exercise their free speech rights and object strenuously to how they are being treated by an officer...

There is no suggestion by police that Gates physically threatened the arresting officer. His “crime” at the time was simply speaking out...

What is unusual is not that the officer arrested Gates for exercising his rights. That kind of thing happens all the time...

Very little of the mainstream reporting I’ve seen on this event makes the crucial point that it is not illegal to tell a police officer that he is a jerk or a racist, or that he has done something wrong, or that you are going to file charges against him. And yet too many commentators, journalists and ordinary people seem to accept that if a citizen “mouths off” to a cop, or criticizes a cop, or threatens legal action against a cop, it’s okay for that cop to cuff the person and charge him with “disorderly conduct.” Worse yet, if a cop makes such a bogus arrest, and the person gets upset, he’s liable to get an added charge of “resisting arrest” or worse.

We have, as a nation, sunk to the level of a police state, when we grant our police the unfettered power to arrest honest, law-abiding citizens for simply stating their minds. Full article: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/?q=node/342

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Power always holds itself harmless while committing great crimes

Rev. Edward Pinkney: The Preacher Who Dared to Invoke God

By Glen Ford, 07/21/2009 - 19:40
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The first man in modern day America to be imprisoned for “predicting what God might do” was released, last week. However, Rev. Edward Pinkney's conviction on voter fraud charges still stands, despite the 13 errors committed during his trail. The appeals court ruled the errors were “harmless” - a bizarre excuse for depriving Benton Harbor, Michigan of its premier Black leader and minister.
In confrontations between a Black man and a racist state apparatus, the damage inflicted can never be fully, or even substantially, repaired.
When Rev. Edward Pinkney was freed from prison, last week, some hailed the Michigan appeals court decision as a great victory. Only in a society in which racial insult and oppression is general – an everyday fact of life – would Rev. Pinkney’s release after spending nearly a year in eight different Michigan prisons, be considered a triumph of justice. Rather, it is only a partial rollback of a series of horrendous wrongs.
Rev. Pinkney became what the American Civil Liberties Union described as the first man in modern times to be imprisoned for “predicting what God might do.” (Actually, I thought that much of the job description of a minister consisted of predicting and anticipating God’s point of view.) Specifically, Pinkney wrote an article for a Chicago newspaper that predicted the judge who convicted him of voter fraud would be cursed by God. On top of that, Pinkney expressed the opinion that the judge was racist, dumb and corrupt.
For this exercise of his freedom of speech and religion, Rev. Pinkney’s probation on the voter fraud conviction was revoked. He now faced three to ten years hard time. So began his Odyssey from one Michigan prison to another, as state authorities tried to bury the Baptist minister deeper and deeper in their dungeons. A national legal and political campaign ultimately culminated in Pinkney’s release, but as is usually the case in confrontations between a Black man and a racist state apparatus, the damage inflicted can never be fully, or even substantially, repaired.
Power always holds itself harmless while committing great crimes.
The first item on the loss side of the ledger, is the fact that Pinkney’s home town, predominantly Black Benton Harbor, Michigan, has been deprived of this Black leader and preacher’s services for well over a year. The white power structure against which Rev. Pinkney tirelessly organized, succeeded in getting him off of the streets for a significant period of time.
The appeals court that freed Rev. Pinkney refused to order a new trial on the original voter fraud charges. The court acknowledged that Berrien County committed 13 separate errors in the case, but declared these errors were “harmless” and would not have altered the verdict.
“Harmless” errors. Power always holds itself harmless while committing great crimes.
One of the crimes Rev. Pinkney fought so hard to resist is gentrification. Benton Harbor’s lakeside location makes it a prime real estate attraction to the wealthy. When the leader of the anti-gentrification movement is forced to spend all his energy and time avoiding doing hard prison time, the gentrifiers win.
And so the net effect of Rev. Pinkney’s release last week is a mitigation of loss, rather than a victory. As the great Amilcar Cabral advised, "Tell no lies and claim no easy victories."
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Monday, July 20, 2009

St. Joe is a strange place when your skin has more melanin

Boycott Everything in St. Joe

Planting drugs on citizens to improve a policeman's job performance is such a surreal act. Is it possible that a white police officer in Benton Harbor could hold a variety of drugs in his locker to use as false evidence by planting them in black mens' cars or houses or on their persons? Yes. Could this heinous act be discovered through complaints from citizens and the officer get punished? Yes. Could the sentence fit the crime, as determined by Judge Robert Holmes Bell in federal court? No.

The unimaginable criminal behavior of Andrew Collins, a 26 year old white male, took place in no other than Benton Harbor, Michigan. He planted drugs. The drugs were found in his professional locker. He did this over and over and a minimum of 200 Benton Harbor residents were found guilty of drug possession. This was so easy. Everyone knows that black men of Benton Harbor are deep in drug activity. Right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This stereotype must be challenged.

It must have been a real power trip for Andrew Collins. Sociopathology enjoys seeing others in pain and sociopathology loves to have power over others' lives. This is a difficult concept for most to understand. Andrew Collins will remain a dangerous man even after the 37 months in prison and the 4 years of supervised release. Sociopaths are really not curable. The sentence does not fit the extent of the crime. Particularly after looking at the now absolved sentencing (3-10 years) given to the Reverend Pinkney for paraphrasing the Bible or the sentencing of the victims for having drugs in their cars. St. Joe, where all this takes place, is a strange place when your skin has more melanin.

Is Benton Harbor passive to the oppression? Not any more. Demario Allen, a 25 year old African-American male was an indirect victim of Andrew Collins. He was one of the Benton Harbor residents who filed a complaint that Collins had planted drugs on his brother and himself. He was arrested for an alleged domestic issue several months ago. Once in jail, police claimed he possessed drugs, which was impossible given the thorough search a prisoner is subjected to upon entry. He received a sentence of 15 - 40 years in state prison for drug possession. The sentencing was done by Berrien County Judge Bruce. This sentence will not go unnoticed outside of St. Joseph. The comparison of the sentences is the writing on the wall.

Quacy Roberts is another Benton Harbor African-American male victimized by Andrew Collins and recently, by other cops. He is filing a lawsuit. Benton Harbor will not accept the police state as created by Rep. Upton and St. Joe as an acceptable means of boosting the community. The recent grant received by the golf course developers and Fred Upton includes $500,000.00 It will be used to continue sentencing African-American males in an attempt to make the wealthy golfers and their wives "safe" - another sign of the St. Joe mentality. Just think of the parks, playgrounds, Boys and Girls Clubs that could have been started in Benton Harbor with that money (part "Stimulus Dollars" from the federal connection of Fred Upton?) Instead, we like to lock them up, spend tax payers money on Fred Upton's personal fraternity boy agenda. He has the police behind him. --K.T.Schmidt

BOYCOTT EVERYTHING IN ST. JOSEPH, MICHIGAN

Friday, July 17, 2009

BOYCOTT EVERYTHING IN ST. JOE UNTIL THE LAND IS GIVEN BACK

There is no comparison anywhere in the Midwest to the relationship of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan. History will reveal the crimes that exist there today. A desperate State of Michigan will do desperate things to please the stakeholders. Benton Harbor is again the victim of desperate acts on the part of the State. The greed of land developers coupled with a major international corporation has created a truly immoral act: the theft of public Lake Michigan shore land dedicated to the people of Benton Harbor. The people’s land is becoming a golf course for the elite. Someday history will reveal the true lack of morality of corporate greed. The perpetrators in this case are the infamous Whirlpool Corporation in conjunction with land developers. The victims are again, the Benton Harbor citizens.

Benton Harbor actually stood up and rioted a few years ago. We all remember the outrage after police brutality put the town over the edge. National attention was brought to Benton Harbor and the Governor spent time there promising jobs and grants. The nation looked on and wondered why a town in the 1990s rioted; nobody rioted. Benton Harbor was and is uniquely oppressed. The downtrodden state of Michigan has allowed corporations such as Whirlpool to take whatever they need to stay in a state losing jobs, gaining unemployment, and experience a gigantic shift. Whirlpool has been provided with tax breaks, national representation via a congressman (Fred Upton), and has been able to pull off a “Jim Crow” agenda in St. Joe. Police are on many street corners of both cities giving signs of an odd and almost third world presence, as evidenced also by posters in St. Joe warning of surveillance. Enlightened people will not set foot in St. Joe. It is a town of frightening whiteness as designed by Whirlpool.

The promises made by the original Upton family, the founders of Whirlpool have become a distant echo. Their fraternity heir, Fred Upton, continues to parade his false face while voting against the stimulus package, against the environmental bill, against policies that would benefit the poor. He disguises himself by occasionally working on a program for children. Most people in his district are fed up with him and he was seriously challenged in the last election by a last minute candidate. Only the elite like him.

The Governor of Michigan has lost credibility due to her allegiance with corporations, her promises to create jobs in Benton Harbor by buddying up with Whirlpool, and the recent acceptance of the people’s park land (Jean Klock Park) going to Whirlpool developers. NO one has been hired from Benton Harbor for this heinous project. NO Benton Harbor resident has been hired despite excessive promises made by the governor/developers. The Jack Nicklaus golf course is an insult even if it were not on public land. The lack of morality in this case will make history books. The people involved will be viewed like those who were against Brown v. Board of Education. There is no justice in Benton Harbor and it is high time everyone knew what is really going on there.

Setting foot in St. Joe or playing on this new golf course is like giving money to a corrupt and immoral system. Those educated Chicago residents who like to visit the area will be informed. Those citizens who enjoy the downtown, the restaurants, the huge public shoreline park in St. Joe, the Box Factory, the Children’s Museum, etc., will be informed. Boycott St. Joe, Boycott the Jack Nicklaus Golf Course, Boycott all Whirlpool products until the land is given back to the people of Benton Harbor. Pass the word on, e-mail the word and let justice rise. BOYCOTT EVERYTHING IN ST. JOE UNTIL THE LAND IS GIVEN BACK. --K.T. Schmidt

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ACLU Declares Victory for Minister Sentenced to Prison for Criticizing Judge

Court of Appeals Reverses 3-10 Year Sentence


IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 15, 2009
CONTACT: Michael Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director at 313.578.6814 or Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan Staff Attorney at 313.578.6824

DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan applauded a unanimous Michigan Court of Appeals decision today upholding the free speech rights of a Benton Harbor minister who was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for writing a newspaper article that harshly criticized the judge who presided over his trial.

“The Court of Appeals opinion reaffirms the basic American value that citizens cannot be imprisoned for criticizing government officials or expressing their religious beliefs,” said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director. “To our knowledge, this case marks the first time in modern history that a preacher has been thrown in prison for predicting what God might do.”

In 2007, Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to probation for violating Michigan election law. But his probation was revoked and he was resentenced to 3-10 years in prison solely because of an article he wrote for a small Chicago newspaper. Quoting a passage from the Bible, Rev. Pinkney predicted that God would “curse” the judge unless he "hearken[ed] unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe [and] to do all that is right." Rev. Pinkney also expressed his opinion in the article that the judge was racist, dumb, and corrupt.

In its ruling today, the Court of Appeals said that the trial court’s probation condition that prohibited “defamatory and demeaning” communications is unconstitutional.

“To the extent that the prohibition of defamatory and demeaning behavior impinges on defendant’s first amendment rights,” wrote the judges, “the prohibition was not proper, as it was not directly related to defendant’s rehabilitation or to the protection of the public.”

The ACLU of Michigan represented Rev. Edward Pinkney’s first amendment claims; however, the organization was not involved in the underlying voter fraud conviction, which was upheld today. Due to this conviction, Rev. Pinkney’s probation will be reinstated.

Rev. Pinkney is a Baptist minister in Benton Harbor, a predominantly African American community with a troubled relationship with its predominantly white sister city, St. Joseph. Rev. Pinkney has long been an outspoken community activist and advocate, frequently denouncing injustice and racial inequality in Benton Harbor, its local government, and the Berrien County criminal justice system in particular.

In March, three friend-of-the-court briefs were submitted in support of the ACLU position – one from a diverse coalition of more than a dozen national and religious organizations including the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Jewish Congress, the Christian Legal Society and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty; one from 18 law professors from all five Michigan law schools; and one from the Thomas Jefferson Center for Freedom of Expression.

In addition to Steinberg, Rev. Pinkney is represented by ACLU staff attorney Dan Korobkin, and ACLU Cooperating Attorneys James J. Walsh and Rebecca O’Reilly of the law firm Bodman LLP. Walsh argued the case in the Court of Appeals.

To read the Michigan Court of Appeals decision, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/pinkneydecision.pdf

To read the religious organizations’ amicus brief, go to: http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/religiousfreedomamicusbrief.pdf

To read the law professors’ amicus brief, go to: http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/professorsamicus.pdf

To read the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression’s amicus brief, go to: http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/thomasjeffersonamicusbrief.pdf

To read the ACLU's merits brief in Rev. Pinkney's appeal, go to: http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/pinkneymeritsbrief.pdf

To read Rev. Pinkney's article, go to: http://www.peoplestribune.org/PT.2007.11/PT.2007.11.18.html

Rana Elmir, Communications Director, ACLU of Michigan, 2966 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
313.578.6816
(f)313.578.6811
www.aclumich.org
The Appeals Court decision was handed down this week.
Rev. Pinkney won the Probation Violation -- Free Speech -- issue (violating his probation by writing an article). He spent over a year in 8 Michigan prisons because the powers in Berrien County wanted to remove him, albiet illegally.


All of Berrien County Judge Dennis Wiley's decisions are rescinded by the Appeals Court. This includes the decision to imprison Pinkney.

As for the voter charges, the Appeals court denied Pinkney a new trial. The decision states that Berrien County committed 13 errors which were "harmless." Rev. Pinkney says that all of the errors were, in fact, harmful.

The decision states, in part:

Judge Butzbaugh agrees that the paraphase of Deuteronomy 28 is not defensible as anything other than hyperbole and that the paraphase could not serve as a lawful basis for revoking defendant probation.[yet Wiley sent Pinkney to prison for a threat, and revoked his probation]

To the extent the prohibition of defamatory and demeaning behavior impinges on defendant's First Amendment rights, the prohibition was not proper as it was not directly related to defendant's rehabilitation nor to the protection of the public.
Because the prohibition was not proper, the trial court abused its discretion in revoking defendant probation, the order revoking defendant probation is reversed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

As federal case continues, developers rush to finish elite golf course on public dunes
Plaintiffs say environmental laws, public trust have been broken; Granholm: '[I]t is exactly the sort of comprehensive approach to revitalization that we have set in motion across Michigan.'
By Eartha Jane Melzer 6/16/09 [emphasis added]

BENTON HARBOR — Developers of a private Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course under construction on public parkland are trying to grow turf atop Jean Klock Park’s Lake Michigan sand dunes and open a portion of the course for business before a decision is reached in the federal case that seeks to stop the project.

Earlier this month, local opponents of the park privatization filed a brief in a Grand Rapids federal court where they argued that developers had evaded federal law by chopping the 530-acre development into smaller pieces in an effort to avoid environmental review of the project. They also argued that Benton Harbor residents and officials were swindled by the deal that involved a swap of 22 acres of dunes for a series of inland parcels that are contaminated with industrial chemicals. The plaintiffs say federal officials approved the deal without knowing the extent of the pollution on these parcels because state officials and developers did not disclose their assessments of the health risks associated with contact with the soil and water on these parcels.

“The only parts of the Paw Paw riverside lands swapped for Jean Klock park that will be safe to walk on are the paths themselves. That is what Harbor Shores own experts have told them,” Plaintiffs attorney Terry Lodge said in a statement, “But don’t take my word for it. Go to the Protect Jean Klock Park website and look for yourselves.”

A hearing on the merits of the case is scheduled for August.

In the meantime, the developer, Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Inc., a non-profit strongly tied to the locally headquartered Whirlpool Corp., has cleared trees from the park, removed a wooden walkway, cut an opening in the sand dunes and built a parking lot on the beach near the water.

Harbor Shores spokeswoman Wendy Dant Chesser said that the organization has hired personnel, including a director of golf, an assistant golf professional director of youth development and aims to open half of the golf course for limited play at some point in July. Prices for play at the elite new course have not yet been established, she said.

Benton Harbor resident and plaintiff Nicole Moon said the Jean Klock Park lakefront was one of the reasons she chose to move to the Southwest Michigan city.

“It was beautiful, untouched, undeveloped. There was so much wildlife and the sounds of the winds through the trees. Now when you go there it is amazing how quiet it is,” she said. “You can’t hear the birds anymore, can’t hear the wind in the cottonwood.”

If the court allows private development in Jean Klock Park, which was deeded to residents of the Benton Harbor in 1917, all public land will be at risk, Moon said.

“This is going to set a precedent for every other park. It’s like saying about the Grand Canyon — nobody is using this let’s fill it up and build something on it.”

The Harbor Shores development has received millions in tax breaks from the state of Michigan.

“This project is going to jump-start Benton Harbor’s economy and give a boost to the entire region,” Gov. Jennifer Granholm said after visiting last May. “And it is exactly the sort of comprehensive approach to revitalization that we have set in motion across Michigan.”

The development, slated to extend for hundreds of acres around the lakefront park, is to include shops, a hotel and 810 units of luxury housing which is being marketed as vacation homes for people in Chicago.

But for all the talk of uplift and community development the project is facing economic challenges, the developers acknowledge.

“The economy is interfering more than the lawsuit,” Chesser said.

Chesser said that 128 people have expressed interest in the planned residential development but no purchase agreements exist.

Some area residents are bitter about what they see as the real goal of the development project that has made a portion of the city’s biggest park off limits to residents in Benton Harbor, one of the state’s poorest cities.

“Speaking from a poor man’s point of view, it’s all about money,” said one local hotel worker who did not want to give his name. “They want to get all the black people out of Benton Harbor.”
http://michiganmessenger.com/21011/as-federal-case-continues-developers-rush-to-finish-elite-golf-course-on-public-dunes-park
U.S. House passes $475 million Great Lakes cleanup bill By Eartha Jane Melzer 6/29/09

[UPTON VOTES AGAINST CLEANING UP GREAT LAKES]


The U.S. House has approved an appropriations bill that designates $475 million for efforts to clean up pollution and stop invasive species in the Great Lakes.
The bill includes:

$147 million to clean up highly toxic rivers and harbors that feed into the lakes
$60 million to prevent and remove invasive species
$98 million to refurbish area near shores and to prevent “non point” pollution from fertilizer and run-off
$105 million to restore and protect habitat and wildlife
$65 million to monitor progress of cleanup

Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph voted against it.

More details about efforts proposed as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which will administer the program.
http://michiganmessenger.com/21863/us-house-passes-475-million-great-lakes-cleanup-bill
Full park access in Benton Harbor will now cost $75 By Eartha Jane Melzer 6/24/09 (emphasis added in several places)

Benton Harbor residents will need to pay $75 to view Lake Michigan from atop the dunes in the city’s lake front Jean Klock Park.
WSJM news reports that a panel that oversees policy at the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course now partially built in the public park has approved a fee schedule for use of the nine-hole course.
The golf course is part of Harbor Shores, a 530 acre commercial and residential real estate development that has been billed as an attempt to alleviate poverty in economically devastated Benton Harbor.
Though the course is largely built, some locals are pursuing a federal case to reverse approvals for the privatization of the city park. These plaintiffs argue that regulators were wrong to permit the development, which never completed an Environmental Impact Statement, and that the project disadvantages a poor African American community by swapping pristine lake front property for contaminated inland parcels.
On Wednesday, the Department of Environmental Quality convened an environmental justice work group meeting in Benton Harbor.
Nicole Moon, one of the plaintiffs in the suit against the golf development, turned down an invitation to participate. She said that past experience of state involvement in Benton Harbor “leads me to believe our voices will once again be ignored and only our participation will be used as a statistic.”
In a letter to Department of Environmental Quality Director Stephen Chester, Moon noted that the environmental justice meeting in Benton Harbor was to be hosted by an organization involved with the Harbor Shores golf development and criticized DEQ for issuing a permit for the project.
“The residents of our city contacted several agencies on behalf of environmental justice.” Moon wrote “… Even as the MDEQ pretends to appear concerned over environmental justice, they’re manipulating the composition of the task force for reasons that may have little to do with improving the quality of environmental justice implementation in Michigan, and a lot to do with silencing opposition to the biggest environmental injustice — the privatization of Jean Klock Park.”

comment: Jean Klock PARK is a park, not just a beach. The beach is less than half of the entire park, which consisted of forested dunes, now wiped out, and wetlands. This is a PRIVATELY owned golf course on PUBLIC land not a public golf course. The remainder of the park will be within the boundaries of their golf course, including the observation tower. What the residents got in exchange for this pristine piece of lakefront are contaminated parcels scattered on the edges of their golf course. I would encourage those who have visited Jean Klock Park to visit what the developer has given the residents in exchange, but be sure to bring your hazmat suit.
They could have easily improved the beach area without taking the fragile ecosystem that is truly the only thing that sets this area apart from other parts of this country and it was to remain open to all forever per the Klock deed- not at 75.00 a round of 9 holes.

http://michiganmessenger.com/21567/full-park-access-in-benton-harbor-will-now-cost-75

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Quacy Roberts Update

Petty revenge by law enforcement, similar to elementary playground shenanigans, only now lethal and life-ruining

Quacy Roberts, Benton Harbor resident who told the truth in court about drug planting by a BH police officer, is now a target. Police and sheriff deputies rushed him against a fence and he ended up in Berrien County jail after having drugs planted on him again. After a few weeks behind bars his girlfriend just provided bond of TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS by putting her house up for collateral. Quacy is free now at great cost to her.

There are about 20 other residents who courageously told the truth about Officer Andrew Collins - you can imagine the fear they live with 24/7 in the scariest county in the state.

Each time cops in this county go after Benton Harbor residents, there is a ripple effect. Children are sent to live with aunts. Spouses and family members are bereft. This is all part of the plan. Whirpool Corp., Rep. Fred Upton, Wendy Dant-Chesser, and the Gang need an ethnic cleansing for their golf course, and by any means necessary, they will get it. Gov. Granholm is their benevolent godmother. And most of Michigan knows nothing about this.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Quotes from the Community

The liberties of our city, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards of our community. It is our duty to defend against all attacks. Our community is in dire need of help. The people are starving in the city of Benton Harbor and Whirlpool wants to build a golf course. --Rev. D. Smith

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate tireless minority keen to set brush fires in the people's mind; looks like we are still on a plantation in Benton Harbor. When are the people going to take a stand for the future of our children? --Gloria Martin

People's Tribune, July 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

Commentary

Concerned citizens with some sense of morality and tax payers in Michigan should be aware of the waste of tax dollars and the inhumane treatment going on in Benton Harbor, Michigan. A gentleman by the name of Quacy Roberts is the latest victim of the Benton Harbor Police, the county sheriff, the corrupt court system in Berrien County, and the all-white powers of St. Joe, Michigan. Excessive waste and incessant need to jail people for drug charges is occuring in Michigan. Benton Harbor police and the Berrien county judicial system are angered by anyone who speaks up about their ability to control and oppress the poor black citizens in Benton Harbor. The police have gotten away with such heinous acts as drug planting, physical abuse similar to Rodney King, and charges that are only juried via white citizens.

Quacy Roberts is the most recent victim. A man of 32, Quacy was walking down the street in Benton Harbor and was literally attacked by a group of police officers one afternoon. He was physically assaulted. Quacy had been a recent victim of the officer who was found guilty of drug plantings and had been a part of citizens who were victimized by the officer (Andrew Collins). As revenge, the police have singled him out to make a tough statement; if you don't succumb to our oppressive power, you will be jailed and we will swallow the key.

Is it HIGH TIME the citizens of Michigan REFUSE to let our tax dollars be wasted on personal vendetta's of corrupt officials. It is high time we take a MORAL stance in Benton Harbor - a city positioned in Jim Crow laws when juxtaposed with St. Joe. How can we turn our backs on the oppression and poverty in Benton Harbor and live with ourselves?

Quacy Roberts needs citizen action. Call the Michigan Dept. of Corrections (517-335-1426), Gov. Granholm (517-335-7858), and call your state representative about this case and the waste in Berrien county - they need a reasonable drug court or case management system for those in need of help. We must not pay over $35,000 (per person) to lock him up when his crime is hard to even identify, and when the officials locking him up are driven by bizarre power and greed. All white juries for black men being charged with drug related crimes is NOT ETHICAL.

New innovative programs must develop to help drug offenders (or those accused of being drug offenders when no real proof is available) and to help the crazy people who are locking them up. In addition, we must be mindful of the politicians who are setting the stage for stealing land (Jean Klock Park) and for denying citizens of such basic services as parks, libraries, and their own rich history. (ST. JOE, MICHIGAN SHOULD BE ASHAMED.)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Benton Harbor & St. Joseph, Michigan:  Interminable Dark Ages

The Innocent Jailing of Quacy Roberts

This is just another story of out-of-control cops using age-old methods of harassment, physical abuse, racism, fear mongering, and evidence planting -- all sanctioned by the white power structure of St. Joseph/Berrien County (Rep. Fred Upton, Whirlpool Corp., etc.) It confounds one who attempts to comprehend how county and local institutions are mired in attitudes and activities that in the year 2009 are considered by most to be immoral and so obviously unjust. Berrien county truly is the land that time forgot.

It’s a story of ANOTHER young, innocent African-American Benton Harbor man being railroaded. This man is a part of a group of people who are suing the city of Benton Harbor and Berrien County - for Cruel and Unusual Punishment for sending them to prison as innocents. It doesn’t take much to understand that the cops are using this man to send a message to anyone who fights back.

The basic story:

Quacy Roberts, age 32, was walking down a Benton Harbor street one day recently when police in two squad cars saw him. They hopped out of their cars, ran up and rushed
him, pushing him against a fence.

They knew who he was. Before BH Officer Andrew Collins was imprisoned this year, Mr. Roberts was one of his many victims. Collins planted more drugs than almost any Benton Harbor officer - on over 200 people it is believed. At his hearing in 2007, Quacy Roberts testified that he was never in possession, and that Collins had planted drugs on him. (This explains the apparent need the police in the squad cars had for stopping Quacy Roberts, plus the fact that he's part of the group suing the city and county.) It should be mentioned, to understand the level of support the federal gov. (and the state) gives to the ultra-corrupt Berrien County, that Officer Andrew Collins was convicted in the federal court NOT for the huge number of lives he ruined through drug planting, but for possession -- he was given 37 months.

Back to the latest story of corruption in St. Joe/Benton Harbor.

After shoving Mr. Roberts into a fence, police searched him and found no drugs.

Two days later they issued a warrant for his arrest. Roberts went to the Berrien County jail, turned himself in, and handed over a bond of $200.

On Friday, June 26 he was found guilty of possession of cocaine by an all-white jury. He had not been in possession of cocaine, and there was no evidence or proof to show that he was. Berrien County all-white juries always go with what the police say.

Quacy Roberts was allowed to go home (?) after being found guilty last Friday.

The big "law enforcers" show: On Monday, the judge issued a warrant for his arrest. WANTED POSTERS WERE ALSO PUT UP ALL OVER BENTON HARBOR. (Wanted posters are a technique used by police to descredit an individual.)

On Tuesday, his house was surrounded by 15 to 20 BH police officers and Berrien county sheriffs, like he was a big time criminal.

Quacy Roberts surrendered and is now in the county jail.