Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Struggle Escalates

In 2009, residents who wanted to challenge corporate control of Benton Harbor, became the majority on the city commission. As the city's economy continued to deteriorate with the global economic crisis and corporate neglect, its financial situation worsened. Then  Gov-Jennifer Granholm appointed an emergency financial manager( EFM )under Public ACT 72 to assume control over Benton Harbor finances. This EFMs was one of a number appointed across Michigan in the 2000s. The EFM had limited power in early 2011, the legislature passed Public Act 4, which turned the EFMs into emergency managers EM with broad powers to overrule elected officials and take dictatorial control of cities and school districts. Benton Harbor was one of the first cities to have an EM. When the people of Michigan overturned Public Act4 by referendum in 2012, the legislature thumbed its nose at the people and promptly passed a new version of the law, public Act 436, which is not subject to referendum.

The emergency manager law allows , the EMs to take over cities and school districts and replace local officials, sell public assets, privatize public services, dismantle collective bargaining agreements and more, They are dictators in the service of the corporations.Between 2010 and early 2014. Benton Harbor had two different EMs, and they stripped city officials of their power, cut city spending and continued giving away public land Whirlpool.

In 2011 James Hightower a puppet of Whirlpool was elected mayor. When Benton Harbor residents proposed that the city enact by referendum a 1% income tax aimed at Whirlpool to help solve the city's financial crisis , Whirlpool and Hightower worked to defeat the measure through a massive misinformation campaign. In 2013 , Pinkney and others launched an effort to recall Hightower. They gathered the required numbers of signatures to force a recall election and turned them into the county clerk, who verified them. This is what you can do when you have unity and work together...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Rev Pinkney sent to prison for quoting the bible.

Rev Pinkney was given one year's probation , which included house arrest for voter fraud conviction. Then Rev Pinkney published an article in the People"s Tribune quoting the Biblical admonition from
Deuteronomy that God will punish those who act unjustly against others. The trial judge declared that this amounted to a personal threat against him, and he found Pinkney guilty of violating his probation and jailed him.In early 2008, another judge sentenced Rev Pinkney to 3-10 years in prison-double the recommendation of the probation department and prosecutor -for quoting the bible in the newspaper article.

Across Michigan and the country, thousands of people and many institutions rallied to Pinkney"s defense, including community, labor, religious and other activists, attorneys, and People's Tribune, other newspapers and other media. As a result of this fight, a Michigan appellate court ordered Rev Pinkney released to house arrest pending a review of his case, and the court eventually , overturned the lower court decision. Rev Pinkney had spent nearly a year in prison.

Let the truth be told, the charges leved against Rev Edward Pinkney in Benton Harbor, Michigan are , but the latest sage in a ruthless pursuit of the naked corporate rule that is gripping the state of Michigan in 2011, current Government Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that codified the fascist offensive already in motion. The law, a.k.a. Emergency Manager law, dispatches unelected , managers to designated cities and school districts who issue edicts that fast track the sale of precious public services , dismantle collective bargaining agreements, and more, They are empowered to even dissolve municipalities and school districts, all the while replacing local elected officials altogether.

Benton Harbor, home of the corporate giant Whirlpool , is a poster child of the Rust Belt's post industrial destruction of the Manufacturing life, we once knew. Benton Harbor is 90% African -American and over 42.6% of the population live in poverty. with its rich Lake Michigan beachfront property park, which has now been stolen from the people. Benton Harbor experienced the wrath of Emergency Managers, more than 17 municipalities and school districts, including Detroit , Flint, and Pontiac have been pulled into the mire of dictatorship.

Rev Pinkney has become the face of resistance to the notion that the working class has no rights that the corporation is bound to respect. In a tremendous victory for the people against corporate power, Rev Pinkney was exonerated by the Michigan Supreme Court. This victory is a giant step toward overturning the spread of corporate dictatorship to the rest of Michigan and the nation. 
  

Friday, July 06, 2018

Whirlpool Destroyed Benton Harbor.

As the bulk of the manufacturing jobs either replaced or sent elsewhere. Whirlpool set its sights on turning Benton Harbor-St Joseph area into a lakeside resort for the wealthy. The former CEO of Whirlpool advocated in 2003-4 for developing a 500 million marina/residential/golf course complex that would take 465 acres of Benton Harbor. It would privatize the city's only beach and pay the city less than $1million for the property. Rev Edward Pinkney, a Black community activist in Benton Harbor, and many others, opposed the plan because it would do nothing for the poor and would deprive the city of some of its greatest assets. Benton Harbor City Commissioner Glen Yarbrough was local politician supporting the plan.

As the largest local employer, Whirlpool has historically been the single biggest influence on local government in Berrien County. In 2004 Pinkney and the organization Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO) circulated petitions to recall commissioner Yarbrough (who is Black ) because Yarbrough was representing only Whirlpool's interests, not the community's. Pinkney and BANCO network rallied the community to get out the absentee vote, winning the recall election by 54 votes. Whirlpool's local political forces -Yarbrough, the local police and sheriff's department. and Berrien County Judiciary-then went into action to overturn the recall election,to isolate and crush Pinkney, and to contain the people of Benton Harbor.

Voter fraud was used as an excuse by the county prosecutor to sue the city to overturn the recall election. Then Pinkney was framed, he was arrested and indicted on trumped -up " voter fraud " charges and in March of 2005, the first trial ended in a hung jury, then March 2007 Rev Pinkney was convicted by an all-white jury, that was motivated by something other than the truth.. There was ample evidence to show that Pinkney was framed, but the judge refuse to allow it to be admitted during the trial. The city clerk, was forced out of office.      

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Benton Harbor A harbinger of America 's future

How could a minister in America be arrested and imprisoned for quoting the Bible? It may seem strange, but this very thing happen in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

As the economic crisis continues to grip America and threaten to get deeper, in working class communities across the country are beginning  to stand up and demand that the government serve the people's interests not those of the corporations. And as they stood up, the people have come under fire from the corporations and government. This is especially true in America's former industrial heartland, the rust belt.

The struggle that has taken place in recent years in Benton Harbor is a case in point, and one that holds a number of lessons for the America people. The fight in Benton Harbor is a war whether Americans will have prosperity and democracy, or live in poverty under the heel of open corporate rule.

Benton Harbor and its sister community across the river, St. Joseph are in Berrien County, on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan. Historically , the Whirlpool Corporation, a global appliance manufacturer has been the largest single employer and main political influence in the county.. The factory jobs its provided gave the workers of the now predominantly Black Benton Harbor and predominantly white St. Joseph stability and good standard of living. Then in the late 1990's in a pattern typical of the Rust Belt, the jobs began to disappear, partly because of globalization and partly because advance technology replaced manufacturing labor with robots and computers. What had once been a relatively prosperous working class in Benton Harbor , became plagued with unemployment and poverty as Whirlpool and other , corporations began transitioning the area from an industrial to a tourist, real estate and service based economy. This process has prompted a resistance from the people of Benton Harbor, and that resistance prompted a political attack on the people by Whirlpool and its local political machine.

Let 's make this struggle in Benton Harbor a victory for all who are victim of the economic crisis in every city and town in America.         

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Minister in the forefront of the fight for democracy and to stop Whirlpool power.

Rev. Edward Pinkney is founder of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO), an organization that defends Benton Harbor, Michigan poor against unjust incarceration and works to reform the court system.The largely African-American city, once a thriving industrial town, now has over 60% poverty rate and extremely high incarceration especially the youth.

In recent years, the powerful Whirlpool Corporation led a redevelopment plan that included the take over of valuable lakefront property(deeded to the city of Benton Harbor). In a bitter struggle led by Rev Pinkney, The community exercised their democratic right to a recall election of a public official backed by Whirlpool that assisted the take over. In 2007, after a successful recall election, Rev Pinkney was arrested for "voter fraud" and convicted by an all-white jury that was motivated by something other than the truth.

In 2014 Rev Pinkney was again charged with "voter fraud" in a recall attempt of another public official backed by Whirlpool. Around this time, the state of Michigan signed into law new legislation that allowed for the ouster of a city's elected officials to set the stage for corporations to take over the public assets of many Michigan cities. This is the environment, which gave rise to the second attack on Rev Pinkney. It was stated by the court that no evidence against Rev Pinkney was needed to send him to prison. He was convicted by an all white jury. His appeal to the Michigan Appellate Court was denied, stating he must have told somebody to change the dates, no evidence was presented on this theory and he served 30 months in prison under life threatening conditions.

In a tremendous victory for the people, Michigan Supreme Court exonerated Rev Pinkney in May 2018. The attack on Rev Pinkney and democracy in Benton Harbor shows  that corporate power is determined to crush anyone who stands in its way. It is a harbinger of the future of America if people do not act. We must confront the evil ,wick, empire.

Invite Rev Pinkney to speak in your city! for more information on booking Rev Pinkney, contact Speaker for a New America at 800-691 6888 or email banco9342@sbcglobal.net or call 269 925-0001        

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Court victory for freedom fighter, activist reverend in Benton Harbor/ BY Brian Muhammad of the FINAL CALL NEWSPAPER

Rev Edward Pinkney at 69, the veteran community activist gained a major win over Berrien County, Michigan. Where he was charged , convicted and imprisoned for election forgery. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed with a unanimous 6-o vote to throw out the charges against Rev Pinkney. The former political prisoner talked to the final call about May 1, Court decision meant in an exclusive interview.

"I want the people to look at this as a victory for the community" said Rev Pinkney " Here's the thing"he said , we don't get a whole lot of victories.... especially as a Black Man'

Rev Pinkney was convicted in 2014 on an election forgery charge in Benton Harbor, Michigan by an all white jury and sentenced to two and half to 10 years in prison. Rev Pinkney served the two and half years and was released before the high court reversed the conviction.

For Rev Pinkney and his supporters the charges and conviction was a travesty of justice. They consistently argued  that there is no such charge as forgery on a recall petition.

The high court justices determined that Rev Pinkney was not properly charged and thus falsely convicted of election-law forgery.Therefore  his conviction must be vacated and the charges dismissed. court documents explaining the decision.

The case stemmed from an active effort to recall than Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower , however , sightly over 300 names were required and the activist collected over 700. The Berrien County clerk disputed five signature that triggered the activist's arrest, that many believe was a political motivated ruse against Rev Pinkney.

Benton Harbor is 83 miles from Grand Rapids and has a population of 9,860 and Black make up about 85% of the population according to U.S.census.
It's crystal clear that Berrien County has an axe grind with Rev Pinkney, said current Mayor Marcus Muhammad, Berrien County reputed to be highly racist, lost a legal battle once before to the Reverend in 2009. At a time he was placed in prison, accused of violating his probation and threatening a judge with a bible verse. The higher court ruled against Berrien County forcing them to release him. In both instances Rev Pinkney triumphed against a system notorious for railroading people said Marcus Muhammad.

It's a great victory where a judicial system lynches and hangs Black men and women with trumped up charges said Marcus Muhammad" the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan  told me you have to see Reverend Pinkney suffering because if it was not for him, you would not be in the esteemed position to run for the mayor of the city of Benton Harbor" said Mayor Muhammad in 2015 , he won in the largest landslide in the city history against the incumbent Mayor.

Mayor Muhammad is also a student minister in the Nation of Islam. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was a supporter of Rev Pinkney.

Rev Pinkney said he never felt defeated , but more emboldened while incarcerated and now after release he said , he will never stop his activism. " All they did was just contain me temporarily and even inside the prison system I was still doing some of the stuff that was need to be done" he said I came out swinging a big stick, I wanted them to know they didn't do nothing.

He explained his spirit to never back down when the authorities began angling charges against him.

I come to fight, he told supporters during the trial. there 's not a time in my life, if they say than I did something - bring it on" Rev Pinkney said, I wanted them to know that I am not one of them every day Black men out here....... I 'm out here to fight for the people.

Although he has a track record of standing up some people in the community distanced themselves from Rev Pinkney and his wife, while he was jailed. They weren't sure an some began to believe  the
charges. This court victory was a needed shot of hope for the community. Since the announcement, he drives down the street and people wave. They want to talk and show support.

"It showed them what we can do if we stop playing around and start working together" he shared, it just shows , if you continue to fight these demons, you can win..

When asked if he planned to take legal action for what happened , he responded" we do have that as an option and we are weighting all as we speak .... there will be something". Unity is what Rev Pinkney want out of the ordeal. It's not only about Rev Pinkney. It's about the future of our children, he said.The outspoken pastor has been on the front line fighting against gentrification issues along with other economic and social injustices affecting everyday people.

When asked where he go from here, the reverend activist said his church is called God Household of Faith that includes a trade school with training programs called Attacking Our Community. People will be trained in trades like carpentry, brick Masonry, plumbing and electrician work.

I'm going to change the atmosphere where we start keeping our money circulating in our own community  and don't go outside ..... "this is what I am going to do for the people."

He is also involved in an anti-gentrification campaign against the upcoming 2018 Senior PGA golf tournament. Rev Pinkney and Occupy the PGA organizers are protesting moves by Harbor Shores Development, Whirlpool Corp and PGA, whose development projects have negatively impacted Black residents who lived in Benton Harbor for generations, now are being pushed out, they argue.

Benton Harbor continues to be a city under siege "Rev Pinkney said ' it is a Coup d' tat in Benton Harbor by Whirlpool Corp. The mishandling of public trust couldn't be more massive, unjust inhumane and unconstitutional ' So for Rev Edward Pinkney, the fight continues only with renewed energy over the court decision.

It had uplifted the whole community even, though, I had spend 30 months in prison, the good news is that we achieved something during the process said Rev Pinkney   

Friday, June 01, 2018

Rev. Pinkney, Home from Prison, People of Benton Harbor Vow Fight Back During PGA Golf Fest

Police occupy the PGA, prevent march
Police murdering, molesting, and framing up Black citizens
Berrien County prosecutor Sepic has recommended that all 100 of the county’s “juvenile lifers” be re-sentenced to LWOP, violating U.S. Supreme Court decisions
Juvenile Lifers for Justice leader Efren Paredes, Jr. of Benton Harbor fights back

By Diane Bukowski

Including special video presentation by Mac Speaking (Leona McElvene)

May 30, 2018

Benton Harbor—Rev. Edward Pinkney, home from two and one half years in prison, and supporters from Chicago, New York, and Columbus, Ohio joined with the people of Benton Harbor Sat. May 26 to celebrate the Michigan Supreme Court’s reversal of Pinkney’s fraudulent conviction May 1. Standing on the steps of the Benton Harbor City Hall, they chanted “FIGHT BACK” against the corporate takeover of their city by Whirlpool, the racist police state and courts, the destruction of the city’s public education system, and the city’s 49.2 percent poverty rate.

(See Michigan Supreme Court opinion exonerating Pinkney at: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Pinkney-supreme-court-victory.pdf.)

The rally was held as hundreds of wealthy golfers and fans, 99 percent white, descended on this 86 percent Black town to watch the 77th Senior PGA Tour held at the luxurious Harbor Shores Jack Nicklaus golf course, which abuts the city’s gorgeous Lake Michigan beaches off Jean Klock Park. The park is publicly-owned land, but Whirlpool and its subsidiary Kitchen Aid have claimed it and the surrounding areas for the golf course and multi-million dollar housing development.

“OCCUPY THE PGA,” the rally theme, became “police occupy the PGA,” as squadrons of Benton Harbor and Berrien County police turned marchers back from any downtown outlet approaching the golf course. “Parking for the PGA” signs were posted everywhere as travelers entered, even in the poorest stretches of this state’s poorest city.

Read the whole story and see photos and videos at Voice of Detroit!


Saturday, May 26, 2018

SUPREME COURT VOIDS PINKNEY CONVICTION

"Berrien County [MI] Prosecutor Mike Sepic, who also prosecuted Pinkney, has recommended that all 100 of the County’s juvenile lifers be re-sentenced to die in prison."

*                              *                                  *                            *

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Rev. Edward Pinkney (left center with hat) and wife Dorothy Pinkney (behind woman in red jacket) with supporters after Michigan Supreme Court hearing. Photo: Joseph Peery
 MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS REV. PINKNEY CONVICTION
DEMONSTRATE IN BENTON HARBOR MAY 26, 2018, 11 A.M.
FREE MICHIGAN’S JUVENILE LIFERS!
By the People’s Tribune Editorial Board
May, 2018 
Below: Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report interviews Rev. Pinkney

Follow

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In a victory for the people in the fight against naked corporate power and defending democracy, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled 6-0 that Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan, was improperly charged with five felony counts of election forgery in 2014 by the Berrien County prosecutor, that he was improperly tried and sentenced by the Berrien County Circuit Court, and improperly served 30 months in prison as a result.
(See complete MSC ruling at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Pinkney-supreme-court-victory.pdf. It remands Pinkney’s case to the trial court in Berrien County to comply with its orders to exonerate and free Rev. Pinkney. Rev. Pinkney said the trial court had 21 days to comply.)
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Rev. Edward Pinkney speaks out against Whirlpool’s corporate takeover of Benton Harbor, and Snyder’s Emergency Manager law May 26, 2012.
In overturning Pinkney’s conviction, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the statute he was sentenced for supposedly violating did not create any substantive criminal offense at all, but was merely a sentencing provision for other election forgery offenses which Rev. Pinkney was not charged with. The state Supreme Court ruling marked a rebuke of the Michigan Court of Appeals, which had ruled against Pinkney. 

The People’s Tribune congratulates Rev. Pinkney, the people of Benton Harbor and his supporters across the country on this victory. Rev. Pinkney has been a leader of the struggle against the corporate dictatorship in Benton Harbor and Michigan for many years.

The Whirlpool Corporation dominates Benton Harbor, and Pinkney has been in the forefront of the fight against Whirlpool’s efforts to take over the Lake Michigan beachfront property and public parks in Benton Harbor for private profit.

He has also defended democracy in the fight against the dictatorial emergency manager system imposed by the state in Benton Harbor and elsewhere in Michigan. The emergency manager system opens up cherished public assets such as land and even water to be handed over to the corporations. Rev. Pinkney continues to fight police repression in Benton Harbor, and he helps local people have their rights respected in court.
 The assault on democracy in Benton Harbor
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Rev. Pinkney, with wife Dorothy in front, is supported in his Detroit court battle to retain leadership of Benton Harbor NAACP.
When Rev. Pinkney stood up for Benton Harbor, corporate power used the race card to try and shut him up and to destroy democracy in the town. Benton Harbor, a poor Black community, could be easily isolated. An all-white jury from affluent towns was selected to judge Pinkney; jurists had not lived under the oppression of emergency management where corporate officials replace elected officials.  

During the trial, the prosecution admitted there was no physical evidence linking Rev. Pinkney to the crime they were charging him with. And yet the prosecution repeatedly introduced examples of Rev. Pinkney exercising his First Amendment right to free speech, political activities and community activism as evidence he committed the crime.

The corporations thus set the stage to destroy democracy in all of Michigan, and then throughout the United States. The race question has historically been used by the powerful in America to divide and conquer the working class. Today, racial division is one of the main weapons being used to impose fascism on all of us. To win this war we must take this historic weapon of race away from the enemy, and fight for the political as well as economic rights of all Americans. 
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Rev. Pinkney (r) speaks at first mass rally in Detroit against what became Public Act 4, the emergency manager law. Photo: Dale Rick
The attack on democracy and Rev. Pinkney’s conviction symbolizes an entire process under way in America. The once stable working class community of Benton Harbor has been devastated by automation and globalization. Today, the former industrial workers have become the marginally or permanently unemployed, and the open rule of corporate power is arising to oppose their struggle. The governing bodies that once controlled us by buying up the people’s leaders now turn to intimidation and brute force. The corporate attack launched on Benton Harbor is now being repeated in one form or another across Michigan and the country.

Benton Harbor shows that the corporations have continued to escalate their control over the government. That is the foundation of American fascism. They see the little democracy that still remains in our country as an obstacle to their rule. They are determined to destroy it before the deteriorating economic conditions kick the people awake.
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Rev. Pinkney asks that everyone continue the boycott of Whirlpool, as well as the Harbor Shores development, and the Sr. PGA held at its golf course, all backed by Whirlpool.
A major battle has been won, but the war is not over. Fascism consolidates down below—by gaining victory after small victory until it has the base for the “important” struggles. This is why it is so important that the revolutionary and democratic forces learn to confront fascist, corporate power at every turn.

From time to time an attack against democracy is so blatant that it symbolizes the entire process. This is the importance of the victory in Benton Harbor. The only way we’re going to ultimately achieve democracy is if the people control the necessities of life. True democracy is the rule of the people. People can’t rule if they’re living in the streets or working two jobs just to survive. If you control the necessaries of life, you are a free person. There’s only one 
solution. We have to build a huge movement to take over the corporations and run them in the interest of humanity. 

The defense of our leaders is critical to building such a movement. The case of Rev. Pinkney and Benton Harbor shows the importance of the American people taking a stand before it is too late. People rallied in support of Rev. Pinkney because of the injustice and also because he exhibited the characteristics of a new kind of leader, one that cannot be bought off or side tracked from a consistent fight for the needs of the people. When leaders like Rev. Pinkney come under attack, we must defend them. A movement that does not defend its leaders cannot grow. 

The People’s Tribune has covered this fight from the beginning. We urge our readers to take this newspaper out and help awaken America. Learn more about the history of the Benton Harbor struggle by ordering copies of the People’s Tribune pamphlet Benton Harbor, MI: Fighting the Corporate Dictatorship in America’s Rust Belt. To order, email info@peoplestribune.org or call 800-691-6888. A $4 donation is suggested for each pamphlet. 

Rev. Pinkney is available to speak. To schedule him as a speaker, contact: Speakers for a New America at 800-691-6888 or email info@speakersforanewamerica.com/
 We encourage reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source.
Copyright © 2018 People’s Tribune. Visit us at http://peoplestribune.org  

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VOD: We spoke briefly with Rev. Pinkney May 21, asking him about 40,000 Michigan prisoners still left behind in the state’s concentration camps. Experts say at least 30 percent are innocent, as in the case of Charles Lewis, and another 50 percent did not get fair trials. At least 70 percent are people of color.
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Efren Paredes, Jr.
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Charles K.K. Lewis
Still languishing in prison are 247 Michigan juvenile lifers, out of 363, in violation of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016). These rulings held that juvenile life without parole is unconstitutional, “cruel and unusual” punishment, and that “only the rarest” child should be sentenced to die in prison.

Among them is Efren Paredes, Jr., one of Berrien County’s 100 juvenile lifers. Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic, who also prosecuted Pinkney, has recommended that all 100 of the County’s juvenile lifers be re-sentenced to die in prison.

Federal troops must be sent to Michigan to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court decisions and liberate Michigan’s child lifers, just as they were sent to Southern schools to enforce Brown v. the Board of Education.

Sign the petition for Efren Paredes, Jr. at https://www.change.org/p/efrenuncaged-gmail-com-efren-paredes-jr-resentencing-hearing-support-letter

http://voiceofdetroit.net