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
Michigan Supreme Court rules in favor of Rev. Edward PinkneyIn 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. 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
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.
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.
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 necessaries 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org