Friday, August 13, 2010

August 10 Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course Demonstration

About 100 people marched through Benton Harbor on August 10, 2010, the day Whirlpool opened it's Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, despite two court cases pending. We stopped at the golf course entry where we were met by at least 4 sheriff's deputies, 6 Benton Harbor Township police, and 4 Benton Harbor police. Our chanting was loud, especially when Julie Swidwa of the local Herald Palladium, attempted to interview Rev. Edward Pinkney, organizer of the demonstration and local NAACP president. "Julie is one-sided!!" was chanted over and over - the people had at least this one opportunity to let Swidwa hear what is thought of her "reporting," especially the hit jobs she's done on Pinkney over a decade. There was no interview. In a gratuitous show of power, police escorted her away. Whirlpool knows that media are the prime shapers of opinion; the company paper serves them well.

Other chants included, "Jack Nicklaus Go Home!," "Marcus Robinson Go Home!," and "Jean Klock Park was deeded to the people!" (Robinson works in "community development" for Whirlpool.) 130 media outlets sent reporters to cover the opening, so people in many states viewed the demonstration as part of the golf course coverage.

After the golf course protest, a rally was held on a nearby grassy area with speakers from Benton Harbor, Detroit, New York, Minneapolis, southern Illinois, Chicago, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, and elsewhere. Their insightful words made evident their understanding of the era of corporate control we now live under. Government and corporation as one (fascism). And, how corporations prey on the poor. In the case of Benton Harbor, Whirlpool is carrying out a hostile takeover of the city's Lake Michigan beaches, parks, and land. Endangered plant and animal species are of no concern to Whirlpool. African-American people were also in the way, hence, arguably the most aggressively prejudicial and harsh law enforcement/court system in the state (Berrien County). Benton Harbor citizens get time for walking down the "wrong" street. As attorney Buck Davis wrote:

“The thrust [of the county courthouse] is to physically remove and destroy families through the use of the criminal justice system. Every person they can put in jail; every person whose voting rights they can revoke with a felony conviction; every person they can cause to lose their job by putting them on probation; every person they can cause to lose the ability to pay for basic necessities through imposing ruinous court costs and probation is all part of the process. In the 1960s, it was called Negro removal. In Bosnia, it was called ethnic cleansing. It could be called genocide, the removal of the minority population for the purpose of redevelopment of the land. That’s what’s happening in Benton Harbor and the foremost leader of the resistance is Rev. Edward Pinkney.”

Whirlpool Vice President Jeff Noel told U. of Mich. business school students and faculty that if you want poor peoples' land, and have justice groups "on your back," simply bring in Habitat for Humanity to build a few houses and donate some appliances. Part of the land he and his corporate partners wanted was deeded in perpetuity to the citizens of Benton Harbor in 1917 by John Klock, a land owner who's infant daughter died. In a town ceremony, Klock spoke of people who owned no land but would always have this park, and named it after his infant daughter: Jean Klock Park. The largest appliance manufacturer in the world, which has outsourced most of it's jobs leaving Benton Harbor in dire poverty, has enough lawyers to get around the minor inconvenience of a deed.

In a video no longer accessible on the web, former Whirlpool CEO Dave Whitwam stated that this is the last and largest piece (530 acres) of prime real estate along the Lake Michigan shoreline. (Parkland is real estate?) Whirlpool is busy inventing terminology to justify their takeover. An example: they call this the first ever "Master Planned Community." It will have a town center with retail shops and restaurants. (Are they replacing Benton Harbor with a new town?) Deeded parkland for the people is becoming a posh enclave for the wealthy.

A stretch of the most pristine, natural beach front is to be no more. Ever. One protester said that people who grew up in this area and love the land and lake feel like an arm is being cut off.

Judges keep ruling in favor of Whirlpool in cases brought by preservationists.