Michigan struggles focus on racism, police brutality
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published Aug 19, 2010
The economic crisis has hit the workers in Michigan, a state of heavy industry, especially hard, and has also brought with it an intensified struggle against racism. These brief reports cover three different areas of the state.
March in Benton Harbor slams land grab
More than 100 people rallied and marched through the southwest Michigan city of Benton Harbor on Aug. 10 to protest the opening of the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. The course is located on Lake Michigan in part of Jean Klock Park, land that was deeded decades ago for use by the African-American working-class community. The course was built on a part of the park now known as Harbor Shores, where, in addition to the golf course, there are plans to construct expensive condominiums.
The Nicklaus Signature Golf Course will host the PGA Sr. Championships for both 2012 and 2014. Benton Harbor, a majority African-American city, has been devastated by the loss of jobs coupled with police repression, which sparked a four-day rebellion in 2003.
Demonstrators also blasted the Whirlpool Corporation — which is based in Benton Harbor — for its refusal to pay adequate taxes and utility costs for large-scale use of local land and resources. Whirlpool announced recently that it would build a new, world headquarters in the city, even though critics have accused the appliance manufacturing firm of not hiring local residents.
The Rev. Edward Pinkney, president of the local NAACP branch and a former political prisoner in Michigan, led the demonstration, which attracted Benton Harbor residents as well as people from around the country. The march began with a rally at City Hall and concluded with a picket at the gate of the golf course and then a speak-out in the park across from the new Harbor Shores development.
Those in attendance included Ralph Poynter of the Free Lynne Stewart Committee in New York; Fred Hampton Jr. of Chicago, son of slain Illinois Black Panther Party chairman, Fred Hampton; Larry Pinkney from Minneapolis and a writer for the Black Commentator; Ron Scott and Sandra Hines of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality; as well as members of other organizations from Detroit such as the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Workers World Party, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs.
Arrest made in serial killing of Black men
A suspect has been arrested in the investigation surrounding the stabbing deaths of five African-American men in Flint, Mich., and the wounding of at least 15 other people, including one white male. Similar attacks have taken place in Leesburg, Va., and Toledo, Ohio, where four reported assaults, none of which were fatal, took place.
The suspect arrested is a citizen of Israel and is reported to be a Christian of Arab descent. Most people who knew the suspect, including family members, expressed shock over his arrest, which occurred as he was boarding a plane to Tel Aviv.
The attacks have come as a further affront to the residents of Flint, which is one of the hardest-hit cities in Michigan as a result of the economic crisis. Even during the 1980s, Flint experienced the unprecedented closing of automotive plants that left tens of thousands of workers idle.