Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Derailing of Democracy

The State of Michigan Public Act 436, the Emergency Manager Law, was hastily introduced and passed during a lame duck session of the state legislature just 37 days after Michigan voters overturned an earlier version. This law allows the governor to appoint anyone of his/her choosing to any municipality deemed in probable financial distress, removing all power from local elected officials. It gives the governor the power, through his appointed proxy, to run everything, to make financial decisions, to supersede local ordinances, to sell public assets, and even to unilaterally break union contracts.

Since this law was passed 17 municipalities, including school districts with predominantly African American populations, have been placed under an emergency manager. This law is designed to dismantle democracy and suppress the rights of citizens. An internal state analysis concluded that this bill allows the emergency managers too much power and control over local units of government, stripping local elected officials of power and is therefore anti-democratic.

One of the cities placed under an emergency manager, Benton Harbor, illustrates how corporations use emergency manager laws to dismiss the will of the people. The global Whirlpool Corporation is headquartered in Benton Harbor, in a community that has been under attack through efforts fueled by the corporation to gentrify the community and to privatize public property and resources.

Rev. Pinkney is Benton Harbor's best-known African American ctivist who has fought for decades for the rights of Benton Harbor's poorest citizens, including leading a petition drive to recall theh nation's most corrupt mayor, James Hightower. Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to 30 months to 10 years in prison by an all-white jury that was motivated by something other than the truth. Let the truth be told, the charges leveled against Rev. Pinkney in Benton Harbor by the Berrien County criminal enterprise--the trial court itself--are the latest in the saga of ruthless pursuit of naked corporate rule that is gripping the state of Michigan.

The all-white jury's conviction for forgery with absolutely no evidence is a crime all by itself, alleging that he changed dates on recall petitions despite hearing testimony that other people changed dates and some dates were changed by the signers themselves.

This is an attempt to silence a defender of the rights of the poor, and yet another example of how corporate driven politics, and the corrupt court system, is disproportionately used against African Americans and other people of color, as well as a tool to silence dissent against a corporate-driven agenda against the working class.

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. Charges against Rev. Pinkney must be overturned, as a step toward overturning the spread of this model to the rest of Michigan and the nation.