Tuesday, May 10, 2016

National Lawyers Guild Press Release


From the Detroit/Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild

May 10, 2016


John Royal, President, Detroit/Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers
(313) 962-3738


GRAND RAPIDS – The Detroit/Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild
(the “NLG”) stands with veteran community activist Rev. Edward Pinkney, who
was wrongfully convicted of five counts of forgery in connection with
petitions submitted to recall the mayor of Benton Harbor. The NLG filed a
friend-of-the-court brief on Rev. Pinkney’s behalf in his appeal.

Rev. Pinkney’s appellate attorney, Timothy Holloway, will participate in
oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals in Grand
Rapids on May 11, 2016, at 10:00 a.m.  Mark Fancher, of the Racial Justice
Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, who filed a
friend-of-the-court brief for the ACLU on behalf of Rev. Pinkney, will also
participate.  A press conference will be held outside the courthouse at
11:30 a.m. after oral arguments.

“There are so many violations of Rev. Pinkney’s rights, it’s hard to
believe.  Three witnesses stated emphatically that Rev. Pinkney was not
present when another person altered the petition,” said long-time Michigan
civil rights attorney and NLG member Hugh “Buck” Davis.  “The prosecutor in
the case was allowed to use Rev. Pinkney’s community activism as evidence.
This is a serious violation of the Reverend’s First Amendment rights and
due process.  When the defense attorney raised objections, the judge called
his constitutionally-based arguments ‘emotional rhetoric.’”

Local government and business interests have targeted Rev. Pinkney for his
human rights activism. A SWAT team surrounded Rev. Pinkney’s home and
reportedly arrested him at gunpoint on non-violent charges.  Rev. Pinkney
maintains that these tactics are being used to intimidate all Benton Harbor
residents who speak up against Whirlpool Corporation and local officials.

Rev. Pinkney and other members of BANCO (“Black Autonomy Network Community
Organization”) have protested the four emergency managers installed in
Benton Harbor by the governor.  They protested the sale by the emergency
manager of Benton Harbor city parkland to a private developer for a golf
course and luxury development.

Rev. Pinkney and BANCO also sought to recall Mayor James Hightower after he
opposed the imposition of an income tax that would have affected Whirlpool
Corporation, which is headquartered in Benton Harbor, a city with a
population that is 96% African American and that has among the highest
rates of unemployment and poverty in the state.