Friday, May 27, 2016

Press release: “Occupy the PGA” Rallies in Benton Harbor, Michigan

from Benton Harbor BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community Organization)
May 27, 2016

David Sole,
Joe Peery [email banco9342 [at] sbcglobal [dot] net] and

“Occupy the PGA” Rallies in Benton Harbor, Michigan
Benton Harbor residents and supporters from across the region protest gentrification, racism

BENTON HARBOR—On Saturday, May 28, Occupy the PGA—a coalition of Benton Harbor residents, community groups, and allies from across the region—will hold a rally and march in protest of the 2016 Senior PGA golf tournament. The rally will begin at 11am at Benton Harbor City Hall (200 East Wall St.)

This year’s tournament will be the third since the construction of the controversial Harbor Shores golf course and luxury condominium development, backed by Whirlpool Corp. It also marks the third Occupy the PGA protest. The coalition has demanded that the Senior PGA transfer 25% of its profits to Benton Harbor, where nearly half of the residents live in poverty and over 90% are black ( Occupy the PGA also indicts Harbor Shores and the Senior PGA for its unfulfilled promises of significant jobs and tax revenue for Benton Harbor residents.

The group also continues to demand a public acknowledgement at the tournament of the “theft of public park land for private profit,” referring to the lease of 22 acres of dunes on Jean Klock Park for transformation into three holes of the Harbor Shores golf course. The group attributes the transfer to the “complete undermining of democratic structures” via former Democratic Governor Granholm’s installment of an emergency financial manager in Benton Harbor in December 2010. Benton Harbor was the first predominantly Black Michigan city in recent years to be subjected to an emergency financial manager.

Occupy the PGA organizers see the Harbor Shores development as a prime example of “racist genocide by gentrification,” designed to force out Black community members who have lived in Benton Harbor for generations. Instead of bringing jobs and opportunities, such luxury developments at best bring only a few low-wage service jobs for locals.

Rev. Edward Pinkney of the local community group BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community Organization) said, “Benton Harbor continues to be a city under siege. The mishandling of public trust couldn't be more massive, unjust, inhumane, and unconstitutional. The Senior PGA needs to hear our voice. It's time to stand up and fight for what's right.”

BANCO has lead multiple petition drives to recall local officials as one strategy of their campaign to promote democracy, civil rights, and economic justice in the county. Pinkney is currently appealing a conviction for allegedly changing dates on a petition drive to recall former Benton Harbor mayor James Hightower. Hightower’s opposition to a city income tax that would have affected Whirlpool Corp. resulted in the community’s effort to recall him.