Tuesday, June 21, 2016

James Hightower: A Puppet for Whirlpool Corporation

In 2011 James Hightower, a puppet of Whirlpool and Lakeland Hospital, was elected mayor in Benton Harbor, Michigan. When Benton Harbor residents proposed that the city enact by referendum a 1 percent income tax aimed at Whirlpool to help solve the city's financial crisis, Whirlpool, Lakeland Hospital and Mayor James Hightower worked to defeat the measure through a massive misinformation campaign. 

In 2013, Rev. Pinkney and others launched an effort to recall Hightower. They gathered more than the required number of signatures to force a recall election and turned them in to the County Clerk, who verified the group had more than enough good signatures.

The recall election was scheduled to be held on May 6, 2014, but at the Mayor's request, James Hightower, Whirlpool Corporation, the Berrien County Sheriff Department, and  prosecutor Mike Sepic began investigating the petitions campaign to save the Mayor puppet from public humiliation and exposure. 

Their tactic was to intimidate residents who signed the petitions and build a false, misguided, malicious case against Rev. Pinkney.

In April 2014 prosecutors charged Rev. Pinkney with vote fraud (five felonies) after an alarming, military style display of force. On April 24, 2014 a SWAT team was sent to Rev. Pinkney's home on a mission -- bring Pinkney in “dead or alive” was the message loud and clear.  

On May 1, Judge John Dewane cancelled the recall election. 

At the preliminary hearing no evidence (direct or indirect) was presented, no eye witness, no confession, nothing was presented to convict Rev. Pinkney. Judge Sterling Schrock, who presided over the Pinkney case, was motivated by racial prejudice. Judge Schrock’s decision was not based on a desire to achieve a just, fair, moral outcome. Judge Sterling Schrock ruled that the trial could go forward with absolutely no evidence to support its findings. Rev. Pinkney was found guilty by an all-white jury that was motivated by something other than the truth. 

Pinkney, his family, friends, and supporters were delivered an egregious miscarriage of justice when Schrock sentenced this 66-year-old man to 2.5-10 years in prison. 

The attack on democracy and Rev. Pinkney in Benton Harbor shows that corporate power structure is determined to crush anyone who stands in its way. It is part of a process underway across America in various forms. 

After the once stable, working-class community of Benton Harbor was devastated, Mayor Jame Hightower, the puppet mayor for Whirlpool Corporation, was defeated in November 2015 by a landslide, and Hightower has been recently terminated from Lakeland Hospital. We must continue to fight for justice for all. We must confront the corporations that are destroying this country and fight back!

Rev. Pinkney

Marquette Branch Prison