Saturday, June 09, 2018

Court victory for freedom fighter, activist reverend in Benton Harbor/ BY Brian Muhammad of the FINAL CALL NEWSPAPER

Rev Edward Pinkney at 69, the veteran community activist gained a major win over Berrien County, Michigan. Where he was charged , convicted and imprisoned for election forgery. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed with a unanimous 6-o vote to throw out the charges against Rev Pinkney. The former political prisoner talked to the final call about May 1, Court decision meant in an exclusive interview.

"I want the people to look at this as a victory for the community" said Rev Pinkney " Here's the thing"he said , we don't get a whole lot of victories.... especially as a Black Man'

Rev Pinkney was convicted in 2014 on an election forgery charge in Benton Harbor, Michigan by an all white jury and sentenced to two and half to 10 years in prison. Rev Pinkney served the two and half years and was released before the high court reversed the conviction.

For Rev Pinkney and his supporters the charges and conviction was a travesty of justice. They consistently argued  that there is no such charge as forgery on a recall petition.

The high court justices determined that Rev Pinkney was not properly charged and thus falsely convicted of election-law forgery.Therefore  his conviction must be vacated and the charges dismissed. court documents explaining the decision.

The case stemmed from an active effort to recall than Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower , however , sightly over 300 names were required and the activist collected over 700. The Berrien County clerk disputed five signature that triggered the activist's arrest, that many believe was a political motivated ruse against Rev Pinkney.

Benton Harbor is 83 miles from Grand Rapids and has a population of 9,860 and Black make up about 85% of the population according to U.S.census.
It's crystal clear that Berrien County has an axe grind with Rev Pinkney, said current Mayor Marcus Muhammad, Berrien County reputed to be highly racist, lost a legal battle once before to the Reverend in 2009. At a time he was placed in prison, accused of violating his probation and threatening a judge with a bible verse. The higher court ruled against Berrien County forcing them to release him. In both instances Rev Pinkney triumphed against a system notorious for railroading people said Marcus Muhammad.

It's a great victory where a judicial system lynches and hangs Black men and women with trumped up charges said Marcus Muhammad" the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan  told me you have to see Reverend Pinkney suffering because if it was not for him, you would not be in the esteemed position to run for the mayor of the city of Benton Harbor" said Mayor Muhammad in 2015 , he won in the largest landslide in the city history against the incumbent Mayor.

Mayor Muhammad is also a student minister in the Nation of Islam. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was a supporter of Rev Pinkney.

Rev Pinkney said he never felt defeated , but more emboldened while incarcerated and now after release he said , he will never stop his activism. " All they did was just contain me temporarily and even inside the prison system I was still doing some of the stuff that was need to be done" he said I came out swinging a big stick, I wanted them to know they didn't do nothing.

He explained his spirit to never back down when the authorities began angling charges against him.

I come to fight, he told supporters during the trial. there 's not a time in my life, if they say than I did something - bring it on" Rev Pinkney said, I wanted them to know that I am not one of them every day Black men out here....... I 'm out here to fight for the people.

Although he has a track record of standing up some people in the community distanced themselves from Rev Pinkney and his wife, while he was jailed. They weren't sure an some began to believe  the
charges. This court victory was a needed shot of hope for the community. Since the announcement, he drives down the street and people wave. They want to talk and show support.

"It showed them what we can do if we stop playing around and start working together" he shared, it just shows , if you continue to fight these demons, you can win..

When asked if he planned to take legal action for what happened , he responded" we do have that as an option and we are weighting all as we speak .... there will be something". Unity is what Rev Pinkney want out of the ordeal. It's not only about Rev Pinkney. It's about the future of our children, he said.The outspoken pastor has been on the front line fighting against gentrification issues along with other economic and social injustices affecting everyday people.

When asked where he go from here, the reverend activist said his church is called God Household of Faith that includes a trade school with training programs called Attacking Our Community. People will be trained in trades like carpentry, brick Masonry, plumbing and electrician work.

I'm going to change the atmosphere where we start keeping our money circulating in our own community  and don't go outside ..... "this is what I am going to do for the people."

He is also involved in an anti-gentrification campaign against the upcoming 2018 Senior PGA golf tournament. Rev Pinkney and Occupy the PGA organizers are protesting moves by Harbor Shores Development, Whirlpool Corp and PGA, whose development projects have negatively impacted Black residents who lived in Benton Harbor for generations, now are being pushed out, they argue.

Benton Harbor continues to be a city under siege "Rev Pinkney said ' it is a Coup d' tat in Benton Harbor by Whirlpool Corp. The mishandling of public trust couldn't be more massive, unjust inhumane and unconstitutional ' So for Rev Edward Pinkney, the fight continues only with renewed energy over the court decision.

It had uplifted the whole community even, though, I had spend 30 months in prison, the good news is that we achieved something during the process said Rev Pinkney