Thursday, March 30, 2006

Free the Cuban Five: A Public Forum at the WSU Law School Auditorium Saturday, April 1

Originally uploaded by Throndsen og Muri.
For Immediate Release

Media Advisory
March 31, 2006

Event: Free The Cuban Five: The Convictions Were Overturned--Why Are They Still Imprisoned?
Saturday, April 1, 2006, 2pm-5pm,
WSU Law School, 471 Palmer

Special Guests: Atty. Leonard Weinglass, Civil Rights Lawyer, Appellate Counsel for Cuban Five Defendant.
Also Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell of the Chautauqua Institute.
Judge Claudia Morcom, retired Wayne County Circuit judge Will Chair This Important Public Gathering.

Contact: Phone/Fax--(313) 561-8330

Public Forum on the Appeal for the Cuban Five Will be Held Sat. April 1 at the Wayne State Law School Auditorium

Five Cuban men have been held in federal prisons throughout the United States since 1998 after they were charged with spying and other crimes in Miami, Florida. In actuality their only crime involved monitoring anti-Cuban terrorist organizations with a vast track record of engaging in violent acts against this government.

The public is invited to hear more information on the significance of this case at the upcoming meeting at 2 p.m., Saturday, April 1 at the WSU Law School Auditorium. Both speakers, Atty. Leonard Weinglass and Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, are leading advocates for these Cuban nationals and their families. Retired Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Claudia Morcom, a long-time human-rights advocate who recently testified before the UN Human Rights Commission, will moderate.

Atty. Weinglass, a graduate of Yale Law School and a former Captain, Judge Advocate in the U.S. Air Force, is one of the appellate lawyers in this landmark case. He argued the appeal of Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five, before the 11th Circuit three-judge panel that overturned the convictions of the Cuban Five in August of 2005.

Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, the Director of the Department of Religion of the Chautauqua Institution who holds 11 honorary degrees, assisted in the negotiations between former President Clinton and President Fidel Castro of Cuba that successfully returned Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba during 2000. Campbell visits the families of the Cuban Five who are inhumanly denied visitation to their loved ones.

This event is free and open to the general public. It is being sponsored by the WSU Student Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild along with the Michigan Campaign to Free the Cuban Five, a Project of the Justice for Cuba Coalition.

Other sponsors include: US/Cuba Labor Exchange, the Detroit Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the Metro Detroit American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Peace Council, Michigan Chapter, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the Canadian/Cuban Friendship Association, Windsor and the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights.

The State of Black America: Report Says Katrina is Today's Bloody Sunday

The State of Black America

Reprinted From AOL Black Voices

The news is old news; the message is delivered renewed urgency: Black Americans, as a group, continue to lag behind whites in most of the crucial areas that determine the quality of life a person, a family or a community is able to achieve and maintain in the United States, according to the National Urban League in its annual State of Black America report.

Even after the roaring economy of the 1990s and a current economic recovery that is generally strong, persistent inequalities between blacks and whites are a fact of life, and nothing so illustrated that more than the after effects of Hurricane Katrina, the authors assert.

For example, real median income for blacks was 62 percent what is is of whites and median net worth of African-American families is $6,166, which is more than 10 times less what it is for white families: $67,000. "What that tells you in part is that African Americans are not investing in 401(k)s and IRAs at the same levels.

"Two years ago, we saw that things were tough, but there was a recession," says Urban League President and former New Orleans mayor, Marc H. Morial. "Now that things are better, we're still suffering. The jobless recovery is a real thing for black Americans."

Drawing from government data, academic studies and public policy literature, the NUL's report is an attempt to quantify and crystallize the problems and progress in America's black communities. Morial describes the reports purpose this way: "We consider it critically important to Black America to quantify and enumerate just how far African Americans have climbed on the index of equality since that moment two centuries ago when the white men who constructed the American government created an invidious concept of measurement -- three-fifths of a person -- to define the enslaved African and African Americans who were doing more than their share to build the American nation."

Full of statistics, charts and recommendations for change, the nearly 300-page report finds that black Americans are living, achieving, at a level more than three-quarters that of white. In its Equality Index, the Urbal League finds that the status of black Americans to be .73 compared to a measure of 1.0 for whites. Writes Morial in his summary: "That figure, drawn from examining the status of African Americans in five areas: Economics, health, education social justice and civic engagement, was a stunning indication of the glacial pace of the progress America has made toward equal opportunity in the century and a half since the end of the Civil War, the emancipation of blacks from slavery, and the constitutional correction, via the Thirteenth Amendment, of the wrong of the three-fights clause."

That that historical analysis, often missing and unwelcome in the contemporary discussion of racial inequality is everpresent in the report. In his essay on the wealth gap between blacks and whites, Brandeis University professor Thomas Shapiro, makes the point: "More than any other economic attribute, wealth represents the sedimentation of historical inequalities in the American experience, in a sense the accumulation of advantages and disadvantages for different racial, class and ethnic groups," he writes, "In a way, it allows us a window to explore how our past influences our realities today."

So while African Americans are making great stride in economically, in health and healthcare, education, and well as socially annd politically, blacks, in general, continue to fall short. Statistics show that blacks have more than double the rates of poverty, infant mortality and unemployment; and among young inner city black men the unemployment and school graduation rates are at crisis levels.

In his study on homeownership, Columbia University professor, Lance Freeman, writes that while 49.1 percent of blacks owned homes in 2004, the highest rate ever, that number was 25 percent less that the homewonership rates among whites, and that black homeowners had much less equity in their homes than whites, because the paid higher interest rates and could afford cheaper houses.

The reports also deals with the causes and consequences of the high rate of incarceration among black men; about the need for renewed vigilance in regard to voting rights for black people and the renewal of the Voting Rghts Act and about the role of the black elite must play in rescuing the 40 percent of African Americans stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder.

After the victories of the Civil Rights movement, writes Harvard Professor Martin Kilson, there has emerged a mainstream black professional class that understands how mainstream systems work in poltics, government and the economy. "Now more than ever," Kilson writes," they must use this access to the nation's poltical process as never before to create policies and direct public resources that ameliorate the profound difficulties that have ensnared those African Americans still … in poverty."

Morial, touching on an issues dear to heart, referred to Hurricane Katrina as "this generation's Bloody Sunday," referring to the March 1965 civil rights march in Alabama that focused the nation's attention on racial segregation in the South.

"Unfortunately," he writes, "the initial flurry of concern and attention to poverty and injustice has given way to the status quo."


Sunday Morning Apartheid: A Diversity Study of the Sunday Morning Talk Shows

by Stephanie J. Jones
Executive Director
National Urban League Policy Institute

Concerned about the paucity of African Americans in the media venues that help to shape public opinion and influence policy, the National Urban League Policy Institute undertook an indepth study of the guest lineups of the Sunday morning political talk shows. The study, covering the period from January 2004 through December 31, 2005, revealed, among other things, that:
Sixty-one percent of all of the Sunday morning talk shows featured no black guests;
Eighty percent of the broadcasts contained no interviews with black guests;
Eight percent of the more than 2,800 guest appearances have been by black guests;
One person—Juan Williams, a commentator for Fox News—accounts for 40 percent of all appearances by black guests;
Three guests—Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Juan Williams—account for 65 percent of all appearances by black guests;

The vast majority of interviews with black guests other than Rice and Powell focus partisan political issues such as the 2004 Elections, rather than broader policy issues such as the economy, national security, and foreign affairs.

Sunday morning talk shows are more than a mere source of news; they are a crucial staple in the public discussion, understanding and interpretation of politics and government and other public policy issues in the United States. Each Sunday, these programs frame the perception and coverage of issues that have a substantial impact on the American public.

Yet, with few exceptions, week after week, they continue to present their audiences with virtually all-white panels to deconstruct the issues of the day, even after being put on notice that this problem exists, leaving the impression that interest in and analysis of these topics are “for whites only.”

Broadening the pool of guests improves the tenor and quality of the debate, offers a richer and more varied array of information to viewers and helps fulfill the news outlets responsibility to educate its audience so that they will be better equipped to make informed political and policy
The National Urban League urges the cable and broadcast networks to carefully consider these findings, assess their processes and aggressively work to diversify their on-air presentations. It is time for Sunday Morning Apartheid to end.

New Orleans Revisited

by Marc H. Morial
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Urban League

The day after Katrina, pictures of New Orleanians stranded and suffering at both the Louisiana Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center hit the national news. Their faces, filled with so much pain and struggle, shocked both my wife and me. I was sad and angry, because I knew there was no reason that people should have been at the Superdome or the Convention Center, the landmark that bears my father’s name, without food, water and medical supplies. Something had gone very, very wrong.

When I visited New Orleans a few weeks later, I arrived to a city that was completely abandoned. There were few signs of life. On that first day back, I visited my old neighborhood, Pontchartrain Park. I knew earlier it had been completely covered by water. Now dry, it was gray and lonely.

On Caffin Avenue, we looked to our left and saw the long white limousine that was a signature vehicle for the Glapion Funeral Home, had been carried two blocks by the sheer force of the water. The gap in the levee was several city blocks long and the path it cut was like a powerful bomb, shattering every structure in its wake. There was rubble; people’s homes and cars were scattered everywhere. The pain, the sadness, the sense of loss that came over all of us who were part of that trip was numbing. Despite it all, many homes were still standing. I came away believing that all of these neighborhoods could make a comeback. If the will of the people was there and with proper planning, resources and a commitment by the federal government to build a first-class levee system, it could be possible.

As we rode back across the St. Claude Avenue Bridge toward downtown New Orleans, we encountered a man walking swiftly with what appeared to be a large book. He recognized me and we embraced. He said that he had walked 55 blocks, defying the order to stay away from the lower 9th Ward area. He not only wanted to see his home, but retrieve his large family Bible.

That was what he carried under his arm and he said it was one of the few things in his home that was not completely destroyed. Seeing his home had brought him to closure, and retrieving his treasured family Bible gave him the power and strength to move on.

I still love the Big Easy and all of its people. We are not perfect. We have suffered so greatly, but by the grace of God and the will of our spirit, New Orleanians will rebuild and live again.

New Orleans: Next Steps on the Road to Recovery

by Donna L. Brazile
Managing Director
Brazile and Associates, LLC

Unfortunately, while nature may treat all of us equally, Katrina and Rita showed us that society does not. Blacks and whites did not even look at the disaster through the same set of lens.

According to a report by the Pew Center for The People & The Press, two-thirds of African Americans polled said that if most victims had been white, there would have been a quicker government response. By an even larger margin—77 percent—whites said race played no part in the government response to the hurricanes.

Clearly, our country still has enormous problems with racial and economic inequality that are too easily brushed aside when the next news cycle rolls in. Now, more than ever, we must have a frank conversation about what it means to be poor in America and what we can do alleviate the pain and suffering of citizens who work two and three minimum-wage jobs to survive. We owe it to the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita to, once again, summon this nation to eradicate poverty. We owe it to them to fight for justice. We owe it to them to increase economic opportunity for all Americans. Members of our generation must now work together to end racism and poverty in America.

Our first duty to the Gulf State residents must be to ensure that the devastation of last fall is not forgotten or pushed off the national agenda. Also, we are going to need the continued support of the president and members of Congress to get the federal funding that states require. The administration is showing a reluctance to commit to long-term rebuilding without an adequate plan from state and local leaders. We must make sure that federal housing vouchers and targeted rental assistance are available to those that need them.

Lastly, providing a living wage is also critical. Since poor families are hurt when their members lack basic needs and standards of care, we must hold our government accountable for its pledge to promote strong and stable families. And people need more than a temporary raise in wages—they must be trained for quality jobs that will permanently increase their earning potential and continue to keep them and their families afloat. Getting the training needed to break into higher-paying jobs will interrupt the cycle of poverty.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Detroit Immigrant Rights March Draws Tens of Thousands

Originally uploaded by toybreaker.
Tens of thousands March for Immigrant Rights in Detroit

DETROIT, March 27, 2006 (PANW)--Following the growing pattern around the United States, tens of thousands of people marched from the southwest side of Detroit to the federal building downtown calling for the defeat of an anti-immigrant bill which would make felons out of 11 million people inside the country.

Perhaps the largest protest involving the Latino community in the history of Detroit, people of all ages took to the streets to oppose the two anti-immigrant bills--one already passed by the House--now being considered within the US Senate.

In Los Angeles it was estimated that one million people demonstrated against the bill on Saturday. On Monday tens of thousands of youth walked out of school to illustrate their strong resistance to the anti-immigrant legislation. Last week in Chicago 300,000 took to the streets for the same cause.

According to activist and photojournalist Cheryl LaBash in Detroit, who discussed today's demonstration in the city:
"For three an a half miles immigrant rights marchers thronged the street from curb to curb. From elders to babies in strollers the community turned out. Some independent truckers shut down their rigs to walk the march with their families. Thousands of youth received their education in the street today instead of classrooms. Chanting and waving national flags and homemade signs, the sleeping giant of the Latino immigrant community referred to in several signs was clearly awakened by the barbaric provisions of HR4437. One woman summarized HR4437 as 'legalizing racism.'"

"Councilwoman JoAnn Watson introduced a resolution to the Detroit City Council today that 'supports and salutes the marches for immigrants' rights, especially the march here in Detroit'. The resolution further opposed federal legislation harmful to the human rights of immigrants and supporting 'a humane, not racist immigration system.' Although marchers were overwhelmingly Latinos, significant numbers of Anglo and African American Detroiters joined in.

A demonstration was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan today as well.

PANW Editor's Note: The following article from the corporate media came closest to estimating the crowd that demonstrated on March 27 from the southwest side to downtown. The Detroit Free Press claimed that there were 50,000 people in the march. However, the crowd appeared to be at least twice that size. It stretched wide and deep along Michigan avenue going all the way back to Vernor, the heart of the Latino community in Detroit.

LATINOS VOICE OPPOSITION: Thousands protest immigration proposal

They oppose a hard-line plan on illegal workers

March 28, 2006

Myra Daniela Rodriguez, 4, of Westland stands on the shoulders of her father, Rodrigo Rodriguez, at the rally Monday on West Lafayette.

Waving flags, toting babies and chanting "Si, se puede," which means, "Yes, we can," a mostly Latino throng marched Monday in one of the largest political rallies Detroit has seen in recent years, protesting proposed legislation in Congress to mark illegal immigrant workers and anyone who supports them as criminals.

"It's not right," said one of the marchers, 27-year-old Manuel Negrete of Lincoln Park, who works in landscaping. "The Latinos in this country, we came to work. We came to this country for opportunity."

Beginning in front of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the heart of Mexicantown in southwest Detroit, the march forced many businesses to close as employees took to the streets. Detroit Police put the number of protesters at more than 50,000.

While some said that was an exaggeration, there was no doubt that thousands of marchers made the trek to the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit -- where protesters chanted "Justica," or "Justice" -- before moving on to a rally outside WDIV-TV (Channel 4), where speakers railed against the proposal.

Similar rallies were held Monday in Grand Rapids and Washington, D.C., following others across the country during the weekend. On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee stripped the legislation of criminal penalties for residents found in the United States illegally and opened the door for millions of undocumented workers to seek citizenship.

In downtown Detroit, protesters included undocumented and legal immigrants, as well as U.S.-born citizens. Many hailed from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and waved the flags of their homelands or the United States.

The number of marchers made for a vivid testament to the growth of the Latino community in Michigan and across the nation. According to U.S. census estimates, Michigan's Hispanic community grew by nearly 11% to 359,111 people from 2000 to 2004.

The Pew Hispanic Center in Washington D.C. said Michigan is home to between 100,000 and 150,000 illegal immigrants. In metro Detroit, as they do nationwide, they find work in a range of jobs -- making their livings as busboys, cooks, farmworkers,
landscapers and on construction sites, for example. Advocates say undocumented immigrants can find work because they're willing to work hard for low wages.

Negrete, a man born in Mexico who became a U.S. citizen in 1999, and other immigrants at the rally said they work hard, pay taxes and contribute much to America.

"People came here to make a living," said Alfredo Velazquez, 31, a truck driver from Detroit, born and raised in the city. "They're not taking away from anything."

What concerned Velazquez was that, under the legislation, he could be charged with a felony for helping a friend, family member or anyone else who might be here illegally. In many U.S. cities, including Detroit, where undocumented immigrants are part of the community, such a law would be unfair, he said.

"This seems pretty harsh," Velazquez said, as the crowed marched down Michigan Avenue past Tiger Stadium.

Religious groups played a major part in the rally: Under the bill as it was passed by the House, churches and social service groups would be criminalized for helping needy immigrants who are here illegally.

One local Catholic priest, the Rev. Thomas Sepulveda, pastor of Detroit's St. Anne Church, was in Washington, D.C., on Monday, lobbying U.S. senators to reject the proposed bills."We're doing jobs that other Americans don't want to do," said Oscar Carlito, 22, a student at Wayne Student University, as he marched with his fraternity brothers.

Contact NIRAJ WARIKOO at 248-351-2998 or The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Benton Harbor: Mistrial Declared in Racist Frame-up of Rev. Pinkney

Originally uploaded by MarkDilley.
PANW Editor's Note: The jury hearing the case against Rev. Edward Pinkney in Berrien County became deadlocked during the deliberations forcing trial Judge Alfred Butzbaugh to declare a mistrial. This is a tremendous victory for the people of Benton Harbor, Benton Township and Berrien County. Pinkney had been targeted for his efforts in mobilizing a successful recall campaign against Commissioner Glenn Yarbrough.

The prosecution will decide by the end of the week on whether to reinstate the charges against Pinkney. In the meantime he remains free of all charges filed against him last year.

Pinkney had gained support from several organizations in the state of Michigan and throughout the country.


Jury can't reach verdict in Pinkney case

H-PStaff Writer

ST. JOSEPH — The election fraud trial of Edward Pinkney ended in a mistrial when the jury, after 20 hours of deliberations spanning three days, told the judge Monday that it could not reach a unanimous verdict.

The prosecution said it would decide by the end of the week whether it would retry the case.

Berrien County Trial Court Judge Alfred Butzbaugh declared a mistrial around 1:30 p.m. after the jury foreman sent the judge a note saying the panel remained deadlocked.

After deliberating two days, the jury told the judge on Friday that it was unable to reach a verdict. The judge told the 12 jurors to report back to court Monday morning to try again.

“The jury remains deadlocked,” the note said. “We followed your directions and we are clearly at an impasse. We are convinced that future deliberations are useless.” Pinkney’s lawyer, Tat Parish, was in favor of the mistrial, and there was no objection from Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Gerald Vigansky.

Following a mistrial, the case can be retried. Parish said he and his client agreed that forcing the jury to continue deliberating would present a greater risk of acompromise verdict. After the judge declared the mistrial, Berrien County Prosecutor Jim Cherry told reporters he will decide by the end of the week whether his office will retry the case.

Pinkney hugged his supporters outside the courtroom. He declined to talk to reporters but he sang a victory song as he walked to his car outside the courthouse.

Pinkney, 57, of Benton Township, was charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor in connection with the Feb. 22, 2005, recall of City Commissioner Glenn Yarbrough.

Contacted by telephone Monday afternoon,Yarbrough was shocked to learn of the mistrial.

“I can’t believe it. I’m highly disappointed in the court system and the citizens of Berrien County,” Yarbrough said. “This shows that you can go do what you want to do, and you’ll get away with it.” Speculating that jurors might have been from out of the immediate area, Yarbrough said, “This decision doesn’t affect their area. Now the man will think he can do anything he wants to do. I think it’s a sad day for the citizens of Berrien County.” Yarbrough said he hopes Cherry will decide to retry the case.

After the recall election that stripped Yarbrough of his seat, Cherry brought a civil lawsuit against the city of Benton Harbor and N. Jean Nesbitt, the city clerk at the time. Cherry’s suit alleged voter fraud and sought to void the election.

Paul Maloney, Berrien County Trial Court’s chief judge, ruled after hearing the civil case that the election was tainted with fraud and another election should be held. In the second recall election, voters kept Yarbrough in office.

After the civil suit ended, Nesbitt was fired by the City Commission and Pinkney was arrested. Nesbitt has maintained she did nothing wrong and is suing the city in federal court.

During the civil case and- Pinkney’s criminal trial this month, witnesses testified they were told absentee voter ballot applications were job applications, were told to vote “yes” to bring jobs to Benton Harbor, and handed their absentee ballot envelopes over to Pinkney rather than mailing them.

Brenda Fox of Benton Harbor testified that Pinkney paid her to gather people to vote by absentee ballot at the clerk’s office the day before the election and that Pinkney paid them to vote.

In cross-examination, Parish tried to discredit the prosecutor’s witnesses, asking them if they were paid, threatened or otherwise coerced to testify against Pinkney.

One prosecution witness, Tommie Travis, had told police last year that Pinkney paid people to vote. But on the witness stand under oath last week, Travis told the court he lied to police because he was mad at Pinkney for not visiting him in jail, and that Pinkney never paid anyone to vote.

Parish said the case was full of “conflicting testimony from people with so many conflicting motives,” and the jury probably had trouble sorting out the truth.

Pinkney was charged with three five-year felony counts of improper possession of absentee ballots, one five-year felony count of influencing voters while they were voting, and a 90-day misdemeanor count of influencing voters with money.

Parish said if the jury was forced to continue deliberating, his client stood the risk of a compromise verdict, finding him guilty on some counts and not others. Parish said that would have been particularly dangerous to his client because, to the average person, the more serious counts might seem to be the least serious. Jurors are not supposed to know the possible penalties for the alleged crimes in a case.

“My client does not want to risk that compromise,” Parish told Judge Butzbaugh after Butzbaugh read the note from the jury Monday afternoon. “We’re not willing to take that risk after the jury has made an honest effort. Half justice is no justice.” Cherry said that before deciding whether to retry to case, he will try to talk with one or more jurors to find out what the split was and what evidence was not clear to the panel of six white men, four white women and two black women.

“We’ll find out if we could have presented the evidence differently. A free and untainted election is a basic right,” Cherry said.

Parish said he believes there was plenty of “reasonable doubt” in the minds of the jurors.

“I’m thankful that the jury was able to overcome what I view as a widespread presumption that Rev. Pinkney was guilty,” Parish said. “There is reasonable doubt.That is the standard of the law, and the jury applied that.” Citing “significant public and private resources” spent on the two-week trial, Parish said he hopes the prosecutor does not retry the case.

He called the case “a political nightmare” and said, “They ought to allow us to put this behind us.” During the trial, Parish said it is no secret Pinkney is known to be a “gadfly.” “His views may not be popular. I would hope this will not deter him in the future. Sometimes there’s a strong price tag in exercising First Amendment rights and values. I would hope he doesn’t give that up, but this (trial) certainly would have an impact on most people.”

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Harry Belafonte Explains How He Was Dis-invited to Coretta Scott King's Funeral

Harry Belafonte
Originally uploaded by ktylerconk.
Harry Belafonte On His Dis-invitation To Coretta Scott King's Funeral

Actor/Activist Makes First Public Comment on the Issue

Excerpted Transcript From 'Democracy Now!'

"I saw who sat there, and as the camera moved about, I saw who was sitting in the audience, and I saw all of the power of the oppressor represented on the stage, and all those who fought for the victories that this nation was experiencing and enjoying sat in the outhouse, sat out in the field, sat removed, and if it not been for Lowery, for President Carter and for Maya Angelou, we would have had no voice and no representation at all." -- Harry Belafonte

AMY GOODMAN: Harry, I have a quick question, talking about the children and talking about Dr. King in Birmingham. Coretta Scott King recently died, and it was quite a remarkable funeral. Over 10,000, 15,000 people came out, four presidents, many senators. Reverend Joseph Lowery, while President Bush was sitting right on the dais, talked about weapons of misdirection right here, and President Carter talked about Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King being spied on, and Maya Angelou stood up and said, "I speak here for Harry Belafonte and others." Did you try to go to Coretta Scott King's funeral?

HARRY BELAFONTE: What had happened was that when Dr. King came on one of his very first trips to New York, he was in Harlem, and a deranged black woman stabbed him, and he was -- the blade was just millimeters away from his heart, and to remove the instrument, his life was in jeopardy, and it was a very delicate operation. And it was then that I understood that -- after seeing Dr. King and talking to him, his first concern was what would happen to his family. And I said to myself, our leader cannot be concerned about that. That burden should not be on his shoulders. There are other aspects of the burden that would be his in relation to it, but not that. So that it was demanded and responded to that forever the welfare of his family would never be in jeopardy with him being at the helm of the movement, and we brought resources, and it was my task to direct all that, watching the kids grow, put money aside for their studies, to take care of Coretta, to make sure she had every convenience at her disposal to go, come while her husband was incarcerated.

So the intimacy of that experience was something that I had become accustomed to, and when Dr. King was murdered, I was in Atlanta in their home, and we separated ourselves from others who were there in the living room, and she said, "Would you come with me." We went into the bedroom, and she said, "Help me select the clothes that I must -- we must dress him in." And it was a very private and a very remarkable thing to - the intimacy of it with her. And as we were selecting the suits and the shirt and the tie and laying it out, she sat on the bed, and she kind of - a place where she had slept so often with her husband, and all those memories. And I said, "What is it?" She says, "You know, I'm worried about where this is all going. I'm worried about the nation, the rage, the anger, and I need to know what to do." And we talked for a second. Then I said to her, "You know, at this very moment in Memphis, thousands of sanitation workers are on hold, because Dr. King was supposed to have been there tomorrow to lead that movement and to speak to the people, and before your husband, our leader, is put in his grave, if you have the will and the capacity to go down there tomorrow and stand up before those workers and let the world know that the movement has not been interrupted, that the process continues, and that all of us, as strong or as weak as we may be, will step into the breach and do what must be done." And she did, and she went down, and she spoke, and we came right back.

Now, all through the years since then, the building of the King Center, many choices of things that she made to do, because she was in her own right very involved for Dr. King. She was one of the - she was very, very committed to the peace movement, and as a matter of fact, in Europe, during the assassin-- the missile crisis and whatnot, we gave -- we put on a peace concert for 250,000 Germans in Cologne, mostly students, and the moment when Coretta King -- I called and asked her to come to speak. It would mean a lot to the young people there. She came, and I have never, ever heard a declaration of approval like those young German youth did when she came, and she had a sense of her own power. She had a sense of her own capacity to bring influence and to be revered for the work she did.

On the Pulse

When she died, none of us knew that she was in Mexico, that she had -- I knew that she was ill. I knew about the heart attack, the defibrillation and the stroke. But - and I knew she had cancer, but I thought the cancer was contained, and when she went to Mexico, she was there with her children, and I got the news completely without knowing any of the details, so for a few days we didn't know what was happening. Where is she? Who's bringing her home? When is the funeral? When is the this, when is the that?

And finally, I left a call -- I left a message on the phones of the children, saying, "Please give me a call. I know this is a difficult moment, but there are things that must be done, and I would like to help if I can." I was then called a day later and told that, yes, that it was on that Tues-- this was on a Friday, Friday evening, that the funeral was going to take place that Tuesday, and that it would start at noon, and that with all the people that were being invited, that it was -- I was to be one of these people delivering the eulogy, and that my time would be at somewhere around 12:30 or 1:00, and I said, "Fine." And knowing this, I began to put my thoughts together.

That Saturday, Bush declared he was coming. He would be there. That Sunday, I began to change my speech, not to be rude or to be attacking, but to integrate this moment into what needed to be said. And then, that Monday morning, I got a call, and I was told that the invitation that had been extended to me had been pulled. I was uninvited. A woman by the name of Skinner and a Reverend by the name of Lawrence was the one who called me to tell me that I was uninvited, and when that call came, I called and spoke to one of the children. They said, these are the events, and I need to be counseled as to how this has come about, and I was told that I would get a call shortly, and it would all be clarified. And then, when the final call came, it was -- they were sorry, but the invitation - the withdrawing of the invitation would stand and that if I came down, they would find a place for me in the church, but I would not speak. And I did not go at all. I did not know how to deal with that.

What struck me was on the day of the ceremony, I saw how the altar was adorned. I saw who sat there, and as the camera moved about, I saw who was sitting in the audience, and I saw all of the power of the oppressor represented on the stage, and all those who fought for the victories that this nation was experiencing and enjoying sat in the outhouse, sat out in the field, sat removed, and if it not been for Lowery, for President Carter and for Maya Angelou, we would have had no voice and no representation at all.

Some ministers who were quite angry at all of this said, "Come on down here. Let's -- let's -- We have to talk to the press," and I said, "Talk to the press about what?" "About this. We cannot let it stand." I said, "I don't think that's appropriate. These are the children of my friend. These are the children of the movement. Where did we let them get caught? Why was Bernice giving this kind of sermon? How did you let Reverend Long become the minister of choice? Why wasn't it at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King preached? And before we go public and begin to vent our anger, let us understand what role we played in this capitulation that has led to this moment, and let us try first to repair it rather than to go into public discourse.

When do we sit in a circle of healing? When we begin to talk about getting back to where we lost stride. How do we fix this? Not how do we play the vanity game, and get off on going public and talking about how I was crucified. You know, it's what it is, and there is a way in which we have to do this that not only prevents - I don't know that there'll be another moment quite like that, because Dr. King and Malcolm X and Fannie Lou Hamer, folks like that were so rare that to be a part of the final ceremony of their departure is a rare moment in history, but I think that it goes along with what I have been saying here. What role have we played in letting all this happen? Where were we? What were we doing that had us so distracted? How can it be this way? How did you priests and ministers let the evangelical rightwing Christian forces co-opt the greater truth about Christianity and the philosophy of liberation? And how did you all let that happen, and where are your voices in opposition publicly?

Everybody has a part in this. Everybody has something to look at, and I think it is a collective experience, and that's why I think rather than sitting here drifting, we've got to talk about this, not just where we failed and where you failed, and we've got to come out of this discourse and this discussion, not just talking about it but saying, "Here's where we go," and take courage in the fact that we can turn this around, because the truth of the matter is we are the only ones that can turn this around. Nothing and no one else can do it. Nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: Harry Belafonte, describing his dis-invitation from giving a eulogy at the funeral of Coretta Scott King.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Two Killed in Bolivian Hotel Explosion; American Suspect Held

President Morales Shown Above

Two people have been killed in an explosion in a hotel in Bolivia's main city, La Paz.

The blast, close to government headquarters, occurred late on Tuesday. Hours later, another hotel in the city was rocked by an explosion.

Several buildings were damaged and at least five people are known to have been injured in the two explosions.

Officials said two foreigners had been detained over the blasts, believed to have been caused by explosives.

Attorney General Jorge Gutierrez said a Uruguayan woman and an American man had been arrested at a hotel in El Alto, 12km (seven miles) outside La Paz.

The first explosion rocked the Linares hotel on Wednesday at 2150 local time (0150 GMT).

Local media say the fatal victims were a young couple. The man was killed instantly, and the woman died later in hospital.

The blast destroyed two floors of the hotel and the windows of surrounding buildings.

The second explosion reportedly occurred at 0145 local time (0545 GMT) at the Riosinho hotel and also caused extensive damage to properties in the area.

Police suspect plastic explosives may have been used.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/03/22 13:27:24 GMT

Thursday March 23, 7:09 AM

Two die in Bolivia hotel bombing; American arrested

AFP Report

Two people were killed and seven injured in two powerful bomb blasts at La Paz hotels that authorities have blamed on a US explosives vendor.

Police detained US national Claudio Lestad D'Orleans, 27 and his wife, Uruguayan Alba Riveiros, 40, as suspects in the late Tuesday and early Wednesday bombings that ripped through two modest hotels in downtown La Paz and damaged nearby buildings.

The first blast, which leveled two floors of the Linares hotel in the La Paz tourist area, killed two, injured seven, and damaged at least ten nearby homes.

The second blast four hours later was at the humble Riosinho inn, located in a residential area ten blocks away from the presidential palace. The explosion lifted off the inn roof and damaged two nearby buildings.

Police however received an anonymous telephone tip before the blast and evacuated the 19 tourists at the hotel.

Prosecutor Jorge Gutierrez said the blasts were caused by dynamite, sold for mining in Bolivia.

The head of Bolivia's national police, General Isaac Pimentel, held a press conference to said the explosions may have had "religious motives," then described the US suspect as someone who partakes in "pagan rituals".

He also said police found a document on the couple describing a plot to bomb the Chilean consulate on Saturday.

La Paz has had tense relations with Santiago ever since Bolivia lost its sea coast to Chile in an 1879 war.

The Uruguayan suspect lashed out at her husband as she was taken away by police.

"My husband is a bastard, he should be killed," Riveiros cried out to the local news media as she was taken to a jail.

"I didn't do anything. My husband did. It is an outrage what my husband did," she claimed.

D'Orleans had registered at a La Paz hotel as a Saudi citizen, according to the hotel management.

President Evo Morales, a fierce critic of the United States, was outrage that a US national was arrested in the case.

"There is a battle against terrorism and the government of the United States is sending Americans to do terrorism in Bolivia," the president said at an event in the eastern city of Santa Cruz.

"A US citizen placing bombs in hotels ... What is happening?"
he asked.

Police said that D'Orleans had been living in the city of Potosi for some time, selling explosives, fireworks and liquor. They also said he has claimed to be an admirer of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"Interests in upper class groups in Bolivia are behind these two attacks," Morales claimed, "and they are using agents from abroad to generate fear, to create unrest, to then say that the government cannot control Bolivia."

Morales, a leftist former coca farmers union leader who took office in January, has called for a special assembly to rewrite Bolivia's constitution that would potentially make huge economic changes in the country.

The attacks "are an affront to Bolivia's democracy, and a provocation against the national government," he said.

He then accused Bolivian landowners of involvement, and rallied supporters to defend his government, elected with a solid margin in December elections.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera called the incident "alarming but isolated" and said it would "not affect the stability of the country nor the government."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Detroit Anti-War March Protests 3rd Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

Originally uploaded by jongela4peace.
Anti-War March Held in Downtown Detroit to Mark the 3rd Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

Bring the troops home now was major theme

From the Pan-African News Wire Monitoring Service

DETROIT, March 18, 2006 (PANW)--Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Detroit on Saturday afternoon to protest the 3rd anniversary of the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq. Beginning with a rally at the 'Spirit of Detroit' statue outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, several speakers denounced the ongoing American involvement in Iraq demanding that the troops be brought home immediately.

This demonstration took place in conjunction with similar events held in over 700 cities throughout the country. In addition, marches and rallies were staged in more than 40 countries around the globe. In Detroit, the focus of the demonstration centered around the impact of the war policies of the Bush administration on the budget deficit in the city. In a poster circulated announcing the march, it stated that over $400 million dollars of city taxpayer money are spent each year to help finance the occupation of Iraq.

In an opening statement at the rally, Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), the organization which called for the demonstration, stated that "we are a part of a mass movement. In over 40 countries throughout the world people are marching, demonstrating and holding vigils calling for peace now."

Azikiwe, who is also the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, continued by emphasizing that "This war is illegal. We said this over three years ago. The Bush administration lied to us, they lied to the world, they told us that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Later they had to admit that their own pretense for going into Iraq was false. So why are we still there? We say that the United States Government is still there in order to exploit the oil in Iraq. They are trying to set up bases in the Middle-East to try to conquer the entire region. Well we cannot allow them to do this. We have to mobilize and we have to organize."

"Even the corporate media says that only 33% of the people in this country who have been interviewed say that they support what the Bush administration is doing in Iraq and not only in Iraq, but right here in the United States," Azikiwe continued.

"So what do we have to do? We have to organize and we have to mobilize. There are a lot of folks in this country who are opposed to this war. There are a lot of people who are opposed to the policies of the Bush administration. But they have to come out. They have to get organized. They have to be mobilized. They have to take action that it is really going to cripple this administration,
to bring it down. We have to have a people's government here in the United States, Azikiwe declared.

Beheejah Shakur, a veteran of the United States military, who refused to fight in the first war against Iraq in 1991, spoke to the audience saying that "I protested the first Gulf War and they filmed me and had me on the six o'clock news. But I don't care they are still out there filming me, taking pictures of me and I am still protesting and will go on protesting. This war is insane. I told them at that time that I will go if you give me a card where when I pull up to the pump they will give me a discount. They didn't agree, so I said 'Hell no I won't go.'"

Shakur went on to state that: "They are killing people in Iraq and not only Iraq but in Afghanistan. Next it will be Iran. In fact people are telling us that there are already service people on the ground in Iran as we stand here today. Iran is going to be the next big fiasco. Because that's all it is in Iraq, a fiasco. This country is not telling you the true numbers. You have no idea how many Americans are being slaughtered and killed and bombed, because they are only going to tell you a few numbers because they don't want Americans to know exactly what is going on."

"In addition to all the American servicemen and women that are being killed, think about all the Iraqis. The elderly, the children, everybody is being affected in that country and it has to stop. Just a few days ago I was at a meeting of the Department of Community Health and they were saying that their budget was being cut. I told them that reason the budget was being cut is because all the money is going to Iraq and we need to stop it. We need to tell the president: we have had enough of this. We need to shut this country down and tell them to stop taking our money and sending it to Iraq," Shakur concluded.

City water department employee Derrick Grisby also addressed the crowd saying that he is a prime example of how the war is affecting public sector workers. The city administration announced recently that 5% of the work force in the water department are being laid off. Grisby refuted the insinuation of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in his state of city address implying that absenteeism is too high and that employees will be punished for refusing to come to work. Grisby stated that "City workers are hard workers."

"George Bush is a murderer. If you give the order to have someone killed here in America, you are just as much to blame as the one who pulled the trigger. This man has killed thousands and thousands of poor Iraqi children. There is a DVD we are circulating entitled: 'Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre', it's short and really documents some horrible atrocities committed by the military in Iraq," Grisby stated.

Al Fishman of Peace Action and the Detroit Area Peace With Justice Network (DAPJN) took the bullhorn and expressed his appreciation to MECAWI for organizing this demonstration.
"This is my second demonstration today because I was in Northville earlier where a demonstration was held with nearly 200 people in the heart of Republican territory. I think it is important to realize that there is a debate going on. There are some Republican candidates for Congress who are trying to run their campaigns as far away from Bush as they can. However, this does not take into account that each and every day that this war continues more Americans and Iraqis are dying. More people are being tortured and renditioned. At some point there has to be an accounting for these crimes. And that is the job of the American people."

"When the war in Vietnam ended there was a great resistance to repeating this kind of foreign policy. When the president's father initiated the previous war against Iraq in the 90s the elder George Bush was heard saying 'we have kicked the Vietnam syndrome'. Well we are here to say to the people of the country that no you have not kicked the Vietnam syndrome or the Iraq syndrome either," Fishman concluded.

A MECAWI student chapter member at Wayne State University, who had just returned from doing relief work in New Orleans during alternative spring break, discussed how people are still dying in New Orleans. Isis Sushiela, a graduate of Barnard College in New York pointed out that "we need to keep paying attention to what is going on in New Orleans. It is not in the news anymore. It is like a crisis that has come and gone. But it is not gone, it is still going on. People are being exposed to danger. It is the third most toxic site in the world right now. People down there still need your support. As long as the war is going on they are not going to get the money down there that is needed."

Margaret Gutshall, a former Green Party candidate in the state of Michigan, encouraged people to run for office this year on a platform opposing the war. The crowd began to chant loudly: No War! No War! No War! No War!

Addressing the burgeoning domestic crisis in the United States, Marian Kramer, a leader in the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization stated that "there are two wars going on: the war in the Middle-East and the war here in the United States. We are here today and every day to tell Bush to end this war. Bush talks about terrorism but he is the worst terrorist in the world. Its great for us to be out here today but we have to do this every day."

"Let's get rid of the terrorists in Washington," Kramer said. "Let's stop the war here and stop the war on a global level."

David Sole, the president of UAW 2334, and a leading member of MECAWI was the final speaker before the march began. Sole re-emphasized the national character of the demonstrations taking place over the weekend. "On this third anniversary of the Iraq war, a day of shame and infamy in U.S. history, the money that's being spent in Iraq is desperately needed here at home. People are getting their water shut-off and have no access to utilities. Their children are going to bed hungry. Many of these things can be solved with just a portion of the money thrown down the drain in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Sole addressed the threats by the United States against Venezuela and other countries who are trying to build progressive regimes. "Isn't it interesting that the U.S. Senate is calling for an investigation of one oil company, you would think it would be the one that is raising prices, but instead they called for an investigation of CITGO, which is owned and operated by the government of Venezuela and they are being investigated because they have agreed to lower prices of heating oil for poor communities right here in the United States."

"We say hell no to the war, hell no to the lay offs. Money for our cities, not for war. We are also marching against the threats to Iran for their desire to develop peaceful nuclear power. Washington is using the same language they used against Iraq. Hands off Iran. Stop the war before it starts," Sole concluded.

At this point people went into the streets and began the march up Woodward Avenue. Even though MECAWI had been granted a permit to march in the street on Wednesday by the Detroit City Council, the police seemed to know nothing about it.

According to Cheryl Labash of the Michigan Campaign to Free the Cuban Five: "Hundreds marched up Woodward Avenue in the street through the gentrified Detroit downtown. From old to young including disabled activists in scooters and wheel chairs, the crowd said, 'Bring the Troops Home, Now!' 'Money for Our Cities, Not for War.' The Jobs with Justice banner read 'make Jobs not War.' Detroit is the poorest major city in the United States. Michigan is the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation. At the Martin Luther King Day demonstration police violated the marcher's permit, but today Detroiters took the streets although police again denied knowing a permit was granted by City Council."

Labash continued by saying that "In Windsor, Canada(right across the river from Detroit) at noon, anti-imperialist demonstrators including a strong Lebanese delegation, called for an end to the occupation led by the U.S. Also at noon demonstrators protested the war in Northville, a Detroit suburb. Yesterday activists reenacted U.S. torture vignettes on the steps of the Federal Building, three people were arrested."

Another participant in the demonstration held in Northville, a Detroit suburb, that was held earlier in the day, stated that "This war is clearly unpopular! Even in Northville public sentiment appears more pronounced against the war than for it. Probably between 150-200 people came out, very vocal, very crowd oriented- as in -reaching out to townspeople about the grave situation in Iraq . As usual, lots of solidarity in the crowd and complete unity around "Troops Out Now" as a central demand. Someone from the rally read off the names of the 78 Michigan fallen in Iraq. There was also someone from the ACLU who spoke out about violations against our civil liberties that are occurring across the country that they are currently fighting against. After a short rally, there was a march around town. About five, mostly younger, white males constituted an organized resistance. It was good for them to come out and see how outnumbered they are, both in comparison to us and among even Northville citizens. They garnered some, to minimum support I would say. At one point two cops strolled by and talked with some demonstrators, and then left. Uniformed police were not a large presence."

The march concluded at Central United Methodist Church where a cultural anti-war program was held afterwards. The concert featured musicians Mike Anton, Scott Harrison, Dead Letter Office, Juan Jaunko & the Whale and poet Wardell Montgomery. This cultural event was coordinated by MECAWI member Kyle McBee with technical assistance from John Donabedian of the Detroit MLK Committee.

Friday, March 17, 2006

March 18: Protest the Escalation of the Iraq War on 3rd Anniversary of Invasion

Originally uploaded by jongela4peace.
For Immediate Release

Media Advisory

Event: Saturday March 18 Protest Against the 3rd Anniversary of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
and the New Aerial Bombing Campaigns Around Sammara
Location: Gather at 'Spirit of Detroit', 4:30 p.m., Woodward at Jefferson, Outside Coleman A. Young
Municipal Center March Down Woodward to the Central United Methodist Church, 5:30 p.m. Cultural Rally Against War, 6:00-9:00 p.m., Second Floor Central United Methodist Church
Contact: Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice
Phone: (313) 680-5508

Bush Administration Escalates War on 3rd Anniversary: Protest the Occupation of Iraq March 18 in Detroit

March 18-19 will be marked by hundreds of marches, vigils, rallies and other activities to commemorate the unfortunate third anniversary of the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The Iraq war was a totally unnecessary adventure by the Bush administration. The false claims of weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and an imminent threat against American interests were utilized through the mass media to justify an illegal military campaign which has resulted in the deaths of over 2,300 U.S. troops and the wounding of over 20,000 others.

Moreover, the war has caused the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, the destruction of the infrastructure of the country and the growth of a broad-based resistance movement to the occupation by the American military and its allies.

On this third anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration has sent more troops to the country along with initiating a massive new bombing campaign around Samarra. The escalation of the war at this point is clearly an act of further desperation by the Government. These military actions can only lead to the deaths of more civilians and the continued alienation of American troops from the local population.

At the same time the civil liberties and civil rights of people within the United States are constantly eroding. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster due to the Bush administration policies. Domestic spying by intelligence agencies and the round-up of hundreds of Muslims inside the country and at Guantanamo Bay has further alienated world public opinion against U.S. intentions and policies.

In addition, the economic crisis has deepened while oil companies enjoy windfall profits. For cities like Detroit where $429 million of city taxes went for the Iraq war in 2004, the government has no program to assist the public sectors and the industries that are laying off thousands of workers.

The amount of city taxes going to support the war is twice the budget deficit. We need that money right here for public school funding, job training and placement for the unemployed, affordable housing and health care, improved and expanded shelters for the homeless, reliable public transit and recreation programs for our youth.

Bush's budget has cut over 150 important social programs while the Pentagon budget has been increased substantially. This insanity has got to stop. Only the power of the people mobilized can bring an end to this war of aggression and occupation.

Please join us on March 18 to make a statement for peace and social justice in our lifetime.

Detroit City Council Holds Hearing on Police Refusal to Honor MLK Day March Permit

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Originally uploaded by D. Scott.
Detroit City Council Holds Hearing on Police Refusal to Honor March Permit on Martin Luther King Day

MECAWI, police brass square off over delays caused in annual peace and justice demonstration

By the PANW Monitoring Service

DETROIT, March 15, 2006 (PANW)--A public hearing was held on Thursday by the Detroit City Council to examine the refusal of the Detroit police to honor a legal permit to march in the street for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day demonstration that is held downtown. This year's march held on January 16, was the third annual demonstration organized by the Detroit MLK Committee.

The hearing featured two representatives
of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) and the Detorit MLK Committee, David Sole and Abayomi Azikiwe--who is also the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. Sole, who petitioned the city of Detroit for a legal permit to march, was granted this request ten days prior to the actual march date.

According to the South End Newspaper at Wayne State University, over one thousand people attended the MLK Day rally at the Central United Methodist Church and participated in the demonstration. The rally was attended and addressed by a host of community leaders, elected officials and progressive clergy: including City Councilwomen JoAnn Watson and Brenda Jones, Governor Jenifer Granholm, Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, Rev. Ed Rowe, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church, Atty. Jerry Goldberg representing the Delphi Workers, Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Jozette Dowdell of the Childcare Workers Union, Arnie Steiber of the Veterans for Peace, Abayomi Azikiwe, who chaired the rally, among other speakers.

When the rally participants lined up outside the Church on Woodward for the march through downtown no police officers were present. The march proceeded south on Washington Blvd. and did not receive any attention until it was one block north of Cobo Conference Center where the annual International Auto Show was being held. The march was then stopped by police vehicles whose officers claimed that the demonstration was not authorized to be in the streets.

After standing in the streets for over ten minutes, the younger people in the march began to move around the police vehicle from the rear to continue on the sidewalk past Cobo Conference Center where the Auto Show was being held. When the marchers reached Woodward avenue they continued to march on the sidewalk and were threatened with arrest if they entered the street.

At the City Council hearing David Sole testified that he was personally threatened with arrest on more than one occasion. He then read the language of the permit approved by the Detroit City Council which called for the area to be blocked by police so that the march could be carried out in the streets.

The document by City Council member Sheila Cockrel stated that "the petition of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (#4424) for the 3rd Annual Martin Luther King Day March on January 16, 2005 with temporary street closures in area of Grand Circus Park, Woodward, Adams, Washington Blvd., and Jefferson Avenue be and the same is hereby granted." This document was presented to the Detroit City Clerk and issued on January 6, some ten days prior to the actual demonstration.

However, the police presented another document which said that the route had to be changed as a result of construction on Washington Blvd. This document, which was a facsimile copy of a Detroit Police headquarters memorandum dated December 27, 2005, stated that: "Due to the Auto Show and construction on Washington Boulevard, the parade has been rerouted to Woodward Avenue, using the sidewalk as stated above. Officer Gilbert Munoz contacted Mr. David Sole (Parade Coordinator) on the parade route changes. The Central District will provide special attention. It is the recommendation of the Detroit Police Department that Petition number P-4424 be approved."

Nonetheless, Sole stated at the City Council hearing that this information was never communicated to him by Munoz and that this document contradicts what was approved by the City Clerk and mailed to him in the form of a legal permit to march in the streets.

Several members of the City Council questioned both Assistant Chief Walter J. Martin and Lt. Kenneth Williams on the events that day. Martin said that there was a breakdown in communications between the City Council, the City Clerk's Office and the police involving the permit. Martin also stated several times that due to severe budget cuts that the Department was facing "many challenges" as it relates to personnel available on that day.

Lt. Williams denied being belligerant to Sole and the MLK demonstrators as well as refusing to admit that he had threatened marchers with arrest if they did not stay on the sidewalk on Woodward avenue. Sole stated that "we attempted to avoid an incident due to the fact that there were members of the Ann Arbor Trail Middle School Drumline that led the demonstration. However, he did say that near a construction area after Campus Martius they did enter the streets again despite the threats made by the police.

City Councilwoman Barbara Rose Collins said that "it was a question of attitude towards the marchers. The attitude was authoritative and not one of service." Collins went on to say that years ago "the reason we wanted black police was that they could tell the bad guys from the good guys. Your attitude should be one of service."

Councilman Kwame Kenyatta addressed the issue by saying that "a thousand people could cause just as many problems on the sidewalk as in the street. It seems if the concern was safety, it would have been better for the march to take place in the street." He also asked who changed the permit?

Another Councilwoman, Martha Reeves, said that after hearing both sides she was not as outraged as before. Nonethless, "the MLK Day march should be given the same priority and respect as other parades." She also went on to say that the Detroit speech of Martin Luther King in 1963 was issued by Motown Records soon afterwards.

The strongest words came from City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson who said that "it was outrageous that in Detroit this should happen." She went on to discuss the historic role of labor and civil rights in Detroit. "Detroit is where King gave his first 'I Have a Dream' speech prior to the one in Washington D.C. in 1963. We should never have to discuss this again."

Abayomi Azikiwe concured with the statements made by David Sole. He later stated that: "We were very clear in our approach to the Martin Luther King Day demonstration. The purpose every year is to emphasize the peace and social justice legacy of Dr. King which is often overlooked in the mass media. We are very clear in our demands and objectives. Our main slogan is 'Money for Our City, Not for War'. We did not come downtown to disrupt the Auto Show or other activities. We are here to ensure that in the future we will not have problems with law-enforcement."

Another march in commemoration of the third anniversary of the Iraq war will be held on Saturday March 18 on Woodward Avenue. Although the initial request for a permit was denied by the Detroit Police Department, the City Council overruled the denial and granted a permit on Wednesday March 14.

A top aide of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has arranged for a meeting with members of MECAWI to discuss ways to avoid similar problems in the future. At the conclusion of the hearing Assistant Chief Martin apologized for the problems. This was prompted by a request for an apology by City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson. The police were reluctant to comply initially, however, David Sole of MECAWI apologized for any problems or misunderstanding that he may have caused. Later Lt. Williams apologized for anything he may have said that was misunderstood.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Statewide Meeting Supports Rev. Pinkney in Benton Harbor

Originally uploaded by MarkDilley.
Statewide Meeting and March Supports Rev. Pinkney in Benton Harbor

Activist faces felony prosecution for exposing racism and corporate greed

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

BENTON HARBOR, March 11, 2006 (PANW)--With his trial scheduled to begin on March 15, Rev. Edward Pinkney, leader of the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO) in Benton Harbor, remained firm in his commitment to fight the four felony charges leveled against him by the Berrien County Prosecutor's Office in the southwest region of Michigan.

These charges stemmed from a successful recall campaign during 2005 when BANCO mobilized voters in Benton Harbor to remove City Commisioner Glenn Yarbrough. The vote was eventually overturned by Judge Paul Maloney, who also reinstated Yarbrough as Commissioner and Pinkney was later charged with paying $5 to individual citizens to cast their ballots for the recall. These charges could result in sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

Joined by over 100 supporters at the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Pinkney declared that "we are fighting a real war here. We have to stand tall. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for your children and grandchildren."

Rev. Pinkney continued by noting that: "This is not just black and white. It is the haves vs. the havenots, the rich vs. the poor. They are using our money, tax money, to convict us."

This meeting was attended by residents of Benton Harbor as well as people from various cities around the state including Detroit, Flint, Highland Park and Battle Creek. In addition, people attended from Chicago, some ninety miles away, and also a special guest from Washington, D.C. All of the speakers at the meeting pledged their support for Rev. Pinkney maintaining that his prosecution by local officials is a direct result of his militant activism in Benton Harbor and Berrien County.

David Sole, President of UAW Local 2334 in Detroit and a representative of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), opened his speech by saying that "we are here today along with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) to fight this racist frame-up in this city."

Sole said that "there are so many issues we could discuss at this gathering including the war in Iraq, the money that is being used by the Pentagon that should go to support the cities, but all of this means nothing if they can frame fighters like Rev. Edward Pinkney."

"People here are not scared," Sole continued. "They rose up in response to the murder of a young African-American brother in 2003. The fear is grounded. We are here like the freedom riders in the South. We must give the people the courage they need to fight: free Rev. Pinkney," Sole concluded.

Following this call for support, Marian Kramer of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization from Highland Park excited the participants by pointing out that her organization is heavily involved in major battles in the Detroit area. "We have to let them know that if you touch Rev. Pinkney, you have touced us."

Kramer continued by stating that: "As long as I am living and got breath I will keep fighting. A line is drawn in the sand, either you are on our side or the other side. There are 8 black City Commissioners and a black Mayor. Just because they are African-Americans does not mean they are for us. They are giving Benton Harbor away."

Later Maureen Taylor, the chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, said that: "We have thousands of people in the room because everyone here is representing their block club and community. If there are people standing in the way of justice, we have to get rid of them. We should just take over. We have the capacity to build a house for everybody in this country. We have the capacity to build everything we need in this country and the world."

Rev. Pinkney leveled much criticism at Whirpool Corporation which dominates the politics and economics of the Berrien County area. He also criticized the local corporate media newspaper the "Herald-Palladium". The newspaper, which is heavily influenced by the dominant white power structure, has been extremely hostile to the plight of African-Americans in Benton Harbor and especially critical of Rev. Pinkney and BANCO.

Dalani Aamon, the CEO & Founder of The Harambee Radio Network from Washington, D.C. also addressed the meeting. "You may think what happens here is isolated.
However, everywhere I go you see the same thing. We have outlived our usefulness in this country, like the Native Americans we have been moved from our natural environment. The government has hijacked the country for its own reasons. They are not operating in anybody's interests, black or white."

Another local resident Belinda Brown praised the crowd for coming out for the meeting. "There is so much energy in this room. We are ready to fight. If you don't have any fight, just touch me because I have enough for both of us."

Brown said that "everyone who is here from Benton Harbor knows that this city is corrupt. They stole that recall vote. They said Yarbrough paid $10 to say Pinkney paid $5 for people to vote for the recall. When Pastor Pinkney was in jail he was telling young men not to plead guilty and to ask for a jury trial."

After Rev. Pinkney's arrest in 2005 on the four felony counts, Brown's husband came to bail him out of jail. According to Brown: "We bailed out Rev. Pinkney and shortly thereafter my husband was terminated from his job."

Undeterred Brown said of Pinkney: "I will take a bullet for you." Pointing out that "after they stole the recall they decided to build a $8 million golf course. We have got to pack the courthouse. Pastor Pinkney you are our future. You have helped a lot of poor people. They need that County jail to make us criminals, that is how they make their living."

Later veteran labor activist General Baker of Highland Park addressed the meeting: "This is the first time I have been to Benton Harbor in my life. I would always slow down on I-94 when I got to Berrien County."

Baker discussed some of the contemporary labor issues affecting people in the United States. He mentioned that 16 miners have been killed since the beginning of 2006. He reflected on his experience as someone who refused induction into the military in 1965 during the Vietnam War.

Nelson Peery of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (LRNA) talked about the history of persecution directed towards African-American leaders. "We old people may feel we have little to contribute but we can pass on lessons from the past. We are at war, here in Benton Harbor and New Orleans. They come first for our leaders: Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois were both persecuted by the state. And if the movement does not defend its leaders no one will be safe."

Peery concluded by saying that "when you defend Rev. Pinkney you defend justice." Quoting the old spirituals during the slave era he stated that "before I'd be a slave I'd be buried in my grave."

After the conclusion of the meeting at Hopewell Baptist Church, the particpants then lined up and marched through the community to downtown Benton Harbor. Surrounding the police and fire stations, the crowd called for justice for Rev. Pinkney and all oppressed people in the city.

Facts Point to Racist Frame-up

According to a document circulated during the March 11 meeting in Benton Harbor, the charges brought against Rev. Pinkney are fabricated: "A review of filings in the civil case show that all of the allegations against Pinkney--and almost all cases where problems with any votes were alleged--are contradicted by public records and/or sworn statements." The civil case was filed by Berrien County Prosecutor James Cherry last March 17, 2005.

"Several people have contradicted the claim that Rev. Pinkney paid people $5 to vote for the recall. One story even had it that he and other recall backers were lining up people at the Benton Harbor soup kitchen and sending them in groups of five to the clerk's office to vote absentee--but former City Clerk N. Jean Nesbitt and her staff saw no such groups." Nesbitt was later fired as City Clerk.

"Even when pressed by sheriff's investigators, Brenda Fox stood by her statement that people recruited for the pro-recall campaign were paid $5, not to vote, but to hand out flyers. Did anybody deliver a flyer, they asked? Her reply: 'Yes. Honestly, yes," the factual document stated.

"Prosecutor Cherry's arguments to the court also claimed several people reported giving their absent-voter ballots to Pinkney to deliver to the clerk. However, Nesbitt's records clearly show the votes were received in the mail--and signatures appeared to match those in the master file of registered voters."

Benton Harbor was the focus of an urban rebellion in June of 2003 after a young man, Terrance Shurn, was killed by police when their vehicle ran him into an abandoned building. This blatant act of brutality sparked a three-day rebellion where state police were called in with tanks and other weapons to suppress the disorder led mainly by youth. BANCO took the lead then in calling for justice for Terrance Shurn, whose death was ruled accidental.

According to the factual document circulated at the meeting: "BANCO has also been working to bring jobs to the city of Benton Harbor, where unemployment rates are stuck in high double digits. And it has pushed the county Juvenile Center to recognize cases of workers abusing youths in the facility--and take action."

The statement goes on to say that: Pinkney and BANCO have led efforts to remove several 'public servants' who seem to be doing more to serve local economic powerhouse Whirlpool. Among the names they've named are Cherry, Yarbrough, and his brother Charles (the mayor at the time of Shurn's death). Pinkney believes Whirlpool (and its creation Cornerstone Alliance, which he calls 'Whirlpool in disguise') want to gentrify Benton Harbor. 'Lots of beachfront property, potential for corporate golf courses.' The problem: 'too many poor black people living in the area.' "

This trial will be monitored by people all over the United States. Pinkney has received inquiries and messages of support from people throughout Michigan, Illinois and other locations in the midwest. He reported that people have sent pledges of support from as far away as Utah and California.

Despite the charges filed against him, Rev. Pinkney remains optimistic about his potential for defeating the prosecution's case.

In order to contact BANCO people can call (269) 925-0001. Or they can e-mail: .

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Venezuelan Solidarity Conference Draws Over 400 Activists to Washington, D.C.

Venezuelan Solidarity Conference Draws Over 400 Activists in Washington, D.C.

Gathering establishes network to support Bolivarian Revolution

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 6, 2006 (PANW)--In spite of the destablization campaign by the United States Government against the South American nation of Venezuela, support for the Bolivarian Revolution is growing internationally.

This burgeoning support is also taking place inside the United States which was clearly reflected by the broad-based attendance at the "National Venezuela Solidarity Conference" held between March 4-6 at George Washington University. The conference attracted people from various regions of the country including California, Washington state, Detroit, Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C. as well as Canada.

The conference was co-sponsored by a host of organizations including the Alliance for Global Justice, the All-African People's Revolutionary Party, Artist Network of the Americas, Antonio Macio Brigade, Campaign for Labor Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, No War on Cuba Movement, Ocean Press, People's Hurricane Relief Fund, Rochester Committee on Latin America, the International Action Center, the Iranian Cultural Association, Inc., Latin American Solidarity Coalition, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Hands Off Venezuela, Global Exchange, Global Women's Strike, National Immigrant Solidarity Network and many others.

Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States Bernardo Alvarez Herrera opened up the conference on Saturday morning stating that he "has been here for three years, although it seems like ten." He thanked the conference organizers and participants for all of the work that is being done on Venezuela.

"Some say everything was okay until President Chavez came to power," Ambassador Alvarez said. "However, despite this view, today there is an inter-American dialogue taking place where other nations in the region including Bolivia are taking part."

Ambassador Alvarez continued by pointing out that "From the point of view of a government with a lot of enemies, the first thing that people in the United States must do is to adjust your lenses. The process in Venezuela is part of a historical movement, it is not an accident. For the last seven years we have opposed regime-change and the financing of opposition groups."

Drawing attention to the positive initiatives related to support for the sovereignty of Venezuela, Ambassador Alvarez drew attention to the resolution introduced in the Michigan State Legislature by Representative Lamar Lemmons III of the 3rd District, which called for the United States Government to respect the independence of the country. This resolution was also signed by 14 other state legislators in Michigan many of whom were from the city of Detroit.

Although the resolution was not passed by the Michigan State Legislature do to the political composition of the body, it was adopted by the National Black State Legislative Conference which encompasses officials from throughout the United States.

This resolution reads in part that: "Whereas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias won landslide presidential elections in 1998 and 2000 with 58 percent and 59 percent of the popular vote, respectively. These electoral victories signaled the end of a 500-year-old colonial caste system in which an oligarchy of the socially, politically, and economically advantaged exploited the majority population."

The House Resolution No. 145 presented by Representative Lamar Lemmons III continues by stating that: "Whereas, All democratic countries must abjure any state-sponsored activities to destabilize Venezuela's economy and/or national sovereignty. Further, all public and private American-based entities are conjoined for the sake of international social order and domestic tranquility to vigorously oppose the unconscionable low-intensity war that is being waged against the people and national sovereignty of Venezuela since the inception of the Chavez Frias administration."

According to Ambassador Alvarez, "this is important for the Venezuelan people to have good people to work with inside the United States.

Learning the Historical Lessons of the Solidarity Movement

The keynote speaker for the conference on Saturday was Antonio Gonzalez, an influential leader in the Latino community in the United States and director of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project.

Gonzalez raised the question of "[H]ow are we going to learn the lessons of past struggles to end intervention in other countries by the U.S.? He refered to the monumental efforts related to the Vietnam war, Central America and Southern Africa from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Gonzalez described himself as a representative of the excluded communities in the United States. He stated that the situation of Chicanos in the United States was one of internal colonization. "Many people see the Latino experience as an immigrant issue," Gonzalez stated. "In part yes, it is an immigrant issue, however, it is also one of occupation."

"My family was incorporated through force of arms in the southwest region of what is now known as the United States. Consciously or unconsciously people find the domestic situation as unpenetratable and devote attention to the international scene. Nontheless, there is no division between the domestic and the international situations and there should be no division of forces," Gonzalez emphasized.

Gonzalez pointed to the grassroots efforts of the Latino communities in coalition with African-Americans in the United States to change local governmental structures. He also pointed to the labor struggles that took place two years ago to affect change in the health care sector where Latinos and African-Americans won a contract that impacted 70,000 workers. "We are working to take power," he said.

"We followed the examples of African-Americans and were inspired by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. African-Americans are always first in all things good in the struggle for social change. Our movement is not going to get smaller but better. The reality of the situation in the United States is that the national minorities are becoming empowered. We must view the situation in Venezuela within that context. Our struggle is not done, it is a lifetime struggle," Gonzalez continued.

"The struggle in Venezuela is also one of inclusion because prior to the revolution most of the population was excluded. 80% were without power in Venezuela. This struggle was no different than the black struggle. These efforts reflect a broader movement throughout Latin America," Gonzalez declared.

"Before the changes there was an 'elite democracy'. People in Latin America are ahead of the U.S. In Venezuela mass labor and peasant movements are taking the lead. Elections with mass participation are gaining results. We cannot go there and teach, but to learn. We need clear objectives and goals. We must build independent mass movements to prevent intervention in Venezuela," Gonzalez continued.

"We should bring hundreds of thousands of Americans to Venezuela. We should bring people from Venezuela here to speak. The corporate media should not define what is happening for us. We have to become creative and innovative. I am optimistic about partnerships. This movement has to be independent. When windows are open we should go through them. We have to be organized, thoughtful and agile to strike," Gonzalez concluded.

The Role of African-Venezuelans

A panel discussion at the conference featured Jorge Guerrero Veloz of the Afro-Venezolana Organization. This organization supports the Bolivarian Revolution and is working to recorrect the historical problems related to the legacy of slavery and racism in Venezuela.

Guerrero discussed the loss of historical memory related to the official histories of Venezuela. He also drew attention to the hostile position of the United States toward Venezuela since the coming to power of President Hugo Chavez in 1999. The Americans used Venezuela's close relations with Cuba and its support of progressive forces in Colombia as an excuse.

"The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) supported the attempted coup in 2002, "Guerrero said. He pointed out that the United States Department of State continues to intervene in the affairs of Venezuela.

"Secretary of State Rice said that the U.S. would finance strike action against the government, thus interfering in our right to have our own system of government. We are democratizing democracy. We are looking for solidarity with sister movements," Guerrero said.

"We are providing heating oil to indigenous and African-American communities. Chavez has identified himself as an Afro-Venezuelan. The fight against racism is a major policy of the state,"Guerrero emphasized.

Guerrero also pointed out the changes in the constitution which recognizes women as full citizens. President Chavez recently granted social security benefits and minimum wages to women who work in the home. Ministers in the government include both men and women. The vice president of the nation is a woman.

Workshops Explore Avenues of Solidarity

Over thirty workshops were held at the conference. These dealt with issues such as Venezuela and the African Diaspora; US and Internaitonal Labor Solidarity; US Sponsored Coup D'etat: Haiti and Venezuela; The US War on Cuba, its Relevance to Venezuela and Regional Developments; Delegations to Venezuela; Citgo Buycott; Campus Organizers and University Resources; the film "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" was screened; African-Venezuelans and the Bolivarian Revolution; Indigenous Rights in Venezuela and the Native American Connection; among others.

The workshop entitled Venezuela and the African Diaspora was held on Saturday and was attended by over 30 people. The workshop was chaired by Bob Brown of the All-African People's
Revolutionary Party and Pan-African Roots, Nellie Hester-Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Union and Dr. Alberto Jones of the Caribbean American Children's Foundation.

The workshop discussed a draft resolution submitted by Bob Brown which sought to express unconditional solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Brown, who has worked in the civil rights, black power, anti-war and pan-african movements for 43 years proposed the establishment of a new group called the People of African Descent in Solidarity With Venezuela (PADSV). Extensive discussions were held on the language of the resolution and further work will continue to refine the document and to circulate it internationally. According to Brown, some 30 organizations and individuals have expressed support for the effort.

Nellie Hester Bailey, who has been active in the Cuba solidarity movement for years, recently attended the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela in January. Bailey discussed the work done over the years in solidarity with Southern Africa and the need to develop ties with Africans in Latin America.
"How do we build solidarity with peoples in the Latin America region is the purpose of this workshop," Bailey said.

The workshop entitled: "Indigenous Rights in Venezuela and the Native American Connection" featured a panel of activists from various indigenous communities based in the United States and Canada. One of the key speakers in the workshop was Robert Free Galvan who is the Field Coordinator of the

This workshop began with a slide presentation by Galvan looking at the history of Native American struggles since 1969 at Alcatraz, Wounded Knee in 1972-73, Pine Ridge in 1975, etc. Galvan stated that "the people who attempt to speak for us are not valid. People get grants for 'researching'
people of color. It also happens in so-called progressive movements and it is not valid."

The panel on indigenous rights expressed support for the recognition of the rights of their peoples in Venezuela and Bolivia. They contrasted this process with the role of governmental funded structures in the United States and Canada which they feel are designed to further destroy Indian cultures and sovereignty.

A workshop on organizing delegations to Venezuela presented various programs in the United States that provide study tours to the country. What was clear is that more and more people are interested in traveling to Venezuela to learn and to provide assistance to the process of nation-building and social transformation inside the country.

May 20 Demonstration

On Sunday a planning meeting was held to develop strategies for building a mass demonstration in Washington, D.C. in defense of Venezuela and Cuba on May 20. The idea for the march was initiated by the National Network on Cuba and the effort has been endorsed by over 100 groups.

Organizers are requesting that activists bring bus loads of people from throughout the country to participate. A call for more endorsements was also made during the meeting. The demonstration is scheduled to gather at 10:30 a.m. in Malcolm X Park and will proceed through the Latino and African-American communities to Lafayette Park.

The main demands of the demonstration include: the lifting of the travel ban against Cuba; the ending of the blockade of Cuba; the normalization of relations with Cuba; Hands off Venezuela and the defense of Venezuelan sovereignty; the freeing of the Cuban Five political prisoners and the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles.

Organizations and individuals wishing to endorse the demonstration were encouraged to e-mail their support to:

This conference was the first movement-wide gathering in support of the Venezuelan process. Activists from around the country pledged to intensify their efforts aimed at defending the sovereignty of the country and to educate people throughout the United States to the dangers posed by the Bush administration in regard to its aggressive and hostile policies towards the Bolivarian Revolution.