Rev. Edward Pinkney speaks to guests at his home after the sentencing hearing on May 14 in Benton Harbor. Pinkney was given five years probation. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe).
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
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Black Community Leader of Benton Harbor, Michigan Jailed for Criticizing Judge
In the latest unbelievable outrage against Black low-income residents of Benton Harbor, MI, community leader Rev. Edward Pinkney, who has been under house arrest since he was falsely convicted by an all-white jury of election fraud, has been jailed without the immediate option of bail for criticizing the judge who sentenced him.
This persecution follows a successful campaign he led to recall a city commissioner considered corrupt and in the pockets of developers. He is now on a hunger strike until all this is resolved.
On December 14 at approximately 1:30 pm, the Sheriff's Department in Berrien County, Michigan arrested Rev. Pinkney and took him to the jail in St. Joseph. The sheriff also seized Rev. Pinkney's computer.
Background: Benton Harbor is 94% Black with an average income of $8,000/year. Rev. Pinkney and others in BANCO (the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizations) regularly monitored courthouse proceedings, named those involved in corrupt and racist practices and opposed rampant police brutality particularly following the death of a Black teenager.
When the CEO of Whirlpool (HQ in Benton Harbor) announced a “development plan” for 465 riverfront acres in Benton Harbor, BANCO’s leader Rev. Pinkney was outspoken in opposition to this land grab. BANCO succeeded in having a City Commissioner recalled for being in the pocket of Whirlpool (though he was later reinstated).
But with so much money riding on it, the power elite attempted to criminalize Rev. Pinkney, accusing him of electoral fraud. Without either evidence or credible witnesses for the prosecution, an all-white jury found him guilty. Grassroots action succeeded in getting a possible 20-year sentence reduced to one year in jail and 5 yrs probation.
Until Friday, Rev. Pinkney was under house arrest – having to pay $84/week for the court tether he was required to wear in order to avoid serving time in jail. He was the only one under house arrest in Michigan who was being monitored by satellite.
Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney, wife and fellow campaigner for justice, reports that the sheriff's deputies presented a bench warrant to arrest the Reverend for violating the 15th condition of his probation (which she said they were totally unaware of) by being quoted in the Peoples Tribune newspaper as follows:
”The corruption and the deceitfulness continues in Berrien County Courthouse. Judge Butzbaugh has violated his oath. I support the constitution of the United States and the State of Michigan; we are still waiting on this racist corrupt judge to do the same. Judge Butzbaugh has failed the people, the community, his duties and his office."
What about Rev. Pinkney’s right to free speech under the Constitution? And why have they seized his computer? Have the sheriffs of Berrien County, Michigan nothing better to do than to persecute Rev. Pinkney? No violent crimes to solve, no rapists to catch, no people to protect?
The police examining Rev. Pinkney’s computer will find he and BANCO have supporters all over the world. For example, a delegation from the Global Women's Strike representing South America, Europe and the Caribbean visited Rev. and Mrs. Pinkney in mid-November, and are committed to gathering global support for him. “Benton Harbor’s struggle against racism and to survive in their own home city is our struggle,” they said.
Legal abuse and persecution of Afro-Americans in the Jim Crow South is flourishing in Michigan. We must not stand by while the white elite of Berrien County attempt again to silence a man whose only ‘crime’ is to be the voice of Benton Harbor’s Black community, calling out the racism and corruption of local government, police and courts.
ACT NOW. Demand Rev. Pinkney’s immediate release!
Demand that all charges be dropped against him and that he be released from house arrest!
1) Call or write with your objections
Call the Sheriff’s Dept, Berrien County Michigan and inquire about Rev. Pinkney’s well-being.
Sheriff Paul Bailey
Berrien County Sheriff’s Department
919 Port Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
Copy Letters to: Hugh M. Davis, Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C., 450 West Fort Street, Suite 200, Detroit, Michigan, 48226. Phone: 313-961-2255; Fax: 313-961-5999; email: firstname.lastname@example.org:
2) Demand Rev. Pinkney’s pardon and immediate release.
Gov. Granholm has the ability to pardon Pinkney or commute his sentence.
All individuals and organizations are urged to immediately write letters or post cards DEMANDING his pardon.
P. O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909
517-335-7858 (call may not be recorded)
3) Send donations to BANCO
Legal Fee Donations (non-profit so it's tax-deductible):
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
4) Write to the Editor of the main newspaper of Benton Harbor/St Joseph and say what you think of this outrage against freedom of speech.
Herald Palladium Newspaper (letters to the editor)
P.O. Box 128
St. Joseph, Michigan 49085
5) Support Rev. Pinkney and Sign the Petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/624471377
6) Boycott Whirlpool and its subsidiaries, and spread the word: Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Gladiator, GarageWorks, Inglis, Estate, Roper, Magic Chef, Acros, Supermatic. ABROAD-Bauknecht, Brastemp, Consul, Eslabon de Lujo.
Let Whirlpool know that’s what you’re doing:
Whirlpool Corp. (World Headquarters and N. America Region)
2000 N. M-63
Benton Harbor, Michigan 49022-2692
7) Demand an immediate investigation into this injustice. Contact:
The Congressional Black Caucus. Phone 202-226-9776, mail to 2264 Rayburn House Office Bldg, Washington, DC 20515.
Your Congressional Representative. For phone number and address call 202-224-3121.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington DC 20510, demanding a full investigation into the Whirlpool corporate takeover of the city of Benton Harbor. Phone 202-224-7703.
8) Send us your statements of support and we will compile them and put them on the website.
Statement from Women of Color in the Global Women's Strike
We call on all people of conscience, those who love justice, to take immediate action against this ongoing outrage. In the aftermath of the great electoral frauds of 2000 and 2004, Rev. Pinkney stands as an example of the power of the people to demand accountability from politicians and use of the electoral process as it was intended.
His ‘crime’ is that he is refusing to bow down to illegitimate and corrupt power, but is instead tireless in the service of the community. Send a message to the body politic. Contact your elected representatives.
Let them know we are watching them. Let them know you demand both an electoral system and elected politicians who serve the people. Call Sheriff Paul Bailey and inquire about Rev. Pinkney's wellbeing.
Signed Women of Color in the Global Women's Strike/ Bay Area San Francisco; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; England; Guyana; India (Chhattisgarh); Mexico; Peru; Uganda; Venezuela. email: email@example.com