Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Michigan News Roundup: Benton Harbor Demonstration; Black Men Murdered; CAIR Lawsuits; Report on Aiyana Stanley Jones Investigation

Michigan News Roundup

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Demonstration in Benton Harbor Slams Land Grab

BENTON HARBOR—Over 100 people rallied and marched through this southwest Michigan city on August 10 to protest against the opening of the Jack Nicklaus Golf Course located on Lake Michigan using land deeded decades before for the usage by the African-American working class community. Jean Klock Park is now known as Harbor Shores, where in addition to the golf course, there are plans to construct expensive condominiums.

The Nicklaus Signature golf course will host the PGA Sr. Championships for both 2012 and 2014. Benton Harbor, a majority African-American city, has been devastated by the loss of jobs and police repression, which sparked a four-day rebellion in 2003.

Demonstrators also blasted the Whirlpool Corporation--which is based in Benton Harbor--for their refusal to pay adequate taxes and utility costs for large-scale use of local land and resources. Whirlpool announced recently that it would build a new world headquarters in the city even though critics have accused the appliance manufacturing firm of not hiring local residents in the community.

Rev. Edward Pinkney, the president of the local NAACP branch and a former political prisoner in Michigan, led the demonstration that attracted Benton Harbor residents as well as people from around the country. The march began with a rally at City Hall and concluded with a picket of the gate at the golf course and a concluding speak-out in a park located across from the new Harbor Shores development.

Those in attendance included Ralph Poynter of the Free Lynne Stewart Committee in New York, Fred Hampton, Jr. of Chicago, son of slain Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, Larry Pinkney from Minneapolis and writer for the Black Commentator, Ron Scott and Sandra Hines of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality as well as members of various organizations from Detroit such as the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Workers World Party, MECAWI and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs.

One Arrest Made in Serial Killing of Black Men

Flint—A suspect has been arrested in the investigation surrounding the stabbing deaths of five African-American men in Flint and the wounding of at least 15 others, including one white male. There were similar attacks in Leesburg, Virginia and Toledo, Ohio where four reported assaults, none of which were fatal, took place.

The suspect arrested is a citizen of the State of Israel and is reported to be a Christian of Arab descent. Most people who knew the suspect, including family members, expressed shock over his arrest while he was boarding a plane to Tel Aviv.

The attacks have come as a further affront to the residents of Flint which is one of the hardest hit cities in Michigan as a result of the economic crisis. Even during the 1980s, Flint experienced the unprecedented closing of automotive plants that left tens of thousands of workers idle.

CAIR Files Freedom of Information Lawsuits in Imam Abdullah Assassination

DETROIT—Attorneys for the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan have filed several lawsuits demanding information from law-enforcement agencies on the assassination of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah. The imam was lured by FBI informants to a warehouse in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn on October 28, 2009, where he was first attacked by a dog and then shot 20 times by government agents.

The U.S. District Attorney’s Office claimed in a 44-page criminal complaint that the imam and his followers at the Masjid al-Haqq on Detroit’s west side were involved in the trafficking of illegal goods and advocated the violent overthrow of the government leading to the establishment of an Islamic state. People who knew the imam, including residents of the neighborhood where he worked, said that he was a dedicated community servant for the poor who provided food, shelter, job referrals and counseling to displaced workers and ex-convicts.

Since the assassination of Imam Abdullah, condemnations have been voiced throughout the world. Imam Dawud Walid, the executive director CAIR-Michigan, recently traveled to the West African state of Mali where he said that “people were well aware of the government killing of Imam Luqman.” (Speech at a Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality meeting, August 15)

Demonstrations against the FBI were held in the immediate aftermath of the assassination by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice and the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality in November 2009. MECAWI described the killing of the imam as a targeted assassination.

Various organizations and officials have called for an independent investigation of Imam Abdullah’s killing including the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the National Lawyers Guild, the Congress of Arab American Organizations, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, among others.

Detroit Police Commission Reports on Investigation Into the Killing of Aiyana Stanley Jones

DETROIT—At a public meeting held on August 5, the Board of Police Commissioners responded to a request by the Coalition Against Police Brutality for an update on the Michigan State Police investigation into the killing of Aiyana Stanley Jones on May 16. Jones, a seven-year-old African-American school girl, was severely burned by a flash grenade and shot through the head by a white Detroit police officer while she lay in bed.

The killing sparked outrage throughout the country. There have been several demonstrations against the killing and the family of Jones has filed two wrongful death civil suits.

According to the police commission report, the investigation by the state police will be complete within four weeks where the findings will be turned over to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. No details of the specific findings were reported at the police commission meeting on August 5.

The Detroit police have been under two federal consent decrees since 2003. The consent decrees, involving the use of lethal force and the deplorable conditions existing at the time in the precinct lock-ups, stemmed from a three year U.S. Justice Department investigation beginning in 2000.

Meanwhile, Detroit police chief Warren Evans was forced to resign in July by Mayor Dave Bing. Many speculated that the killing of Jones played a significant role in the removal of the chief who had openly attacked the Coalition Against Police Brutality for its criticism of law-enforcement practices in the city.

U.S. Congressman John Conyers of Detroit recently wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting a federal investigation into the killing of Aiyana Stanley Jones. Conyers, who spoke on the “Fighting for Justice” radio program broadcast over WDTW 1310 AM every Sunday morning from 10:00-11:00am, reiterated his commitment to work to end police brutality in Detroit.

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