benton harbor

Benton Harbor Activist Will Remain Under House Arrest

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Benton Harbor community activist will remain under house arrest while he is waiting the outcome of his appeal. You can read more about Pinkney’s case online. For more on the ruling, see the AP article below:

(AP) — LANSING, Mich. – A Benton Harbor minister will remain on house arrest while he appeals a prison sentence for writing that God could punish a judge who presided over his election fraud conviction.

The Michigan Supreme Court declined to hear Edward Pinkney’s appeal of his house arrest in an unanimous order dated Wednesday.

Pinkney was sentenced to five years of probation in 2007 after being convicted of paying people to vote in a Benton Harbor election. He later wrote an article saying the judge who handled his case could be punished by God with curses unless he changed his ways.

Another judge ruled that Pinkney’s column violated his probation and sentenced him to prison. The state appeals court has released Pinkney on bond while considering an appeal of his sentence.

Rally Tomorrow in Support of Benton Harbor Civil Rights Leader

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Tomorrow, a federal appeals court in Grand Rapids will begin hearing an appeal by the ACLU on behalf of the Benton Harbor activist Reverend Ed Pinkney who has been targeted by the government for his civil rights work in Benton Harbor.

Outside of the hearing, a coalition of supports will be staging a demonstration. An announcement of the demonstration was sent to MediaMouse.org:

ACLU Defends Persecuted Benton Harbor Civil Rights Leader in Grand Rapids Appeals Trial

Concerned Citizens Rally in Defense of a “Voice for the Voiceless”

Who: The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO), the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR), the Grand Rapids IWW, and people from throughout Michigan who support social justice.

Why: Rev. Pinkney has been fighting for social justice in Benton Harbor as leader of the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO). He was convicted by an all-white jury on trumped-up charges related to false allegations of voter fraud. The ACLU was successful in winning his release from prison, on bond, pending the outcome of his appeal.

What: Picket in Support of Rev. Pinkney’s Civil Rights

When: June 9, 8 am. Trial begins at 9 am.

Where:

Court Of Appeals Building

350 Ottawa

Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Local and Michigan Headlines: George W. Bush in Benton Harbor; Iraqi Refugees in Michigan

Here are some important articles covering recent events in Grand Rapids and Michigan:

As always, if we missed anything, let us know in the comments.

George W. Bush to Deliver First Domestic Post-Presidency Speech in Michigan

George W. Bush is Speaking in Benton Harbor

Former President George W. Bush will deliver his first domestic post-presidency speech in Southwest Michigan later this Spring. Bush will be speaking to The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan in Benton Harbor on May 28.

The event is closed to the public and the media. There has been no disclosure of how much Bush will be receiving for his speech. Members of the Economic Club are the only ones who will be invited to attend. Membership dues range from $135 to $195 per year according to the Club’s website.

The speech is part of a series that advertises itself as an opportunity to “meet and talk with six of the most influential leaders in the world.” Other guests in the series include Karl Rove, Mike Huckabee, and Condoleezza Rice (who will also be speaking in Grand Rapids this summer).

Protestors Organizing to Greet Bush

On the social networking website Facebook, protestors are organizing to greet Bush.

At a recent speech in Canada, hundreds of people protested against former President Bush. Protestors hurled shoes at effigies and accused Bush of being a war criminal due to his actions as part of the so-called “War on Terror.” Protest organizers were seeking to put Bush on trial “for the seemingly endless list of crimes for which his regime was responsible.”

Before the protest, a group called Lawyers Against the war filed a letter with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) asking them to bar Bush from entry citing his involvement in torture and war crimes.

Briefs Filed in Support of Preacher Sentenced to Prison for Criticizing Judge

Rev. Pinkney had Three Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Filed on his Behalf this week

The Benton Harbor community activist Rev. Edward Pinkney–who had his been the target of a wide-ranging campaign of repression that he charges is politically motivated–had three friend-of-the-court briefs filed earlier this week on his behalf in a case in which he was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for criticizing a judge.

Pinkney, who is now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), had his probation revoked following a newspaper article he wrote in 2007. In that article, Pinkney quoted a Bible verse and predicted that God would punish the judge unless he “hearken[ed] unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe [and] to do all that is right.” Pinkney also expressed his opinion that the judge was racist, dumb, and corrupt. The judge resentenced him to 3-10 years in prison for violating his probation.

The ACLU eventually took up the case, arguing that Pinkney’s claims were constitutionally protected speech. In support of this argument, over a dozen national and local faith-based organizations, a group of law professors, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Speech, filed three friend-of-the court briefs.

They include:

  • The religious freedom brief represents the views of a wide array of religious and faith-based groups including: the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Jewish Congress, the Christian Legal Society, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Liberty Legal Institute, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, the National Baptist Convention, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Gamaliel Foundation, the American Baptist Home Mission Society, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and Rev. Harry T. Cook.

    According to the brief, Rev. Pinkney’s article is “a textbook example of one important rhetorical and theological tradition within both Christianity and Judaism… Quoting scripture is core religious speech; the Framers of the First Amendment could not have imagined that it would ever be a criminal offense to quote scripture.”

  • The professors’ brief represents the views of 18 law professors at the University of Michigan Law School, Michigan State University College of Law, Wayne State University Law School, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The brief explains that under well-established constitutional law, Rev. Pinkney’s newspaper editorial could not be the basis for punishment in a court of law. “In this country, under this Constitution, and on this Court’s watch,” they explained, “he must not be imprisoned for speaking his conscience.”
  • The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression argued in its brief that Rev. Pinkney’s editorial was not a “true threat” under well-established First Amendment law. According to the Center’s brief, “In finding that Rev. Pinkney’s newspaper editorial violated his conditions of probation, the lower court punished speech at the core of First Amendment protection: public criticism of the judiciary.” The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression is a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution dedicated solely to the protection of the First Amendment rights of free speech and free press.

Court Decision Paves Way for Release of Activist

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Earlier this week, a Court of Appeals decision paved the way for the possible release of imprisoned Benton Harbor activist Rev. Edward Pinkney.

The ruling comes in a case where Pinkney is serving three to ten years in prison for criticizing a judge in a newspaper article. The Michigan ACLU–who took up Pinkney’s case last month–is calling the decision a victory. The ACLU had argued that while Pinkney’s comments were offensive to many, they were protected First Amendment speech.

Pinkney remains in prison, but the Court of Appeals has granted the ACLU’s motion and has asked the Berrien County Circuit Court to set the amount of bond. No hearing date has been scheduled yet, but the ACLU plans to ask for the earliest date possible.

Imprisoned Community Activist’s Case Discussed

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The Los Angeles based radio program Sojourner Truth with Margaret Prescod aired a program yesterday that features some important background information on the case of imprisoned Benton Harbor community activist Reverend Edward Pinkney.

On the program, Prescod interviews Pinkney’s attorney who gives an overview of the case and where the legal process is at, Pinkney’s wife who talks about Pinkney’s incarceration and his activism, and Benton Harbor resident Belinda Brown who talks about the issues facing residents of the city.

The interview can be listened to below, it starts six minutes into the program:

ACLU Representing Minister Imprisoned for Criticizing Judge

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Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties of Union (ACLU) of Michigan agreed to represent the Reverend Edward Pinkney in a controversial case over the limits of the First Amendment and is calling for Pinkney’s release from an Upper Peninsula prison on bond.

Pinkney–an African-American community activist in Benton Harbor–has been in the public eye over a series of debates about the direction of development in the city, race relations, and city politics. Pinkney has been a steadfast critic of the politicians and the judicial system in Berrien County, often exposing the way in which race impacts politics in the predominantly white St. Joseph and the predominantly black Benton Harbor.

As part of his ongoing organizing, Pinkey engaged in a recall campaign against a Benton Harbor City Commission. Out of that campaign, Pinkney was eventually charged with violating Michigan’s election law, to which he was sentenced a year in prison and five years of probation in May of 2007. He was allowed to begin serving probation at that time and was set to begin the prison time at a later date.

However, in December of 2007, Pinkney’s probation was revoked after his probation officer became aware of a newspaper article in which Pinkney criticized the judge in his case. That set off a process in which Pinkney was eventually resentenced to three to ten years in prison.

According to the court, Pinkney threatened the judge in the case when he criticized him. In a legal brief, the ACLU writes:

“In 2007, Rev. Pinkney was convicted of violating Michigan election law and sentenced to probation. But his probation was revoked, and he was resentenced to three to ten years in prison, solely because he wrote a newspaper editorial highly critical of the judge who presided at his trial. Quoting a passage from the Bible, Rev. Pinkney predicted that God would curse the judge and his family unless the judge “hearken[ed] unto the voice of the Lord they God to observe [and] to do all that is right.” Rev. Pinkney also expressed his opinion that the judge was racist, dumb, and corrupt. The

The statements Rev. Pinkney made in his newspaper editorial, while offensive to many are clearly protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States constitution. At the very least, whether his statements are protected constitutes a substantial ground for appeal. His statement regarding God’s curses upon the trial judge was not a “true threat” and the First Amendment does not tolerate a blanket prohibition on the ability of a probationer to criticize public officials.”

In the brief, the ACLU argues that is legal precedent for Pinkeny’s speech being protected. Moreover, it argues that a term of Pinkney’s probation is overbroad and does not survive Constitutional scrutiny. That term read:

“You must not engage in any assault, abusive, defamatory, demeaning, harassing, violent, threatening, or intimidating behavior, including the use, through any electronic or print media under your care, custody or control, of the mail, e-mail, or internet.”

The ACLU argues that this condition is an unconstitutional prohibition of legally protected First Amendment speech.

They are calling for Pinkney’s release on bond pending the resolution of his appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Court Rules Rev. Pinkney Must Remain in Jail

Rev. Edward Pinkney’s Attorney, Hugh M. Davis, tells BlackCommentator.com an attempt to get Pinkney–a community organizer in Benton Harbor, Michigan who was jailed last week for criticizing a Berrien County judge–out of jail at a hearing on Thursday, December 20th failed. Davis says Judge Alfred Butzbaugh accepted their argument that the following statement was protected by the first ammendment right of free speech:

“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.”

However, Davis says the Judge ruled that the following statement by Pinkney calling on God to curse the judge and his family was not protected by the first ammendment and it was a violation of the probabtion terms prohibiting inflamatory remarks:

“Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass; if thou continue not to hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe to do all that is right; which I command thee this day, that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, curses shalt be in the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall come upon you and your family and over take thee; cursed shall be the fruit of thy body. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They the demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist.”

Both of the above quotes are part of an article that originated in the People’s Tribune PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org. written by Rev. Pinkney. There is an online version of the People’s Tribune.

Attorney Davis also tells BC he is puzzled by the ruling and has never heard of anything like it before. Another hearing on the matter will take place in about two weeks.

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

(269) 983-7141

Email: Pbailey@berriencounty.org.

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: conlitpc@sbcglobal.net:

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.

Governor Granholm

P. O. Box 30013

Lansing, MI 48909

517-335-7858

3) Send donations to BANCO Legal Fee Donations (non-profit so it’s tax-deductible):

BANCO

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

800-356-4262

5) Support Rev. Pinkney and Sign the Petition:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/624471377

http://bhbanco.blogspot.com

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 Tel: 269-923-5000

7) Rep. John Conyers

669 Federal Building

231 W. Lafayette

Detroit, MI 48226

(313) 961-5670

(313) 226-2085 Fax

2426 Rayburn Building

Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-5126

(202) 225-0072 Fax

2615 W. Jefferson

Trenton, MI 48183

(734) 675-4084

(734) 675-4218 Fax

John.Conyers@mail.house.gov

8) 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.

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.

Reverend Pinkney Arrested in Benton Harbor

Reverend Edward Pinkney, a community activist in Benton Harbor who has been active in fighting racial injustice in the southwest Michigan town, has been arrested at his home. According Pinkney’s Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO), Pinkney was arrested on Friday for violating a provision in his probation agreement that prohibits him from making certain types of comments in the media or in person. Pinkney’s lawyer claims that they were unaware of the prohibition. Pinkney’s computer has also been confiscated by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department during the arrest.

At issue are comments by Pinkney in the People’s Tribune newspaper. A copy of the arrest warrant obtained by the excellent BlackCommentator.com says:

“I request that a bench warrant be issued and Pinkney, Edward be arrested and brought before the Court for probation revocation proceedings for the following reasons:

Violated the 15th condition of probation, which states that he shall not engage any assaultive, abusive, defamatory, demeaning, harassing, violent, threatening, or intimidating behavior, including through any electronic or print media under his care, custody, or control of the mail, e-mail, or Internet, as Mr. Pinkney authored an article in the People’s Tribune at http://www.peoplestribune.org in the November/December 2007 issue, stating that, ‘We must fight for justice for all anytime you have a judge like Alfred Butzbaugh, who is a racist.’ ‘Nor did I receive due process by the dumb Judge and prosecutor.’ ‘We are still waiting on this racist, corrupt judge to do the same.’”

Pinkney has announced that he is on hunger strike in protest of the arrest, while BANCO is asking people to take the following actions:

“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. He is only one (the most vocal) in a city of people under a severely repressive government. THEY WANT HIM SILENCED. So far, with the complicit media, they have been successful. Let’s do what we can to free him since his leadership is crucial.

Governor Granholm

P. O. BOX 30013

LANSING, MICHIGAN 48909

517-335-7858 (call may not be recorded)

Legal Fee Donations (non-profit so it’s tax-deductible):

BANCO

1940 Union St.

Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Herald Palladium Newspaper (letters to the editor)

P.O. Box 128

St. Joseph, Michigan 49085

800-356-4262

Whirlpool Corp. (World Headquarters and N. America Region)

2000 N. M-63

Benton Harbor, Michigan 49022-2692

269-923-5000

Support Rev. Pinkney and Sign Petition:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/624471377

Boycott Whirlpool and it’s subsidiaries: Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Gladiator, GarageWorks, Inglis, Estate, Roper, Magic Chef, Acros, Supermatic. ABROAD – Bauknecht, Brastemp, Consul, Eslabon de Lujo.

Buy NON-Whirlpool brands! – Frigidaire, General Electric, LG, Samsung, Viking, Subzero, Dacor, some Kenmore, etc.”

More information on the case can be found in a recent article on BlackCommentator.com.