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Benton Harbor Rally Defends Community Leader, Condemns Brutality and Racism
by Pan-African News Wire
Monday May 23rd, 2005 10:17 AM

Benton Harbor Rally Defends Community Leader, Condemns Brutality and Racism

Activsts from across the state and neighboring cities say
hands off Rev. Pinkney

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

Benton Harbor, MI, 21 May, 2005 (PANW)--Activists from
various Michigan cities and Chicago, came to this
predominantly African-American city in the southwest region
of the state to express their support for community leader,
Rev. Edward Pinkney, who is facing prosecution on four felony
charges and a misdemeanor that could result in twenty years
imprisonment.

Berrien County Prosecutors filed the charges against Rev.
Pinkney in the aftermath of a successful recall election on
February 22 that removed Commissioner Glenn Yarbrough who is
the brother of the former Mayor and a supporter of police
chief Samuel Harris. County officials claim that Rev. Pinkney
engaged in voter fraud by buying off people to support the
recall and for influencing individual voters.

Rev. Pinkney, who is the executive director of the Black
Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO) in Benton
Harbor, has been an outspoken critic of the local political
establishment and corporate elites. Supporters of Rev.
Pinkney cite the history of racism and police brutality
directed towards the people of Benton Harbor as the
underlying causes of the economic plight of the city.

In June of 2003 the people of Benton Harbor rose up in a
rebellion that lasted for three days and resulted in the
deployment of the State Police. The outbreak occured in the
aftermath of the death of a young African-American man who
was chased on his motorcylce by the Berrian County police.
The years of deprivation and poverty reached a boiling point
in 2003. These developments in Benton Harbor drew national
and international media coverage.

The May 21 rally, which took place at the Benton Harbor
Public Library, was held in response to the April 18 arrest
of Rev. Pinkney. Various organizations attended the support
meeting including the Michigan Emergency Committee Against
War & Injustice (MECAWI), the Michigan Welfare Rights
Organization (MWRO), The Detroit Coalition Against Police
Brutality (DCAPB), the League of Revolutionaries for a New
America (LRNA), the Michigan Green Party, and the National
Lawyers Guild (NLG).

In starting off the meeting Rev. Pinkney thanked the people
who came out from the local community throughout the region.
Reading from the Benton Harbor BANCO mission statement, Rev.
Pinkney said the organization exists: "to help or force
Berrien County to administer justice with fairness, equality,
and integrity. To resolve matters for our community and in
the courts in a timely manner.... to provide courtesy and
proper service in a manner that is for public trust and
confidence."

"What we have now is that we are fighting a war," Rev.
Pinkney said. "It is the have versus the have-nots. Its the
rich against the poor. We are here today to tell you that we
are not going to take this anymore. This is just the
beginning. This thing is bigger than what they think it is."

Carl Brown, a Benton Harbor activist then addressed the
crowd: "I have met people here today from Ann Arbor, from
Detroit. What is happening here is happening all over. So
when people stand up and says enough is enough, God hears
that cry. "

Later Attorney George Lyons said that "a judge has the
responsibility to look at the constitution and determine that
every person who comes into a courtroom can receive a fair
trial." In legal papers filed recently on behalf of the Rev.
Pinkney's defense they are requesting that the prosecutor and
judge reconsider the charges against the defendant in light
of possible conflicts of interests in the case. The defense
is contending that the Berrien County Prosecutor's Office
should have never become involved in the dispute over the
recall election.

Marian Kramer, co-chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights
Organization from Highland Park spoke to the activists and
requested that people from the Detroit area stand. She
recognized MECAWI activist and labor leader David Sole for
coordinating the transportation to Benton Harbor for the
rally.

"Highland Park is a battleground area. Detroit is a
battleground area. Benton Harbor we are here to support you
because we understand that Benton Harbor is the hump on the
camel back in fighting back against injustice and fighting
back for our democracy. We are here today to be able to
raise the struggle to a much higher level. Prior to us back
in Alabama they had to take on the same government not just
on a local level but on a national level. That we are
beginning to do here in Benton Harbor."

Kramer continued by saying that: "They claim that we have
democracy in this government we live under in the United
States.
But as soon as you make a step to defend your democracy in
regard to what is happening here with the recall campaign,
they tell you that you do not have the right to do that. As
soon as you move to exercise those rights you find out that
it is democracy for who, the rich, and not for us. It is
time for us to understand that Benton Harbor is Detroit. And
understand that Detroit is Benton Harbor. Highland Park is
Benton Harbor. We got folks from Chicago and that Chicago is
Benton Harbor. When injustice raises its ugly head we as
members of the working class are going to be here to stomp it
down."

Later Ron Scott, spokesperson for the Detroit Coaliton
Against Police Brutality, said in reference to Rev. Pinkney
that: "its good when you have ministers who not only preach
the gospel but live the gospel. Its good when you hear people
not just talking about the cross but are willing to bear the
cross. Its good when you hear some lawyers talk about
lawyering instead of lying. "

"We are in a struggle for our lives and it has to be a
struggle of humanity. It has to be a struggle of the entire
working class. It cannot be just a few or just a certain
color. It has got to be all of us....When ever I come I see
men of God standing here who are not afraid, not afraid.
Because the first thing, and you know it Marian, that had to
be dealt with in the South was the getting rid of fear. You
cannot be afraid. If you don't have nothing you can't lose
nothing. And if you don't try you can't get nothing. So
what we are looking at today is a movement not only
throughout this state, not only throughout the United States,
but a movement, we're looking at a human rights movement,"
said Scott.

March around the police station

After the meeting of activists, there was a spirited march
around the Benton Harbor Police Station. Demonstrators
chanted "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!

Later the marchers chanted "hands off Rev. Pinkney." At the
conclusion of the demonstration, Rev. Pinkney appealed for
ongoing support in the case. His defense lawyer has filed for
a reconsideration of the charges. The Berrien County
Prosecutor's Office has 14 days to respond to their request.

At present donations are needed for Rev. Pinkney's defense.
Checks can be made payable to Attorney Tat Parish and sent in
care of Rev. Edward Pinkney, 1940 Union Street, Benton
Harbor, MI 49022.

For more information on the case and other developments in
Benton Harbor people can call (269) 925-0001.


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