Imprisoned Rev. Pinkney runs for U.S. Congress
Published Oct 9, 2008 9:04 PM
Rev. Edward Pinkney
Due to the great outpouring of support in Michigan, Rev. Edward Pinkney has
become the Green Party candidate in the 6th District Congressional race. He is
running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a political heir to Whirlpool
Corporation-Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Inc.
Rev. Pinkney won the nomination even though Berrien County’s criminal
justice system has locked him away on a 3-to-10-year prison sentence. The
reverend is Benton Harbor’s community activist and minister for the
oppressed and dissident African-American, Latin@ and white populations.
Despite his imprisonment, Rev. Pinkney remains defiant and vigilant against the
ruling elites of this southwest Michigan community.
Rev. Pinkney continues to gain tremendous support from people inside and
outside Benton Harbor. Many see in his case the blatant contradictions within
the legal system. Activists are keeping in contact with Rev. Pinkney inside the
prison walls as they monitor his conditions, treatment and the damages caused
to him and his family by the unjust sentence imposed upon him by the Berrien
County court system.
Former congresswoman and current Green Party presidential candidate, Cynthia
McKinney, visited Rev. Pinkney last year during his court-ordered home
confinement on a tether. McKinney continues to lend her support, along with
that of many other activists from surrounding counties.
Rev. Pinkney was picked up from his home by Berrien County authorities in
December after statements he made were published in an article in the
People’s Tribune newspaper based in Chicago. Rev. Pinkney quoted from the
book of Deuteronomy in the Bible about what “God shall visit upon the
iniquitous” as an expression of his religious beliefs.
According to the authorities in Berrien County, these statements supposedly
violated the conditions of his parole and landed him in prison for 3 to 10
In response to this unjust sentencing, his defense committee has broadened its
scope by bringing in the American Civil Liberties Union, which has agreed to
handle possible constitutional violations in his case.
In regard to his original conviction in May 2007 on four felony counts and one
misdemeanor for vote fraud and ballot tampering, the National Lawyers Guild
filed a 115-page brief in the Michigan Court of Appeals. Simultaneously, his
supporters have petitioned Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to grant clemency or
vacate the conviction.
The persecution of Rev. Pinkney has become a classic example of injustice
within the U.S. political system. As his case becomes more well known and
resistance to his railroading grows, it exposes the widespread problems
associated with jury selection and the violations of First Amendment rights
related to freedom of speech and religious expression.
What threat does Rev. Pinkney pose?
Rev. Pinkney is both an activist and a man of the cloth. His activism is deeply
rooted in opposition to the corporate redevelopment and gentrification plans
for Benton Harbor, an oppressed, majority African-American community. The
white-dominated power structure in Berrien County is seeking to bring about the
massive displacement of the African-American community through political
disenfranchisement, home foreclosures and corporate development projects.
Rev. Pinkney’s continuing unjust imprisonment is shining a spotlight on
the power structure of Berrien County. His illegal imprisonment stems from the
fact that he poses a threat to the ruling-class objectives of the Whirlpool
Corporation-backed Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment project, which plans
to destroy Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor.
After seizure of that public property, the HSCR intends to transform it into a
three-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course for private use. In no way will
that benefit the African-American community.
Rev. Pinkney will continue to sacrifice himself, his possessions and his
security to be the vanguard and voice of the voiceless community in Benton
Harbor. His tenacity and drive to protect the people who are being exploited,
imprisoned, gentrified and subjugated poses a threat only to the racist power
Rev. Pinkney organized the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizations, a
people’s movement of resistance and protest. At the same time he
continually revealed the names of those responsible for the poverty,
unemployment and adverse conditions of the poor people of Benton Harbor as they
struggled to meet their basic needs.
The elite powers of Benton Harbor want to remain nameless and faceless so they
can continue with their plans to remove the majority of the African-American
population. Rev. Pinkney has lifted the cloak and identified who is really
responsible for the conditions of the poor people in Benton Harbor. This is the
real threat that keeps Rev. Pinkney behind bars.
Invoking the Bible to speak truth to power
Rev. Pinkney’s belief system is based upon his understanding of biblical
scriptures. He speaks truth to the power based upon these principles and his
rights should be defended to invoke scriptures related to the consequences for
those who exploit the people in Benton Harbor. Many African-American ministers,
priests and pastors use this same biblical invoking of scriptures when they
respond to attacks by the ruling class, who impose injustices upon the
downtrodden and poor.
Therefore, his comment that “God shall visit upon the iniquitous”
was not contrived from his own contemplations but borrowed from his religious
beliefs. Yet he was sent to prison for 3 to10 years for comments he made to a
limited-circulation newspaper, The People’s Tribune in Chicago. This is a
clear violation of his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
Before Rev. Pinkney was locked away in prison because of his comments, his
lawyers filed an effective respondent brief in the Trial Court for Berrien
County in early January 2008. In this brief, they cited several similar cases
that had set a precedent regarding the First Amendment right to freedom of
speech. In their brief they argued that “The Constitution requires that
courts not punish persons based upon protected speech that may not objectively
be considered a ‘true threat.’”
What a threat is must be distinguished from what is constitutionally protected
speech. “True threats” encompass those statements where the speaker
means to communicate a serious expression of intent to commit an act of
unlawful violence against a particular individual or group of individuals.
Related to the doctrine regarding “true threats” is the fact that
“advocacy” is protected unless it is likely to incite others to
imminent lawless action.
Under both the “true threats” doctrine and the
“advocacy” doctrines, statements are protected by the First
Amendment unless “an objective unconditional danger of physical harm or
lawlessness is unambiguously present.” Therefore the contradictions
inherent within the Berrien County court ruling will almost certainly be
revisited due to the improper sentencing by the trial court judges in this
Though the ruling class elites have successfully and unlawfully locked Rev.
Pinkney away from organizing the people of Benton Harbor, they have been
unsuccessful in concealing and silencing his voice and influence. In fact his
imprisonment has had the opposite effect by increasing attention and exposure
to this miscarriage of justice.
The capitalist system has many components of exploitation to feed the need for
profit. The U.S. capitalist system openly admits that its primary goal is to
achieve maximum profits, but what it doesn’t admit openly is the systemic
apparatus of exploitation and racism embodied within the structure.
Whether the ruling class structures use law enforcement officers to inflict
police brutality and the courts to impose harsh sentencing, or the military
industrial complex to recruit the oppressed and working class to carry out the
program of the Project for the New American Century embedded in its current
foreign policy, or the exploitative systems of “free-trade,”
economic “hitmen” agreements like (NAFTA), etc., all of these
mechanisms are designed to control, exploit, subjugate and make maximum profits
from the targeted groups. These groups are disproportionately African-American,
Latin@ and other oppressed populations.
The prison system works parallel to the judiciary system (particularly on the
state levels) in direct violation of supposed constitutional guarantees of
targeted groups. Generally these structures work together to support the deeply
entrenched ruling class initiatives for eminent domain over land and natural
resources, while utilizing the prison system as a means of legally removing the
masses from society and areas of interest.
We can point to another example of systemic ethnic removal in the case of New
Orleans after the impact of Hurricane Katrina. In that case the natural
disaster and the damage Katrina caused presented an opportunity to legally
remove the masses of mostly African Americans permanently by way of
It is a profound contradiction within the judiciary system to arbitrarily
promote the notion of fair and impartial jurisprudence when a disproportionate
number of African-American and Latin@ men and women are either forced to plea
bargain for crimes they didn’t commit, suffer lockups without proper
representation, and/or receive maximum sentencing from juries that embody
racial biases. One could conclude that the judiciary system is not set up to
establish justice for these groups, but instead to work as a mechanism to
remove them from society at alarming record numbers.
How to help Rev. Pinkney
Rev. Pinkney is a political prisoner trapped within the legal structures of the
judicial and correctional system in the state of Michigan. It will take the
concerned communities around the country to expose his case and to organize
protests to free him. If you would like to help in the struggle to free
(1) Send letters or postcards supporting Rev. Pinkney’s application to
the Parole Board. The text can be as simple as: “I support Rev.
Pinkney’s application for pardon.” Address them to Michigan
Department of Corrections, Office of the Parole Board, Pardons and Commutations
Coordinator, P. O. Box 30003, Lansing, MI 48909.
(2) Write Gov. Granholm and ask her to FREE Rev. Pinkney as a political
prisoner and to investigate why the state corrections department is not
allowing media access to him. Address them to Gov. Granholm, P. O. Box 30013,
Lansing, MI 48909 or call her at 517-335-7858.
(3) Donate to his legal defense campaign. Checks to BANCO for Pinkney’s
legal fees (tax-deductible): BANCO, 1940 Union St., Benton Harbor, MI
(4) Write letters to Rev. Pinkney and tell him you support him! Rev. Edward
Pinkney #294671-G46, Ojibway Correctional Facility, N5705 Ojibway Road,
Marenisco, MI 49947-9771 or call him at 906-787-2217.
(5) To sign a petition and find out other ways of helping, see
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