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Charge police bias in arrest of reporter

Published Dec 7, 2008 7:13 PM

Community outrage and support are building over the arrest of people’s journalist Diane Bukowski. Many view this as a political attack on the entire progressive movement in metro Detroit.

“Everybody’s support raised me. It fired me up,” Bukowski told supporters as she emerged from her arraignment at 36th District Court in Detroit on Nov. 20. A rousing ovation greeted the journalist from dozens of activists who had just packed the courtroom to support her.

Bukowski is a freelance reporter for the progressive weekly newspaper The Michigan Citizen, as well as a long-time anti-racist fighter and community advocate. She has been charged with five felony counts of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a police officer.

Bukowski is well-known and respected for her work exposing police brutality and police murders in Detroit. Her reporting has also examined a wide range of other community concerns, such as the foreclosure epidemic, utility shutoffs and corruption in the public school system.

Teresa Kelly, publisher of The Michigan Citizen, told Workers World after the arraignment that the newspaper is fully backing Bukowski. The publication is one of the most progressive weekly community newspapers in the U.S., with hard-hitting reporting on a range of political, social and economic issues affecting poor and working people, especially people of color. The newspaper also publishes well-respected cultural content that promotes and reports on numerous events and activities happening in the Black community.

Background to Bukowski’s arrest

The following details are from reports by Bukowski and Kelly in the Nov. 16-22 and Nov. 23-29 editions of The Michigan Citizen newspaper:

On Nov. 4, while covering a fatal police chase in which a motorcyclist and a pedestrian died, Bukowski—with her press credentials in full view—was arrested while attempting to take photographs of the grisly scene. The motorcyclist was James Willingham, 42, a father of 10 children. Jeffrey Frazier, 32, an autistic man, was the pedestrian victim.

According to Bukowski, who has reported on several police chases, she wasn’t aware she had crossed any yellow police tape. A state trooper yelled at her from across the street, “Who the f—- do you think you are?”

Bukowski presented her credentials to the trooper, who then took her camera and deleted the photos, handcuffed Bukowski and had other officers put her in a squad car. She was released that night, but a warrant was issued three days later.

Bukowski was originally charged with a single misdemeanor count of obstructing an investigation. But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Bukowski with five felony counts that carry in total a possible sentence of 20 years in prison.

Bukowski turned herself in to 36th District Court as ordered on Nov. 18 for a 1 p.m. arraignment, which the court canceled at the last minute. Numerous Bukowski supporters had shown up for that hearing. Detroit police claim the delay was needed to fingerprint her, but her lawyer said the police had her prints and photos. She was released into the custody of her attorney.

At her arraignment two days later, Bukowski was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.

Hands off Bukowski—drop all charges now!

A groundswell of support continues building for Bukowski. Supporters plan to pack the courtroom again on Dec. 16 for a preliminary examination in 36th District Court.

Support notices and email campaigns are being issued from numerous community organizations, including the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Michigan Welfare Rights, Call ’Em Out, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, Latinos Unidos, Detroit Green Party, MECAWI, the Coalition to Save DPS and others. The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild are closely monitoring the case.

United Auto Workers Local 2334 President David Sole wrote to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on Nov. 18 on his union’s letterhead: “These charges are unbelievable and the accusations incredible. In view of the fact that Diane is well known for her reporting of police brutality and misconduct, one can only conclude that she was targeted by the police in this case for retribution. In addition, the prosecution of Ms. Bukowski is clearly an attack on the freedom of the press.”

Sole is joining with other labor and community activists and organizations to assist with the needs of Bukowski’s legal defense, including raising funds, outreach, media and more. A defense committee is in the process of being formed.

Supporters are encouraged to contact Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and demand all charges against Bukowski be dropped immediately. Write to Worthy at 1200 Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, 1441 St. Antoine, Detroit, MI 48226; call 313-224-5777; or fax 313-224-0974.