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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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