Michigan struggles focus on racism, police brutality
Published Aug 19, 2010 8:05 PM
The economic crisis has hit the workers in Michigan, a state of heavy
industry, especially hard, and has also brought with it an intensified struggle
against racism. These brief reports cover three different areas of the state.
March in Benton Harbor slams land grab
More than 100 people rallied and marched through the southwest Michigan city of
Benton Harbor on Aug. 10 to protest the opening of the Jack Nicklaus Signature
Golf Course. The course is located on Lake Michigan in part of Jean Klock Park,
land that was deeded decades ago for use by the African-American working-class
community. The course was built on a part of the park now known as Harbor
Shores, where, in addition to the golf course, there are plans to construct
The Nicklaus Signature Golf Course will host the PGA Sr. Championships for both
2012 and 2014. Benton Harbor, a majority African-American city, has been
devastated by the loss of jobs coupled with police repression, which sparked a
four-day rebellion in 2003.
Demonstrators also blasted the Whirlpool Corporation — which is based in
Benton Harbor — for its refusal to pay adequate taxes and utility costs
for large-scale use of local land and resources. Whirlpool announced recently
that it would build a new, world headquarters in the city, even though critics
have accused the appliance manufacturing firm of not hiring local
The Rev. Edward Pinkney, president of the local NAACP branch and a former
political prisoner in Michigan, led the demonstration, which attracted Benton
Harbor residents as well as people from around the country. The march began
with a rally at City Hall and concluded with a picket at the gate of the golf
course and then a speak-out in the park across from the new Harbor Shores
Those in attendance included Ralph Poynter of the Free Lynne Stewart Committee
in New York; Fred Hampton Jr. of Chicago, son of slain Illinois Black Panther
Party chairman, Fred Hampton; Larry Pinkney from Minneapolis and a writer for
the Black Commentator; Ron Scott and Sandra Hines of the Detroit Coalition
Against Police Brutality; as well as members of other organizations from
Detroit such as the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Workers World Party,
the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) and the
Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility
Arrest made in serial killing of Black men
A suspect has been arrested in the investigation surrounding the stabbing
deaths of five African-American men in Flint, Mich., and the wounding of at
least 15 other people, including one white male. Similar attacks have taken
place in Leesburg, Va., and Toledo, Ohio, where four reported assaults, none of
which were fatal, took place.
The suspect arrested is a citizen of Israel and is reported to be a Christian
of Arab descent. Most people who knew the suspect, including family members,
expressed shock over his arrest, which occurred as he was boarding a
plane to Tel Aviv.
The attacks have come as a further affront to the residents of Flint, which is
one of the hardest-hit cities in Michigan as a result of the economic crisis.
Even during the 1980s, Flint experienced the unprecedented closing of
automotive plants that left tens of thousands of workers idle.
FOI lawsuits filed in imam’s assassination
Attorneys for the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan have filed
several lawsuits demanding information from law-enforcement agencies on the
assassination of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah. The imam was lured by FBI
informants to a warehouse in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn on Oct. 28, 2009,
where he was first attacked by a dog and then shot 20 times by government
The U.S. District Attorney’s Office claimed in a 44-page criminal
complaint that the imam and his followers at the Masjid al-Haqq on
Detroit’s west side were involved in the trafficking of illegal goods and
advocated the violent overthrow of the government leading to the establishment
of an Islamic state. People who knew the imam, including residents of the
neighborhood where he worked, said that he was a dedicated community servant
for the poor who provided food, shelter, job referrals and counseling to
displaced workers and ex-convicts.
Since the assassination of Imam Luqman, condemnations have been voiced
throughout the world. Imam Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan
chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, recently traveled to the
West African state of Mali. He told an Aug. 15 meeting of the Detroit Coalition
Against Police Brutality that the people there were “well aware of the
government killing of Imam Luqman.”
Demonstrations against the FBI were held in the immediate aftermath of the
assassination by MECAWI and the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality in
November 2009. MECAWI described the killing of the imam as a targeted
Various organizations and officials have called for an independent
investigation of Imam Luqman’s killing, including the Delta Sigma Theta
Sorority, the National Lawyers Guild, the Congress of Arab American
Organizations and the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, among
Detroit police hearing gives no details on killing of
At a public meeting held on Aug. 5, the Board of Police Commissioners responded
to a request by the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality for an update on
the Michigan State Police investigation into the killing of Aiyana Stanley
Jones. Jones, a seven-year-old African-American school girl, was severely
burned by a flash grenade and shot through the head by a white Detroit police
officer on the night of May 16 while she lay in bed.
The killing sparked outrage throughout the country. There have been several
demonstrations against the killing and the family of Jones has filed two
wrongful death civil suits.
According to the police commission report, the investigation by the state
police will be complete within four weeks, at which time the findings will be
turned over to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. No details of the
specific findings were reported at the police commission meeting on Aug. 5.
The Detroit police have been under two federal consent decrees since 2003. The
consent decrees, involving the use of lethal force and the deplorable
conditions existing at the time in the precinct lockups, stemmed from a
three-year U.S. Justice Department investigation beginning in 2000.
Meanwhile, Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans was forced to resign in July by
Mayor Dave Bing. Many speculated that the killing of Jones played a significant
role in the removal of the chief, who had openly attacked the Coalition Against
Police Brutality for its criticism of law-enforcement practices in the
U.S. Congress member John Conyers of Detroit recently wrote a letter to
Attorney General Eric Holder requesting a federal investigation into the
killing of the child. Conyers also spoke on the “Fighting for
Justice” radio program on WDTW, reiterating his commitment to work to end
police brutality in Detroit.
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