Racist injustice in Michigan

Reverend Edward Pinkney

Workers World has published articles for over a decade on what can only be described as racist, judicial vindictiveness toward Rev. Pinkney. On Nov. 3, a Berrien County jury in a courtroom in well-to-do St. Joseph, Mich., convicted this heroic leader of five felony charges of forgery.

Each fraudulent conviction count threatens a prison term of up to five years.

Reverend Pinkney had been under house arrest and tethered for six weeks this past spring, as well as denied his First Amendment rights to access the Internet or engage in his weekly radio broadcasts.

WW contributing editor Abayomi Azikiwe, also editor of the Pan-African News Wire, described in these pages: “Rev. Pinkney — a longtime Benton Harbor activist — has opposed the racism within the judicial and political structures in this southwest Michigan town and surrounding county. Similar to his persecution in 2007 and 2008 by authorities in Berrien County, prosecutors are saying that the leader of the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers group ‘forged’ dates on petitions for a recall election on May 6 against Mayor James Hightower.

“As a result of the criminal investigation and subsequent charging of Rev. Pinkney, the election to remove Hightower was stayed. In 2007, after Pinkney and others had organized a recall campaign against two city commissioners in Benton Harbor, he was charged with vote tampering, railroaded through the courts, placed under house arrest and later imprisoned for one year for exercising his right to free speech within the media.

“A national campaign in Rev. Pinkney’s defense during 2008 and 2009 brought about the Michigan Court of Appeals reversal of his three-to-ten-year prison sentence.

“Since 2010, Rev. Pinkney has been organizing against the wholesale political and economic dictatorship now in place in Benton Harbor and surrounding Berrien County.” (workers.org, June 13)

It appears officials in Berrien County have exacted retribution against this 66-year-old African-American reverend, his organization and his leadership in struggles against racism, corporate control, emergency manager takeover and other vital issues in Benton Harbor’s majority-Black community.

Though many took part in protests, rallies, meetings, packing the courtroom and other solidarity actions to support Rev. Pinkney, justice was denied.

Rasmea Odeh

Another kangaroo court case opened in Detroit on Nov. 4, the day after Pinkney’s conviction, with the trial of Rasmea Odeh in U.S. District Court.

A StopFBI.net brochure describes Odeh: “She is a leading member of Chicago’s Arab and Muslim communities, and her decade of service in the U.S. has changed the lives of thousands of people, particularly disenfranchised Arab women and their families. … Odeh is a community icon who … overcame torture by Israeli authorities while imprisoned in Palestine in the 70s, and is a proud reminder of the millions of Palestinians who have not given up organizing for their rights of liberation, equality, and return.”

As with Rev. Pinkney, the capitalist class and its state apparatus refuses to tolerate a strong leader from an oppressed nation — this time a Palestinian woman. So agents of the Department of Homeland Security [sic] came to Odeh’s home in the early morning of Oct. 22, 2013, and arrested her. She was indicted that same morning in federal court, charged with an alleged “unlawful procurement of naturalization.”

Now her trial is underway in a federal courthouse in Detroit, far from her home in the Chicago community.

Odeh’s lawyers successfully got one judge recused after his ties to racist apartheid Israel were exposed. Judge Gershwin Drain, however, has already shown his stripes. He allowed no demonstrations to take place outside the courthouse — claiming this would be “jury tampering” — because first-day jury pool members would see the protest as they entered the court.

Drain has put other restrictions on trial observers and has already denied Odeh’s right to describe her torture at the hands of Israelis. Supporters of the 66-year-old Odeh say she faces further torture and repression if she is forced to go back to apartheid Israel.

As with Rev. Pinkney’s case, meetings, rallies, picket lines and calls to the authorities have demanded justice and shown solidarity and support for Odeh.

The arrogant capitalist class and their agents in the courts and police may thumb their noses at all the protests and demonstrations, the petitions and calls. The United States has the largest prison population of any country in the world, and millions know that while this repressive state apparatus may be arrogant, it is never just. One more racist injustice or one more police killing can ignite a rebellion or mass fightback.

Workers World stands in solidarity with Pinkney and Odeh and with all struggles of the workers for liberation and justice against racism and oppression. No justice, no peace!

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