“They are saying they don’t need evidence to send someone to prison. Now everybody in Benton Harbor is in jeopardy. We have to say enough is enough. Whirlpool controls not only Benton Harbor and the residents, but the court system itself. They will do anything to crush you if you stand up to them. That’s why it’s so important to fight this.” Rev. Edward Pinkney
A nightmare of political persecution has been playing out in Benton Harbor, Michigan, especially over the past 18 months, against Reverend Edward Pinkney. The Pinkney family, Michigan activists, and national and international supporters have witnessed time and again corruption, deceit, hatred, and manipulation by the powers of Berrien County, Michigan.
From the recall election to the courtroom scenes that played out over 2014, it has become ever clearer that what Rev. Pinkney, etal, have been fighting is a well-oiled machine of corporate greed, cronyism, Jim Crow racism, gentrification, and bought off justice system officials from mayors to emergency managers to judges, prosecutors, and county officials. This may be only on the surface; the corruption runs very deep.
The Pinkneys, his legal defense, and supporters have rallied to keep the Berrien County “system” from charging, convicting, and sentencing the Reverend for a crime it has been proven he did not commit. The support has grown from Michigan across the nation from the Midwest to the East and West coasts, the North and the South. The support has rallied activists and organizations not only in America, but also in many other countries: Italy, France, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Russia, etal. Rev. Pinkney himself is an international activist whose plight is known by the United Nations as well as members of Congress and celebrities. But, when will the more powerful of our nation rally to Pinkney’s defense against the shameful maleficence of the Whirlpool Corporation and corrupt Michigan government? Who, in the limelight of media attention, will speak out in defense of a political prisoner who, most recently, has been shamefully isolated from his family and supporters?
On Tuesday, October 6, at 6:00 a.m. prison officials removed Rev. Pinkney from the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, MI (about two hours from his home) without notifying his attorney or his family. For over 24 hours, nobody knew where he had been taken or why; we still do not know why, but we can surmise. By Wednesday night, we had learned that Rev. Pinkney was shackled and bused to Kinross Facility near Sault St. Marie 350 miles away from Benton Harbor. He was held there overnight and then taken to Marquette Prison which is located in the Upper Peninsula just off Lake Superior. Marquette is over 500 miles from his home in Benton Harbor!
Rev. Pinkney is almost 67 years old and is diabetic. He has lost 30 pounds since his incarceration in December 2014. He has been shackled and treated as a violent criminal being shunted from place to place; he was even handcuffed throughout two hearings held in February and April 2015. He is not violent and he is not a threat to society. Pinkney has sustained himself on one meal per day (consisting of vending machine food or packaged food ordered by his wife Dorothy) in order to avoid the daily illnesses suffered by inmates as a result of tainted food provided by Aramark Corporation. He has assisted other inmates with legal issues and preached sermons at Lakeland. Pinkney was thriving partly because of visits from supporters and his wife weekly. Some supporters drove as far as 280 miles to visit and lend support to Rev. Pinkney. While he has had staunch support, it was not easy for him to deal with hostility among some guards and inmates, but the Reverend made the best of a horrible situation he had been thrown into.
*On Friday morning, October 23, Rev. Pinkney made his routine one of two calls daily to his wife Dorothy. By that afternoon, she had learned that Marquette had revoked his phone rights! He was not able to call out to anyone and as of this update (10.26.15), we still have no definitive answers as to reason behind this revocation. Since the latest nightmare that began on Oct. 6, the Reverend has endured a long, cold bus ride to Marquette while shackled, a cell with walls covered in black mold, and now denied his right to make phone calls! Please join us in protesting this latest violation of his constitutional/human right to access to the outside world. You can call Warden Robert Nepal at 906-226-6531 ext. 4. Please be polite, but firm. Leave a message for the warden so that this corrupt system knows that Rev. Pinkney has supporters that really care about his welfare. Thank you for anything you do to help.
In December, after Pinkney was convicted by an all-white jury that heard multiple testimonies in defense of the Reverend, after being instructed by both Judge Sterling Schrock and Prosecutor Mike Sepic that they could “convict this man with no evidence,” and subsequently sentenced 2.5 to 10 years, Rev. Edward Pinkney was immediately handcuffed and removed from the courtroom. He was then shackled and taken to Jackson Prison where he was quarantined for 30 days and under 23-hour lockdown so he had one hour daily to exercise, to get some fresh air, or to call his wife (when allowed). At Jackson, he endured deplorable conditions: no flushing toilets, thin mattress infested with bedbugs, no hot water, peeling paint, summer clothes in winter weather, and forced to stand outside in the cold, harsh UP winter weather to make calls to his wife.
In mid-January, he endured 48 hours of riding in an unheated bus from Jackson to Marquette Prison, wearing a prison issued uniform and with no coat or gloves. While at Marquette because of the distance and the harsh weather, he received no visitors, not even from his legal counsel.
Since late February, Pinkney has been at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, MI as a result of his choice to waive his right to be housed in a Level 1 prison (Marquette) so that he could be closer to his home. Lakeland is a Level 2 prison. Now, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) is informing everyone who inquires that Pinkney was moved for his own safety. There are other Level 1 and 2 prisons much closer to Benton Harbor than Marquette!
Rev. Pinkney’s Appeal has been filed, his brief for bond pending appeal has been denied twice by the Michigan Appellate Court, and the bond appeal will soon be filed with the Michigan Supreme Court. Pinkney and his counsel, his family, his friends, his supporters (individuals and organizations) will not stop to #FreeRevPinkney.
The next step is to band together, #RaiseYourVoice and appeal to the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to return the Reverend downstate closer to his home. Please call MDOC this week (Tue., 10/13-Fri., 10/16) and for as long as it takes at 517-241-7238. Sandy Simon may answer and take your message or she may transfer you to a classification employee or you may have to leave a voicemail. We ask that you be polite, give your name and location (so that MDOC knows the Rev. has global supporters) and implore them to return him downstate as he is a model prisoner and per basic prisoner/human rights, he should be near his home and family. A sample script can be found at the official Pinkney website bhbanco.org.
“The thrust [of the Berrien county courthouse] is to physically remove and destroy families through the use of the criminal justice system. Every person they can put in jail; every person whose voting rights they can revoke with a felony conviction; every person they can cause to lose their job by putting them on probation; every person they can cause to lose the ability to pay for basic necessities through imposing ruinous court costs and probation is all part of the process. In the 1960s, it was called Negro removal. In Bosnia, it was called ethnic cleansing. It could be called genocide, the removal of the minority population for the purpose of redevelopment of the land. That’s what’s happening in Benton Harbor and the foremost leader of the resistance is Rev. Edward Pinkney” –Civil rights attorney, Hugh “Buck” Davis http://www.bhbanco.org/2014/11/the-entire-cop-courthouse-community-is.html
For up-to-date information, please visit daily bhbanco.org, justice4pinkney.com, follow @FreeRevPinkney and @justice4pinkney on Twitter, and on Facebook, ask to join the Detroit Organizing in Support of Rev Pinkney at https://www.facebook.com/groups/DetroitSupportsRevPinkney/ and Justice4Pinkney page at https://www.facebook.com/justice4pinkney?fref=ts
Reverend Edward Pinkney, February 2015