Political Prisoner, Lifelong Civil Rights Leader Never Gives Up

Article originally published May 30, 2016 by nsnbc international http://nsnbc.me/2016/05/30/political-prisoner-lifelong-civil-rights-leader-never-gives-up/

Political prisoner Reverend Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan, is an inmate at Marquette Branch Prison located in the Upper Peninsula. Marquette is almost 500 miles away from his home and family. Pinkney was housed at Lakeland Correctional in Coldwater, MI (which is about 150 miles from Benton Harbor) for about nine months until he was abruptly transported in the middle of the night to Marquette in an attempt, it is generally believed to isolate and silence this 67-year-old, African American man of faith.

Pinkney, a strong community organizer, benefactor of the poor minorities in Benton Harbor, and an outspoken social justice warrior, has been a target of the Whirlpool Corporation (with headquarters in Benton Harbor) that outsourced hundreds of jobs when NAFTA was enacted and stole public land to build Harbor Shores 5-star golf resort to cater to the elite wealthy (and ultimately gentrify Benton Harbor) along with the dictatorial Emergency Manager Law thrust upon many Michigan cities.

Benton Harbor was the first to be controlled under an Emergency Financial Manager (one of four over the last six years) which fundamentally removed all authority from the city council and mayor. Pinkney warned us about Emergency Managers years ago.

Free Pinkney_Benton Harbor_Michigan_USA_May 2016
Supporters from Michigan and surrounding region led an #OccupyPGA2016 march in Benton Harbor on May 28, 2016.

Pinkney, a strong community organizer, benefactor of the poor minorities in Benton Harbor, and an outspoken social justice warrior, has been a target of the Whirlpool Corporation (with headquarters in Benton Harbor) that outsourced hundreds of jobs when NAFTA was enacted and stole public land to build Harbor Shores 5-star golf resort to cater to the elite wealthy (and ultimately gentrify Benton Harbor) along with the dictatorial Emergency Manager Law thrust upon many Michigan cities.

Benton Harbor was the first to be controlled under an Emergency Financial Manager (one of four over the last six years) which fundamentally removed all authority from the city council and mayor. Pinkney warned us about Emergency Managers years ago.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4k4r7czxfk

The latest nightmare for Pinkney started in 2014 when he was charged with changing five dates on petitions to recall Whirlpool controlled Mayor Hightower. A SWAT team surrounded his home to bring Pinkney in dead or alive, an all-white jury (filled with tainted jurors) convicted Pinkney of felonies (per Judge Sterling Schrock who based his decision of charging Pinkney with felonies, rather than misdemeanors, on ambiguous legal language). He was convicted despite no evidence, no confession, and no witnesses. Prosecutor Michael Sepic insisted that Pinkney had to be guilty because of Pinkney’s community activism and outspokenness. The judge and prosecutor even instructed the jurors that they could convict Pinkney with no evidence! How’s that for justice? But, the sentencing was even worse. Judge Shrock, at the encouragement of Prosecutor Sepic, made “an example of Pinkney and sent a message to Pinkney and the community of Benton Harbor” by handing Pinkney the harsh sentence of 2.5 to 10 years in prison in December 2014.

Fast forward to today, Rev. Pinkney has been incarcerated for almost 18 months where he has endured intimidation, racism, false charges from prison officials that provoked a six-month suspension of his phone rights, and disappointments from the Michigan Appellate court that denied his request for bond pending Appeal twice. The Appellate Court recently heard his Appeal brief on May 11. During that hearing, the three Appellate judges iterated they were not interested in the “insufficient evidence” argument to the court by Pinkney’s attorney and the ACLU-MI. The Appellate Court’s decision was to keep Pinkney’s appeal “in abeyance pending MI Supreme Court decision in People v Hall.” It could take a few months to a year or longer for the Supreme Court’s decision in People v Hall.

Whirlpool_Benton Harbor_Michigan_USABrandon Hall was charged with forgeries of signatures and Hall fought the courts’ attempts to try him on felonies under MCL 168.937 in the Judicial, Circuit and Appellate Courts. Those courts agreed that Hall could not be charged with felonies, and if he is charged with the lesser statute MCL 168.544c, this would be only a penalty and not subject to imprisonment as punishment. Now, the Hall case is being reviewed by the MI Supreme Court. If Hall wins in Supreme Court, this could favorably affect Pinkney’s case resulting in his case being thrown out. Pinkney could not be retried, and he would be immediately released from prison.

Rev. Pinkney has lost two years of his life over this vendetta led by Whirlpool and the corrupt judicial system in Berrien County, Michigan. But, he is still standing, and he is still fighting for justice.

Even as the PGA announced its partnership with Whirlpool and Harbor Shores has been extended to at least 2024, Pinkney and his supporters forged ahead with a campaign of protests, letter-writing, phone calls, and media blasts to keep Pinkney’s case front and center. On May 28, many regional supporters gathered to protest the PGA Championship being held in Benton Harbor and lend support to Pinkney who led, in 2012 and 2014, similar protests with specific demands to stop the gentrification, land grab, and austerity terrorizing the people of Benton Harbor.

We cannot allow this dangerous precedent of trying and convicting a person with no evidence to stand. We cannot allow the erosion of free speech or the destruction of due process for American citizens.

We must come together and fight together. When we fight each other, they win! We have to stand up together and say ‘Enough is enough!’ This is not a race war; it’s a class war! – Rev. Edward Pinkney.

For information about the ongoing campaign to #FreeRevPinkney, call Gov. Snyder (MI office 517-373-3400 or in DC 202-624-5840), write to Rev. Edward Pinkney, #294671 N-E-93; Marquette Branch Prison; 1960 US Hwy 41South; Marquette, MI 49855 and  follow @FreeRevPinkney on Twitter for daily updates of the case. Please go to http://www.bhbanco.org/ to find daily news pertaining to Pinkney and other Michigan issues and to send any donations you can.

 Join the fight because there are more of us than there are of them!

 

 

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