St. Joseph, MI- Dr. Jill Stein was among supporters who attended Rev. Edward Pinkney’s evidentiary hearing on Tuesday, April 14, where a motion for a new trial based on the violation of Pinkney’s rights to impartial jurors was denied. Rev. Pinkney remains in prison, serving a 3-10 year term for altering the dates on petitions to recall the Mayor of Benton Harbor. However, according to Victoria Collier and Ben-Zion Ptashnik, who covered the trial in depth for Truthout:
“There was absolutely no evidence to convict Pinkney, and, legally, the altering of a petition document should have been a misdemeanor offense. Instead, they charged him with felony forgery - though no signatures were forged and all signatories testified that they signed willingly on the correct day. Incredibly, the all-white jury was urged by the prosecutor to believe that direct evidence was not required; they only had to "believe" that Pinkney was motivated to cheat and that he "could" have changed the dates while circulating the petitions.”
Rev. Pinkney’s “crime” took place during a time when Benton Harbor was under emergency management.
“The emergency manager law is a law that allows the Governor to send unelected managers to cities where they can sell off assets and change union contracts,” Claire McClinton of the Democracy Defense League told the crowd, adding: “the emergency manager act replaces your local elected officials. Rev. Pinkney has become the face of resistance to this offensive we are experiencing in Michigan.”
Dr. Stein, along with Rev. Pinkney’s wife Dorothy Pinkney, Marcina Cole of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO) and other activists spoke at a press conference and rally immediately following the hearing. Dr. Stein, the 2012 Green Party Presidential nominee and 2016 Presidential hopeful, told the assembled crowd:
“This is not unrelated to the videos we have seen of Eric Garner being taken down in the street. This is not unrelated to the video we have seen of Walter Scott in North Charleston being shot down like a dog. This is not unrelated to the violence being done through the criminal injustice system on massive scale. There are over two million people sitting behind bars, most of whom do not need to be there and most of whom are people of color.”
Stein, who has formed an exploratory campaign in preparation for a possible 2016 Presidential bid, told the crowd, “I am here as an exploratory candidate because the frontlines of our struggle in our communities should be on frontlines of our presidential election and dialogue.”
Dorothy Pinkney, reading from a letter her husband wrote form prison, said:
“I, Michigan political prisoner, Rev. Edward Pinkney, am a victim of injustice. I was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 10 years for supposedly changing the date on five recall petitions to recall Benton Harbor Mayor, James Hightower. No material nor circumstantial evidence, no eyewitness, and no confession was presented at the trial that would implicate me in the five felonies.
Many believe that I, an international activist and leader of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO), am being punished by the local authorities for opposing the corporate plan of the Whirlpool Corporation, headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan. I say this is an opportunity to expose the Benton Harbor courthouse criminal enterprise and let the world know there is corruption from the top to the bottom of the totem pole where a lynch mob mentality reigns.
This is not Black versus white; it is the haves against the have-nots, the rich against poor.
Any time you have an economic system that refuses to feed clothe and house it people, it must be overturned and replaced with a system that meets the needs of people.”
Cheri Honkala, of the Poor People’s Economic Human Right Campaign (PPERC), spoke to the crowd: “This community is absent somebody incredibly important – not just to this community, but to this country and to the world. We are going to get a victory in this fight- we are going to free Rev. Pinkney.”