Jun 20, 2016
Rev. Edward Pinkney continues to sit in prison, while his appeal is put on hold. In this circumstance, a prisoner ordinarily would be granted bail.
But Rev. Pinkney is not an ordinary prisoner. He has been active in Benton Harbor, Michigan for more than 15 years: involved in protest marches against the racism and violence of the police department; led a successful recall campaign of a city commissioner who was a mouth-piece for Whirlpool; organized against the take-over of Benton Harbor by a state appointed “emergency financial manager.”
Rev. Pinkney has been put through the legal wringer before. In April of 2005, he was tried on charges of election fraud – accused of improperly possessing absentee ballots. His first trial ended with a hung jury. The second trial in 2007 was stacked with only white jurors, even though Benton Harbor is a very large majority black city. The only witnesses were three people charged with a drive-by shooting, whose testimony earned them a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Convicted, he was sentenced to “house arrest,” then re-sentenced to three to 10 years in prison after he criticized the trial judge – a violation of his parole!
Eventually, that prison term was overturned on appeal.
Three years ago, Rev. Pinkney and others turned in enough signatures to force a recall election of the mayor, who had refused to sign a tax the city council had imposed on Whirlpool – a multibillion dollar international corporation which, up until then, paid no income taxes at any level.
Once again, Pinkney was put on trial, again for election fraud. Supposedly he had altered dates after five voters signed the petition. Although those voters testified at trial that they had changed the dates themselves to correct their own mistake, Pinkney was convicted and sentenced this time to two and a half to ten years in prison. The trial involved no evidence, no testimony – only a wild attack by the prosecutor on Pinkney’s involvement in “radical causes.”
As Pinkney said about the trial: “There was not one person from Benton Harbor, not one person from Benton Township on the jury. Anytime a black man is sitting inside that courtroom and the jury is all white, that is a major problem.” It was, in fact, nothing but a case of Northern Jim Crow “justice.”
Currently, 68-year-old Rev. Pinkney sits in Marquette prison, nearly 500 miles to the north of Benton Harbor, cut off from family, other activists in Benton Harbor and the lawyers who are trying to defend him.
Rev. Pinkney issued the following statement: “As a long-time resident of Benton Harbor, I have steadfastly opposed the conduct of Whirlpool and Harbor Shores, Inc., as I watched the loss of jobs, the loss of homes and the loss of dignity for the residents of my city. I am being punished by the racist Berrien County ‘justice’ system and local authorities for opposing Whirlpool’s plan to expand its hostile land takeover, gentrify Benton Harbor and turn the area into a multimillion dollar golf resort and playground for tourists.... For my opposition and outspokenness, I am paying a debt to society which I do not owe, with my life, my family life, and my community.”
People who want to support Rev. Pinkney’s appeal should contact the organization he helped build: BANCO, 1940 Union Street, Benton Harbor MI 49022.