No-Knock: An Artistic Speak-Out Against the American Police State

[I read a shorter version of this piece at a program organized by Adam Gottlieb for the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of Chicago, June 7, 2014, and in conjunction with other th-1readings going on around the country on this date on the theme of police brutality. The title of the event, No-knock, an Artistic Speak Out Against the 'American Police State,' references the poem by Gil Scott-Heron, "No-Knock."  I was honored to read with a dozen other artist activists,  whose eloquent and passionate words shaped Big Poems indeed.  One of the readers, Mariame Kaba, wrote a moving piece about her experience at the event, on the Prison Culture blog:  "Standing on a Soapbox, Calling out the Cops." -- Lew Rosenbaum]

 

th

Thanks to Adam for inviting me to present here today. Thanks to all the other presenters, whose important words you have heard and will hear. And a shout out to poets in New Orleans and San Francisco and perhaps elsewhere who are having similar events today, poets from 100,000 Poets for Change.

Today is Brooksday, Gwendolyn Brooks’ birthday, and the second annual marathon reading of Gwendolyn Brooks’ works, taking place at Printers’ Row Bookfair under the auspices of the Guild Complex and Third World Press. Ms. Brooks’ spirit is here, Gwendolyn Brooks spirit is here, the Gwendolyn Brooks who wrote, in her poem “Winnie”:

 

I am not a tight faced Poet.

I am tired of little tight-faced poets sitting down to

shape perfect unimportant pieces.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks

This is a time for Big Poems,

roaring up out of sleaze,

poems from ice, from vomit, and from tainted blood.

This is the time for stiff or viscous poems.

Big, and big.

 

This is the kind of poetry you will hear today.

If you travel across Lake Michigan from around Winnetka you will wind up on the beach near Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor is the home of Reverend Edward Pinkney, the first American banned from the internet. That’s right. Banned from using his computer so that the story of Whirlpool’s corporate domination of Benton Harbor will not get out;

thso that the story of the emergency manager dictatorships, popping up all over Michigan now but originating in Benton Harbor will not get out.

So that the story of the social face of fascism in this country will not get out.

Now that the corporations, like Whirlpool, are so thoroughly in bed with, embedded in, the political state, the protests emerging from places like Benton Harbor are challenging the legitimacy of corporate rule. Here is what the battle is about (most of the following comes from the online BlackList (http://theblacklistpub.ning.com/forum/topics/first-american-banned-from-internet-rev-pinkney):

Rev. Pinkney has not been convicted of any crime whatsoever, but a gag order was issued forbidding him from using the Internet. His wife Dorothy has not even been accused of any crime, but she is forbidden from using the Internet in their home. No person who has been convicted using the Internet for cyber stalking, child pornography, or bank fraud has ever been banned from using the Internet, but Rev. Pinkney, who is accused of election fraud, was ordered to refrain from going online for any reason.

Rev. Pinkney sponsored a recall petition against the mayor of Benton Harbor, Michigan that gathered sufficient signatures. The recall petition has been more rigorously investigated than murders of young black men whose bodies are continually found in that area. Armed police officers went door to door interviewing petitioners and asking exactly what day (petitions had been circulated as much as six months before) they signed the petition. The rigorous investigation led to criminal charges against Pinkney. When he went to the hearing connected with this matter, a gag order was instituted that completely blocked him from using the Internet, although the petition for recall of the mayor did not collect online signatures.

At a hearing Thursday, June 5, 2014, the judge set a trial date for July 21, 2014 on his case of voter fraud. The judge did lift the house arrest and prohibition against using the internet conditions.

Rev. Pinkney’s arrest, gag order, and setting of a trial date on the flimsiest of evidence were probably instituted to prevent success of the following initiatives:
1) the annual OCCUPY the PGA demonstration, protesting the sale of public lands for a golf course for elitists;
2) the boycott against Whirlpool products (Whirlpool is #153 on the 2014 Fortune list of 500 biggest corporations);
3) the protest against Benton Harbor Police Department for refusing to investigate the mutilations and deaths of numerous black people, which are perceived by Rev. Pinkney and others as being unrequited racial murders; and
4) the recall of elected officials who Rev. Pinkney and others perceive as being in place to represent corporate interests rather than the people of Benton Harbor.

This story has been covered for over a decade by the People’s Tribune and Tribuno del Pueblo newspapers. The current, June 2014, issue has a cover story on Reverend Pinkney and a center spread which includes information about what you can do. Please take a copy. Donations are welcome and cover the cost of printing the paper so that the blackout against stories like this can be broken.

In order to respect the time of the other readers, I’d like to close with 2 short poems and a final invocation of Gwendolyn Brooks.

The first is by Ray Durem, an African American communist poet who wrote “Award.”

Award by Ray Durem (1915-1963)th-2

A Gold Watch to the FBI Man who has followed me for 25 years.

Well, old spy
looks like I
led you down some pretty blind alleys,
took you on several trips to Mexico,
fishing in the high Sierras,
jazz at the Philharmonic.
You’ve watched me all your life,
I’ve clothed your wife,
put your two sons through college.
what good has it done?
the sun keeps rising every morning.
ever see me buy an Assistant President?
or close a school?
or lend money to Trujillo?
ever catch me rigging airplane prices?
I bought some after-hours whiskey in L.A.
but the Chief got his pay.
I ain’t killed no Koreans
or fourteen-year-old boys in Mississippi.
neither did I bomb Guatemala,
or lend guns to shoot Algerians.
I admit I took a Negro child
to a white rest room in Texas,
but she was my daughter, only three,
who had to pee.

 

The second is a poem by John Beecher, who wonders whether Etowah County, Alabama is really part of the US, as we might wonder about Benton Harbor, Detroit and much of Michigan under the emergency dictatorships, or for that matter Chicago under the elected dictatorship of Rahm Emanuel:

th-3News Item (from Collected Poems, 1924-1974)

I see in the paper this morning

where a guy in Gadsden Alabama

by the name of John House

who was organizing rubber workers in a lawful union

against the wishes of the Goodyear Rubber Company and the Sheriff of Etowah County

was given a blood transfusion

after being beaten with blackjacks

by five parties unknown.

The Police Chief is “investigating”

and I have a pretty good idea of what that will amount to.

A few years ago they took Sherman Dalrymple

President of the United Rubber Workers of America

out of a peaceable union meeting in Gadsden

and right in front of the Etowah County court house

before the eyes of hundreds including the Sheriff

the deputies

beat him almost to death.

Plenty more

who have tried to organize workers in Etowah County

have had the same thing happen to them.

 

The Government of the United States

should know about John House

but maybe they won’t notice the little item

on the back pages of the Birmingham paper

because the front pages are all filled up with Hitler

and how he is threatening democracy

so I am asking

the Government of the United States

to pay a little attention to this.

To defend democracy

the Government of the United States

is building a lot of munitions plants around the country

with the people’s money

because the people want democracy defended

One of these plants is being built at Gadsden

in Etowah County Alabama —-

twenty-four million dollars worth of plant to be exact —-

twenty-four million dollars of the people’s money

going into a county

which isn’t even a part of the United States

Or is it?

 

I think it would be a good idea

for the Government of the United States

to look into this

and see if they can’t persuade Etowah

to come back in the Union

If persuasion won’t work they might try a little coercion

because the laws of the United States ought to be made good

and as luck would have it

there’s a great big Army camp at Anniston

just thirty miles away

Not long ago I drove through this camp

and I saw new barracks and tents all over the scenery

and thousands upon thousands of soldiers

getting ready to defend democracy

They looked to me

as if they could do it

and they looked to me

as if they wanted a try at it

Maybe they could get a little practice over in Etowah

before they pitch into

the foreign fascists

 

And finally, don’t let the messages you hear today end here. From Gwendolyn Brooks again, from the same poem, in the voice of Winnie Mandela, who says:

You don’t get all your questions answered in this world.

How many answers shall be found

in the developing world of my Poem?

I don’t know. Nevertheless I put my Poem,

which is my life, into your hands, where it will

do the best it can.

 

Come talk with me. Get a copy of the People’s Tribune today. Free Rev. Pinkney!

Marxist Intellectual Property? How Uncomradely!

Claiming a Copyright on Marx? How Uncomradely

The Marxist Internet Archive, a website devoted to radical writers and thinkers, recently received an email: It must take down hundreds of works by Karl marx2-master180Marx and Friedrich Engels or face legal consequences.

The warning didn’t come from a multinational media conglomerate but from a small, leftist publisher, Lawrence & Wishart, which asserted copyright ownership over the 50-volume, English-language edition of Marx’s and Engels’s writings.

To some, it was “uncomradely” that fellow radicals would deploy the capitalist tool of intellectual property law to keep Marx’s and Engels’s writings off the Internet. And it wasn’t lost on the archive’s supporters that the deadline for complying with the order came on the eve of May 1, International Workers’ Day. Read more here

Under the Emergency Manager Dictator: Reverend Pinkney Arrested in Benton Harbor

Readers of this blog should be aware of the attacks on labor in Michigan.  Underlying all the attacks, of course, is the economic revolution that has convulsed Detroit. The first phase of this revolution was industrial expansion, explained here:

Detroit, existing as a port city and early home of steel and oven making, grew with the transition of the carriage industry into the auto industry. Henry Ford’s assembly line methods drove the development of gigantic industry and monopoly finance and created the foundation for the industrial city model.

Mechanized agriculture kicked eleven million sharecroppers off the land; six million white, five million Black. These folks migrated from the Southern farms, ultimately ending up North, seeking work in an expanding industrial economy.

After World War II a wave of legislation was passed to guarantee the workforce for this expanding economy. Measures were taken to support, house and keep intact a mass of trained industrial workers with the ups and downs of the capitalist economy. The civil rights movement exploded during a time when the economy needed the labor of Blacks. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, legal segregation based on skin color was overthrown. Women made strides in fighting to keep the family checkbook out of the pubs, taverns and bars, and for a greater share of the social wealth. A new generation of women entered production, achieving greater economic independence than their previous generation. The first public housing projects, the first freeway, which laid the basis for suburbia and shopping malls, and the very first shopping mall, were created in Detroit. (Rally Comrades!th-1 “Detroit City on the Edge of Forever”)

The introduction of electronics into industry drastically reduced employment while increasing production.  In the shell of boom town Detroit, industry continues unabated.  It’s just that the workers are no longer working.  The same article quoted above goes on to describe the social and political response to the destruction of Detroit, beginning with a 1990 “Emergency Manager” law.

Following the age old pattern of divide and rule employed by American capital, Michigan targeted the mostly smaller cities with majority African American populations that had been devastated by this same phenomenon.  Beginning with Benton Harbor in Southwestern Michigan, the Governor used the the town’s financial woes as an excuse to appoint an emergency manager, who then assumed the day-to-day operations of Benton Harbor.  In essence, he ousted all the individuals and bodies elected by the people.  He furthered the process of taking over public land on the Lake Michigan coast that had been park land allocated for the use of the people of Benton Harbor, nearly all African-American, with a high rate of poverty.  The Emergency Manager spearheaded the efforts of Whirlpool, the dominant corporation in the area, to construct a PGA level golf course on the park land along with a huge high income condominium development.

thWorking against this corporate takeover for over two decades, Reverend Edward Pinkney and the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO)  has come under attack time and again. The People’s Tribune newspaper has covered this story from the beginning, from before it was national news. Reverend Pinkney has written a regular column on the back page of the People’s Tribune, bringing readers up to date each month as events unfolded.  He was arrested in the past for voter fraud, jailed, convicted, and had his conviction overturned.  All this because he has dared to stand up to Whirlpool, the Emergency Manager, and the development of fascism in Michigan.  Now he has been arrested again, placed on house arrest, warned not to use his computer lest he be jailed, . . . on trumped up charges of voter fraud, as he has attempted to pursue the recall of the current mayor of Benton Harbor.    Here is the latest news from Benton Harber, via Gordon Matthews and BANCO.  When you finish reading this, I urge you to contact Pinkney to contribute financially to his defense, and to spread the word about the fascism in Michigan, coming to your city soon.

Rev. Pinkney is now under house arrest.  He will go to jail if he uses his computer.  He is being charged $105.00 per week to be tethered.  Last Thursday many, many police officers surrounded his house and drove up and down his steet repeatedly.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rev. Pinkney and others led a petition drive to recall corrupt Benton Harbor mayor James Hightower.  He’s known for acting in the interest of Whirlpool, not the residents.  Four Benton Harbor voters wrote letters to the Berrien County Clerk stating they wanted their names removed from the recall petitions they signed.   We can only guess what tactics were used by Hightower or law enforcement to obtain permission from these four voters to “write” the letters.

 
All four letters had the exact same legalese wording.  

Apparently the identical letters didn’t cause the county clerk to blink an eye.  In Berrien County, everyone falls in line.  Go along to get along.
 
The letters were the basis for a huge show of armed force at Rev. Pinkney’s house last Thursday, April 24.   Surrounding the house were approximately 30 officers — an effort to intimidate Pinkney.  They also drove up and down his street, over and over.  Can you imagine this happening across the river in St. Joe?
 
Pinkney is now under house arrest, tethered, and not permitted to use his computer.  The judge made it clear:  if he uses his computer he will go to jail.  Pinkney is charged $105.00 per week to be tethered.
 
Even though all four letters had the exact same wording.  

Mayor Hightower was losing the election 4 to 1 according to on-the-ground conversations, reports Rev. Pinkney and other petitioners.   So Whirlpool, Lakeland Hospital, Berrien County prosecutor Michael Sepic, Sheriff Paul Bailey, and mayor Hightower came up with a scheme.  They found four people to help them manufacture (false) evidence by “writing” letters to the court.  That would enable them to charge Pinkney with election fraud.   
 
Even though all four letters had the exact same wording.  

Here is the letter that four Benton Harbor voters each allegedly submitted to the county court:

 
February 5, 2013
 
To the County and the State Board of Elections:
 
I’m asking that my name be withdrawn from the petition regarding the recall of Mayor James Hightower. Deception was used and the petition was misreprented by the person that gave me the petition to sign.  I was told it was to receive taxes from Whirlpool.  Again, please remove my name from this petition.  I was given false information before signing.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Pinkney can be reached by phone:  269.925.0001

Hear mayor Hightower speak -
harbor-mayor.html.
 
Rev. Pinkney demands that Berrien County Clerk resign because Judge John Duane set aside the election.  In other words, Clerk Sharon Tyler sued herself and the judge ruled in her favor.
Rev. Pinkney is now under house arrest.  He will go to jail if he uses his computer.  He is being charged $105.00 per week to be tethered.  Last Thursday many, many police officers surrounded his house and drove up and down his steet repeatedly.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rev. Pinkney and others led a petition drive to recall corrupt Benton Harbor mayor James Hightower.  He’s known

Gentrifying Benton Harbor

Gentrifying Benton Harbor

for acting in the interest of Whirlpool, not the residents.  Four Benton Harbor voters wrote letters to the Berrien County Clerk stating they wanted their names removed from the recall petitions they signed.   We can only guess what tactics were used by Hightower or law enforcement to obtain permission from these four voters to “write” the letters.

 
All four letters had the exact same legalese wording.  

Apparently the identical letters didn’t cause the county clerk to blink an eye.  In Berrien County, everyone falls in line.  Go along to get along.
 
The letters were the basis for a huge show of armed force at Rev. Pinkney’s house last Thursday, April 24.   Surrounding the house were approximately 30 officers — an effort to intimidate Pinkney.  They also drove up and down his street, over and over.  Can you imagine this happening across the river in St. Joe?
 
Pinkney is now under house arrest, tethered, and not permitted to use his computer.  The judge made it clear:  if he uses his computer he will go to jail.  Pinkney is charged $105.00 per week to be tethered.
 
Even though all four letters had the exact same wording.  

Mayor Hightower was losing the election 4 to 1 according to on-the-ground conversations, reports Rev. Pinkney and other petitioners.   So Whirlpool, Lakeland Hospital, Berrien County prosecutor Michael Sepic, Sheriff Paul Bailey, and mayor Hightower came up with a scheme.  They found four people to help them manufacture (false) evidence by “writing” letters to the court.  That would enable them to charge Pinkney with election fraud.   
 
Even though all four letters had the exact same wording.  

Here is the letter that four Benton Harbor voters each allegedly submitted to the county court:

 
February 5, 2013
 
To the County and the State Board of Elections:
 
I’m asking that my name be withdrawn from the petition regarding the recall of Mayor James Hightower. Deception was used and the petition was misreprented by the person that gave me the petition to sign.  I was told it was to receive taxes from Whirlpool.  Again, please remove my name from this petition.  I was given false information before signing.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Pinkney can be reached by phone:  269.925.0001

Hear mayor Hightower speak -
harbor-mayor.html.
 
Rev. Pinkney demands that Berrien County Clerk resign because Judge John Duane set aside the election.  In other words, Clerk Sharon Tyler sued herself and the judge ruled in her favor.
Here are more references for information on Benton Harbor, Michigan, and the political significance for the rest of us.

Events This Week: (There are a lot more than these . . .)

Some events this week:

Global Climate Convergence is moderating a national 10 day series of actions intended to connect the environmental movement of survival with the movements for economic survival.  For the entire calendar of events please check the following site:  http://globalclimateconvergence.org/calendar/
Some of the Chicago highlights include:

  • April 22 Earth Day march assembles 4:30 PM at Thompson Center; march 5:15 PM
  • April 25 Critical Mass Bike Ride begins at Daley Plaza 5:30 PM
  • April 26 Environmental Justice March 10:30 AM at East 106th St & State Line Ave

April 23:  The Chicago Board of Education meets to review school turnarounds and charter schools.  125 S. Clark.  The Board meets at 10 AM but people begin gathering around 8 AM.

April 26 Workers United celebrates Earth Day with presentations by local labor leaders as well as music and other entertainment  Workers United Hall, 333 S Ashland. See: http://chilaborarts.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/4082/

April 25 and 26 the Guild Complex presents “Voices of Protest,” with a film screening and reading by two exiled Middle Eastern poets:  see http://chilaborarts.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/4071/

May Day celebrations include the annual gathering at Haymarket Square where this year a representative of French labor will dedicate a plaque to be affixed to the monument.

At 3 PM the annual May Day March for Immigrant Rights steps off from Haymarket Square, Desplaines and Randolph.  Destination is the ICE headquarters on Congress. See: http://chilaborarts.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/4077/

Earth Day to May Day! Presented by Workers United April 26

Global Climate Convergence:  Earth Day to May Day Celebration at Workers United Union Hall

MAYDAYbob13

 

MAYDAYbob14-spanish

May Day Celebration and March for Immigrants’ Rights: Stop Deportations!

125 years ago, the international workers’ movement declared our own holiday — May 1st. Workers the world over have been marching as one on this day, continuing the struggle for justice, the right to organize, the right to jobs for all at a living wage. The power of the May Day tradition is ever more important in this age of corporate globalization.

This year’s commemorative plaque will be placed on the Haymarket Memorial by the French General Confederation of Labor (CGT). After our ceremony, we’ll join the annual march for Immigration Justice.

The annual May Day immigrants’ rights march steps off from Haymarket Square May 1 at 3 PM.

May Day

The Guild Complex Presents Voices of Protest: Screening and Reading

Voices-of-Protest-FINAL-flyer

This is an extraordinary event of tremendous consequence!

 

 

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