MIDTERM ELECTIONS: CORPORATE DEMOCRATS VERSUS THE MONSTER THEY EMPOWERED

Image courtesy of BAR

Glen Ford, BAR executive editor

November 8, 2018

(VOD COMMENTARY ON GOV.-ELECT GRETCHEN WHITMER AND MICHIGAN ELECTIONS BELOW THIS STORY) 

“The midterms were a test of whether Donald Trump could continue to hold majorities of white Americans in thrall to his non-stop, red-meat racist political theater.”

Tuesday’s midterm elections put Democrats back in control of the U.S. House while strengthening the Republican hold on the Senate. The big picture is that, two years after Donald Trump replaced the GOP’s old arsenal of racial code words and dog whistles with blaring white supremacist bullhorns, majorities of U.S. whites are firmly committed to an openly white nationalist political program under the leadership of a billionaire huckster who speaks their vile language.

Although the GOP remains a minority party — Democrats outpolled them in House races by 7 to 9 percent – white supremacists remain the largest bloc in the U.S. political spectrum. The 2018 midterms were a test, not of insurgent left-leaning Democrats — a disorganized and confused faction that was kept largely in check by the party’s corporate leadership — but of whether Donald Trump could continue to hold majorities of white Americans in thrall to his non-stop, red-meat racist political theater.

The overt white supremacist strategy has succeeded in proving both the intransigence and coherence of racist white majorities.”

He could, and did, confirming the potency of the overt white supremacist strategy, which has succeeded in proving both the intransigence and coherence of racist white majorities, even as most of the ruling class and its media mounted an unprecedented offensive to restore the previous corporate political consensus: austerity and war cloaked in a façade of “diversity.” Trump made “me feel like an American again,” said a white West Virginia hardware store worker quoted by the New York Times. The man felt restored in the belief that he still lives in a white man’s country.

The G7 and what they stand for

Republican gains in the Senate reflect both the solidity of the white supremacist bloc and the structural racism of the U.S. electoral system. The Democratic gain of up to 28 seats in the House is not unusual for presidential incumbent parties at midterm ; Democrats lost 54 seats in 1994, under Clinton, the GOP dropped 39 seats in 2006, under Bush, and Obama’s party lost a whopping 63 seats and both houses of Congress in 2010. The latest election has given the corporate Democrats leadership of one house of the national legislature, but did not break white supremacy’s hold on majorities of white voters. The White Man’s Party, as redefined and reinvigorated by Donald Trump, is still the nation’s most formidable bloc, by far.

“The corporate media bestowed a total of $5 billion in free media on Donald Trump.”

This was a rematch of the contest that corporate Democrats wished for and thought would allow them to win decisively back in 2016. Democratic leaders sought to set the terms of electoral battle as a conflict between “deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton described white supremacist voters, and the rest of the electorate, the great bulk of whom the corporate Democrats believed could be corralled into Hillary’s Big Tent, where big city and Deep South Black politicians, Rio Grand valley and East L.A. Hispanics, suburban white “moderates,” Silicon Valley and Wall Street oligarchs, scheming CIA operatives and warmongering generals would find common cause against the Orange Menace.

Clinton campaign chief John Podesta urged his troops and their friends in media to do everything possible to boost Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination, in the certainty that Clinton would beat him in a landslide — as incontrovertibly documented in the emails that were pilfered and delivered (not hacked) to Wikileaks (not the Russians) and sent to the media.

By March of 2016, corporate media – most glaringly CNN, but including the whole herd — had already given Trump’s GOP takeover gambit $2 billion in free media, amounting to more exposure than all the other candidates from both corporate parties, combined, including Clinton. By end the of the general election campaign, corporate media had bestowed a total of $5 billion in free media on Donald Trump — their criminally cynical contribution to the solidification and consolidation of the white supremacist bloc in the United States.

Trump is not their Frankenstein, but the Democrats and their media supplied most of the electricity that energized the monster. White supremacy is endemic to the U.S., part of its founding settler DNA, but the corporate media and Democratic Party’s strategy to help install Trump as a “straw man” presidential candidate who could be swept aside in the general election wound up giving white supremacists a champion around which to unite.

“The white supremacist bloc flexes its muscles and fingers its triggers.”

When the strategy failed, they blamed it on the Russians and launched a neo-McCarthyite campaign of slander against domestic dissidents — like Black Agenda Report — blaming the “far left and far right” for “sowing discord” on behalf of a foreign power. It was their own failed electoral strategy that had destabilized the corporate duopoly, simultaneously threatening the “corporate consensus” on foreign and domestic policy and giving new life to the Old Confederacy.

Nancy Pelosi

This is the big picture — much of the rest of the midterm results is clutter. The white supremacist bloc flexes its muscles and fingers its triggers. The racist horde — a majority of whites – feels a renewed entitlement to primacy in the national life.

Corporate Democrats, whose bungled schemes led us to this juncture, forge ahead with the same strategy as in 2016. Nancy Pelosi, who ordered the Congressional Black Caucus to downplay the crimes of Katrina the last time she was Speaker of the House, served up pablum and called it a victory speech:

“We will strive for bipartisanship, with fairness on all sides. We have a responsibility to find our common ground where we can, stand our ground where we can’t, but we must try. We’ll have a bipartisan marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy strong. A Democratic congress will work for solutions that bring us together, because we have all had enough of division. The American people want peace. They want results. They want us to work for positive results for their lives.”

“Only Big, Alternative Projects — transformational programs, like single payer health care, that actually shift power and resources from the ruling oligarchy to the masses” 

What crap. By “peace,” she means less rancor between the two corporate parties. The actual corporate agenda is austerity and war, the only future the oligarchy envisions for the planet. Trump shares this imperial vision — when he is thinking about subjects other than himself — but is glad to ride and stoke the white revanchism that is now part of his brand.

Only Big, Alternative Projects — transformational programs, like single payer health care, that actually shift power and resources from the ruling oligarchy to the masses — can erode the coherence of the White Supremacist Bloc, forcing significant numbers of them to abandon the prioritization of race, and at the same time galvanize the numeric majority of the nation: minorities of whites and majorities of everybody else.

Nancy Pelosi’s job is to make sure that does not happen in her wing of the duopoly, despite the fact that 85 percent of Democrats — and 52 percent of Republicans — favor Medicare for All, with only 20 percent of Americans opposed. In other words, there is an overwhelming popular consensus in favor of single payer health care that is diametrically opposed to the corporate consensus. Corporate parties, in a duopoly system, cannot resolve that contradiction in favor of the people.

That’s why the struggle must be mainly in the streets, and to build non-corporate parties, including independent Black formations — which requires a split in the Democrats, the section of the duopoly that is not explicitly the White Man’s Party, but instead slavishly serves the oligarchy.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com

Gretchen Whitmer and allies celebrate her win as Michigan governor.

What is the future for Detroit and Michigan under Democratic Gov. Elect Gretchen Whitmer and team?

 Transition team includes former Mayor Dennis Archer, former U.S. Attorney Barbara Mcquade, BC/BS CEO D. Loepp, banker Gary Torgow

 Moody’s ratings agency says Detroit’s borrowing future is bleak without attention to its devastated neighborhoods: “However, this momentum only encompasses seven of Detroit’s 143 square miles and 6% of the city’s population.”

 The majority of Detroit Public Schools were closed under Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who also signed PA 10, the first EM law for school districts

Unlike several of her Democratic opponents, Whitmer did NOT support Medicare for all, wants “re-insurance” plan to give tax $$ to insurance cos.

 By Diane Bukowski

 November 14, 2018

DETROIT – The article by Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report above is highly applicable to the future of both Detroit and the State of Michigan under its newly-elected Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer and her appointees.

Detroiters and others are understandably enthusiastic about the end of Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s regime.

Under it, Snyder and his emergency managers poisoned the water and people of the entire city of Flint without going to prison, engineered the largest (and unnecessary) municipal bankruptcy in the history of the U.S. in Detroit, stealing the city’s public assets and leaving it 300 percent more in debt, and likewise decimated every other majority-Black city in Michigan.

Emergency managers also laid waste to public school systems across the state. Among them is the previously venerable Detroit Public Schools district, which was split into two entities, one left to pay off the massive debt thrust on DPS by the banks, and the other which operates what is left of the district, less than half of the schools that existed before 1999, without any access to financing. Most Detroit children now attend unregulated for-profit charter schools paid for out of state school funds.

Throughout this period, the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), Moratorium NOW! and other groups demanded that the banks cancel the debt owed by the city and schools, as well as that of homeowners threatened with foreclosure, and campaigned vigorously against the Detroit bankruptcy filing. They  also led an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to put the sale of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department on Detroit’s ballot, pursuant to a state law allowing municipalities to do so.

City retirees, residents demand cancellation of Detroit’s debt outside bankruptcy court.

During the weeks leading up to the election, I worked in a Get Out the Vote door-to-door campaign to earn funds to move from the landmark Jeffersonian Apartments, which has been sold to greedy developers Joe Barbat and Arie Liebowicz.  Residents, many of them seniors who have lived here for more than 30 years, have been forced to move due to huge rent increases, the institution of  costly individual tenant bills for water, sewerage and heat,  under American Utilities Management, and large increases in parking and other fees.

This house shows what is happening under “Mayor” Mike Duggan.

What I saw as we canvassed neighborhoods on the east side of Detroit, however, stunned me and made me realize that I am fortunate in comparison to tens of thousands of other Detroiters.

Fifty-nine percent of this city’s children live in poverty. Homeless people, mostly Black, haunt the streets of Mike Duggan and Dan Gilbert’s “come-back” downtown, “Mid-Town” (formerly the Cass Corridor), the North End, and now my neighborhood.

The youth of the city are demonized and set upon constantly by the police. Current prisoners in the Michigan Department of Corrections report that a whole new generation is flooding into those concentration camps, where at least 70 percent of the occupants are Black.

I knew already that Detroit neighborhoods have been under assault for years by foreclosures carried out by the thieving banks, which caused the 2008 global economic meltdown through predatory lending, and tax foreclosures carried out by merciless city and county officials.

Houses with caved in roofs like this were lined up all the way down various blocks.

But I was not prepared for the sight of blocks upon blocks of homes with their rooves caved down to street level, the sight of a long stretch of Brush Street reduced to just that—brush, with only a few homes left standing, and the massive devastation of the portion of Hamtramck west of Davison, to cite only some examples. Even residents who have managed to maintain livable homes in relatively decent areas are forced to co-exist with boarded-up and burnt-up foreclosed homes.

Most residents did not open their doors when we knocked to find out if they planned to vote, understandably afraid of who might be outside.  So we just left literature and called out their poll locations to them.

But one young woman did answer. She said homeowners in a wide swath of land near her have already been forced out by developers. They include New Far East Development, which owns 530 vacant properties, and the massive I-94 Industrial Park development, where former structure have been razed to the ground. Despite getting millions in government funds for these projects, the developers have done nothing to enact their alleged plans to restore and revitalize the neighborhoods.

Part of the I-94 Industrial Corridor, razed to the ground.

“But I’m not going,” the young woman said. “I’ve lived in this home since I was five years old (she is now 41) and I intend to stay.”

Other people we ran into included homeless youths “squatting” in abandoned properties. One jobless youth told me he had just come from donating blood to get money.

A neighborhood resident told us, referring to my used black Ford Crown Victoria, “You’re driving the wrong car to get people out to vote.” Both me and my partner (who lives in Southgate) laughed and then had an animated discussion with him about offenses committed by the “po-po.”

When I reported my observations to organizers of the GOTV campaign back at the office, I also noted that people need to be wary of now-Gov. Elect Gretchen Whitmer. I recalled that the majority of schools shut down in Detroit were shut down during Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm’s two terms.

The two main organizers agreed wholeheartedly. One noted the lack of any real discussion during state campaigns of children, poverty, Medicare for all, rebuilding schools, and other issues vital to the people.  The other recalled that Granholm was responsible for approving  the first Emergency Manager act covering school districts.

Map of Detroit shows all foreclosures since 2002, which have devastated neighborhoods. Note lack of foreclosures in tiny downtown-‘midtown’  area. By Loveland Technologies.

In fact, in the wake of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s request to borrow $255 million in tax-exempt capital improvement bonds for the recreation and public safety departments, Moody’s Investor Service, normally a cheerleader for more debt, sounded an alarm Nov. 8.

“Detroit’s (Ba3 stable) downtown is transforming amid a hub of large-scale developments, population growth, and surging employment,” Moody’s Investors Service says in a new report, according to their research division. “However, this momentum only encompasses seven of Detroit’s 143 square miles and 6% of the city’s population. Strengthening the city’s property tax base beyond the city center would better position it to afford its already high debt and pension burdens.”

Moody’s added, “Since 2010, Detroit’s population has increased 28% or about 10,000 in the city center, but the overall city populace has lost 35,000 citizens. The divergence in population and demographic trends impact revenue mix and Detroit’s ability to afford its fixed costs including pension expenditures. Per-capita income is just above 52% of the nation.

Long-closed Frederick Douglass High School on east side typifies Detroit’s dozens of closed schools.

Moody’s also cited problems with Detroit schools.

“The Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCD) could also become a major drag on revitalization beyond downtown. Two years following a state rescue package, the district does not have the ability to address its significant capital needs.”

To add more cause for alarm, Bridge Magazine reported Oct. 24,   “Seven years after a disastrous series of public meetings about then-Mayor Dave Bing’s plan to downsize Detroit, city officials are amid a $57 million, five-year analysis of the water and sewer system.

“The study is intended to help prioritize repairs, but water officials acknowledge the findings may help determine whether the city should offer to pay to move residents out of abandoned neighborhoods and shut water lines.

“Areas that are so sparsely populated, perhaps the neighborhood should be shut down and just move people out? We think so,” said Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD).”

“Mayor” Duggan’s hand covers Detroit, where small pipelines are the only remaining property of the DWSD, which formerly covered six counties and 40 percent of the state’s population. 2014 Photo from bankruptcy proceedings press conference.

DTE and other utilities have also discussed plans to shut down the provision of services to sparsely-populated areas where the most of the city’s Black homeowners and renters have been forced out by the banks and politicians.

DWSD is a shadow of its former self. Once the city’s “crown jewel,” it owns only the smaller pipelines inside the City of Detroit, where once it provided water for 40 percent of the state’s population and owned wastewater and freshwater treatment plants throughout six counties. It was the third largest water and sewerage department in the U.S. Its downriver Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant was the largest in the world.

During the bankruptcy debacle, Mayor Mike Duggan and area county executives agreed to the establishment of the regional “Great Lakes Water Authority” in 2014, after 41 percent of DWSD’s staff had been eliminated.  Since then, constant “boil-water” alerts, massive ruptures of pipelines and failures of sewage treatment plants have resulted in flooded freeways and basements across the six counties, and thousands of water shut-offs have become the norm.

What is on Gov. Elect Gretchen Whitmer’s agenda to deal with these problems? A look at her recently-announced transition team raises red flags immediately.

DETROIT’S FORMER MAYOR DENNIS ARCHER

These were the players who engineered Detroit’s devastating bankruptcy.

“Dennis Archer was worse than having a white Mayor,” noted Bill Davis, President of DAREA and an elected City of Detroit Police Commissioner. “He was making his family richer, but making sure no other Black people got anything, for example, Don Barden and Michael Jackson’s casino request. I think it’s a bad sign that Dennis Archer’s associated with it.”

VOD reported earlier that Dennis Archer, a fervent advocate of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing under emergency manager Kevyn Orr, teamed up with megamogul Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans and Matt Cullen of Gilbert-affiliated Rock Ventures in a meeting with former Pres. Barack Obama’s staff in 2013 to discuss the post-bankruptcy future of Detroit, before U.S. District Judge Stephen Rhodes had even approved the filing.

“Archer is [a] close ally of Gilbert, who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers (and is famous for his racist rant about star LeBron James leaving to go to the Miami Heat), Quicken Loans, and the Greektown Casino,” VOD said then. “Archer has been working with Gilbert and Cullen to get casino gambling in Ohio [despite Gilbert’s documented history of a gambling-related fraud conviction].”

Archer worked as a consultant for UBS AG, one of the two banks which foisted a $1.6 billion “Pension Obligation Certificate” loan on the city in 2oo4. EM Kevyn Orr cited that loan as a key factor in the city’s bankruptcy. He even filed suit to cancel the loan, covering his a–. but never followed through.

Archer was also a gung-ho advocate of privatization of Detroit city services during his sole term in office.

DETROIT’S FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY BARBARA MCQUADE 

“Barbara McQuade, the way she went after Kilpatrick, she should have been saying and doing more about what Duggan has done including corrupt demolition bids,” said Davis. “Most of that favored white contractors outside the City of Detroit and still does.”

McQuade was responsible for the conviction of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, which resulted in a term of 28 years in prison, a term many call disproportionate and racist. She also prosecuted former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway on bank fraud charges, brought against Hathaway through two other justices who disagreed with the Court’s 2012 landmark opinion in People v. Moreno. That little-publicized opinion, written by Hathaway, upheld the common-law right to resist illegal police conduct and affects tens of thousands of cases across the state. Previously, an appeals court ruling held that there was no right to resist such illegal conduct.

Barbara McQuade stands at Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s side as he announces formation of multi-agency task force to raid poor neighborhoods.

McQuade was U.S. Attorney during the 2015 execution of 19-year old dad Terrance Kellom by a multi-agency task force including a federal I.C.E. agent. She was in office as the Department of Justice investigated and exonerated local FBI agents and Detroit and Dearborn police in the 2009 assassination of Imam Luqman Abdullah. Many other Detroiters have been killed by police without reaction from the U.S. attorney during her term.

McQuade worked closely with Detroit Police Chief James Craig, appointed by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, during other multi-agency raids on poor neighborhoods.

McQuade barred beloved long-time community activist and paralegal Cornell Squires from her office, after he approached her numerous times regarding killings by Detroit police and illegal foreclosures, among other issues.

DANIEL J. LOEPP –BC/BS MICHIGAN PRES., CEO, MAKING $13 M/YR. 

At a time when polls show that the vast majority of people in the U.S. support single-payer health insurance unassociated with private insurance companies, also known as “Medicare for All,” Whitmer stood out significantly from her Democratic opponents in the primary who endorsed that option, medical doctor Abdul El-Sayed and businessman Shri Thanedar.

Her appointment of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s CEO Daniel Loepp to her transition team stands out like a sore thumb. Obamacare has been subject to attack from the right, but it has been unable to mount a counter-attack due to its association with private insurance companies.

“Medicare for All” means just that. The national government already has a database of all U.S. citizens in that program, now primarily limited only to those who are over the age of 65. This simplest approach to providing national public health care, common in other countries as well as several states in the U.S., is something Whitmer has already eschewed.

But Crain’s Detroit Business reported, “Whitmer is proposing Michigan start a reinsurance program to stabilize the individual private insurance market by adding a layer of coverage for individuals with higher medical claims. Wisconsin and at least four other states have created reinsurance programs where the state provides tax dollars to private insurers to cover the claims of individuals with a higher propensity to use medical services.”

Whitmer’s father, Richard Whitmer, was president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan between 1988 and 2006. And in March, lobbyists for the company held a fundraiser for the Whitmer campaign. “The vibrancy of Michigan’s economic climate is driven by public policy put forward by our state’s Governor; and we believe Gretchen Whitmer will be a great leader for Michigan,” the lobbyists said in the invitation announcing the fundraiser, which was on Whitmer letterhead.

GARY TORGOW, THE STERLING GROUP 

Gary Torgow, bank chairman and Sterling Group CEO.

Chairman of Chemical Financial Corporation, the holding company of the largest bank headquartered in Michigan, Mr. Torgow is also the founder of the Sterling Group. He is a member of the Executive Board of Business Leaders for Michigan and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and is a member of the Board of the Detroit Downtown Partnership. 

The Sterling Group is currently buying up properties in the Cass Corridor (now called “Mid-town”), including the former Burton School. It already owns the Ford Building in downtown Detroit as well as the Guardian Building, which it purchased in a controversial, costly deal with former Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. The Sterling Group has been a major contributor to many political campaigns including that of Dennis Archer.

Others on the team are listed in a press release at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Governor-elect-Gretchen-Whitmer-Announces-Transition-team.pdf.

SOME RELATED STORIES:

WALL STREET GREED = DEATH OF DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS; FIGHT BACK IN COURT, ON STREETS

Detroit Public Schools: A Case Study in American Apartheid

STATE WAR ON DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS CONTINUES, “SELLING BLACK CHILDREN TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER”

DETROIT BANKRUPTCY PLAN: GENOCIDE IN USA’S LARGEST BLACK-MAJORITY CITY; RICH GET 95.9%, POOR GET 13.5%

DETROIT BANKRUPTCY: “GREAT LAKES WATER AUTHORITY” TO STEAL LARGEST ASSET OF LARGEST U.S. BLACK CITY

 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/08/21/near-catastrophic-failure-of-detroit-sewage-pumps-caused-detroit-floods-toledo-water-crisis-city-retirees-say/

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MARCH FOR BLACK WOMEN DETROIT: SAT. NOV. 17 12N to 4 PM–WITH SISTER MARCHES IN NYC, WASH. D.C.

MARCH FOR BLACK WOMEN DETROIT 

 March for Black Women Detroit

SATURDAY, NOV. 17, 2018   12 PM to 4 PM

SPIRIT OF DETROIT PLAZA 

2 Woodward Ave. at Jefferson

Sister march for March for Black Women in D.C. and NYC, organized by Black Women’s Blueprint. Black women are often left out of feminist and pro-Black spaces. This march is our space to speak. Our purpose is to educate the community on the many issues that Black women face (Trans violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc.) and also celebrate them.

SPEAKERS:

Fatou- Seydi Sarr – ABISA, Michigan United

Jey’nce Poindexter- Equality Michigan

Heather Bruegl – Indigenous Activist

 Nicole Denson- WC Safe, Women’s March Michigan

Camille Sanks- Young activist, poet

Nadia Lawson- Poet

Cheryl Blanton Herrmann- Activist

Shelton Martin- Performer

Yana Lynn- BYP1

Camille Sanks- Young activist, poet

Nadia Lawson- Poet

Cheryl Blanton Herrmann- Activist

MC- Tamera Middlebrooks (Girls Making Change Alum, Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan)


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GEORGE RIDER CASE SHOWS CORRUPTION RUNS DEEP WITHIN MACOMB COUNTY, MI COURTS, POLICE

IS JUSTICE A FAMILY AFFAIR IN MACOMB COUNTY? MCCC Judge Jennifer Faunce and sister 37th DC Judge Suzanne Faunce sworn in by father Judge Sherman Faunce in 2014. Macomb Daily photo

Chief Judge orders recusal of Judge Jennifer Faunce from George Rider murder case; her sister, Judge Suzanna Faunce signed search warrants 

Faunce obstructed Rider’s due process rights with lengthy delays; he sought to quash illegal search and seizure by Warren, Roseville police 

Lower level judges also crossed the line

Ricardo Ferrell, VOD staff 

BY RICARDO FERRELL

Nov. 7, 2018

While held in the Macomb County Jail for the past twenty-one months on charges of first-degree murder in the death of a Warren woman, George Rider, 60, has had his constitutional rights trampled over by Roseville and Warren police 0fficers, and by Macomb County Circuit and District Court judges.

On February 4, 2017, while exiting a car wash located on Gratiot and 12 Mile Rd., Rider had his SUV blocked by police from both the Roseville and Warren Police Departments. Police with guns drawn ordered him out of his vehicle then handcuffed him and placed him in the backseat of their scout car, confiscated two cellphones along with the Ford Explorer and left Rider standing on the street.

Rider had asked the police if he was under arrest.  They responded in the negative, but an employee at the car wash said, “It sure looks like you’re under arrest to me.” Rider then asked, “If I’m not under arrest then why am I handcuffed?” He was then uncuffed and left stranded on Gratiot Avenue.

George Rider with Tyree Guyton at fundraiser for the Heidelberg Project in 2012. Rider lives in Huntington Woods. Photo: Elayne Gross, Hour Detroit

Within a few weeks of the unlawful stop, Rider was charged and remained in the Macomb County Jail without bail. There have been countless postponements since the preliminary examination was held in front of District Court Judge Michael Chupa. A sequence of conflicts of interest began early on with Judge Chupa first signing upwards of 40 search warrants pertaining to the case, then presiding over the preliminary examination.

How can a jurist be a fair and impartial referee after signing search warrants in the very case in which he would go on to hold a preliminary examination? This sort of practice at the very least potentially poses the above-mentioned conflict and borders closely on being a violation of Rider’s right to due process of law.

During a motion hearing, Rider and his attorneys challenged the veracity and substance of the searches authorized by Judge Suzanna Faunce. Her sister, who is Judge Jennifer Faunce, another Macomb County Circuit Court Judge involved in Rider’s case, heard the motion challenging the validity of the warrants and likely deliberately denied the motions due to a preconceived notion and position on the case, circumventing the judicial process by allowing for an injustice of this magnitude to take place in her courtroom.

Irrespective of a judge’s position on a particular case which lands in their courtroom, she must under the laws of this land and under the U.S. Constitution administer a fair application of the very law she has sworn and taken an oath to adhere to regardless of her personal position. Otherwise the judicial system is made to be a farce and rigged process counterproductive to defendants and their rights. The presumption of innocence is prematurely faded due to a lopsided application of fairness which tends to lean more so toward one side than the other.

On September 24, 2018, Rider learned in court that the conflict of interest is of such irreparable harm that Judge Jennifer Faunce had to recuse herself from the case by order of Chief Judge James Biernat, Jr., due to the blatantly obvious biased position she allowed herself to partake in.

Judge Jennifer Faunce has tainted the legal process by purposely engaging in a practice that undermines all fundamental sense of fairness to the accused. Allowing any judge to disregard the rights of a defendant shames not only a court of law but the very principles on which the judicial system is supposed to stand. And, for any judge of the Macomb County Circuit Court to knowingly and deliberately turn a blind eye to the injustice in the case against George Rider, amounts to a complicity that must be rooted out of the legal process in the case at bar.

If not, then those involved are bordering quite closely on an act of corruption on a level that must be investigated by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission to assure that a defendant’s rights in a criminal case (namely George G. Rider) are protected accordingly.

The surrounding factors relating to how judges in the Macomb County Circuit Court have unfairly treated defendant George Rider should be investigated by this entity mentioned above. The Macomb Daily, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News should all fairly report from both sides of the spectrum, on such news worthy matters like a judge who has been found to be in conflict of interest and was recused. These newspapers were quick to write stories about the arrest of George Rider and include other unrelated matters from decades ago, then why not write about the corruption which leads to the chamber of judges at the Macomb County Circuit Court?

VOD: The Detroit Free Press and other newspapers zeroed in on George Rider’s 1992 federal drug conviction, but did not tie it to anything in this case. They also did not tie him to the murder in the case except through his alleged relationship with one of the co-defendants. They claimed he was in Wayne County Jail on “unrelated” charges when he was arrested. No such record exists on either the Third Judicial Circuit Court or Wayne County jail search engines.

The Fine Arts Theater in a recent photo.

In fact, George Rider has been a respected businessman in Detroit, as evidenced by his photo (above) in Hour Detroit.  His George G. Rider Community Center bought the Fine Arts Theater on Woodward in Detroit in the late 1990’s, according to a Free Press article, which tied the theater to various shady dealings. The Fine Arts Theater was originally owned by Joe Foster Jr., a respected Black businessman with extensive property holdings in what was then called the Cass Corridor, and in Brush Park.

Inside the Fine Arts Theater during event for Heidelberg Project in 2013. Facebook photo. 

Both areas were targeted by wealthy developers in league with corrupt city officials, who have since razed the original Black-owned homes in Brush Park and replaced the Cass Corridor with fancy and expensive “Midtown” retail and housing developments. Foster and the subsequent owner of the Fine Arts Theater, Bernice Johnson, were murdered in separate cases which have (conveniently) never been solved by Detroit Police. Later, when Gwendolyn Washington was operating the theater as a concert venue, Detroit police conducted a SWAT-style raid including helicopters on a jazz concert attended by well-dressed middle-class Black citizens, claiming Washington had not registered the deed to the site.

Developer Harry Boutros/Facebook

The now-defunct Michigan Citizen reported extensively on the movement to save the Fine Arts, led by Washington who was helped by Malik Shabazz and Ron Scott. Numerous rallies were held at the theater, which activists termed “liberated” territory. But eventually the activists were evicted and the theater has since lain dormant. In 2016, despite disputes over the actual ownership of the Fine Arts,  Birmingham developer Harry Boutros’ company IIILLC bought it for $1.3 million, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Related stories:

https://www.macombdaily.com/news/copscourts/trio-s-trial-for-warren-murder-delayed-due-to-judge/article_6274c202-ccad-11e8-8ba8-ef1fd3cb8afe.html

https://www.freep.com/story/news/2017/02/23/warren-homicide/98328254/

https://www.freep.com/story/money/real-estate/2016/05/04/detroits-real-life-murder-mystery-theater-gets-13m/83932336

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‘THE SYSTEM FAILED’—CHARLES (K.K.) LEWIS, AT JLWOP HEARING, INVOKES KAEPERNICK, NAT’L ACTIONS V. RACISM

Charles K.K. Lewis on video in court Sept. 28, 2018

 

Motions to dismiss his case in limbo until judge returns from medical leave in December, after two-and-a- half  years of hearings

Citing ‘lost’ court file, prosecution signals that judge has authority to grant Lewis a term of years, take LWOP off the table

Atty. Deborah LaBelle reports on current status of state’s juvenile lifers: 236 yet to see a judge for re-sentencing, six yrs. after Miller v. Alabama

By Diane Bukowski    

October 11, 2018

DETROIT – Charles K.K. Lewis spoke out powerfully at the conclusion of his 36th juvenile lifer re-sentencing hearing in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard Sept. 28. Reviewing 42 years of his incarceration since his murder conviction at the age of 17, he declared the justice system in the U.S. has failed him and members of Black and poor communities across the country since its inception.

SANTA CLARA, CA – OCTOBER 23: Eli Harold #58, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel for the anthem prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Buccaneers defeated the 49ers 34-17. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Eli Harold;Colin Kaepernick;Eric Reid

“This is the reason why you have guys like Colin Kaepernick taking a knee,” Lewis said, addressing the court on video from the Lakeland Correctional Facility.

“This is the reason why you have NBA players stepping up saying hold up, wait a minute, the system has gone too far. It’s not working. We got to do something about this. This is the epitome of that. This is a blatant example of what people are protesting about and marching in the streets–a lack of justice. This is it right here. So I’m saying when you go in your chambers and you sit down and evaluate that, think about that.”

Lewis is one of 236 juvenile lifers in Michigan, 70 percent of them people of color, currently serving sentences outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016). He is the first of the 236 still facing recommendations of new life terms to be heard in court. His re-sentencing hearing began in March, 2016.

In an ongoing federal case, Hill v. Snyder, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith appointed Attorney Deborah LaBelle as the official representative of the entire class of Michigan juvenile lifers, and also restored the use of “good time” credits to the class. State statutes enacted in 2014 (MCLA 769.25 and MCLA 769.25a) denied the use of these credits, which shorten time served, only to juvenile lifers in a discriminatory scheme.

Judge Mark Goldsmith

Atty. Deborah LaBelle

LaBelle said, “In general the State has complied with the Court’s orders for restoration of earned good time and disciplinary credit for the Hill class. There have been difficulties with them complying with the court’s orders for calculation of good time and disciplinary credits, when it results in people maxing out.  There is a pending motion to compel defendants compliance on this — as they violated policy to keep people in longer.”

Regarding the current status of Michigan’s juvenile lifers, Atty. LaBelle reported to VOD,  “The following is the data to date: nineteen of the Hill class members have now been fully discharged off of parole. Forty-three additional class members have been released on parole. Seven more Hill class members have been granted parole but have not yet been released, pending completion of in-reach parole readiness activities and release schedules. Nine Hill class members have been interviewed for parole consideration and have a decision pending; 53 Hill class members have been re-sentenced but are not yet parole eligible due to their re-sentence terms.; 238 Hill class members have yet to have their re-sentencing completed.”

Judge Qiana Lillard at hearing Sept. 28, 2018

During the Sept. 28 hearing, Lewis’ attorney Sanford Schulman argued multiple motions to dismiss his 1976 first-degree murder case and grant him bond pending re-sentencing. AP Thomas Dawson contended the majority of the motions were appropriate only as appellate motions for re-trial, rather than for re-sentencing. He said issues in them had already been addressed in previous appeals. However records of those appeals prior to 2000, including Lewis’ first appeal of right, are also missing, so it is not known WHAT was argued in them.

Judge Lillard then announced she will be on medical leave for the next two months and will issue her written opinions on the remaining motions on her return, hopefully in December. She told Attys. Schulman and Dawson, however, to continue the process of finding experts to testify at a mitigation hearing meanwhile.

Lewis, an accomplished jailhouse lawyer who began studying law immediately after his incarceration,    and now works in the law library at Lakeland, with access to LexisNexis, recounted the history of his conviction and his attempts to overturn it.

Sitting behind a stack of law books and other records, Lewis said, “The system failed me when the first jury was improperly dismissed. If it was improperly dismissed, then everything that came after that is really irrelevant. You have to look at People v Benton 402 Mich at page 47.  That case pretty much says if there’s no specified reason on the record for why the jury was dismissed that’s the equivalent of an acquittal. I’m asking you to evaluate that when you make your decision.”

Judge Joseph Maher

Judge Deborah Thomas

Lewis’ first jury deliberated for three weeks in May, 1977 on charges that he killed off-duty Detroit police officer Gerald Sypitkowski July 31, 1976. Like most of his court file from 1976 through 1999, the complete transcript for that hearing is missing, along with his complete Register of Actions. That Register, deemed essential under Michigan court rules, currently begins with a notation that he was tried and convicted in front of Judge Gershwin Drain on April   3, 2000.   

 The last judge to review Lewis’ complete file, in 2006, Judge Deborah Thomas, said unequivocally that Recorder’s Court Judge Joseph Maher’s failure to specify on the record his reason for the jury dismissal in March, 1977, meant that Lewis should have been acquitted and subject to double jeopardy regarding any new trial

Lewis was re-tried twice anyway, once with a jury that was dismissed without cause when Maher took the case over from a Black visiting judge, and with  a jury whose names and racial composition were not recorded, which convicted him.  The majority of testimony presented to that jury came from the officer’s partner and other eyewitnesses who identified a completely different perpetrator in a white Lincoln Mark IV.

“Right now to this day you can’t go get the names of the 12 jurors that you say found me guilty,” Lewis said. “If you can give me those, I’ll bow out right now and you can give me life without parole and I’ll go back to my cell and sit on my bunk for the rest of my life. Because it’s not fair.”’

AP Dawson claimed transcripts of voir dire proceedings on jury panels were not kept until sometime in the 1990’s.  However, a Michigan Court of Appeals diss enting opinion in Seaton v. Wayne County Prosecutor, 225 Mich App 1, (1997), involving a defendant who had been incarcerated since 1979, makes clear reference to whether that defendant could request a transcript of his jury voir dire proceedings through the Freedom of Information Act. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/SEATON-v-WAYNE-COUNTY-PROSECUTOR.pdf

Another of Lewis’ motions regarded ineffective assistance of trial counsel, in which the trial counsel argued the defendant was guilty. Lewis’ court-appointed attorney, M. Arthur Arduin, was previously a campaign manager for Recorder’s Court Judge Thomas Poindexter, a leading advocate of keeping Black families out of white neighborhoods during the racially volatile ‘60’s and ‘70’s.

“Look at some of statements we cited in this motion,” Atty. Schulman said. “The lawyer didn’t tell the jury about things that the officers had said. It looked like he was basically arguing that the defendant was already guilty. Judge Deborah Thomas said the attorney didn’t really talk about the scientific impossibility [of juveniles’ version of events]. Impeachment was lacking, he seemed to just concede guilt.”

Lewis’ motion cited the following statement by Arduin in his opening argument:

There’s been a killing; there’s been an attempted robbery; there’s been a attempted robbery prior to this matter at issue today. Now we have here only one Defendant. But originally there were four young blacks. If they are part of a gang, I don’t know. But let’s assume they’re part of a gang. . . We’ re going to prove four lads who are part of a gang who are — who are expertise. Expertise, -they knew how to steal cars and God only knows if they knew how to rob. Now that’s what we’re going to prove. And they started out on this day, July 31st, four of them — four of them — to steal a car and to go out and commit a robbery. And they took with them the tools of their trade.”

Dennis Van Fleteren

M. Arthur Arduin Sr at 91

Arduin ignored the testimony of the officer’s partner Dennis Van Fleteren and other eyewitnesses who all said they saw another man kill Sypitkowski, in both his opening and closing arguments.  He talked only about testimony given by three youths, ages 15 and 16, (names) who had been threatened with charges if they did not testify against Lewis.

“The system failed when I had the Pearson Evidentiary hearing,” Lewis continued. “People v. Pearson is real clear. The prosecutor has 30 days to have a hearing.  After thirty days the conviction is automatically vacated. Witnesses were missing at the trial. I filed an appeal, and won the appeal. When we got down there the witnesses came and testified and technically from the testimony I should have been granted a new trial. Guess what happened? The transcripts came up missing. It took me ten years to get a copy of the transcripts.”

Explaining Lewis’ motion declaring the prosecution’s request to sentence him to LWOP untimely, Atty. Schulman said, “Judge Edward Ewell granted a re-sentencing on Oct. 17, 2012, and there was no timely request by the government at that time that there be a mandatory life sentence.”

Schulman said that left open the possibility that Ewell would have re-sentenced Lewis to a term of years, not life without parole. Lewis supplemented his attorney’s statements with the judge’s permission.

“I drafted this motion,” he said. “My situation is unique in this respect. I’m practically the only juvenile lifer that I know of that was actually granted a re-sentencing by a Circuit Court Judge out of the 360 juvenile lifers in state. My re-sentencing was granted in 2012, so now what the prosecutor is saying is that you can apply a statute to me that didn’t become effective until March 4, 2014. While he’s saying that life was the sentence in 1977 and in 2012, and that’s not true. When Judge Ewell granted my re-sentencing in 2012, there was no statute, no case law, nothing that gave him the authority to sentence me to life without parole. So if we move forward to 2014, and you allow the prosecutor to make a recommendation to sentence me to LWOP based on a statute that didn’t exist in 2012, that makes the sentence harsher, and if it makes the sentence harsher, that makes it ex post facto.”  

Key arguments toward the conclusion of the hearing dealt with the extraordinary loss of Lewis’ official case file and Register of  Actions, and left open the possibility of some light at the end of the tunnel, with regard to converting Lewis’ sentence from LWOP to a term of years. He has already served 42 years.

(Note: in video below, AP Dawson states that agreements made by Ronald Pettway, Jeffrey Mulligan, and Mark Kennedy, which Lewis and his attorney stated they had never seen, are in trial transcripts. There are several references to said agreements in the juveniles’ testimony, but there are no actual documents, and none were introduced.)

“That is sort of the last straw—at least you should have the full file,” Atty. Schulman argued. “The appellate courts have dealt with this. When a transcript isn’t complete, there’s no problem with the COA summarily dismissing, vacating and setting aside a conviction. We’ve presented a list of missing files. There is no record of why the first jury was dismissed, and no record of jury dismissal from second trial with visiting judge. One sticking point is the court doesn’t see the record of the agreements with the juveniles.  We’re going to just drop this on the court and say you figure it out?”

Schulman said the loss of the file also hinders his representation of his client.

Charles Lewis shortly after his incarceration in 1977, with his mother Rosie Lewis.

“It’s also me—I have to figure it out as well. The Supreme Court has given us the opportunity for re-sentencing, and they’re saying consider factors like what was he like when he was 17, what was going on during the trial, what were the strengths and the weaknesses of the case?  Forget the mandatory life sentence for a second. If this was a case of second degree murder, the court would look at whether this case was solid from the beginning, There’s a human factor. The court can say I want to comply with the Miller remand but I can’t because I don’t have the entire file, it’s impossible. The remedy is that the court cannot impose a mandatory life sentence. The court can consider a 20-40 year sentence, a term of years. That’s not an acquittal. It’s not an adjudication on the facts.”

AP Dawson replied, “We’re here to resentence Mr. Lewis. Miller and Montgomery require you to look at mitigating factors. Back in 1977, when Mr. Lewis was sentenced, the sentencing judge had no choice but mandatory life without parole. The Supreme Court of the United States recognized that juveniles are different, and said a mandatory scheme is improper. . . .We’re here to conduct a Miller hearing. That’s it. It’s time to re-sentence [him]  so that Mr. Lewis can know whether he’s going to serve 40 years to something or life in prison. There is nothing that prohibits you from concluding during that hearing that I’m going to give him a term of years because I’m missing information. If you want to incorporate the missing files into your determination to give him a term of years, that’s your prerogative. Nothing prohibits you from doing something like that.”

Asserting that everything in the Sept. 28 hearing had already been covered, AP Dawson had referred to the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day.”  In it, actor Bill Murray plays a weatherman covering a Groundhog Day event, but then is caught in a time loop where the day keeps repeating itself over and over.

Detroit Reentry Center (formerly Ryan CF)

“In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray got up every day and got it wrong,” Schulman observed in response. “But one day he got it right. He got it right in the end. The problem is we haven’t gotten it right. While the government points out other factors, you have to remember that Mr. Lewis’ cert was granted by the United States Supreme Court, and one of the factors, a key factor, is the nature and circumstances of the case. You can’t really skirt over those factors: whether the first jury was properly dismissed, whether you have an agreement with these juveniles to give them a motive to lie. We have to ensure we don’t get it wrong. The past two years has been the court’s opportunity and the administrator’s opportunity to get it right. The only remedy is to ensure that you don’t get it wrong.” 

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Lillard again skirted the issue of having Lewis transferred to the Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit, to facilitate visits from his attorney as well as any experts that may be called to a mitigation hearing. Lewis told the attorneys to confer with Criminal Court Presiding Judge Timothy Kenny regarding the matter. 

Charles Lewis, now 59, on guitar, Bill Lemons, now 74, on keyboard, both noted musicians, play in prison band.

In addition to its proximity, Ryan, now known as the Detroit Re-Entry Center, provides improved health care and food for the people held there, and also programming geared to help them re-enter society. Lewis, now 59, contracted diabetes while incarcerated and now suffers a severe case that is threatening his eyesight. He has also had three heart attacks in prison, with the MDOC refusing to provide him with a stent for the last one. 

In 42 years, he has gone from being an intelligent, musically-talented, and athletically-talented  17-year-old who took care of his four younger sisters and brothers, including his brother who is blind. His mother Rosie recalls how he took care of him, teaching him to ride the city buses and navigate his way around the world. Lewis went to both parochial and public  schools and got good grades. He was about to graduate high school, and looked forward to college and a life sharing his talents with the world. 

Since he has been in prison, he has obtained a paralegal certificate (he rated first on the test for paralegal training when he first took it at Jackson), and has used those skills both for himself and to help others with their cases. He also obtained a degree in culinary arts, among other accomplishments. 

He has maintained contact with all his siblings, nieces and nephews, through the years, calling each of them on their birthdays and participating thereby in family celebrations, even if only for the 15 minute phone calls allotted. For someone incarcerated for 42 years, he has maintained his mental strength and sanity, counseling others to “think positive.”

“I still feel positive that I am coming home,” Lewis said. “I never gave up hope and began fighting for that day the minute I entered prison.”

Videos: Debra Simmons came to court to support Charles Lewis.

Below: Minister Reynolds X, long-time friend of Lewis and his family, speaks out against racist system of justice in U.S.

 CALL JUDGE QIANA LILLARD’S OFFICE AT 224-2391 AND ASK HER ASST. TO REGISTER YOUR SUPPORT FOR CHARLES K.K. LEWIS’ RELEASE. 

 HELP PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR HIS LEGAL DEFENSE AT SITE CREATED BY HIS SISTER WENDY LEWIS:  https://www.gofundme.com/FreeCharlesLewis-JLWOP 

FULL MOTIONS ARGUED AT HEARING SEPT. 28, 2018:

Motion to dismiss due to lack of court file: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.5.dismiss.file-1.pdf. 

Motion to dismiss due to actual innocence: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.6.dismiss.actual.innocence.pdf.

Motion to dismiss due to ineffective assistance of trial counsel: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.1.iac_.pdf .

Motion to dismiss due to untimely request for LWOP http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.2.dismiss.769a-1.pdf

 Motion for bond pending re-sentencing: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.3.bond_.pdf

 Charles Lewis objections to Judge Lillard’s order to reconstruct file http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/C-Lewis-Objections-6-23-17.compressed-1-1.pdf.

Judge Deborah Thomas’ 2006 opinion after reviewing Lewis full case file, which has since gone missing (note: Pros. Dawson questioned the validity of this opinion. Judge Thomas issued it after being informed by Atty. Craig Daly that her original two-page opinion related to another case.) http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Judge-Deborah-Thomas-2006-opinion.pdf 

#FREECHARLESLEWISNOW, #FREEMICHIGANJUVENILELIFERSNOW, #ENDMASSINCARCERATION, #ENDSCHOOLTOPRISONPIPELINE


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DETROIT POLICE SWAT TEAM KILLS MAN ASLEEP IN HOME, NOT SUSPECT IN EARLIER KILLING OF 5-YR.-OLD

 

VOICE OF DETROIT: This is a compilation of news coverage of the Detroit police SWAT team killing of  Abdullah Abdul Muhiman, a/k/a Detric Driver:

At top: Channel 7 TV news coverage Sept. 14, 2018 of the murder of 

Above is Radio Islam interview with Imam Dawud Walid, head of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Michigan

#JusticeforDullahBeard

Raid similar to the 2010 DPD murder of Aiyana Jones, 7, and the 2015 murder of Terrance Kellom, 19 and a father of two in his dad’s home

Flashbang device used with no-knock warrant, says Chief James Craig

Craig first claimed bodycam video did not show victim with gun, then that another bodycam video did, but has not released videos to the public

LeDuff: Detroit Police Kill an Innocent Man; Chief James Craig Says He Deserved It

September 21st, 2018, 1:24 PM By Charlie LeDuff

 Deadline Detroit

In their hunt for a baby killer last week, Detroit police raided a west side home before dawn. A stun grenade was thrown into the house to disorient occupants. Then police breached the front door.

Seconds later, a 46-year-old man lying on the living room couch was dead.

The dead man, Abdullah Abdul Muhiman, [#JusticeforDullahBeard] was not the suspect in the killing of a five-year-old girl hours earlier. He was an innocent man who had the unfortunate luck to be sleeping on the couch. To make a bad scene worse, the suspected gunman the police were looking for was miles away.

And yet the police assault team and their superior officers were unaware of that fact, Deadline Detroit has learned. This utter collapse in police work, however, did not stop Chief of Police James E. Craig from announcing at a press conference just hours later, that Muhiman had gotten what he deserved.

“If you point a gun at officers, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a suspect in any other case,” he said.

“The officers breached the door and made entry, the first officer through the door said ‘get down, get down, get down.”

According to Craig’s version, Muhiman leveled an AR-15 pistol-grip semi-automatic at the officers from the sofa cushions. In response, the raid team’s point man fired several shots, killing Muhiman. Craig said his review of body cam footage could not confirm the gun-pointing scenario, since it was too dark. A gun was recovered next to Muhiman’s corpse, police say.

Muhiman’s people are not buying it.

“The chief is a clown,” said Jermaine Carey, a close friend of Muhiman. “Hours after the police kill Abdullah, Craig is holding up a picture of the supposed gun, putting out his criminal history, painting him as a criminal who was to blame for his own killing. But what did he do? Jump up from a couch with someone breaking in the house? What you expect him to do? He had nothing to do with anything.”

Spectacular Lapse

Detroit police with direct knowledge of last weeks events call it a spectacular lapse in police tactics.

“What we normally do, is put surveillance on the house and wait for somebody to go to the liquor store in the morning,” one official told me, speaking on condition of anonymity, fearing disciplinary action for speaking candidly. “Once he comes out, you stop him, you put him in custody and you get the intel about who’s in the house, who’s got what weapon, and where they are. We do that, obviously, to avoid scenarios like this one.”

Said another ranking cop: “The team got amped up. They wanted to get a baby-killer. They went too fast and now we have a total fuck-up. We have a man dead, and a good cop who was doing his job who now has to live with this.”

A woman who is a suspected accomplice in the child-killing was arrested at the house during the raid. And the man suspected of actually shooting the child (he also shot the girl’s mother 16 times) was arrested later in the afternoon, miles away, near the scene of the child’s murder. Both have since been released from custody, due to lack of evidence.

A conversation I had with one of Chief Craig’s right-hand men went like this:

Me: “Why didn’t you have eyes on the house?”

Investigator: “We did.”

Me: “Then why did you go in, with a guy on the couch and the gunman somewhere else?”

Investigator: “How are we supposed to know who’s in the house?”

Me: “Because you had the house under surveillance.”

Investigator: “Well, we arrested somebody didn’t we?”

Me: “Yeah, but an innocent man is dead and the two suspects in the child’s murder are walking around the streets.”

Investigators: “Well, they’re still suspects as we continue to put the case together.”

Who’s to Blame? 

Where is the accountability? Michigan State Police from Flint are now investigating. But if the details provided by the chief are correct, the officer who fired the shots cannot be blamed here. He was doing his job, following orders. Ultimately, responsibility lay with the man in charge and the culture he has incubated within the department.

Remember, Craig is the man who showed up on the cover of an NRA magazine encouraging Detroiters to purchase firearms to protect their homes. It is also worth remembering that it is not uncommon for crime crews to pose as police officers before busting into homes. It is also worth remembering that Muhiman’s shooting death is the latest in a string of embarrassing, violent or deadly episodes in the police department in recent months, episodes that Craig has promised to provide answers to, but has failed to do so.

Remember, the police commander moonlighting as a security guard and beating a party goer into a coma; two undercover police units pointing guns at each other and fist fighting on a porch, and the death of an on-duty officer driving in excess of 100 miles an hour on city streets to name a few. The use of force by police officers is a major issue in American life. In Detroit, it seems, not so much. But the public here, like anywhere else, deserves answers and justice demands them.

And it starts at the top.


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FREE DETROIT’S CHARLES ‘K.K.’ LEWIS NOW, AS PRISONER RELEASES FLOOD DEEPLY FLAWED JUSTICE SYSTEM

The men whose photos surround that of Charles K.K. Lewis are among many Michigan lifers who have recently been exonerated or had their convictions overturned and remanded for retrial, in an unprecedented surge uncovering multiple abuses in the criminal justice system.

FREE CHARLES LEWIS NOW! HEARING FRI. SEPT. 28 @ 9 AM–FRANK MURPHY HALL RM. 502

Call Judge Qiana Lillard at 313-224-2391 to express support

FREE THE MICHIGAN 247 STILL BEING HELD IN VIOLATION OF MILLER

Video above (Detroit News): Mubarez Ahmed, granted a new trial after 15 years due to the intervention of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, speaks out for the dozens of innocent prisoners he left behind. Private investigator Scott Lewis estimates at least 30 percent of Michigan prisoners are innocent.

DETROIT – Atty. Sanford Schulman of the Federal Defenders’ Office will present six powerful motions calling for the immediate release of Charles (K.K.) Lewis, in prison for 42 years since the age of 17, at a hearing next Friday, Sept. 28 at 9 a.m. in front of Judge Qiana Lillard.  The hearing is the 35th in a grueling series comprising his juvenile lifer “re-sentencing,” which began in March, 2016.

(L to r) Defense attorney Sanford Schulman, prosecutor Tom Dawson, Judge Qiana Lillard at Charles Lewis hearing Aug. 3, 2018

“I am finally happy and confident that I have an attorney who will fight effectively for me,” Lewis says of Schulman.

Lewis  stands at the forefront of 247 Michigan juvenile lifers, two-thirds of the state’s total, for whom prosecutors have re-recommended LWOP. Their stance violates two U.S. Supreme Court rulings which held that”only the rarest child” should be sent to die in prison. Most of the Michigan 247 have yet to see a judge.

Lewis’ case is  unique on many counts, including the complete loss of his official court record and Register of Actions, his claim of “actual innocence,” his challenge to the prosecutor’s request to re-sentence him to LWOP, and his request for bond since he has been without an actual sentence for over 6 years.

MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF CASE FILE AND RECORDS TO COMPLY WITH THE US SUPREME COURT REMAND FOR RESENTENCING

Atty. Schulman is contesting Judge Lillard’s authority to “re-construct” and certify Lewis’ entire court file, five boxes of which  mysteriously went “missing” sometime around 2012.

On Nov. 11, 2016, Judge Lillard ordered the prosecution, defense, and Clerk’s Office to pool all their records, refusing to obey key U.S. and Michigan Supreme Court rulings that the loss of the case file, even in part, must result in dismissal and remand for a new trial.

It remains to be seen if Judge Lillard will certify the incomplete record that resulted. 

“I strongly object,” Lewis said at that hearing Nov. 11. “Most of the defense’s records came from my own foot locker, which I turned over to my previous attorneys under the attorney-client privilege. I am re-asserting that privilege.”

Lewis’ Register of Actions has likewise been wiped out from 1976 to 1999, including an attachment listing actions taken in Detroit Recorder’s Court prior to 1999. It currently says he was convicted on April 3, 2000 in front of Judge Gershwin Drain. Thus there is no way to determine what records should be included in a complete file. Additionally, there is no way to determine what judge he should be in front of for re-sentencing.

Schulman writes, “Where the trial court’s files and records are missing, lost or have been destroyed and as such the court cannot comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s order remanding this case for resentencing, this court should dismiss the case and order the defendant immediately released on the basis that to otherwise proceed to resentencing without a complete court file would result in a violation of the due process of law and a fundamental miscarriage of justice (US Const. Amends. VI and XIV).”  Read entire motion at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.5.dismiss.file-1.pdf. 

MOTION TO DISMISS CASE DUE TO DEFENDANT’S ACTUAL INNOCENCE

“I estimate that at least 20 percent of juvenile lifers in Michigan are actually innocent,” Lewis says. He and his family have always maintained he was framed up for the murder of a white off-duty Detroit police officer in 1976. Extensive research done by the Voice of Detroit over the last three years confirms this claim.

 Justice  Breyer

Justice Sotomayor

Prosecutors and some defense attorneys say that an innocence claim cannot be entertained in a “re-sentencing,” which is not a “re-trial.”

However, Lewis points to U.S. Justice Stephen Breyer’s and Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s concurring opinion in Miller/Jackson v. Alabama (USSC 2012), the Court’s first opinion outlawing mandatory juvenile life without parole.

“JUSTICE BREYER, with whom JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR joins, concurring. “I join the Court’s opinion in full. I add that, if the State continues to seek a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for Kuntrell Jackson [the second defendant who is rarely mentioned] there will have to be a determination whether Jackson “kill[ed] or intend[ed] to kill” the robbery victim. Graham v. Florida, 560 U. S. (2010) (slip op., at 18).  . . . Given Graham’s reasoning, the kinds of homicide that can subject a juvenile offender to life without parole must exclude instances where the juvenile himself neither kills nor intends to kill the victim.”

Charles Lewis shortly after his incarceration in 1977, with his mother Rosie Lewis.

“I got arrested Aug. 1, 1976,” Lewis says. “When I stepped into the courtroom racism was the order of the day. White Power was in full effect. I felt like I was sitting through my own lynching.”

Lewis’ hearing Sept. 28 comes at a time when releases of wrongfully convicted individuals, many of whose cases date back decades, are hitting record highs.

Since 2003, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 72 exonerations in Michigan, with a record of 14 last year alone. This year, four prisoners have been completely exonerated, while at least three others have been granted new trials. One, Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy, is waiting in the wings for his judge’s ruling after an evidentiary hearing that exposed deep levels of corruption and deceit among prosecutors and police.

The number of exonerations and dismissals exposes what has been a deeply flawed and corrupt judicial system in Wayne County for decades, going back to the convictions and sentencing of Richard Phillips in 1971 and of Lewis in 1976 and continuing to the present day, as in the case of Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy, where Vincent Smothers testified earlier this year that he, not Searcy, committed the murder in question, and lies to the jury about ballistics evidence were exposed.

“The Defendant  . . .asserts that his ACTUAL INNOCENCE has already been established by a Court,” Schulman writes in Lewis’ innocence motion. “In People v Bernard Young, 2017 Mich App Lexis 1779 this Court granted the Defendant’s third motion for relief from judgment and ordered the release of Bernard Young based on recanted testimony.”

It was Lewis’ current judge, Qiana Lillard, who ordered the release of Bernard Young in December, 2017. Young was incarcerated for 27 years, most recently in the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, MI, where Lewis is currently incarcerated.

“In this case the Defendant’s ACTUAL INNOCENCE has already been established by Judge Deborah Thomas,” Schulman further states. ” . . . . the Defendant asserts that this Court is legally bound by Judge Deborah Thomas’ previous legal conclusion that the Defendant is ACTUALLY INNOCENT and must order the Defendants immediate RELEASE.”

Schulman refers to a stunning opinion dated Aug. 16, 2006 in which Thomas says she “thoroughly” reviewed the full transcript of Lewis’ first trial held in March, 1977, the last time any judge appears to have read that transcript.

Judge Deborah Thomas

 Judge Joseph Maher

She said there was no record of Judge Joseph Maher’s reason for dismissal of the trial jury, which should have meant an acquittal, with no new trial because of the double jeopardy standard.

(Maher was the judge who tried to take the law license of the late Kenneth Cockrel, Sr. for telling reporters that Maher was a racist, in multiple and certain term.)

She said she found it difficult to believe the first jury ignored the testimony of the officer’s partner and numerous eyewitnesses to the murder, who said another man driving a white Lincoln Mark IV shot Officer Gerald Sypitkowski, and chose instead to believe the testimony of three juveniles who said they were with Lewis when he killed Sypitkowski.

She said the juveniles’ version of events  was “a scientific impossibility,” and noted none of the eyewitnesses reported seeing the juveniles at the scene. None of the juveniles testified that they actually SAW Lewis shoot the officer, just that he was with them in a yellow Ford Gran Torino followed by a green Mustang. No other witnesses reported seeing such cars.

Thomas  also cited Maher’s jury instruction, “Now you have heard evidence tending to show that the Defendant, Charles Lewis was GUILTY of another shooting in the course of an armed robbery for which he is now on trial here.”

She opined, “This Court believes that the above instruction was a structural defect which defied analysis by the harmless error standard of review. I would reverse this case based on the above instruction. This Court is of the opinion that any time a judge instructs a jury that the Defendant is GUILTY of any element of the offense, regardless of his motives that it should be deemed reversible error.”

The outline of this sketch was drawn in 1976 by a DPD evidence technician. Referencing testimony at third trial, VOD has added a RED LINE with a white Lincoln Mark IV, driven by Leslie Nathanial, going west on Harper, then crossing Barrett. Eyewitnesses said they saw three Black men in the front seat. The medical examiner Werner Spitz testified the source of the gunfire could have been as much as 7 feet away from victim, although the actual shotgun was never found or tested, and no firearms expert testified.     The GREEN LINE  shows the route juveniles said they took, driving south down Barrett and left to go east on Harper. They said Officer Sypitkowski was killed at bus stop, but did not actually SEE Lewis shoot him. No other witnesses saw the juveniles or the two cars at the scene. Most, including the officer’s partner, who was closest to him, said there were no other cars present. Sypitkowski’s partner and multiple eyewitnesses were walking toward officer from  OTY’S BAR AT 11903 HARPER, close to the intersection, when they saw gunfire from the Lincoln Mark IV and Sypitkowski fall mortally wounded in center of area marked with blood, etc.

To read Atty. Schulman’s complete motion, go to http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.6.dismiss.actual.innocence.pdf.  To read Judge Deborah Thomas’ opinion, go to http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Judge-Deborah-Thomas-2006-opinion.pdf.

MOTION TO DISMISS THE PROSECUTION’S UNTIMELY AND INADEQUATE REQUEST TO SENTENCE THE DEFENDANT TO LIFE WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE PURSUANT TO MCLA 769.a

Atty. Schulman writes that Third Circuit Court Judge Edward Ewell Jr. first granted Lewis’ re-sentencing on Oct. 17, 2012, pursuant to the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court’s Miller/Jackson v. Alabama declaring mandatory juvenile life without parole unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court later confirmed  this was a valid re-sentencing date under Miller/Jackson and remanded the case to the Michigan Supreme Court to comply.

Judge Edward Ewell

Judge James Chylinski

“The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Michigan Court of Appeals August 29, 2013 and remanded this case to the trial court,” writes Atty. Schulman. “On REMAND this case should have returned to either Judge Edward Ewell Jr., the judge that granted resentencing on October 17, 2012 or the current judge of record Judge James Chylinski for resentencing.”

Lewis says that his case WAS originally set for a hearing in front of Judge Chylinski by the judge, but that Asst. Criminal Court Clerk David Baxter (now retired) unilaterally and illegally refused to have Lewis writted out for the hearing, instead giving his case to Judge Lillard. It was under Baxter’s supervision that Lewis’ court file went missing.

Schulman continues, “In August of 2016, assistant Wayne County Prosecutor, Jason Williams filed a motion to conduct a mitigation hearing pursuant to MCLA 769.25 to resentence the Defendant Charles Lewis to life without parole. When Jason Williams filed the motion . . . there was no criminal file in this case. Because there was no criminal file in this case Jason Williams did not have anything to base his request for life without parole on. Jason Williams did not recite the procedural history of this case in his request for life without parole. Jason Williams also did not recite the facts of this case in his request for life without parole.”

Jenard Sharp, charged with felony murder

Cortez Davis El, now VOD staff writer.

Schulman goes on to argue that Williams’ motion violated ex post facto laws because MCLA 769,25 was not passed until 2014, so it should not have applied to Lewis. Other juvenile lifers including Cortez Davis, whose trial judge Vera Massey-Jones ordered his re-sentencing in 2012 have raised the ex post facto issue as well. Davis was re-sentenced to a term of years and is now free, but his attorney Clinton Hubbell still appealed the re-sentencing. Hubbell had moved to have Davis sentenced to the original term of 10-40 years Judge Massey-Jones wanted in 1994, declaring long before the U.S. Supreme Court rulings against juvenile life without parole that she did not believe in throwing away the lives of children. Davis was 15 when he was convicted.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy used boiler plate motions like Lewis’ to ask that  67 Wayne County juvenile lifers die in prison, 97 percent of them Black. No reasons to set them aside from other juvenile lifers who were recommended for a term of years were cited.

From discussions VOD has conducted with other juvenile lifers, they were evidently selected with the concurrence of attorneys from the State Appellate Defenders’ Office (SADO). In at least one case, that of Jenard Sharp, attorneys from the Michigan ACLU and a New York law firm have also contested the lack of specifics in the prosecutor’s sentencing memorandum. Sharp is charged with “felony murder,” meaning he did not actually kill anyone. Many juvenile lifers who were actually the shooters received recommendations for terms of years (not to say they should have received LWOP recommendations, which are reserved for only the “rarest” child).

Schulman writes, “There have been dozens of other similar cases in Michigan where a previously imposed mandatory life sentence was imposed on a juvenile and the prosecutors did not seek to have the sentence of mandatory life reinstated. Instead, in the vast majority of ‘juvenile lifer’ cases, a term of years has been imposed. What makes this case different and distinguishable is unclear even to this date. Such an arbitrary and unreasonable application of this statute makes it unfair and a violation of due process and constitutional rights.”

Entire motion:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.2.dismiss.769a.pdf

THE DEFENDANT WAS DENIED HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO THE EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF TRIAL COUNSEL GUARANTEED BY THE SIXTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS OF THE US CONSTITUTION, WHERE DEFENSE COUNSEL ARGUED TO THE JURY THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS GUILTY.

In this motion, Atty. Schulman cites the appalling opening statement of Lewis’ court-appointed attorney M. Arthur Arduin, Jr. (family name Arduino), known to have ties with Detroit mob figures. Arduin was also previously a campaign manager for Judge Thomas Poindexter, head of the Greater Detroit Area Homeowners’ Council which campaigned to keep Blacks out of white neighborhoods during the volatile era of the ’60’s and ’70.s.

Judge Thomas Poindexter wanted Blacks kept out of white neighborhoods.

M. Arthur Arduin Sr at 91, obituary photo; original name Arduino

Arduin: “There’s been a killing; there’s been an attempted robbery; there’s been a attempted robbery prior to this matter at issue today. Now we have here only one Defendant. But originally there were four young blacks. If they are part of a gang, I don’t know. But let’s assume they’re part of a gang. . . . .We’ re going to prove four lads who are part of a gang who are — who are expertise. Expertise, -they knew how to steal cars and God only knows if they knew how to rob. Now that’s what we’re going to prove. And they started out on this day, July 31st, four of them — four of them — to steal a car and to go out and commit a robbery. And they took with them the tools of their trade.

“And I’m going to prove to you that these lads made a deal, they made statements with the understanding that they would not be prosecuted in this court. And I’m going to prove to you that the prosecution depends on the efforts of the police and they did not make any effort to prosecute these lads. That was the agreement: for them to testify against their pal and friends. We’re going to prove to you that at the time another crime was committed this shotgun was a one-shell shotgun. It was an old thing, it was stored in the garage of one of the other lads who used his garage as a gang get-together. And we are going to prove to you that this one shell was fired from this gun in this other attempt aborted hold-up as Mr. Morgan has stated to you: that that gun was never refilled. Never refilled with another live shell. That the prosecution is depending on the proof that that was the gun that killed the deceased. That’s my opening statement; that’s what we hope to prove. (TRIAL TRANSCRIPT PG 21-24)”

Retired Detroit police officer Dennis Van Fleteren/Facebook

“The Defendant’s trial attorney was grossly ineffective,” Atty. Schulman argued. “Arthur Arduin refused to tell the jury that off duty Detroit Police Officer, Dennis Van Fleteren testified that he was talking to the deceased when Leslie Nathaniel pulled up next to the deceased and shot and killed him. The result would have been different if Arduin had argued to the jury that eye witnesses identified Leslie Nathaniel as the killer.

“In this case one of the eye witnesses, Dennis Van Fleteren, was also an off duty Detroit Police Officer, and the best friend and partner of the deceased. Defense counsel completely abandoned the then seventeen year old juvenile and left him totally defenseless. The defendant’s lawyer was ineffective for failing to make that argument to the jury that Leslie Nathaniel shot and killed the deceased. Six eye witnesses testified that the shotgun blast that killed the deceased came from a white Mark IV. Defense counsel for the Defendant failed to make that argument to the jury. The result would have been different if Arduin had argued to the jury that eye witnesses identified Leslie Nathaniel as the killer.”

Motion: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.1.iac_.pdf .

DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR BOND PENDING RESENTENCING

Lewis’ previous attorney brought a motion for bond that she did not support with the proper legal precedents given her by Lewis, who has become a highly proficient jailhouse lawyer and worked directly with Atty. Schulman in drafting the current motions.

AP Thomas Dawson’s response at the time was basically to laugh it off, pointing to Lewis’ record of disciplinary actions while incarcerated, most of them minor for “being out of place” in the law library, where he now works at the Lakeland Correctional Facility. 

AP Thomas Dawson and AP Jason Williams share a laugh during one of Lewis’ hearings.

Dawson did not consider the state of mind and the anger that Lewis must have experienced on entrance to the MDOC , knowing that he was innocent of the first-degree murder charges, and expecting he would never see freedom again. But he  immediately set about to learn the law that had imprisoned him unjustly and to use it to help himself and others get free. He took a paralegal course along with many others to educate himself. He has also honed his musical skills, leading prison bands which play jazz, R&B, rock, and rap during the last four decades.

Atty. Schulman has presented powerful arguments calling for his innocent client to receive a bond, just as Judge Lillard granted to falsely convicted Bernard Young in the video above. 

”The Defendant is currently being held in prison illegally,” Schulman states. “The Defendant’s first jury was dismissed sua sponte by Judge Joseph E. Maher on March 22, 1977. All subsequent Legal proceedings held after March 22, 1977 were double jeopardy barred by People v Benton, 402 Mich 47 (1979).

“ On August 22, 1980 the Michigan Court of Appeals granted the Defendant a Pearson evidentiary hearing pursuant to People v Pearson, 404 Mich 698 (1979). Pursuant to Pearson the prosecution had 30 days to conduct a Pearson evidentiary hearing or the conviction was automatically vacated. The prosecution’s 30 days began on August 22, 1980 and ended September 22, 1980 with no Pearson evidentiary hearing. The Defendant’s conviction should have been automatically vacated on September 23, 1980. 

Wayne County Deputy Court Clerk David Baxter had control of files, Register of Actions, which disappeared.

“Judge Lillard did not have the power or authority to order Thomas Dawson, assistant Wayne County Prosecutor or David Baxter Deputy Wayne County Clerk to reconstruct the defendant’s criminal file. . . .It is one of the necessary and fundamental rules of law that the judicial power cannot interfere with the legitimate discretion of any other department of government. So long as they do no illegal act, and are doing business in the range of the powers committed to their exercise, no outside authority can intermeddle with them; and, unless the action complained of was beyond the legal discretion of the city, the circuit court had no jurisdiction to grant the injunction which was allowed.

“. . . .The Defendant is entitled to a bond pending a hearing to determine if he should even be locked up.”

Lewis says that when he goes to Jackson Prison’s medical clinic for treatment of macular degeneration of his eye, the guards there cannot figure out whether they should even handcuff him because they can find no record of a current sentence. The disease in his eye is an effect of the severe diabetes he contracted after being incarcerated. Lewis has also had three heart attacks during his incarceration. After the last one, the MDOC denied him surgery for a stent.

During the nearly three years of re-sentencing hearings, he has commented, “I think they are just waiting for me to die.”

Charles Lewis, now 59, on guitar, Bill Lemons, now 74, on keyboard, both noted musicians, play in prison band.

But he says he is determined that he will come home, and that since 42 years of his life has been stolen from him, he hopes that his battles and the research attendant on them will assist the prisoners who come after him. He says he is seeing more and more young men, products of the school-to-prison pipeline, enter MDOC, to swell the ranks of mass incarceration in the U.S.

Lewis says Lakeland is a prison where the MDOC sends individuals to die, and that about 50 prisoners die there annually. He still remembers many who died who were good friends of his, but he refuses to follow in their stead. 

“Well, they had a bad day, but I’m still here,” he jokes drily. Aside from being a world-class musician who can play nearly every instrument and regularly organizes concerts for his fellow prisoners, Lewis wants to be a stand-up comic when he comes home.

He says, “I try to find a little bit of fun and a little bit of joy in every day.”

Motion at

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/lewis.charles.mtn_.2.dismiss.769a-1.pdf

OBJECTIONS TO JUDGE QIANA LILLARD’S ORDER OF NOV. 11, 2016

Atty. Schulman has also re-filed Lewis’ pro se motion objecting to Judge Lillard’s order to reconstruct his file, which raises multiple U.S. and Michigan Supreme Court rulings that the loss of an official court file, even in part, means the conviction and sentence must be vacated and remanded for a new trial.

Motion at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/C-Lewis-Objections-6-23-17.compressed-1-1.pdf.

Some of Charles ‘K.K.’ Lewis supporters rally outside courthouse.

#FREECHARLESLEWISNOW, #FREEMICHIGANJUVENILELIFERSNOW, #ENDMASSINCARCERATION, #ENDSCHOOLTOPRISONPIPELINE 

Related stories:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2018/08/12/will-charles-lewis-247-michigan-juvenile-lifers-die-in-prison-due-to-re-sentencing-delays-or-go-free/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2018/07/23/advocates-support-wrongfully-convicted-juvenile-lifers-police-victims-at-detroit-courthouse/

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2018/08/03/charles-lewis-juvenile-lifer-sentencing-expert/889887002/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2018/07/15/prosecutors-cops-techs-lied-falsified-evidence-vs-thelonious-searcy-atty-says-in-final-hearing/

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/wayne-county/2018/07/02/missing-file-holds-up-juvenile-lifers-bid-freedom/735086002/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2018/05/27/u-s-supreme-court-rules-for-death-row-inmate-robert-mccoy-whose-lawyer-conceded-guilt/

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STOP THE GENOCIDE! SAVE OUR BABIES! DETROITERS BLAST DPS, DWSD OFFICIALS FOR CONTAMINATED WATER

Joanna Underwood rallies up the crowd against long-term poisoning of Detroit’s children.

A coalition of organizations held an impassioned protest outside the headquarters of the Detroit Public Schools “Community District” Tues. Sept. 4, the first day of the school year.  School officials had just announced that water would be shut off to all DPS schools due to high levels of lead and copper, although they knew of the contamination weeks before the schools opened.

Schoolchildren also sweltered during a heat wave that lasted into the next day, Sept. 5, experiencing temperatures that approached 100 degrees. Protesters wanted to know why  the schools of Detroit are not air-conditioned like the offices of Mayor Mike Duggan, Dan Gilbert, and the corporatocracy that rules Detroit.

THEY CALLED FOR AN IMMEDIATE SHUTDOWN OF DPSCD SCHOOLS DUE TO A HEALTH EMERGENCY.

Helen Moore, leader of Keep the Vote No Takeover, addresses rally.

By Diane Bukowski

September 6, 2018

DETROIT — Furious Detroiters demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Detroit Public Schools “Community District” Sept. 4, the first day of the new school year, reacting to Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s announcement that water to 106 schools and nearly 50,000 students left in the devastated district will be shut off indefinitely. 

Results from initial tests in 34 schools showed elevated lead and copper levels, Vitti said. The tests were performed in the spring, but Vitti waited until Aug. 30 to make his announcement about shutting DPSCD water off.  He claimed he wanted to err on the side of caution by shutting down water to all schools. 

“Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools where we are awaiting test results, out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees, I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools,” Vitti said in a statement. 

Vitti claimed The Environmental Protection Agency ceiling for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion, and for copper, 1.3 parts per million. He told reporters the district used those levels to identify problem spots. 

However, the EPA’s list of National Primary Drinking Water Regulations indicates the acceptable level for lead is ZERO. (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/National-Primary-Drinking-Water-Regulations-Lead-0_complete_table.pdf .)

The EPA says the presence of lead comes from both household plumbing systems as well as “erosion of natural deposits” and from water lines coming into households and other buildings from the supplier.

DWSD chart showing lead in Detroit household water in 2016. Red dots indicate highest levels, 10.0-11.0.

In a combined statement, the Great Lakes Water Authority and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department denied any responsibility for the DPS crisis. They said they “want to assure Detroit residents and customers of GLWA’s regional system that they are not affected by the lead and copper issues that the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) is experiencing. Aging school infrastructure (i.e. plumbing) is the reason for the precautionary measure of providing bottled water. The treated drinking water provided by GLWA and distributed by DWSD not only meets, but surpasses all federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act regulations for quality and safety.”

However, the last Water Quality Report for DWSD,  published in 2017, said “The sampling results show that all the homes tested had lead levels below the EPA action level, which is 15 parts per billion (ppb). The MDEQ certified that DWSD’s 90th percentile for lead was 4 ppb, well below the EPA action level.” (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/GreatLakesWater-2017WaterReport.pdf).

Former Wastewater Plant workers including Bill Davis, a supervisor, told VOD earlier that previous “boil water alerts” and flooding in the City of Detroit, along with increased contamination of Lake Erie and other bodies of water, was caused by continuing layoffs of qualified staff, and the release of toxic elements including sewage into lakes and homes in the six-county area governed by DWSD.  More than 41 percent of DWSD workers were laid off before the creation of the Great Lakes Water Authority, and the management of the Wastewater Treatment Plant was turned over to a notorious privatizer, the EMA, which earlier caused record flooding in Toronto.

Dr. Saulius Simolaunius

Most recently, VOD was informed by Dr. Saulius Simoliunas, a longtime senior chemist at DWSD, that he and other chemists who sat on the board of the Senior Chemists and Technicians Association (SCATA) were singled out for lay-offs in 2015, because of their militant demands that the department adhere to strict guidelines regarding wastewater discharge. SCATA filed a complaint with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, which was dismissed outright in 2017.

Dr. Simoliunas is well-known around the U.S., meeting with different associations charged with safeguarding the quality of water nationally.

In Simoliunas’ post-complaint brief, filed by Attorney Jack Schulz, the chemists contended, “Testimony established that SCATA contacted MIOSHA regarding untrained chemists pouring chlorine into the river. MIOSHA came in and met with Simoliunas and the waste treatment plant manager (Jurban).  SCATA contacted MIOSHA regarding an explosion in the lab. Concurrently, SCATA submitted a request to Respondent seeking the removal of Kuriakose for his connection to the incident. Ultimately, MIOSHA fined DWSD as a result of the explosion partially because an employee was not properly trained.” (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/SCATA-Post-Hearing-Brief-9.29.17-C15K-1444925.pdf)

Gary Brown

Freman Hendrix

“They have operators doing our jobs, who they sent out to Pelican Laboratories for training,” Simolanius told VOD. “Pelican does not follow standard methods. Our water is so polluted. They are falsely claiming they are meeting all standards. They are not. This is a crisis. The water should be shut off. It’s dangerous for our children. It’s more effective and cheaper to use carbon filtration to clean the water, not chlorine. Nobody on either the GLWA or DWSD board is qualified to be on those boards. Freman Hendrix  was appointed to the GLWs Board as the second , Detroit representative, and Gary Brown, a policeman, runs the DWSD. Detroit has serious  environmental problems including the trash incinerator, a defunct Water Department, and no real Drain Commissioner to build ditches for rain to escape flooding.” 

Freman Hendrix was the first chairman of the Detroit Board of Education after the state takeover in 1999, which began the long destruction of the original DPS. Gary Brown sat with convicted child molester Charles Pugh on the DWSD “Roots Cause Committee” which caused havoc with its recommendations for drastic staff cutbacks and other atrocities.

The lay-offs occurred during the turbulent period prior to the GLWA takeover of DWSD, when skilled classifications were being combined and often eliminated, then filled with unqualified workers. Although the Simoliunas complaint related to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, a boil water advisory was issued for a wide swath of Detroit’s east side after employees failed to identify a malfunction in the Water Treatment Plant on E. Jefferson and Cadillac, and numerous other occasions of putrid water and sewage released into homes have happened, as VOD outlined in its 2017 story, http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/03/08/do-not-drink-the-water-no-qualified-testers-in-detroit-glwa-crises-cause-ongoing-contamination/.

Both the GLWA, the DWSD and the DPSCD have therefore been caught up in monstrous lies that endanger the health of Detroit’s children, similar to the lead contamination of the entire city of Flint.

DPS children turned out to protest water shut-off.

There, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Emergency Manager decided to separate Flint from the DWSD water system in anticipation of the construction of a duplicate pipeline (the Karegnondi Water Authority) which was way behind schedule. Meanwhile, Flint’s EM decided to use Flint River water instead of Great Lakes water (which had been used by the DWSD), but treat it with Flint’s temporary treatment plant, only to be used in emergencies for period of no more than two weeks.

As time dragged on, the entire city became contaminated, but the chief instigators, Snyder, the EM, and Jeff Wright  of the Karegnondi Water Authority, have not yet gone to jail. See: http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/02/15/bi-partisan-deal-led-to-flint-water-poisoning-for-profit-the-karegnondi-water-authority-kwa/.

The following is an official message from DPSCD on upcoming Water Meetings:

Dear Community, 

Please read and share the following message I received as a DPSCD staff member, from Superintendent Dr. Vitti, regarding upcoming meetings related to water quality and shutoffs in our schools.  Please share widely in your networks so we can be more well informed and diligent as a community.

Mail – erin.martinez@detroitk12.org

District Staff,

To provide everyone in the district and the greater community to receive more information about the water situation in our schools and ask questions, we will conduct four engagement sessions in September from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the locations below. In the meantime, please visit our website on the water topic at http://detroitk12.org/content/drinking-water/ where we have included a thorough FAQ document that should address the majority of questions and concerns that you may have. This is also the site where final water results from each school will be posted.

Please note that the only topic that will be discussed at the meetings is DPSCD water in schools. Questions or comments related to other topics will not be addressed at the meetings.

Dates and Location 4:30 to 5:30 PM

Monday 9/10 – Mumford High School

Wednesday 9/12 – East English High School

Monday 9/17 – Western High School

Tuesday 9/18 – Ben Carson High School 

Helen Moore, long-time leader of Keep the Vote No Takeover and her organization sponsored a meeting just after the Sept. 4 rally. VOD was not able to attend.

“Why are the news stories only saying the contaminated water is in DPS’s?,” she asked.  “What about the charter schools who bought the schools from DPS.  What about the other buildings in Detroit that have been there for years?  How long has our water been contaminated?  Who is covering up this crisis? We the people of Detroit and Welfare Rights have been warning us for years to no avail.  We need answers and we are going to find out what has been covered up!!!!!!!  IF YOU HAVE ANSWERS, ATTEND THE KEEP THE VOTE/NO TAKEOVER MEETING, TUE. AT 6PM, 11825 DEXTER CENTER.  LET’S ORGANIZE BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!”

Please contact Elder Moore for updates on planned actions at 313-934-7721 or helen-moore@att.net.

Other contacts: Call 319-0870 for updates from the Moratorium NOW! Coalition.

DONATE TO VOICE OF DETROIT TO KEEP OUR STORIES COMING:

Voice of Detroit is published pro bono. You don’t have to pay to access our stories. But there are substantial out of pocket costs associated with its publication. Currently we are running in the red, so any donation amount is much appreciated. Donate by clicking https://www.gofundme.com/VOD-readers-up. 


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DETROIT STUDENTS DESERVE SAFE WATER! DEMONSTRATE TUES. SEPT. 4@4PM, FISHER BLDG. W. GRD. BLVD./2ND

ALSO: KEEP THE VOTE/NO TAKEOVER MEETING, TUE. SEPT. 4 AT 6PM, 11825 DEXTER CENTER. 

Elder Helen Moore of the Keep the Vote No Takeover Coalition protested the devastation of Detroit Public Schools through bank debt that has drained district of per-pupil funding.

From Helen Moore: Why are the news stories only saying the contaminated water is in DPS’s?  What about the charter schools who bought the schools from DPS.  What about the other buildings in Detroit that have been there for years?  How long has our water been contaminated?  Who is covering up this crisis?

We the People of Detroit and Welfare Rights have been warning us for years to no avail.  We need answers and we are going to find out what has been covered up!!!!!!!  IF YOU HAVE ANSWERS, ATTEND THE KEEP THE VOTE/NO TAKEOVER MEETING. LET’S ORGANIZE BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!

COALITION RELEASE: The recent announcement that drinking water in all of Detroit public schools is being shut off due to the water supply being contaminated with toxic levels of lead and copper reflects a crisis of immense gravity.  It comes at a time when the Detroit Public Schools Community District has no funding supply available to effectuate the $500 million in repairs they acknowledge are needed to insure the safety of the students.

The late Tashi Kiya at protest against water shut-offs in Detroit.

Copper and lead contamination in drinking water can cause permanent brain damage, kidney problems and retardation of physical growth, and is toxic to every organ in the human body. Children are particularly vulnerable to its effects.

Teachers who came to work last week in preparation for the school year found themselves working in schools with no operating water fountains and no bottled water being supplied.  They have received no information as to how much water will be supplied.  In some schools such as Gompers, the water was completely shut off in the entire building last Wednesday, with no water provided to staff to wash their hands or flush toilets.  There are reports that the air conditioning is off in the elementary wing of John L. King.

Even when the water fountains are shut off, toxic water is still running in sinks and toilets for flushing.  If students ingest that water, they are subject to the dangerous longtime effects of lead and copper poisoning.

These issues are not new.  On April 16, 2016, 19 DPSCD schools had their drinking water shut off due to dangerous levels of lead and/or copper in the water supply.  The bottled water that was supplied was one four-ounce (half-cup) bottle to each child per day, far below the amount of water needed.  Despite the drinking water not being turned on through the summer months, the supply of bottled water was terminated after about one month. 

In August 2016, the water was turned on via a big public relations announcement that nearly all DPSCD schools buildings were safe. But after a couple weeks, new testing showed the water was still toxic and water had to be shut again to many of the schools, with the result that the students had been fully exposed to toxic water during that time.  The DPSCD has been cited and fined for its toxic water supply by MIOSHA over the years.

Superintendent Vitti acknowledges that problems with the infrastructure are likely responsible for the toxic water in Detroit schools. Last June the DPSCD estimated that the repairs would cost $500 million. But under terms of the state “bailout” the district has only $25 million available for repairs and no authority to raise funds.  There has never been an audit of what happened to the $2 billion that was raised for infrastructure repair under state oversight.

With these overwhelming structural problems in the schools, it is not hard to understand why recent tests reflected that only 11.3% of 3rd grade DPSCD students were proficient in English Arts and only 10.7% were proficient in Math.

Called by a Coalition of Water Activists including People’s Water Board, Welfare Rights Organization, Moratorium Now Coalition, and many others – Call 313-319-0870 for info.

VOD COMMENTARY:

It is questionable whether it is only the DPS infrastructure at fault here. The same excuse was given for the lead poisoning of the entire city of Flint, when in fact it was directly related to Gov. Rick Snyder and his Flint Emergency Manager, who ordered that Flint separate from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) system, in anticipation of the creation of a duplicate pipeline by the profit-hungry Karegnondi Water Authority. Eventually, Flint was forced to reconnect to Detroit’s system, but the Great Lakes Water Authority had already taken over the DWSD.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, hands on Detroit, shows how much of 6-county DWSD region will be taken over by Great Lakes Water Authority, during bankruptcy proceedings Sept. 9, 2014

Ever since that takeover, sanctioned by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County Executives during the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings in 2014, there have been constant “boil water alerts” throughout the six county region originally governed by the DWSD.

At least 41 percent of DWSD workers were laid off prior to the takeover, including sanitary chemists who monitor the water for health and safety purposes. Management announced it was combining their duties with those of lower-paid operators, who had no specializing training and even had to be given remedial math education.

Under the GLWA, things have worsened greatly. The DWSD operates only a small part of its original system, minor pipelines within the borders of Detroit. All wastewater treatment plants, other facilities and major pipelines are run by the GLWA, a regional takeover of breathtaking proportions since DWSD originally provided water to 40 percent of Michigan’s population. 

No doubt the Detroit Public Schools infrastructure has deteriorated over the years as huge chunks of its public revenue went to pay off its debt to the banks, but it cannot be the only cause of this latest greed-driven crisis.

See previous related VOD stories:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/03/08/do-not-drink-the-water-no-qualified-testers-in-detroit-glwa-crises-cause-ongoing-contamination/ 

BI-PARTISAN DEAL LED TO FLINT WATER POISONING FOR PROFIT: THE KAREGNONDI WATER AUTHORITY (KWA)

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/09/10/detroit-bankruptcy-great-lakes-water-authority-to-steal-largest-asset-of-largest-u-s-black-city-4/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/10/13/will-regional-takeover-of-detroit-water-make-residents-of-6-counties-drink-flint-water/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/08/18/streets-of-detroit-76-other-communities-serviced-by-glwa-could-soon-be-filled-with-sewage/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/08/21/near-catastrophic-failure-of-detroit-sewage-pumps-caused-detroit-floods-toledo-water-crisis-city-retirees-say/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/08/03/detroit-water-shut-offs-city-takeover-still-on-full-blast/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/03/12/grand-theft-of-detroits-water-dept-imminent-water-board-mtg-wed-march-13-2pm/

The Voice of Detroit is planning an update on this latest crisis, which will include the Michigan Employment Relations Commission decision to affirm the layoffs of DWSD chemists. But we are struggling to stay afloat right now, (no pun intended), and desperately need whatever people can afford in donations to the newspaper. 

DONATE TO VOICE OF DETROIT TO KEEP OUR STORIES COMING:

Voice of Detroit is published pro bono. You don’t have to pay to access our stories. But there are substantial out-of pocket costs associated with its publication. Currently we are running in the red, so any donation amount is much appreciated. Donate by clicking https://www.gofundme.com/VOD-readers-up. 


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SUPPORT FOR NAT’L PRISONERS’ STRIKE GROWS ACROSS AT LEAST 11 STATES, CANADA, PALESTINE

Marchers occupy Michigan Avenue in Lansing, MI to support the demands of prisoners striking across the U.S., Canada, and Palestine.

Immigrants in detention in Tacoma, Washington join strike

Heroic Sept. 9, 2016 strike at Michigan’s Kinross prison and retaliation against strikers publicized by march’s organizers

By Diane Bukowski

August 28, 2018

Lansing, MI – More than 100 people took the streets in Lansing Aug. 23 to support the national prisoner’s strike taking place from Aug. 21 to Sept. 9, called by a coalition of prisoners and their organizations. The march began with a rally in Durant Park and blocked Michigan Avenue for miles afterwards, proceeding past City Hall, where speakers addressed the crowd, and then to the Michigan Department of Corrections headquarters, where organizers posted placards supporting the prison strike on its doors.

Michigan Avenue rang with chants of  “No Mass Incarceration, We Don’t Want a Prison Nation,”  “Fire to the Prisons, Free all the Prisoners,” and “Brick by Brick, Wall by Wall, We Will Make the Prisons Fall,” as drums and noisemakers sounded. Drivers of many cars honked their horns in solidarity, although they were temporarily blocked by the march.

Video above: Alejo Stark, a PhD candidate at U-M, and spokesperson for Michigan Abolition and Prison Solidarity summarizes goals of rally.

Stark added in a release, “We want a world in which prisons do not act as catch-all solutions to our society’s problems, a society that perpetuates violence with more violence–by putting people in cages. Prisoners are going to keep rebelling against confinement, so we can’t help but ask, ‘Can we imagine a society without prisons? Michigan spends just over $2 billion dollars on the MDOC. Imagine what we could do with that money in a state where Flint still does not have clean water and Detroit is closing down schools to the students.”

Since 2004, Detroit has virtually demolished its entire public education system, once considered world-class and high-achieving. The majority of youth in Detroit now attend non-accountable charter schools, many of them for-profit. Most have inferior curriculae, not including music, band, athletics, social workers, libraries, and many other programs that made the schools unifying anchors for communities.

Southwestern High School, now closed and devastated, as are many other once proud public schools in Detroit.

Long-term prisoners in the MDOC have noted a new influx of young prisoners, a product of the “School-to-Prison-Pipeline.”

The devastation of education for Detroit’s majority-Black youth has created despair, involvement in crime to support families, and killings throughout the city’s neighborhoods tied to the drug trade and a lack of direction for the youth.

Dennis Boatwright spent 24 years in the Michigan prison system and now devotes his time to raising public awareness and organizing to abolish the prison system, a demand that many young people raised after the historic Attica Rebellion in September, 1971. Then, they chanted, “Tear Down the Walls,” and “Prisons are Concentration Camps for the Poor.” The Attica Rebellion gave birth to other uprisings in prisons across the country, and a new consciousness about a country that has five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its incarcerated population.

Dennis Boatwright spent 24 years in the Michigan prison system and now devotes his time to raising public awareness and organizing to abolish the prison system, a demand that many young people raised after the historic Attica Rebellion in September, 1971. Then, they chanted, “Tear Down the Walls,” and “Prisons are Concentration Camps for the Poor.” The Attica Rebellion gave birth to other uprisings in prisons across the country, and a new consciousness about a country that has five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its incarcerated population, at least 70 percent of whom are Black and Latino. They are treated worse than animals.

Ricardo Ferrell, 60, in prison since 1982.

Charles Lewis, 59, in prison since 1976.

MDOC prisoner Ricardo Ferrell quoted Kate Cox of the Osborne National and Burden Association in a recent article addressing the aging population of prisoners in the U.S.

“At its most basic, hard time is profoundly hard on the body,” Cox wrote. “Incarceration makes existing medical issues worse and increases the risk of developing new ones. It leads to a process of ‘accelerated aging’—which is a gentle way of saying that inmates’ physiological age begins to outpace their chronological age, sometimes by as much as ten or fifteen years, such that 50 year-olds seem more like 60- and 65-year olds, and 70-year-olds seem as old as 85.”

Charles Lewis, 59, who has been wrongfully incarcerated for 42 years in the MDOC, frequently lists the names of men he has befriended who died far earlier than expected due to the horrible medical care and food that Michigan prisoners receive. He himself developed severe diabetes after going to prison at the age of 17, has had three heart attacks, and suffers from numerous other ailments. 

As a long-time prison activist herself, and now editor of the Voice of Detroit, Diane Bukowski also addressed the rally to call attention to the plight of Michigan’s 247 “juvenile lifers.” They continue to be incarcerated despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) outlawed the practice of sending children ages 17 and under to die in prison. The Michigan Supreme Court recently contravened the highest court in the U.S., claiming that judges who are re-sentencing these men and women, many of whom have spent decades in prison, do not have to specify factually whether they are the “rarest” child incapable of rehabilitation.

Boat with huge banner declaring “Solidarity with the National Prisoners Strike”  on Grand River in Lansing

“In 1955, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in southern schools in Brown v. the Board of Education,”  she noted. “When the states refused to comply, federal troops were sent to force them to obey the law of the land. We need federal troops to free our juvenile lifers.”

Organizers also recalled the historic rebellion at Michigan’s Kinross Correctional Facility on Sept. 9, 2016, during which hundreds of prisoners rose up against bestial conditions and treatment. The radio broadcast below contains reports from Kinross prisoners of those events, and the severe retaliation meted out to them afterward. Another source said at least three Kinross organizers died in the aftermath; the cause of death is not known.

For more information on the organizers of this march, go to:

https://michiganabolition.org

https://www.facebook.com/michiganabolition/

https://rustbeltradio.org/

PRISONERS NOW STRIKING IN AT LEAST 11 STATES

IMMIGRANTS IN WASHINGTON DETENTION CENTER JOIN NATIONAL PRISON STRIKE

 Aug 28, 2018, 5:14pm Tina Vasquez

Re-Wire News

Prisoners at Hyde Correctional Facility, N.C. join nation-wide action

Immigrants detained in the Tacoma, Washington Northwest Detention Center have joined the national strike, whose leaders also call for the abolition of I.C.E.

In a handwritten letter shared on the NWDC Resistance Facebook page, immigrants participating in the hunger strike said they were “demanding change and closure of these detention centers.”

“We are acting with solidarity for all those people who are being detained wrongfully and stand together to help support all those women who have been separated from their children, and to stop all the family separations happening today for a lot of us are also being separated and we have U.S. citizen children,” immigrants participating in the hunger strike said in a handwritten letter shared on the NWDC Resistance Facebook page.

One week into the national prison strike, a movement led by incarcerated people demanding an end to “prison slavery” and improvements that recognize their humanity, immigrants in detention have launched a strike of their own in solidarity.

Newsweek first reported on Thursday that an estimated 60 immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington, are participating in a hunger strike. In a statement to Newsweek, ICE initially denied the hunger strike was taking place. On Tuesday afternoon, in an emailed statement to Rewire.News, the agency confirmed that six people detained at NWDC are currently participating in a hunger strike. 

“Rumors of a widespread hunger strike are false,” the agency said.

This morning, Maru Mora Villalpando, a spokesperson for the undocumented-led immigrant rights group, NWDC Resistance, told Rewire.News the number of immigrants participating in the strike is fluctuating. She said that she could confirm six hunger strikers at NWDC had been placed in solitary confinement by ICE and that the strike may spread to Oregon and California.

“People are getting moved to different pods, people are being sent to solitary; it’s hard to track. We thought it officially launched on Tuesday, but we’ve now heard that some may have begun striking on Monday,” Mora Villalpando said in a phone call. “I spoke to a hunger striker last night and he told me that the medical unit is full, and so is the solitary unit and that he is one of six people in medical isolation. They could be full because people are being transferred there for retaliation or because people are getting sick from not eating or drinking because of the strike. Of course that is concerning because of the poor medical care they will receive. We want to make it clear that we are not the ones organizing this strike. That is the last thing we would do. This is being led by people in the facility. They are already tortured in there, we would never tell them not to eat or drink.”

In a handwritten letter shared on the NWDC Resistance Facebook page, immigrants participating in the hunger strike said they were “demanding change and closure of these detention centers.”

“We are acting with solidarity for all those people who are being detained wrongfully and stand together to help support all those women who have been separated from their children, and to stop all the family separations happening today for a lot of us are also being separated and we have U.S. citizen children,” the letter reads.

Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA/AP photo

Women in detention have told Mora Villalpando that they too would like to participate in the hunger strike, but she said, ICE has told them that if they hunger strike, they will be moved to a different facility, away from their children. ICE has a history of transferring hunger strikers to other facilities.

The prison strike, launched by prisoners in SouthCarolina in response to
the riot
in the state’s Lee Correctional Institution in which seven prisoners lost their lives, began August 21, on the anniversary of the death of incarcerated activist George Jackson. “Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party, was a leading voice and theorist in the 1970s prison movement—a time that saw hundreds of uprisings behind bars. On April 24, prisoners in South Carolina announced the strike, which is expected to last for 19 days and ends on the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising in New York,” Raven Rakia reported in the Nation,

In April 2018, Project South filed a lawsuit against the nation’s largest private prison company, CoreCivic, on behalf of Shoaib Ahmed and other immigrants detained at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. The lawsuit alleges that the company “violates human trafficking laws and employs a deprivation scheme to force immigrants detained at Stewart to work for sub-minimum wages, and then threatens to punish them for refusing to work through solitary confinement or loss of access to necessities.” In 2014, the law firm Outten & Golden filed a similar lawsuit against the nation’s second largest private prison company, GEO Group, for engaging in similar practices at the Aurora Detention Center in Colorado, in violation the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Both U.S. citizens in prisons and immigrants in detention centers are detained in facilities run by private prison companies, and they are subjected to similar conditions. Much like the immigrant detention system, which has become synonymous with human rights abuses and in-custody deaths, advocates have called the nation’s private prison system a “national disgrace,” synonymous with “violence, abuse, and death.”

“The huge strike is about solidarity, but a lot of the people in detention also came from prisons. After they served their sentence or got parole, they were immediately transferred to ICE custody. They were never really free,” Mora Villalpando told Rewire.News. “I’m not joking when I say that these people who have known both kinds of facilities actually say that prison is ‘better.’ By that I mean we all know prison is horrible, but in prison you have some sense of when you will get out or there is equation programs. Sometimes you get contact visits. That’s not how it works in detention centers, so these people truly understand the prison strike. Those who have not been in a prison still want to participate in the [hunger] strike because no matter what GEO says about NWDC, it is a prison.”

Currently, Mora Villalpando and other organizers with NWDC Resistance are in search of legal representation for the hunger strikers in solitary confinement, one of whom says ICE told him that if he does not eat, he will be force-fed. While ICE has previously denied it retaliates against detainees, there are documented cases of the agency moving to force-feed hunger strikers. As Rewire.News reported in December 2015, detainees at the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, ended a 14-day hunger strike after hearing that a district judge authorized officials to force-feed one of the hunger strikers at Etowah.

An enslaved African is depicted being force-fed.

“The idea that immigrants are being threatened with force-feeding in the United States is so wild to me, but it also isn’t. We have a history of this. This happened during slavery,” said Kevin Steel. Steel, an organizer with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, which is led by formerly incarcerated people, is referring to the ways enslaved people were force-fed if they attempted to stop eating.

“When I think of what they’re risking to be in solidarity with us, that touches me. As a Black man, as someone who was in prison, that is important to me. I stand with them, and I’m glad they’re standing with us in this fight.”

Steel, who was incarcerated in New York and still remembers seeing men put their feet in toilets because their cells were so hot during summer days and the facility had no fans or air conditioning, said he understands why prisoners are striking.

“It’s about basic human decency,” Steel told Rewire.News. “It’s about not having access to basic human stuff, like cool air and food that isn’t raw and disgusting.”

Over 100 prisoners rally on the Hyde Correctional Facility, N.C.  yard while holding up banners featuring demands. Banners read, “Parole,” “Better Food,” and “In Solidarity.”

Protesters outside Hyde support prisoners there.

Related from the New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/30/opinion/national-prison-strike-slavery-.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/26/us/national-prison-strike-2018.html


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NAT’L PRISON STRIKE AUG. 21 (1971 GEORGE JACKSON ASSASSINATION) TO SEPT. 9, 2018 (1971 ATTICA REBELLION)

For details of  rally: https://www.facebook.com/events/228130971150468/

Nat’l strike endorsed by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, It’s Going Down, Michigan Abolition, GEO, more

Men and women incarcerated in prisons across the nation declare a nationwide strike in response to the riot in Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina. Seven comrades lost their lives during a senseless uprising that could have been avoided had the prison not been so overcrowded from the greed wrought by mass incarceration,  and a lack of respect for human life that is embedded in our nation’s penal ideology. These men and women are demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery.

The United States incarcerates the highest number of people in the world, both in absolute and relative terms. But prisoners and abolitionists are challenging the foundations of mass incarceration. Over the past decade, a wave of prison rebellions has swept the country, increasing in both frequency and intensity.

In September 2016 the largest coordinated national prisoner strike occurred in facilities around the country. These rebellions prove time and time again that caging and torturing humans is violence and will be resisted by those locked up by the system. Prisoner resistance demonstrates that instead of solving the crisis of capitalism, prisons themselves are the crisis.

WE ALL AGREE TO SPREAD THIS STRIKE THROUGHOUT THE PRISONS OF AMERI$$$A! FROM AUG. 21ST TO SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2018, MEN AND WOMEN IN PRISONS ACROSS THE NATION WILL STRIKE IN THE FOLLOWING MANNER:

  • WORK STRIKES: Prisoners will not report to assigned jobs. Each place of detention will determine how long its strike will last. Some of these strikes may translate into a local list of demands designed to improve conditions and reduce harm within the prison.
  • SIT-INS: In certain prisons, men and women will engage in peaceful sit – in protests.
  • BOYCOTTS: All spending should be halted. We ask those outside the walls not to make financial judgments for those inside. Men and women on the in side will inform you if they are participating in this boycott.
  • HUNGER STRIKES: Men and women shall refuse to eat.

We support the call of Free Alabama Movement Campaign to “Redistribute the Pain 2018 as Bennu Hannibal Ra – Sun, formerly known as Melvin Ray has laid out (with the exception of refusing visitation). See these principles described here: https://redistributethepain.wordpress.com/

The Attica Rebellion began September 9, 1971, sparked uprisings in other prisons across the U.S. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

  • Make the nation take a look at our demands. Demand action on our demands by contacting your local, state, and federal political representatives with these demands. Ask them where they stand.
  • Spread the strike and word of the strike in every place of detention.
  • Contact a supporting local organization to see how you can be supportive. 
  • Be prepared by making contact with people in prison, family members of prisoners, and prisoner support organizations in your state to assist in notifying the public and media on strike conditions.
  • Assist in our announced initiatives to have the votes of people in jail and prison counted in elections.
  • If you are unsure of who to connect with, email millionsforprisonersmarch@gmail.com.

George Jackson was assassinated Aug, 21, 1971.

TO MAKE PRISONS OBSOLETE, WE HAVE TO SUPPORT THE STRUGGLE OF THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS AND PRISON REBELS BEHIND BARS.

Some places to find updates about the prison strike:

https://itsgoingdown.org/ 

https://incarceratedworkers.org/

https://michiganabolition.org/

For the Media: Inquiries should be directed to prisonstrikemedia@gmail.com

The author of this release, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, is a national collective of incarcerated people who fight for human rights by providing other incarcerated people with access to legal education, resources, and assistance. The national call to action has now been endorsed by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) as well as various other prisoner-advocacy and abolitionist groups around the country.

Join GEO in Lansing, MI for National Prison Strike Rally!

GEO (AFT-MI Local 3550, AFL-CIO) supports the National Prisoners Strike, August 21st to September 9th, 2018. In order to draw attention to incarcerated workers’ demands, and to deter retaliation against participating prisoners, we call upon workers to join the solidarity march and rally in Lansing on Thursday, August 23rd.

The nationwide strike is being called in response to the incident of violence at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, April 2018, in which dozens of workers were injured and seven were killed. These deaths could have easily been avoided had the facility not been overcrowded; had the inmates not been subjected to hopeless and violent conditions; and had prison guards and EMTs not waited hours before intervening. In the aftermath, all Level 2 and 3 facilities in South Carolina were put on statewide lockdown, denying prisoners any freedom of movement, regular access to showers, recreation, or meals outside their cells.

From one of Michigan’s prisons

Organizers of the strike are thus fighting for humane living and working conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform, and an end to mass incarceration. (The full list of demands can be found here.)

The strike call has also been endorsed by, amongst others, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (IFT/AFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW); Jailhouse Lawyers Speak; Millions for Prisoners; The People’s Consortium.

Further information:

§  Common Dreams’ report in the lead-up to August 21

§  GEO 6300 at UIUC’s solidarity statement

§  Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee’s solidarity statement

§  MAPS (Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity) action page.

https://michiganabolition.org/kinrossvoices/

For day by date updates on prison strike: http://sawarimi.org/

AMERICA’S PRISONERS STRIKING FOR THEIR LIVES


By Issac Bailey

SPLINTER

I won’t ever forget the photo of the minutes-old murder a prisoner at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina sent me. It wasn’t a high-quality picture. But I could clearly see the blood, which covered the white clothes of a bearded inmate looking in the direction of the camera. I could see the desperation in his eyes.

The murder occurred in a prison where one of my youngest brothers, James McDaniel, was more than a decade into a 16-year-sentence for his role in an attempted armed robbery of a fellow drug dealer that ended in the death of one of the potential assailants. My mind reflexively jogs to that image every time I think about what prisoners throughout the country will be attempting to do beginning today, when they launch a national prison work strike organized by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

 They want to finally be heard, both by a public which has long ignored them and by correctional officials and elected leaders who seem unbothered that they have been forced to live an inhumane existence.

The first of the prisoners’ 10 demands is simple: Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women. Their other demands are important as well. They include a decent wage for the work they do; a restoration of Pell grants; better funding for rehabilitation services; better ways to air legal grievances; and an end to sentences without the possibility of parole, among other reforms.

One of many marches across the U.S.

But those goals won’t mean much if the first one isn’t met. Without “immediate improvements,” some prisoners won’t even live to benefit from any fruit that comes of the strike. Others may end up psychically and emotionally scarred beyond recognition even if they physically survive.

Prisoners are trying to raise awareness with a nationwide strike because all their other attempts have fallen on deaf ears.

That’s not hyperbole. Rape is an ever-present threat in prison. (It’s estimated that more than 200,000 men are raped behind bars every year.) The last time I visited a prison in South Carolina several months ago, anti-rape posters were plastered throughout the visiting area.

Violence is another constant. Earlier this year, the deadliest prison riot in recent memory happened at Lee Correctional—the place where James is trying to survive, and that my oldest brother Moochie had to navigate before being released after 32 years. Seven prisoners were killed in the riots; several others were severely injured.

Before that event, James had been telling me that something awful was brewing because of the conditions inside those bars. People had to fight off rat and roach infestations. They were locked in their cells for longer periods of times every day, with fewer breaks. Even their right to shower was curtailed because of cutbacks in prison personnel. There were fewer guards to supervise the seemingly mundane and routine tasks that allow men behind bars to feel fully human.

For info on how to sign the petition above: http://sawarimi.org/archives/1775

The incentive for prisoners to join gangs increased as the number of guards on duty began dropping. It was one way they felt they could keep themselves safe, because they knew if they ran into trouble, in was unlikely a guard would show up on time to stop the attack. That’s precisely what James said happened to the man in that photo I’ll never forget.

The dead prisoner in the photo had supposedly violated a gang code against the use of hard drugs. He had been using something called “ice molly,” and other such things that frequently got smuggled inside. He had barricaded himself in his cell after getting high on the drugs.

“They got tired of waiting on him to come out, so 10 of them kept beating on the door until they got in the room,” James told me. “It’s a little Asian dude smaller than me, so about 15 of them ran into the room and started stabbing him…they stabbed him out of fear.”

James has also seen drug overdoses and suicides as prisoners respond to what they have increasingly begun calling “a death trap” of an existence.

“This white dude was telling his counselors he was going to kill himself, but they didn’t believe him,” James told me. “The next day, he stood on the top rock by the TVs and jumped head first into the concrete.”

That’s why prisoners are trying to raise awareness with a nationwide strike, because all their other attempts have fallen on deaf ears. They are literally striking for their lives.

For many Americans, awfulness being visited upon people who have done awful things to others represents just desserts. They did the crime, so they must do the time. They have no right to our empathy or sympathy.

Not only are such sentiments cruel, they are short-sighted. We routinely provide second chances to the wealthy and powerful. Leaving redemption’s door open to those who messed up while trying to navigate a life full of challenge would be one of the most effective ways to ensure equality.

There is a more practical reason to advocate for the more humane treatment of prisoners. Most of them will be released one day. It would be better for society–for us all–if they come out healthier and stronger than they went in.

#PRISONSTRIKE

DONATE TO VOICE OF DETROIT TO KEEP OUR STORIES COMING:

Voice of Detroit is published pro bono. You don’t have to pay to access our stories. But there are substantial out-of pocket costs associated with its publication. Currently we are running in the red, so any donation amount is much appreciated. Donate by clicking https://www.gofundme.com/VOD-readers-up. 

Related from VOD:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2018/08/12/will-charles-lewis-247-michigan-juvenile-lifers-die-in-prison-due-to-re-sentencing-delays-or-go-free/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/10/09/peacefully-marching-prisoners-at-michigans-kinross-teargassed-zip-tied-left-out-in-rain/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/09/12/remember-attica-michigans-kinross-prisoners-join-nationwide-strikes-protests/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/04/26/detroit-youth-protest-wayne-co-jail-deals-demand-schools-housing-water-not-prisons-police/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2018/08/17/prisons-the-new-mental-institutions/


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