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.


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 .)

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

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

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,

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:

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 –

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 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

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


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 

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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.


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: 


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. 


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 

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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:



 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

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For details of  rally:

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.


  • 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:

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


  • 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

George Jackson was assassinated Aug, 21, 1971.


Some places to find updates about the prison strike:

For the Media: Inquiries should be directed to

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.

For day by date updates on prison strike:


By Issac Bailey


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:

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.



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Jefferson North Assembly plant  line shut down on news of Aretha Franklin’s death.

Above, videographer “MacSpeaking” interviewed grass roots Detroiters standing outside New Bethel Baptist Church, 8430 Linwood Street (C. L. Franklin Blvd.), Detroit, MI 48206, on Aug. 16, 2018. The church had opened its doors to people who were grieving the loss of Aretha Franklin and, apparently, some people set up a temporary memorial space outside the church doors. Franklin died in hospice at her home after a long bout with cancer, as Detroiters held vigils everywhere.

The funeral for Aretha Franklin will be held August 31 in Detroit, according to the singer’s publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn. The service, for family and friends, will be held at 10 a.m. ET that day at Greater Grace Temple. Public viewings will be held August 28 and 29 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Quinn said.  Franklin will be entombed at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.

ABOVE: Videographer Kenny Snodgrass paid tribute to Aretha Franklin with selection from Chaka Khan at her funeral.

Below is her obituary as published by the Swanson Funeral Home in Detroit (taken from the New York Times).

Photo published by Swanson Funeral Home.

DETROIT–Aretha Franklin, universally acclaimed as the “Queen of Soul” and one of America’s greatest singers in any style, died on Thursday at her home in Detroit. She was 76. The cause was advanced pancreatic cancer, her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn, said.

In her indelible late-1960s hits, Ms. Franklin brought the righteous fervor of gospel music to secular songs that were about much more than romance. Hits like “Do Right Woman — Do Right Man,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools” defined a modern female archetype: sensual and strong, long-suffering but ultimately indomitable, loving but not to be taken for granted.

Aretha Franklin wasn’t just a vocal genius. She was a model of empowerment and pride.

When Ms. Franklin sang “Respect,” the Otis Redding song that became her signature, it was never just about how a woman wanted to be greeted by a spouse coming home from work. It was a demand for equality and freedom and a harbinger of feminism, carried by a voice that would accept nothing less.

Ms. Franklin had a grandly celebrated career. She placed more than 100 singles in the Billboard charts, including 17 Top 10 pop singles and 20 No. 1 R&B hits. She received 18 competitive Grammy Awards, along with a lifetime achievement award in 1994. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987, its second year. She sang at the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, at pre-inauguration concerts for Jimmy Carter in 1977 and Bill Clinton in 1993, and at both the Democratic National Convention and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in 1968.

Aretha Franklin in earlier years.

Succeeding generations of R&B singers, among them Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys, openly emulated her. When Rolling Stone magazine put Ms. Franklin at the top of its 2010 list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time,” Mary J. Blige paid tribute: “Aretha is a gift from God. When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her. She is the reason why women want to sing.”

Ms. Franklin’s airborne, constantly improvisatory vocals had their roots in gospel. It was the music she grew up on in the Baptist churches where her father, the Rev. Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, known as C. L., preached. She began singing in the choir of her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, and soon became a star soloist.

Gospel shaped her quivering swoops, her pointed rasps, her galvanizing buildups and her percussive exhortations; it also shaped her piano playing and the call-and-response vocal arrangements she shared with her backup singers. Through her career in pop, soul and R&B, Ms. Franklin periodically recharged herself with gospel albums: “Amazing Grace” in 1972 and “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism,” recorded at the New Bethel church, in 1987.

But gospel was only part of her vocabulary. The playfulness and harmonic sophistication of jazz, the ache and sensuality of the blues, the vehemence of rock and, later, the sustained emotionality of opera were all hers to command.

Ms. Franklin did not read music, but she was a consummate American singer, connecting everywhere. In an interview with The New York Times in 2007, she said her father had told her that she “would sing for kings and queens.”

“Fortunately I’ve had the good fortune to do so,” she added. “And presidents.”

For all the admiration Ms. Franklin earned, her commercial fortunes were uneven, as her recordings moved in and out of sync with the tastes of the pop market.

After her late-1960s soul breakthroughs and a string of pop hits in the early 1970s, the disco era sidelined her. But Ms. Franklin had a resurgence in the 1980s with her album “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” and its Grammy-winning single, “Freeway of Love,” and she followed through in the next decades as a kind of soul singer emeritus: an indomitable diva and a duet partner conferring authenticity on collaborators like George Michael and Annie Lennox. Her latter-day producers included stars like Luther Vandross and Lauryn Hill, who had grown up as her fans. Onstage, Ms. Franklin proved herself night after night, forever keeping audiences guessing about what she would do next and marveling at how many ways her voice could move.

Mother Sang Gospel

Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis on March 25, 1942. Her mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, was a gospel singer and pianist. Her parents separated when Aretha was 6, leaving her in her father’s care. Her mother died four years later after a heart attack.
C. L. Franklin’s career as a pastor led the family from Memphis to Buffalo and then to Detroit, where he joined the New Bethel Baptist Church in 1946. With his dynamic sermons broadcast nationwide and recorded, he became known as “the man with the golden voice.”

The Franklin household was filled with music. Mr. Franklin welcomed visiting gospel and secular musicians: the jazz pianist Art Tatum, the singer Dinah Washington, and gospel figures like the young Sam Cooke (before his turn to pop), Clara Ward, Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland, who became Ms. Franklin’s mentors.

Future Motown artists like Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross lived nearby. Aretha’s sisters, Erma and Carolyn, also sang and wrote songs, among them “Piece of My Heart,” a song Erma Franklin recorded before Janis Joplin did, and Carolyn Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way,” a hit for Aretha. The sisters also provided backup vocals for Ms. Franklin on songs like “Respect.” From 1968 until his death in 1989, her brother Cecil was her manager.

Ms. Franklin started teaching herself to play the piano — there were two in the house — before she was 10, picking up songs from the radio and from Ms. Ward’s gospel records. Around the same time, she stood on a chair and sang her first solos in church. In David Ritz’s biography “Respect,” Cecil Franklin recalled that his sister could hear a song once and immediately sing and play it. “Her ear was infallible,” he said.

At 12, Ms. Franklin joined her father on tour, sharing concert bills with Ms. Ward and other leading gospel performers. Recordings of a 14-year-old Ms. Franklin performing in churches — playing piano and belting gospel standards to ecstatic congregations — were released in 1956. Her voice was already spectacular.

But Ms. Franklin became pregnant, dropped out of high school and had a child two months before her 13th birthday. She had a second child at 15 by a different father. She also had two sons, Ted White Jr. and Kecalf Cunningham (her son with Ken Cunningham, a boyfriend during the 1970s).

Complete information about survivors was not immediately available.

In the late 1950s, following the example of Sam Cooke — who left the gospel group the Soul Stirrers and started a solo career with “You Send Me” in 1957 — Ms. Franklin decided to build a career in secular music. Leaving her children with family in Detroit, she moved to New York City. John Hammond, the Columbia Records executive who had championed Billie Holiday and would also bring Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to the label, signed the 18-year-old Ms. Franklin in 1960.

Mr. Hammond saw Ms. Franklin as a jazz singer tinged with blues and gospel. He recorded her with the pianist Ray Bryant’s small groups in 1960 and 1961 for her first studio album, “Aretha,” which sent two singles to the R&B Top 10: “Today I Sing the Blues” and “Won’t Be Long.” The annual critics’ poll in the jazz magazine DownBeat named her the new female vocal star of the year.

Her next album, “The Electrifying Aretha Franklin,” featured jazz standards and used big-band orchestrations; it gave her a Top 40 pop single in 1961 with “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody.”

Her later Columbia albums were scattershot, veering in and out of jazz, pop and R&B. Ms. Franklin met and married Ted White in 1961 and made him her manager; he shares credit on some of the songs Ms. Franklin wrote in the 1960s, including “Dr. Feelgood.” In 1964 they had a son, Ted White Jr., who would lead his mother’s band decades later. (She divorced Mr. White, after a turbulent marriage, in 1969.)

Mr. White later said his strategy was for Ms. Franklin to switch styles from album to album, to reach a variety of audiences, but the results — a Dinah Washington tribute, jazz standards with strings, remakes of recent pop and soul hits — left radio stations and audiences confused. When her Columbia contract expired in 1966, Ms. Franklin signed with Atlantic Records, which specialized in rhythm and blues.

Pivot Point in Muscle Shoals

Jerry Wexler, the producer who brought Ms. Franklin to Atlantic, persuaded her to record in the South. Ms. Franklin spent one night in January 1967 at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., recording with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, the backup band behind dozens of 1960s soul hits. Ms. Franklin shaped the arrangements and played piano herself, as she had rarely done in the studio since her first gospel recordings.

The new songs were rooted in blues and gospel. And the combination finally ignited the passion in Ms. Franklin’s voice, the spirit that was only glimpsed in many of her Columbia recordings.

The Muscle Shoals session broke down, with just one song complete and another half-finished, in a drunken dispute between a trumpet player and Mr. White. He and Ms. Franklin returned to New York. Yet when the song completed in that session, “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You),” was released as a single, it reached No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 9 on the pop charts, eventually selling more than a million copies.

Some of the Muscle Shoals musicians came north to complete the album in New York. And with that album, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” the supper-club singer of Ms. Franklin’s Columbia years made way for the “Queen of Soul.”

“We were simply trying to compose real music from my heart,” Ms. Franklin said in her autobiography, “Aretha: From These Roots,” written with Mr. Ritz and published in 1999.

Aretha Franklin performs during the 85th annual Christmas tree lighting at the New York Stock Exchange, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“Respect,” recorded on Valentine’s Day 1967 and released in April, was a bluesy demand for dignity, as well as an instruction to “give it it to me when you get home” and “take care of T.C.B.” (The letters stood for “taking care of business.”) Her version of the song resonated beyond individual relationships to the civil rights, counterculture and feminism movements.

“It was the need of the nation, the need of the average man and woman in the street, the businessman, the mother, the fireman, the teacher — everyone wanted respect,” she wrote in her autobiography.

“Respect” surged to No. 1 and would bring Ms. Franklin her first two Grammy Awards, for best R&B recording and best solo female R&B performance (an award she won each succeeding year through 1975). By the end of 1968, she had made three more albums for Atlantic and had seven more Top 10 pop hits, including “Baby I Love You,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think” (written by Ms. Franklin and Mr. White) and “I Say a Little Prayer.”

But amid the success, Ms. Franklin’s personal life was in upheaval. Songs like “Think,” “Chain of Fools” and “The House That Jack Built” hinted at marital woes that she kept private. She fought with her husband and manager, Mr. White, who had roughed her up in public, a 1968 Time magazine cover story noted, and whose musical decisions had grown increasingly counterproductive. Before their divorce in 1969, she dropped him as manager and eventually filed restraining orders against him. She also went through a period of heavy drinking before getting sober in the 1970s.

Her early 1970s pop hits, like her own “Day Dreaming” and the Stevie Wonder composition “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” took a lighter, more lilting tone, a contrast to her rip-roaring 1972 gospel album, “Amazing Grace,” which sold more than two million copies, making it one of the best-selling gospel albums of all time. Ms. Franklin recorded steadily through the 1970s and continued to have rhythm-and-blues hits like “Angel,” a No. 1 R&B single in 1973 written by her sister Carolyn.

But her pop presence waned in the disco era, and her 1976 album, “Sparkle,” written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, was her last gold album of the decade. It included “Something He Can Feel,” a No. 1 R&B single. When Ms. Franklin made a show-stopping appearance as a waitress in the 1980 movie “The Blues Brothers,” she revived an oldie: her 1968 song “Think.”

Ms. Franklin was married to the actor Glynn Turman from 1978 to 1984, and the divorce was amicable enough for her to sing the title song for the television series “A Different World” when Mr. Turman joined its cast in 1988.

Ms. Franklin’s father was shot in the head during a break-in at his home in 1979 and stayed in a coma until his death in 1984. During those years Ms. Franklin shuttled monthly between her home in California and Detroit. As her marriage to Mr. Turman was ending, she moved back to Detroit in 1982.

Ms. Franklin was deeply traumatized in 1983 by a ride through turbulence in a two-engine plane that was “dipsy-doodling all over the place,” she recalled. She gave up flying, traveling instead by bus to her shows, and ended all international performances. In recent years she had hoped to desensitize herself and fly again, “even if it’s just one more time,” she said in 2007.

Divas and Duets

Ms. Franklin changed labels in 1980, to Arista. There, her albums mingled remakes of 1960s and ’70s hits — “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Everyday People,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” “What a Fool Believes” — with contemporary songs.

Luther Vandross’s production of her 1982 album, “Jump to It,” restored her to the R&B charts, where it reached No. 1. But Ms. Franklin did not reconquer the pop charts until 1985, with the million-selling, synthesizer-driven album “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” The singles “Freeway of Love” and “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?,” both produced by Narada Michael Walden, placed Ms. Franklin back in the pop Top 10, and a collaboration with Eurythmics, “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” reached No. 18.

Ms. Franklin had her last No. 1 pop hit with “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” a duet with George Michael from her 1986 album, “Aretha.” Her 1987 gospel album, “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism,” featured performances with her sisters Carolyn and Erma, and with Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers, as well as preaching from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Cecil Franklin.

Ms. Franklin recorded more duets (with Elton John, Whitney Houston and James Brown) on “Through the Storm” in 1989, and she made another attempt to connect with youth culture on “What You See Is What You Sweat” in 1991. She released only a few songs — singles and soundtrack material — through the mid-1990s.

But she rallied in 1998 with televised triumphs. She made a noteworthy appearance at the 1998 Grammy Awards, substituting at the last minute for the ailing Luciano Pavarotti by singing a Puccini aria, “Nessun dorma,” to overwhelming effect. On “Divas Live,” for VH1, she steamrollered her fellow stars in duets, among them Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. In the meantime, she had been working with younger producers again for her 1998 album, “A Rose Is Still a Rose”; the title track, produced by Lauryn Hill, reached No. 26 on the pop chart. After her 2003 album, “So Damn Happy,” Ms. Franklin left Arista, saying she would record independently.

Arista released the collection “Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets With the Queen” in 2007, including a previously unreleased song with the “American Idol” winner Fantasia. Ms. Franklin said in 2007 that she had completed an album to be called “Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love,” with songs she had written and produced herself, but it was not released until 2011, on her own Aretha’s Records label. In 2008 she released a holiday album, “This Christmas.”

Ms. Franklin stayed musically ambitious. She repeatedly announced plans to study classical piano and finally learn to sight-read music at the Juilliard School, but she never enrolled. She received several honorary degrees, including from Yale, Princeton and Harvard.

In 2014, Ms. Franklin returned to a major label, RCA Records, with her executive producer from her Arista years, Clive Davis. “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics” presented her remakes of proven material: songs that had been hits for Adele, Alicia Keys, Chaka Khan, Gloria Gaynor, Barbra Streisand and Sinead O’Connor. It reached No. 13 on the Billboard album chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart.

She had five decades of recordings behind her, but listeners still thrilled to her voice.


Arrangements handled by Swanson Funeral Home in Detroit, Michigan.
Winnfield Funeral Home will conduct a memorial service in Alexandria for local fans.

Aretha Franklin’s final public performance took place in New York on November 7, 2017 at a gala celebrating the 25th anniversary of Elton John’s AIDS foundation. AP

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Eliminate warehousing of the severely mentally disturbed in our prisons; continuing to do so spells poor management by state corrections officials.

Ricardo Ferrell

By Ricardo Ferrell

Three decades ago we began to see a significant number of the severely mentally ill pop up in jails & prisons. In Michigan, somewhere between 1987-2002, the majority of the mental hospitals/institutions were ordered closed by both the Blanchard and Engler Administrations. Thus, jails and prisons became immediate dumping grounds for those diagnosed with severe mental illnesses, but prior to them starting to pop up in jails & prisons – many found themselves on the streets, usually homeless and without proper care for their needs.

I have often wondered how convenient it was during this period that the prison expansion and boom also happened. The mid to late 80’s ushered in a prison build up like we have never before seen. At least 30 or more correctional facilities were constructed; boosting the Michigan prison population from approximately 10,000 – 12,000 to roughly over 51,000 an increase of around 400%.

Today, there are some 9,000, or 23% diagnosed with a severe mental illness within the Michigan Department of Corrections. The number is likely higher as there are many who go on without letting their issues be known to a (QMHP) Qualified Mental Health Professional usually due to not wanting to have the stigma which they believe to be associated with a negative connotation of some sort and the perception of shame that they would be tagged for a better term, a bug.

Chart from national Bureau of Justice Statistics.

And, in a prison setting nobody wants to receive the ridicule, mistreatment, belittling, and embarrassment of such a diagnosis. Let’s take Ronalle Hizerick, a name I created to protect the true identity of an individual who I would be called to observe after he had been placed on suicide watch from a near life ending self-injury to one of his main arteries.

During my second observation with Ronalle he revealed to me that the reason he attempted to take his own life was that he had just learned that both his wife and young daughter had been diagnosed with brain cancer and he just couldn’t take not being there for them. Ronalle had less than one year to his earliest release date, yet still his mental illness was so severe that being locked up in prison actually caused him more harm because simply put, prison is no substitute for a mental institution.

A lawsuit against the MDOC has been filed on behalf of Janika Edmund, who hung herself last year in the Huron Valley Women’s facility, known for its horrible conditions. Prison guards failed to intercede although they knew she was suicidal.

This writer over the last five years has worked in the Prisoner Observation Aide Program known as Suicide Watch which utilizes carefully selected and specially trained prisoners with the task of observing fellow prisoners in trying to curtail and/or prevent them from engaging in suicidal and self-injurious behaviors because it has been proven by evidence-based analysis that those experiencing mental instabilities and disorders may be more willing to open up and share with another prisoner why they are having a crisis before revealing such to a staff member or QMHP.

Additionally, the program has proved to be cost effective as well because prior to the utilization of prisoners; corrections officers were assigned an added task of observing at-risk inmates, but it was costing millions and millions of dollars, so the MDOC elected to train prisoners instead to render such services in conjunction with a treatment plan assessed by a Qualified Mental Health Professional.

Rendering this service at three different facilities has afforded me the opportunity to better understand a severely mentally ill individual who engages in harmful behaviors and on many occasions I have been able to prevent them from self-injurious episodes and saved many of their lives.

Although the above-mentioned 9,000, or 23% who have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness is the reported number, there are certainly a higher number of those within Michigan prisons who have a mental illness yet to be reported and diagnosed which is making today’s prisons more like modern day mental institutions. If the State of Michigan wish to address this serious problem it must find viable ways to tackle it head-on maybe by reversing the practice of housing mentally disturbed individuals in its prisons.

Prisoners wait for medications, often for psychiatric problems that should be treated in hospital or outpatient settings.

Using the monies it costs to house the mentally ill (approximately $36,000 — $40,000 per year) to reopen or construct new mental institutions would be the best course of action assuring this special needs population receives the maximum treatment they require. The following calculations could help reach such a goal: 1) $36,000 per year for each mentally ill prisoner; 2) 9,000, or 23% equates to $324,000,000 per year; and 3) $324,000,000 or more depending on the actual yearly cost of above group amounts to over two-thirds of a billion dollars. More than enough to open and operate mental institutions and provide quality mental health services to the severely mentally ill.

Currently, there are approximately 400,000 Michigan citizens diagnosed as being severely mentally Ill, and if nothing is done to reverse the failed policies of old administrations and current practices by the MDOC of housing mentally disturbed individuals in a prison setting, then we are looking at quite possibly a higher number in the near future. The Woodland Corrections Center located in Whitmore Lake, was converted to become a mental health facility which is operated by the MDOC. Some of the vacant correctional facilities across the state could easily be converted to mental health facilities to accommodate the growing demand for this particular group in our prisons.


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Video above from earlier hearing in Oct. 2016

Lewis hearing held Aug. 3, motions not to be heard until Sept. 28, judge says she may not proceed beyond that date

 Prosecution wants to wait for non-binding directions from Michigan Judicial Institute 

 Lewis case is “poster child” for other juvenile lifers in “Up South” Michigan 

Numerous families outside Frank Murphy Hall protest wrongful convictions in other cases prior to Lewis hearing

By Diane Bukowski 

August 11, 2018

Charles Lewis on video at Aug. 3 hearing.

DETROIT – Will juvenile lifer Charles Lewis, 59, finally go free after 42 years in prison, including two-and-a-half grueling years of re-sentencing hearings in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lewis?

At the conclusion of his 33rd hearing Aug. 3, Lillard said she has not yet certified a court file to replace the original which went missing sometime after 2012. She said she will rule Sept. 28 whether she can. If not, she implied, no more hearings will be necessary.

She also granted a defense motion for the appointment of a “mitigation” expert if the case moves forward. She pledged to work to facilitate Lewis’ transfer from Lakeland Correctional Facility to Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit to allow his defense attorney easier access to his client.

Presiding Circuit Court Criminal Judge Timothy Kenny facilitated a similar transfer in the ongoing evidentiary hearing of Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy, from Chippewa Correctional Facility in the upper peninsula, to the Thumb CF, closer to Detroit.

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

“I believe they are waiting for me to die in prison,” Lewis said earlier. He is going blind in one eye because of macular degeneration due to a severe case of diabetes, and has suffered three heart attacks. He was denied the implantation of a stent after the third attack. His 77-year-0ld mother Rosie Lewis is also in failing health.

Lewis has maintained since his conviction in 1977 that he is innocent of the murder of an off-duty police officer on Detroit’s east-side. The officer’s partner and numerous other eyewitnesses testified at his trials that a different man in a white Lincoln Mark IV was the killer. Their testimony made up the major part of the trials.

In addition to ruling on file certification, Lillard will also hear arguments on motions originally filed by Lewis pro se, which his defense attorney Schulman has said he will either supplement or adopt as is. Schulman is due to have the motions ready by Sept. 4 and AP Tom Dawson is to respond by Sept. 18 in preparation for the Sept. 28 hearing.

Lewis’ motions involve dismissing his case due to the loss of his court file, actual innocence, ineffective assistance of trial counsel (who argued he was guilty), ex post facto violations in the prosecutor’s request for life without parole, and bond.

His defense attorney Sanford Schulman told VOD Aug. 3 that if Judge Lillard does not “certify” the replacement file, it should mean that Lewis would be re-sentenced to time served. The majority of Lewis’ official court record, including his Register of Actions from 1976 to 2000, went missing sometime after 2012. (See box at right.) 

Against Lewis’ strenuous objections citing higher court precedents that his case should be dismissed, Judge Lillard ruled in 2016 that the Wayne County Clerk, prosecutor and defense should “re-construct” the file by combining all their records of the case. His previous defense attorney Valerie Newman contributed a flash drive of records that included numerous attorney-client privileged documents from his original appellate attorneys, a constitutional violation.

But Lewis contends the file is far from complete.

“There is no Register of Actions from 1976 to 2000 to compare anything in the file to!” Lewis wrote his attorney recently. “Whoever reconstructed the file had nothing to compare what they had to. So, there was no way for them to know what should or should not have been in the file.  None of the people that reconstructed the file were ever involved in the case at any stage of the proceedings.”

Lewis himself, the only person present at all of the proceedings, was not allowed to participate in the file “re-construction.” Citing a Michigan Supreme Court ruling, People v. Fullwood (1974), he says a lost criminal court file CANNOT be reconstructed, and that he has found no precedent for such an action anywhere in the country.

In Chessman v. Teets (1957).  the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the defendant’s conviction on similar grounds, citing the 14th Amendment. 

14th Amendment stresses right to “due process” of law.

“All we hold is that, consistently with procedural due process, California’s affirmance of petitioner’s conviction upon a seriously disputed record, whose accuracy petitioner has had no voice in determining, cannot be allowed to stand.”

Lewis is one of Michigan’s 247 juvenile lifers, sentenced as children, still waiting for re-sentencing six and one half years after the historic U.S. Supreme Court Miller v. Alabama ruling that declared their sentences unconstitutional. 

They are the two-thirds of the state’s juvenile lifers that county prosecutors still want to die in prison, a barbaric practice used only in the U.S.

On June 20, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in People v. Hyatt/People v. Skinner, that the re-sentencing judge is not obligated to include any facts indicating that the defendant was the “rare” child incapable of rehabilitation, to support a renewed sentence of life without parole. That ruling blatantly violated the historic U.S. Supreme Court holdings in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), as well as an earlier ruling by a seven-judge appellate panel in Michigan. 

Attorney Deborah LaBelle told VOD at the time, “There has been a motion for reconsideration filed, addressing the errors and advising the court of the recent federal Fourth Circuit case which reached a directly opposite opinion than [the Michigan Supreme Court] in Hyatt.  A certification petition will be addressed after a ruling on that motion which depending on when heard, could be addressed by a different court after the November elections.”

Lee Boyd Malvo was 17 was he was given four life without parole sentences

The Fourth Circuit ruling in the case of Lee Boyd Malvo directly contradicted Hyatt/Skinner. Malvo was 17 when he aided his adult co-defendant John Muhammad in the sniper killings of 12 people in Washington, D.C. and Virginia in 2002.  Muhammad has since been executed.

But the Fourth Circuit Court ruled, “. . . .we affirm the district court’s order vacating Malvo’s four terms of life imprisonment without parole and remanding for resentencing to determine (1) whether Malvo qualifies as one of the rare juvenile offenders who may, consistent with the Eighth Amendment, be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole because his “crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility” or (2) whether those crimes instead “reflect the transient immaturity of youth,” in which case he must receive a sentence short of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  Montgomery, 136 S. Ct. at 734.”

During the Aug. 3 hearing, Assistant Prosecutor Tom Dawson sought to have Judge Lillard set the next hearing date for Oct. 6. By then, he said  a “benchbook” on juvenile lifer re-sentencings after Hyatt/Skinner,  produced by the Michigan Justice Institute (MJI), should be ready.

MJI forum held in 2016 on juvenile lifer resentencing

The MJI, the “training” arm of the Michigan Supreme Court and the State Court Administror’s office, has a panel discussion on the matter scheduled for Sept. 20. Assorted judges and defense and prosecution attorneys will try to reach a loose consensus.  Their recommendations, however, are non-binding in court. A similar hearing on juvenile lifer re-sentencing, available in video on the MJI website, was held in 2016. Notably, all the participants in the video are white, discussing the fate of a population of juvenile lifers which is 70 percent Black. See

Prior to the Aug. 3 hearing, numerous families gathered outside the Frank Murphy Hall to protest what they said were other wrongful convictions of loved ones. It was the second such group protest held in two weeks, indicating that anger at the justice system in “Up South” Michigan is growing.  Participants in the Aug. 3 rally included the families of Roosevelt Pettiford, the Vesey brothers, Danny Burton, and more.

Relative calls for freedom for Danny Burton.

Free Roosevelt Pettiford



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As American citizens call for disarming the public, they conveniently ignore the most deadly group of people who will be the only ones with guns—the government.

By Matt Agorist

Published February 15, 2018

VOD: Thanks to Yolanda McNair of Protect Our Stolen Treasures (P.O.S.T.) who alerted us to this editorial on their Facebook page.

A tragedy in Florida unfolded Wednesday afternoon when a psychotic former student terrorized a high school and the nation as he walked into the school and began shooting and killing students. The terrorist shooter killed 17 people.

Aftermath of Parkland, Fla. school shooting.

It is no surprise that the hashtag #GunReformNow is already trending on Twitter as politicians and advocacy groups alike—like every time before—begin milking this tragedy for their political agenda.

Sadly, most people who call for gun control fail to realize what that actually means—only the government has the guns.

Every time a lunatic, who is usually on some form mind-altering pharmaceutical, goes on a shooting rampage, the do-gooders in Washington, with the aid of their citizen flocks, take to the TV and the internet to call for disarming the American people.

The citizens who call for themselves and their neighbors to be disarmed, likely think no deeper than the shallow speeches given by the political blowhards, designed to appeal to emotion only. They do not think of what happens during and after the government attempts to remove guns from society. They also completely ignore the fact that criminals do not obey laws and making guns illegal would have zero effect on criminals possessing guns.

In the perfect statist world in which only the government has guns, we’re told that crime rates would plummet, people wouldn’t be murdered, gun violence would be brought to its knees, and a disarmed heaven on Earth would ensue. But how effective would disarming the citizens actually be at preventing gun violence, while at the same time keeping guns in the hands of government?

One simple way to determine the outcome would be to compare mass shootings in America with those killed by police. It is entirely too easy to compare all senseless murders carried out by the state to those carried out by citizens, so we will zoom in with a microscope.

However, just as a point of reference, in the 20th Century alonegovernments were responsible for 260,000,000 deaths worldwide. That number is greater than all deaths from illicit drug use, STD’s, Homicides, and Traffic Accidents — combined.

Now, on to the micro-comparison.

According to a comprehensive database of all American mass shootings that have taken place since 1982, constructed by Mother Jones, there have been exactly 816 deaths attributed to mass shootings that have taken place on American soil.

As Mother Jones notes, in their database, they exclude shootings stemming from more conventional crimes such as armed robbery or gang violence. Other news outlets and researchers have published larger tallies that include a wide range of gun crimes in which four or more people have been either wounded or killed. While those larger datasets of multiple-victim shootings may be useful for studying the broader problem of gun violence, our investigation provides an in-depth look at the distinct phenomenon of mass shootings—from the firearms used to mental health factors and the growing copycat problem.

POST members and supporters block Woodward Avenue in Detroit during protest Sept. 24, 2016, as dozens of cars honked their horns in support. They included Arnetta Grable, mother of Lamar Grable, Mertilla Jones, grandmother of Aiyana Jones, Kevin Kellom, father of Terrance Kellom, and Yolanda McNair, mother of Adaisha Miller.

If we were to compare the 816 citizens killed in mass shootings to citizens killed by police in the same time frame, the comparison would be off the charts. So, for the sake of simplicity, we will compare all of the mass shooting deaths in the last 35 years, to the number of citizens killed by police since the beginning of last year.

Already, in 2018, American police have killed 153 people. When we add that to 1,189 people killed by police in 2017, that number is 1,342. This number is set to increase by one, on average, every 8 hours. 

[To see listing of Detroiters killed by police since 1992, go to

When comparing the total number of mass shootings over the last 35 years to just the last 14 months of police killings the ratio is 1.6 to 1, citizens killed by cops vs. citizens killed in mass shootings. That is a massive difference.

The comparison is staggering and should shock the conscience. But to truly get a perspective, lets go back three years and compare all of the citizens killed by cops since the beginning of 2015 to the number of mass shooting deaths.

Since 2015, cops in America have killed 3,733 citizens. 

In a time period that is less than one-tenth the amount of time it took mass shooters to kill 816 people, cops have killed nearly 5 times as many citizens.

As the blowhards spew their nonsense about grabbing guns from law-abiding citizens and those in government demand action, all of these people conveniently ignore the giant pink elephant in the living room — cops in America are killing citizens at an alarming rate!

Cover of famed activist Robert WIlliams’ book “Negroes with Guns.”

Ironically enough, those calling for taking guns from citizens are often times the ones most critical of police killings. How, exactly, they rationalize disarming the citizens and having only police, who kill far more people than gun owners, be the sole possessors of guns, is a mystery.

Indeed, Radley Balko sums up the mental gymnastics of both parties perfectly in regard to the distorted realities held as “truth.”

In the United States, the overall homicide rate is 4.9 per 100,000 among the citizens.

Thanks to independent watchdog groups like, we have a total number of citizens killed by police. As noted above, last year, police killed 1,189 citizens. Given that America has roughly 765,000 sworn police officers, that means the police-against-citizen kill rate is more than 145 per 100,000.

The police kill rate is nearly 30 times that of the average citizen, yet somehow people still call for disarming citizens and say nothing about the police. And no, the citizens are not becoming more violent. In fact, humanity is at its safest time in history—ever—and, in spite of the lunatic terrorists shooting up public places, violent crimes as well as all crime continues to drop, significantly.

The next time your friends try to tell you that citizens should be disarmed, tell them what that really means; they only want government, who has a history of racism and violence, who kill indiscriminately, with zero accountability, and far more often, to be the ones with guns.

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Charles Lewis

By Charles Lewis

August 4, 2018

I just read the following article in the July issue of “Criminal Legal News,” “Cell-Site Simulators: Police Use Military Technology To Reach Out And Spy On You,” by Christopher Zoukis. The article is about CellSite Simulators. This according to CLN was technology that was developed by the military to fight foreign terrorists.

According to CLN, “Cell-site simulators, also known as stingrays, trick cell phones into connecting to the device instead of an actual cell tower. Police operating the devices can track the location of all connected cellphones within a certain radius, (500 meters, 547 yards) and also can potentially intercept metadata about phone calls (the number of calls made and length of the call), the content of the calls and text messages, as well as the nature of data usage-including brower information.All of this takes place unbeknownst to users whose cellphones have been hijacked.”

It is absolutely mind-blowing to know that your local police force could possibly have a device that they can use to track and listen to cell phones in say a hundred block radius. Stingrays are also used by the FBI, ATF, DHS, ICE, DEA, NSA and US Marshalls. CLN also wrote “Cell-site simulators are suitcase-size devices that mimic the signal of actual cellphone towers-they even emit a stronger signal than legitimate towers. And, because cellphones are programmed to seek the best signal, all phones within the radius of the signal will connect to the device.

“Despite he growing popularity of these powerful devices, little is known about their exact capabilities. Perhaps more importantly, even less is known about what police are doing with their stingrays.”

Some of hundreds of protesters condemn justice system outside Detroit home where police killed Terrance Kellom,19, in 2015. Photo: Kenneth Snodgrass

Can you imagine stingrays in the hands of corrupt cops? Can you imagine what they could do with a device like that? Manufacturers have gone to great lengths to keep information about stingray capabilities, and use, secret.

The Harris Corporation has worked with the FBI to create a NonDisclosure Agreement (NDA) that prevents local and state law enforcement agencies from revealing any information about the stingrays, including its very existence.

Your local police department could be using this device right now without your knowledge. There is nothing to stop rogue officers with access to stingrays from spying on those running for public office. Imagine what a rogue officer could do with highly sensitive information illegally obtained about a particular public official? A rogue officer could determine the outcome of many political positions with the right information. The moral of this story is watch what you say on your cell phone because your conversations are not personal or private. And, watch what you text. If you don’t want to end up in a compromising situation say nothing that will hurt you.

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Action called by Coalition “Shut it down D.C.”

“The Facebook intervention is a qualitative escalation of the McCarthyite offensive.”

Facebook has assumed additional political police powers, disrupting a planned counter-demonstration against white supremacists, set for August 12th in Washington, on the grounds that it was initiated and inspired by “Russians” as part of a Kremlin campaign to “sow dissention” in the U.S. The Facebook intervention is a qualitative escalation of the McCarthyite offensive launched by the Democrat Party and elements of the national security state, and backed by most of the corporate media, initially to blame Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat on “collusion” between Wikileaks, “the Russians” and the Trump campaign to steal and publicize embarrassing Clinton campaign emails.

Two sides of the same coin.

After failing to produce one shred of hard evidence to support their conspiracy theory, the anti-Russia hysteria mongers switched gears, focusing on the alleged purchase of about $100,000 in Facebook ads by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a St. Petersburg-based Russian company, over a multi-year period. The problem was, most of the ads had no direct connection to the presidential contest, or were posted after the election was over, and many had no political content, at all. The messages were all over the place, politically, with the alleged Russian operatives posing as Christian activists, pro- and anti-immigration activists, and supporters of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller was forced to flip the script, indicting 13 Russians for promoting general “discord” and undermining “public confidence in democracy” in the United States – thus creating a political crime that has not previously been codified in the United States.

“Mueller was forced to flip the script.”

In doubling down on an unraveling conspiracy tale, the Mueller probe empowered itself to tar and feather all controversial speech that can be associated with utterances by “Russians,” even if the alleged “Russians” are, in fact, mimicking the normal speech of left- or right-wing Americans — a descent, not into Orwell’s world, but that of Kafka (Beyond the Law) and Heller (Catch-22).

White supremacist’s car plows into protest against their Charlottesville rally, killing one, Aug. 12, 2017.

Facebook this week announced that it had taken down 32 pages and accounts that had engaged in “coordinated and inauthentic behavior” in promoting the August 12 counter-demonstration against the same white supremacists that staged the fatal “Unite the Right” demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, a year ago. Hundreds of anti-racists had indicated their intention to rally against “Unite the Right 2.0” under the banner of Shut It Down DC, which includes D.C. Antifascist Collective, Black Lives Matter D.C., Hoods4Justice, Resist This, and other local groups.

Facebook did not contend that these anti-racists’ behavior was “inauthentic,” but that the first ad for the event was purchased by a group calling itself “Resisters” that Facebook believes were behaving much like the Internet Research Agency. “At this point in our investigation, we do not have enough technical evidence to state definitively who is behind it,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy . “But we can say that these accounts engaged in some similar activity and have connected with known I.R.A accounts.”

“The Mueller probe empowered itself to tar and feather all controversial speech that can be associated with utterances by ‘Russians,’ even if the alleged ‘Russians’ are, in fact, mimicking the normal speech of left- or right-wing Americans.”

Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning, whose prison sentence for sending secret documents to Wikileaks was commuted by President Obama, said the counter-protest was “organic and authentic”and that activists had begun organizing several months ago. “Folks from D.C. and Charlottesville have been talking about this since at least February,” Manning told The New York Times.

“This was a legitimate Facebook event that was being organized by Washington, D.C. locals,” says Dylan Petrohilos , of Resist This. Petrohilos was one of the defendants in the Trump inauguration “riot” prosecutions. He protested Facebook’s disruption of legitimate free speech and assembly. “DC organizers had controlled the messaging on the no UTR fb page and now FB made it harder for grassroots people to organize,” he tweeted. The organizers insist the August 12 counter-demonstration — “No Unite the Right 2 – DC” — is still a go, as is the white supremacist rally.

Whoever was first to buy a Facebook ad — the suspected Russian “Resisters,” or Workers Against Racism, who told the Daily Beast they decided to host their own anti-“Unite the Right 2.0” event because they thought “Resisters” was an “inexperienced liberal organizer” – there was no doubt whatsoever that the white supremacists would be confronted by much larger numbers of counter-demonstrators, in Washington. Nobody in Russia needed to tell U.S. anti-racists to shut the white supremacists down, or vice versa. The Russians didn’t invent American white supremacy, or the native opposition to it. Even if Mueller, Facebook, the Democratic Party and the howling corporate media mob are to be believed, the “Russians” are simply mimicking U.S. political rhetoric and sloganeeriing – and weakly, at that. The Workers Against Racism thought the “Resisters” weren’t worth partnering with, but that the racist rally must be countered. The Shut It Down DC coalition didn’t need the “Resisters” to crystallize their thinking on white supremacism.

“Chelsea Manning said the counter-protest was ‘organic and authentic.”

Robert Mueller, sixth head of the FBI.

The Democratic Party and corporate media, speaking for most of the U.S. ruling class — and actually bullying one of its top oligarchs, Mark Zuckerberg — is on its own bizarre and twisted road to fascism. (Donald Trump’s proto-fascism is the old fashioned, all-American type that the white supremacists want to celebrate on August 12.) With former FBI Director Robert Mueller at the head of the pack, they have created a pseudo legal doctrine whereby “Russians” (or U.S. spooks pretending to be Russians) can be indicted for launching a #MeToo campaign of mimicry, echoing the rhetoric and memes indigenous to U.S. political struggles, while the genuine, “authentic” American political voices — the people who are being mimicked — are labeled co-conspirators in a foreign-based “plot,” and their rights to speech and assembly are trashed.

That’s truly crazy, but devilishly clever, too. If “Russian” mimics (or cloaked spooks) can reproduce the vocabulary and political program of U.S. dissent, then all of us actual U.S. lefties can be dismissed as “dupes of the Russians” or “co-conspirators” in the speech crimes of our mimics — for sounding like ourselves.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Contact Aug. 10-12 rally organizers at

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