Saturday, February 9, 2019

Second of two reflections from the MI PPC Washtenaw Co Summit: La'Ron Williams

During the opening General Session of the Moral Fusion Summit on January 26, 2019 in Washtenaw County, MI, Rev. Joseph Summers and La'Ron Williams made powerful remarks to the Summit audience.  We present the text of those talks in these next two posts. Here are the remarks from La'Ron Williams:


Talk given by La’Ron Williams at the Poor Peoples’ Campaign Moral Fusion Summit: Challening the Racial-Economic Caste System in Washtenaw County.

What makes us a nation?. . .
We have no official national language . . . We don’t share a single religion . . . We aren’t of a single culture or “race” . . . What we are at this point is a group of people poised on the edge of having to make a hard choice. A nation is an idea . . . an idea . . . and the way that we move from this point forward will be the manifestation of the idea that we collectively decide to strive for …. the collective idea that we declare. 
……………………………………………….
In the year 1640, three men, all indentured servants held in bondage in the colony of Virginia, tried to escape together. Two of those men were what we today would call “White”, although history tells us that that term wasn’t used to describe human beings yet. The third man was “Black”. They were caught and they underwent a trial in which they were convicted and sentenced. The two White men were sentenced to four additional years of service, but the “Black” man, a man named John Punch, was ordered to serve for life. Now that case holds significance for two reasons:
1.     In the colonies that would become the United States, it was the first documented case of different punishments being handed out on the basis of physical appearance/background.
2.     It signaled the beginning of a practice that caught on like wildfire.
Up until that time, it was common for indentured servants to rebel, and when they did, they did it together – They didn’t care what each other looked like. But that court ruling acted to drive a wedge between “Black” and “White” indentures. What was once a united front of people fighting to end their suffering under a commonly recognized enemy was shattered by a simple idea that had no basis in reality.
It was a “divide and  conquer” strategy – a tool – that worked so well it eventually was adopted by all of the colonies. By 1681, the word “White” was encoded into law as a racial identifier. I repeat, it was consciously used as a tool to divide one group of poor folks from another. It worked then and still works today – so well in fact, that it has been expanded to operate across all kinds of lines of difference: gender, skin color, body size, religion, country of origin, income, and so on and so on . . .
In 1640, and for more than the next 300 years, the class status of that Black man, John Punch, and everybody who looked like him, including my own ancestors, was locked into the unfolding American social fabric. Our place was at the bottom – as slaves. Unable to hold political office, with no guarantees to education, and with no control over our own bodies, our class status was cemented to racial identity. 

One of two reflections from the MI PPC Washtenaw Co Summit: Rev Joseph Summers

During the opening General Session of the Moral Fusion Summit on January 26, 2019 in Washtenaw County, MI, Rev. Joseph Summers and La'Ron Williams made powerful remarks to the Summit audience.  We present the text of those talks in these next two posts. Here are the remarks from Rev. Joseph Summers:


“The Caste System and the Politics of Moral Fusion” Remarks given by the Rev. Joe Summers at the Poor Peoples Campaign’s Moral Fusion Summit of January 26th, 2019

When you hear the long term impact of growing up in poverty in this country that Professor McLoyd just spoke about, it is simply unacceptable that 25% of our youth are growing up in poverty.  It’s simply monstrous and here I don’t mean to insult monsters!  This has been going on far too long, and it’s something we are going to change.

My name is Joe Summers, for over thirty years I’ve been the Pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation and a community activist.  The first thing I want to say today is how grateful I am for your being here today.  Your presence here is making a concrete difference in helping us figure out what should be the agenda for the Poor Peoples’ campaign as we strive to challenge the racial-economic caste here in Washtenaw county.  We are in the bottom 8% of counties for income mobility so clearly we have work to do.

What we are doing here today has been inspired by the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina where people came together around a diverse area of social concerns, had people from each area of concern agree on what should be the primary goals in that area, and then collectively commit themselves to working towards all these goals.  Though they began with far fewer people than we have here today they can now mobilize up to 100,000 people at a time in North Carolina.  That’s the kind of thing we are hoping to once again be able to do here in Michigan because we will need those kinds of mobilizations if we are going to be able to achieve the kinds of systemic changes that we are needing in this country, in Michigan, and in this county.

I want to take a few moments to talk about a couple of the key concepts behind this strategy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Media Advisory: Jury Frees Two Members of "Gilbert 7" Water Warriors; Jury Deadlocks on Remaining Five


For Immediate Release
Michigan Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

1/29/19

***Media Advisory***

Contact: Sylvia Orduño, smorduno@gmail.com

Jury Frees Two Members of “Gilbert 7” Water Warriors  
Head juror to speak out at press conference

DETROIT – Activists are holding a press conference to discuss their legal victory and future action after a jury agreed their nonviolent protests against water shutoffs was justified in light of the harm caused by them.

Last year, members of Michigan Poor People’s Campaign, dubbed the “Gilbert 7,” blocked the Q Line and the entrance to Quicken Loans to draw attention to the inequities of massive public subsidies for billionaires like Dan Gilbert versus massive water shutoffs for low-income Detroit families.

Kimberly Vann, the forewoman of the jury that found two members of the group “not guilty,” will appear at the press conference to discuss her view of the case. A mistrial was declared on the other members of group, as the jury was deadlocked on a verdict.

Who:
Kimberly Vann, jury forewoman
Gilbert 7 Members of the Michigan Poor Peoples Campaign, their legal team and supporters
The People's Water Board

What: Press Conference – Legal Victory and Future Actions    

When: Tuesday, January 29, 3:00 p.m.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Detroit trial update: Jury still in deliberation at end of Monday, Jan 28

(Reposted from email, 1/28/19 -- to learn more, follow #Gilbert7 on twitter)

Friends and Family,

Just a note to update you on the latest with the #Gilbert7 trial in Detroit's 36th District Court.  The jury reconvened for deliberations at 9:00 a.m. today in the effort to deliver a unanimous verdict in the case against the seven members of the MI Poor People's Campaign on trial for "obstructing a street care."  After deliberating much of the day the judge adjourned the trial and jury deliberations at 2:30 p.m. closing the courthouse down due to the weather. 

The jury will begin deliberations again on Tuesday, January 29th at 9:00 a.m. toward determining a unanimous verdict of guilt or innocence.  It is entirely possible that at some point Judge Larry Williams, Jr. will declare a mistrial, which might have multiple possible outcomes, including a decision by the Prosecutor's Office to pursue another trial against the seven defendants.  Other possibilities include the prosecutor asking that the defendants plead no contest to the charges, or offer possible dismissal of charges under certain conditions.  At this point we just don't know how things will go or how long the judge will continue to require the jury to deliberate.  

We will continue to keep you informed.  Thank you for your continued support of the Gilbert 7 and the Poor People's Campaign.  No matter the outcome of this trial, we will collectively continue to advocate with and on behalf of people impacted by poverty, racism, war, materialism and environmental devastation.

Forward together!

Greg Olszta
For the Washtenaw Poor People's Campaign

Thursday, January 24, 2019

UPDATE: #Gilbert7 Trial Underway for Detroit MI PPC Arrestees

Dear Michigan PPC Social Justice Defenders:

Greetings! We wish to provide you with an update on the court proceedings for 7 MI PPC defendants; and how YOU can use your social media to call for Quicken Loans' to act justly.
During last summer's 40 Days of Action, more than 300 Michigan residents marched in downtown Detroit on June 18th against water shutoffs, gentrification, corporate welfare, housing evictions against poor seniors; and public financing for a privately managed and named M-1 light rail system.

Tell @QuickenLoans on facebook and twitter that good businesses work with low income residents, not against them! #Gilbert7 #Detroit #PeopleNotProfits #DetroitWaterAffordability #CommunityBenefits 
 
Griebler_Tackett_Levey_Vanegas
 Among the peaceful protestors, 23 moral fusion direct action-trained residents were arrested for blocking the "Q Line" trains and Quicken Loans headquarters office doors (at the Compuware Building).

#Gilbert7 is the hashtag name for the seven MI PPC defendants who demanded a jury trial for their arrests. They are:
  • Sister Barbara Beesley, Immaculate Heart of Mary.
  • Marian Kramer, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.
  • Richard Levey, Attorney.
  • Greg Oltsza, Washtenaw Poor People's Campaign.
  • Tommy Tackett, Youth organizer.
  • Yexenia Vanegas, Elementary school teacher.
  • Rev. William Wylie-Kellermann, Author and Pastor Emeritus at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.Rowe_Kramer_WylieKellermann
Pack the Court! 36th District Court, 9:30am-4pm on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2018. (Arrive early enough to pass through security -- no phones, cameras, computers, writing instruments or notepads allowed in court. )


One of the defendant's, Yexenia Vanegas, provides this account of the court proceedings:
Vanegas
"The Gilbert 7 trials have been going on for two full days now. The jury was picked on the first day and on the second day the Prosecutor laid out their story then rested their case. We have heard testimony from the prosecutor’s witnesses, which included folks from the Detroit Police Department as well as the private company Rock Security, owned by Dan Gilbert. Tomorrow, January 24, 2019 starting at 9:30 am it is our turn -- the defense, Gilbert 7 -- to lay out our narrative. We initially had a long list of expert witnesses -- many of whom are excellent organizers -- however, the city prosecutor presented a motion to strike all expert witnesses from our list because they believed it was not relevant to the “crime.” The judge allowed only one expert witness: Maureen Taylor (Detroit) and one fact witness: Reverend Gerald Caldwell (Flint). The rest of the testimonies will come directly from us, the #Gilbert7.

Beesley

 Join Richard Levey's call to action on facebook: 'I am standing up to Dan Gilbert and his abetters who put buildings and profits over people and beloved community. JOIN US!!'


Tell @QuickenLoans on facebook and twitter that good businesses work with low income residents, not against them! #Gilbert7 #Detroit #PeopleNotProfits #DetroitWaterAffordability #CommunityBenefits 
 
Stay up-to-date on the latest Michigan Poor People's Campaign news on our facebook page or website, and on the National PPC website.


With appreciation and in solidarity,

The Michigan PPC Coordinating Committee




P.S. You can help support the legal needs of the MI PPC with a contribution today at
https://www.michiganppc.org/p/donate.html
Also, please ask your friends and family to join the MI PPC by signing up at
https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/join-campaign-get-involved-state/

Monday, January 21, 2019

Press Release: #Gilbert7 Trial for MI PPC water rights and anti-gentrification activists

Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, of the 'Gilbert 7' at King Day press conference(Photo: Kim Hunter)
For Immediate Release 
Michigan Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival 
Monday, January 21, 2019
Contact:
 Sylvia Orduño, smorduno@gmail.com

King Day Call for Affordable Water for Detroit Families
 
Michigan Poor People’s Campaign members speak out before court appearance
 

DETROIT – The “Gilbert 7” members of the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign and their supporters held a King Day press conference at St. Matthew and St. Joseph’s Church to talk about their nonviolent action, its connection to King Day and why, like King, they risked arrest.  Last summer, they blocked the Q-Line and the entrance to Quicken Loans to call attention to the tens of millions in public money given to wealthy people like Gilbert even as Detroit families are forced to do without water because of high water bills. The seven defendants will appear in 36th District Court Tuesday before Judge Larry D. Williams, Jr.
 

“We are going to court tomorrow as an indictment of a racist system that attacks poor, mostly black and brown people,” said Rev. Bill Wylie Kellermann of the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign. “We saw it with the disastrous Emergency Managers unleashed mostly on black and brown voters. We see it in Detroit’s amazingly uneven development between African American neighbors and the whiter more affluent downtown and Midtown areas and we see it with the massive water shutoffs and foreclosures driving black families from their homes. Elected leaders need to take a moral stance with their constituents instead bowing to wishes of the wealthy.”

The activists also spoke out about a new report from the Haas Institute that cites work of Detroit activist groups such as We the People of Detroit to support income based water bills.
“Martin Luther King Day is the perfect day to highlight nonviolent action taken for racial and economic justice,” said Marian Kramer of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. “We are working to strike down racist policies such as billionaires like Gilbert getting massive tax subsidy handouts from a city that declared bankruptcy and is depriving thousands of mostly African American families access to water because their bills are too high. That sort of racism is cited in the Haas Institute report on Detroit’s water crisis. People are forced to do without water for drinking, cleaning and proper sanitation because of high water and sewerage bills and rates. That spreads serious disease as noted in Haas report which, calls for a Water Affordability Plan as Detroit’s water warriors have been doing so for years.

###

Friday, January 18, 2019

Daily Kos reports on MI PPC trial date in defense of MDEQ actions

Reposted from Daily Kos

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Press release: MI PPC water activists' press conference 1/16/19


For Immediate Release
Michigan Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

January 16, 2019

Contact: Sylvia Orduño, michigan@poorpeoplescampaign.org

Anti-Water Shutoff Activists Rally Before Court Appearance
Arrested for nonviolent protests blocking MDEQ

LANSING – Before their day in court, members of the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign spoke out to demand clean, safe, affordable water for all and an end to racial bigotry at the root of the water shutoffs.

Activists highlighted their demands months ago by blocking the entrances to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). They stand by this action despite having been arrested because of the harm massive water shutoffs cause families.


Rev. Gerald Cardwell of Flint
“We are being prosecuted for putting our bodies on the line so thousands of mostly black and brown families can have safe, affordable water,” said Rev. Liz Theoharis, vice chair National Poor People’s Campaign. “The real crime is that those families are being forced to do without while there is a Water Affordability Plan that could allow them to pay what they can afford. Instead of blaming and shaming people with low incomes, elected officials at all levels need to embrace the win-win of affordable water for all.”

Thirty members of the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign took part in blocking entrances to the MDEQ, and about half were arrested. They are demanding a jury trial and spoke in front of Lansing 54A Court on West Michigan Avenue.

NLG Attorney Julie Hurwitz
“We believe a jury of our peers will side with us and say it is legal and moral to take nonviolent action so the MDEQ does its job to protect human health and safety,” said Claire McClinton of the Flint Democracy Defense League. “We believe if the families in Flint, Detroit, and Highland Park were mostly white and affluent, we would not have to fight for their right to safe affordable water. But that’s indicative of why the Poor People’s Campaign exists, and why we are making national call for moral revival.” 

###

Saturday, January 12, 2019

June 4 MDEQ arrestees press conference and pre-trial hearing: Tue, Jan 15 at 12pm


Dear Michigan PPC Community:

We bring you new year's greetings and updates in 2019!

During last summer's 40 Days of Action, there were 105 arrests at several Lansing and Detroit locations. These non-violent, moral fusion direct actions were in protest of unjust Michigan policies and leadership failures that harm poor and low income working people.


On June 4th, thirty MI PPC activists were arrested at the MI Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for several reasons against the state agency, including: criminal actions and negligence harming and killing Flint residents; failure to protect public health from water, air and soil contamination; faulty scientific protocols and responsibility to uphold standards and policy requirements against pollution and environmental degradation; culpability in allowing for unjust and harmful natural resource privatization, commodification, fracking, pipelines, extractions, toxic spills, water shut-offs and rate increases; failure to uphold its EPA responsibilities; human rights violations and more.

This Tuesday, January 15th, fifteen of the original thirty MDEQ arrestees will be holding a press conference prior to appearing before a judge for their pre-trial conference (what is a pre-trial conference?). Please join them in support of MI PPC moral fusion actions:
 
Press Conference: 12:00 pm on Tue, 1/15/19 at Lansing 54 A District Court, 124 W Michigan Ave # 54A, Lansing, MI 48933. We will gather in the lobby or right outside the lobby of the Lansing City Hall (across from Michigan Capitol buildings). Please arrive by 11:30 am
Pre-trial Court Conference: 1:30 pm on Tue, 1/15/19 at Lansing 54 A District Court, 124 W Michigan Ave # 54A, Lansing, MI 48933. Located inside Lansing City Hall (across from Michigan Capitol buildings).


More details: Last summer, approximately one-third of the MDEQ arrestees chose to settle quickly their case with the Ingham County prosecutor's office through guilty or no contest pleas and/or by participating in a diversion program to remove a misdemeanor charge from their record. The remainder of the group had been waiting for the announcement of arrest warrants to appear before the court. They were finally issued in late December. On December 28th several MDEQ arrestees traveled to Lansing 54 A District Court to appear on their warrants and pay bonds. Among the outcomes were: (1) Those charged with “trespassing” appeared before a magistrate; (2) Those charged with “disturbing the peace” appeared before a judge; All were fined and paid $150 thus fulfilling all that is required of them, plus they will have a misdemeanor on their record; (3) A third group pleaded “not guilty” and requested a jury trial.


At this time, a handful of warrants are still outstanding for a few people who have been unable to get to Lansing and/or are out-of-town. We take seriously the concerns our attorneys have raised for these warrants to lead to re-arrest so future appearances is being coordinated.

Also, please save the date for more MI PPC 40 Days of Action court proceedings in Detroit beginning January 23 at 1:30 pm at 36th District Court for the #Gilbert7 group arrested on June 18th against gentrification, low income housing evictions, corporate profits on the back of poor residents, real Detroit corporate dystopia and more.
Additional updates on the entire list of arrests during the 40 Days of Action can be found on the Michigan PPC website.
 

Finally, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) attorneys who have been working on these cases pro bono tell us that their resources to support trial work are depleted. They are requesting that MI PPC defendants consider raising funds to support unpaid and underpaid attorneys so that they may continue representing us through low bono arrangements. We deeply appreciate NLG work and sacrifices and will follow up with more on this soon.

We will share more updates, news and National PPC 2019 campaign actions and moral positions in the coming days.
 

With appreciation and in solidarity,

The Michigan PPC Coordinating Committee


P.S. Please help support the legal needs of the MI PPC with a contribution today at
https://www.michiganppc.org/p/donate.html

Also, please ask your friends and family to join the MI PPC by signing up at
https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/join-campaign-get-involved-state/

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Support Jan 15 court pre-trial hearing of MDEQ nonviolent moral fusion direct action defendants

UPDATE: Please join the MI PPC for a 12pm press conference at the Ingham County 54-A District Court in Lansing (at the City Hall). Please arrive by 11:30am. More info to come...

Friends & Family,

Mark your calendars and join us to support those arrested in Lansing on June 4, 2018!  Tuesday, January 15, 2019 MI PPC members will be in Lansing District Court 54-A.
As part of the MI Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), 40 Days of Action, on June 4, 2018, the MI PPC organized a rally and demonstration at the Michigan State Capitol focused on the theme: The Right To Health and A Healthy Planet: Ecological Devastation and Health Care.  Hundreds of MI PPC supporters joined in to make their voices heard on the Capitol steps and then surrounded Lansing’s Constitution Hall, headquarters of the MI Department of Environmental Quality, encircling the entire building with yellow tape, identifying the building as a “crime scene.”  

Those risking arrest blocked the doors to the North, South, East and West building entrances.  At each side side of the building, we named the crimes. To the North- the M5 Pipeline. To the West- Nestle’s pumping of water. To the South- the Detroit water shut offs. To the East- the poisoning of Flint’s water. At 5 pm on June 4th, PPC members risking arrest moved to block the parking lot and were immediately arrested. 30 people were arrested.  

CONSEQUENCES: Eight PPC members have accepted a Diversion Program offered by the District Court. 14 of those arrested plan on taking this to a jury trial.  On Tuesday, January 15th, those seeking a jury trial are scheduled to appear for pretrial hearings at 1:30 p.m. MI PPC supporters and members are encouraged to appear with us in court in either the morning, the afternoon, or both. Defendants are to appear in the courtroom of Judge Louise Alderson.

Lansing District Court 54-A, 124 W. Michigan Avenue, Lansing, MI 48933

Greg Olszta
For the Washtenaw PPC
(This post is re-posted from an email alert from the Washtenaw PPC) 

For more information, please contact Michigan@PoorPeoplesCampaign.org