Protests in Benton Harbor follow Martial Law Enforcement

Benton Harbor protest - San Francisco Bay ViewThe stripping of all power of the local government in Benton Harbor, Michigan has brought the national spotlight to the tiny town on the shores of Lake Michigan. The first city to be declared in a "financial emergency" by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, CMD reported that Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) Joseph Harris was assigned to the city back in 2010 by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm. But it wasn't until March of this year that Harris essentially disbanded the local government and boards.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. responded to this takeover while on a tour of the state, calling for a rainbow coalition to organize against the EFM bill and others that Snyder and the Republican-led Senate has passed. At a protest in Benton Harbor, Jackson said that he, along with Michigan Congressman John Conyers, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and Benton Harbor Mayor Wilce Cook will file a lawsuit to challenge the law's constitutionality.

Governor "Decimates Democracy"

WNDU in South Bend reported on Jackson's speech to members of Benton Harbor: "It simply decimates democracy and gives dictatory powers in someone who does not live here, but has the power to sit down officials and cancel contracts, but have power over assets selling off the properties of the city and its assets, that's un-American" says Jackson.

Jackson also wrote an op-ed piece for the Chicago Sun-Times calling for an "uprising" in Benton Harbor and around Michigan. The town's poor, mostly African-American population has been highlighted by Jackson and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.

"Benton Harbor, Mich., is a town of nearly 11,000 people, about 90 percent of whom are African American. It is a catalogue of the misery of the industrial Midwest," said Jackson in the Chicago Sun-Times. "It was the headquarters and manufacturing center of Whirlpool, but the last Whirlpool plant closed years ago. Now Benton Harbor has a per capita income of about $10,000 a year. And it is plagued by the ills that accompany poverty in today's America: high unemployment, broke government, failing schools, crime, drugs and despair."

Community activist Rev. Edward Pinkney in his blog, Blanco, notes: "There is nothing to stop the state from abolishing democratic governance in any of Michigan's cities, if an emergency can be declared or created. On April 15, the mostly black city of Benton Harbor, the poorest jurisdiction in the state, was placed under total financial martial law, its citizens suddenly made more powerless than blacks in Selma, Alabama, prior to the civil rights movement."

A Developer's Dream -- A Corporate Coup?

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The take over of Benton Harbor has been linked to a commercial development plan, backed by Whirlpool and the very legislator who introduced the EFM bill, Rep. Al Pscholka. Pscholka is a former aide to the grandson of Whirlpool's founder, Rep. Fred Upton, and former vice president of one of the companies involved with the Harbor Shores development and also on the Board of Directors of a non-profit involved with the development. The plan is to build a high-end lakeshore housing development and golf course, taking over the city's sprawling public park and beach, Jean Klock Park, gifted to the city in 1917.

The latest protest on April 27th saw hundreds of people march through the streets of Benton Harbor with signs and chants decrying the takeover.

Business Insider, however, wrote that "Benton Harbor's finances are indeed a mess -- the result of mismanagement, poor accounting and too much spending."

But Rev. Jackson doesn't see it that way. He holds fast to the belief that the problems in Benton Harbor, as in other previously-industrialized cities in the Rust Belt, are a symptom of the resulting poverty that followed the end to factory jobs in these areas. The solution, he says, is to invest in the very people that have all but been forgotten by the Governor Snyder's office.

"They've shut down the jobs, and taken over the schools. Now they want to shut down the democracy and turn the public parks into a rich man's playground," said Jackson. "But in Benton Harbor, as in Selma and Montgomery, they forget even the poorest people have a sense of dignity.... In Benton Harbor, it is time for the good people to make themselves heard."

Watch Rachel Maddow's coverage of this issue:

Comments

This situation clearly demonstrates the difference between the two parties. Rather than working with the established government, the capitalists want to come in and take it over. This is un-American and should not be ignored. Thank you so much, Rachel Maddow and Jesse Jackson for keeping our eyes on the ball. Many of us believe our "military spending" can help our own country, in towns such as Benton Harbor, and at this point, all over the U.S. And, we can afford to help ourselves, too.

the writing is boldly before you its time to wake up out of the dream world of democracy united state it will never happen it was never intended to be.wake up the pledge of allegiance tell you stupid educated fools each time you say it that in the REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STAND!!!the AMERICAN ARE THE MOST BRAINWASH FOOLS IN THE WORLD. I SHOULD KNOW I Was one .but not any more I started checking thing out for myself not being lead around with satellite and camera,speed sensors.THE other nations the U.S. been making war on will watch this BARBARIAN ACTION TAKE PLACE RIGHT HERE and LAUGH LIKE CRAZY AT YOU EDUCATE BARBARIan FOOL. WHAT PEOPLES WOULD LET THE ENEMY TRAIN OR EDUCATION their PEOPLES .Are there any real people out there I hope that droids are not the only things left.ASHAY!!

Thelma, your post has served well. Served well to clutter up the posts with so much babble I don't think even you know what you wrote. You appear to be attempting to poke fun at American citizens. Don't know what universe you call home but I can tell you there is no where in this universe I would rather live than in the USA. However that being said, this situation in Benton Harbor is probably at this point a one of kind ...in America that is. When something like this takes place we see it for what it is and what it could imply for the future and we are afforded the privelige to "out it" with our own voices and voices of people we love and trust like Rachael Maddow. There are always going to be born people who want to manipulate our society to their own selfish ends. Happily though we as citizens are able to expose them and pull them out by their roots. Some things have happened that are so insidious that we don't take notice right away. But make no mistake Americans are not stupid, brain washed nor intimidated to speak out once we collectively "get it". Thank you Rachel for shedding light on this. Rachael knows the real heart of Americans. She is one of the bloodhounds we have to point out things we should know and make up our own (unbrainwashed) minds about.