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Benton Harbor, MI

Rebellion Against Police Brutality

by Stephanie Weiner and Mick Kelly |
July 1, 2003
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Benton Harbor, MI - On June 17, the African American community of this southern Michigan city rebelled against police terror. Police chased down, without justification, a 28-year old Black motorcyclist, Terrance Shurn. According to witnesses, they rammed his motorcycle from behind, causing it to crash into an abandoned house. Shun was killed. The pursuing officers gave each other high-fives. The cops then kicked his body.

For a community that had experienced decades of racist discrimination and police violence, enough was enough. For two days, police were confronted in the streets, squad cars were destroyed, and abandoned buildings burned.

An organizer in Benton Harbor's fight for justice, JoNina Abron, chairwoman of the Southwest Michigan Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality, told Fight Back!, "I call what happened a rebellion, because I believe the community's response was a result of years of pent up rage and frustration. The people of Benton Harbor are fed up with the years of police brutality that they have had to live with. They are outraged by the economic apartheid that they see every day. Benton Harbor's population is 95% Black. They are outraged by the racism of the criminal justice system. Their response was the culmination of many things that came together. The people of Benton Harbor saw an 11-year old boy, Trenton Patterson, struck and killed in September 2000 in another police pursuit case. They saw that nothing was done in that case."

Benton Harbor police, along with those in the surrounding township, have a history of brutality, which has left more than a few injured or dead.

Tale of Two Cities

Benton Harbor is a small town. The folks that live there are Black. 50% of the population is unemployed. Across the river is St. Joseph. The residents are white, and it is the center for business in Berrien County, where both cities are located. The unemployment rate in white St. Joseph is 2%.

A statement from Benton Harbor community organizers shines a light on this divide. It notes, "At one time, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor were referred to as 'twin cities,' well, no more! The city of Benton Harbor is now 95% Black, while St. Joseph is 95% white. But these figures alone do not tell the whole story. There is the bridge which separates the two communities, which are two different worlds really. They are separate and unequal entities. More importantly, the bridge marks the line of demarcation between those who have power from those who are ruled over."

The statement also pointed out, "It is no exaggeration at all to say that St. Joseph and Berrien County officials stole the available federal and state funding, which impoverished the city of Benton Harbor to the stage where it is the poorest city in Berrien County and in the state of Michigan. They robbed the community of all wealth, the same as if they had used a gun for armed robbery. All of this made St. Joseph the dominant city in Berrien County, and one of the most affluent in that state, while Benton Harbor became a beggar city of thousands of ever younger Black people. This economic apartheid is a large factor in what led to the revolt of June 17."

Another facet of the political and economic life of Berrien County is the Whirlpool Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of home appliances. While it's headquartered in Benton Harbor, the corporation favors the white city of St. Joseph. Fred Upton, heir to Whirlpool's founder, is a right-wing republican. Upton has done everything in his power to make government dollars flow to St. Joseph.

Struggle Continues

On June 12, community organizers issued a statement advancing the demands of the mass movement in Benton Harbor: "We call for an end to the racist outrages against the Black people of Benton Harbor by white politicians in Berrien County, Michigan. We call for an end to racial segregation and economic apartheid in this county. We call for an end to police brutality and to officially sanctioned violence against the black population of Benton Harbor. We call for an end to political disenfranchisement, neo-colonialism and the sharing of political power in Berrien County. We call for an end to the theft of community and economic development funding by county politicians, which has impoverished the black community of Benton Harbor and enriched St. Joseph's white community."

The statement continued, "We call for the removal of all racist judges and prosecutors in the local judicial system, and immediate cessation of unjust selective prosecution of all those arrested during the June 17-18 rebellion in Benton Harbor. AMNESTY NOW! We want the criminal prosecution of: Benton Charter Township officer Wes Koza, for the death of Terrance Shurn on June 16, 2003; all officers responsible for the death of 11-year old Trenton Patterson in September, 2000; all Benton Township officers involved in the April 27, 2003 strangulation of Arthur Partee and other suspicious deaths of black people in Berrien County. Most importantly, we call for an immediate end to the reckless police pursuit policies through populated black civilian areas."

Organizers are also calling for a boycott of tourism to St Joseph. The next issue of Fight Back! will contain an account of the ongoing protest movement.

No Justice, No Peace!


Anonymous wrote 4 years 2 weeks ago



Gingrich is arrogant and purely nasty and a big fat liar

Romney is out of touch with the country ...he just don't under stand people that make less then him

Gingrich thinks he smarter then everybody TOTAL ARROGANT!

Gingrich surge in number because he yell at a moderator.....That makes Gingrich supporters seriously STUPID!

How do white Republican think...they rather have a arrogant racist terminated Speaker of the House ,,that to date ….all that worked with Gingrich don't support HIM!

Gingrich calls for war but when the country asked him he apply for deferments 6 times! This is what white Republican wants for the country!

Gingrich like all Republican candidates know their base love to blame and attack non-whites! That why each have made racist comments ...Ron Paul sign racist news letters....Hate and divide works for Republicans! Rick Santorum hates every body and will go to war with two to three country immediately if he becomes President Total racist NUT!

Gingrich as Speaker got welfare reform past....SO WHAT! It's the easiest to attack the poor....Republican agenda is create poverty then attack the impoverish!

Republican create poor then criticize the poor for being poor. Create the need for more American need for food stamps . Then criticize American on food stamps!

Republican G.W. Bush was losing 750,000 a month JOBS …..President Obama stop that! And not JOBS are coming back

Brain Williams didn't asked Santorum why he said he didn't want to give black people other people's money...Then lie and say he said Blah

2010 the Republican retook the house and the country stop working.....Total the FACT! President Obama CAN NOT BE BLAME FOR THE COUNTRY NOT WORKING

Republican voter should not be allowed to vote ...Given the fact they elect the worse President in America's history G.W. Bush

Republican question why nobody on Wall Street not prosecute …..BECAUSE REPUBLICAN MADE IT LEGAL

Deregulation under Republican G.W. Bush create the mess America is in! Bush sold the American citizen out! Just like Romney would DO!

Gingrich was back to being arrogant and evasive in the debates.....just LIE LIE LIE!

Ron Paul looked like a very old weak ridicules sounding politician.....PLEASE DROP OUT!!!

Rand Paul thinks like his father THEY ARE ABOVE THE LAW! Too extreme too racist! He needs to lose his seat!

Who are the idiot voter for these Republican candidates AND WHY WHY WHY! They are damaging the country!

Romney is a liar! He said not to do NOTHING to help people losing their homes! Let rich people buy them up....Now he said help them.....LIE LIE LIE!

The so call moral value Santorum marry a woman that may had a abortion and was not marry to her 20 year older lover!

Rick Santorum wife not all that morally better then everybody.....Nor is Santorum.....even those he hates on a level like the 1900

Santorum Hate gays hate UN-marry minorities blacks......many counties ready to start a war and return to Iraq ones he becomes President!

Gingrich and Santorum hated each other while working in Congress together.....Nobody liked Gingrich because of his arrogant racist disrespectful view

The Republican agenda is hate and divide the country....their supporter are for the same and WAR WAR WAR

Watch the way the media and the Republicans LIE! The Republican and the liberal media call President Obama Healthcare plan Obamacare! THERE IS NOT SUCH THING! Republican like Newt Gingrich LIE about the liberal media favoring President Obama …...BIGGEST LIE! The first black President has gotten no breaks from the liberal or right wing media! They demonize Senator Obama's Pastor said Senator Obama associate with terrorist TOTAL LIE! The liberal media has been just as bad as the right wing media toward President Obama! The media lies about the stimulus package and about the accomplishment of President Obama

Sarah Palin the quitter criticize the bully Chris Christie for criticizing the racist arrogant Newt Gingrich! ALL THREE ARE IDIOT!

Gingrich took money from Fannie Mae and Romney has stock in Fannie Mae both are hypocrites for criticizing Fannie Mae!

Anonymous wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

Killing People in America


Capital punishment, also dubbed the "death penalty," is the pre-meditated and planned taking of a human life by a government in response to a crime committed by that legally convicted person. Passions in the US are sharply divided, and equally strong among both supporters and protesters of the death penalty. Arguing against capital punishment, Amnesty International believes that "The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life...It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There can never be any justification for torture or for cruel treatment." For minority in America it become a white racist tool! Another way of disrespecting black life!
Defiant until the end, Troy Davis was executed Wednesday night for the murder of an white off-duty police officer. He convinced hundreds of thousands of people around the world, but not a single court, that he was innocent. Ones again America has shown that Sharia Law and American Law are the same...........WRONG!!!! Troy Davis big problem was to be born black in America. Then to not have lived a crime free life!
In America black life is seen as worthless and less important. So when negotiating for justice for Troy Davis the fact that he is black. He was seen as more likely then not! Even if the courts believe he was innocent. They feel TOO-BAD-SO-SAD- somebody murder the off duty white police officer. Therefore somebody must pay! It didn't matter that 7 out of the 9 recanted their story and stated THEY LIED! They claim police officers force their confession.

Remember the Central Park rape where five blacks where accuse and convicted of raping a white female jogger? After many years in prison the real rapist was caught! The five young blacks that were wrongly convicted also stated that police officer beat and torture their confession. As a former Correction Officer at a state facility. I watch over 35 inmates get release THAT WERE WRONGLY CONVICTED!

There were many thing that could had been done for Troy Davis....Like given the 7 that said they lied..a lie detector test. Interview the cops that got the confession and request the tape or video of the confession. We know America's justice system is bias racist and unfair....We know that police officers in America LIE! We know that Muslim Sharia Law and American Law is one in the same.

American especially black Americans need to fight to change the laws in America. Like if witness state they lied and are given a lie detector test and past. That stops the execution! Or change the death penalty to a point system. If a person is convicted of murder he or she receive 500 points place in prison for 35 years. In that time if the inmate receive 500 more points. They are put to death!

Their behavior dictates their death in prison. That would take away the power of a judge jury or Governor. It would also allow the inmate to prove his or her innocent. It would also make it saver for correctional personnel! Death roll inmates would be on the best behavior!

Anonymous wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

You sir, are a reversed

You sir, are a reversed racist. Sorry, someone had to say it. Because of people like you, hatred will continue to poison our nation. I'm all about ending police brutality. I have suffered some myself, thats what happens when you're a criminal like me. "Criminals" get treated poorly not "black criminals". PLEASE STOP YOUR RACIST REMARKS!!!!
Black and whites need to join hands and end the injustice TOGETHER!!!!!

"united we stand, divided we fall"