A Visit to Mayberry and Black


Photo: Daymon J Hartley

This man is Reverend Edward Pinkney. In my first post, he accuses Judge Wiley of “crimes against humanity.” Absurd, but the Reverend now sits in prison. This is a continuation of that story. Mayberry* might be our idyll, but it’s not reality.

Ferguson, Missouri

Today, Sunday August 9, 2015 is the first anniversary of the shooting death of a black man, Michael Brown, by a white police officer. In the wake of the shooting, the US Department of Justice launched a study into Ferguson’s policing and judicial practices. Revealed was a systematic shakedown of the black population by white city officials. Here are a few excerpts from that DOJ study (FPD = Ferguson Police Department):

We spoke … with an African-American woman who has a still-pending case stemming from 2007, when, on a single occasion, she parked her car illegally. … From 2007 to 2014, the woman was arrested twice, spent six days in jail, … As of December 2014, over seven years later, despite initially owing a $151 fine and having already paid $550, she still owed $541. (page 4)

City, police, and court officials for years have worked in concert to maximize revenue at every stage of the enforcement process, … the Finance Director wrote to [FPD] Chief Jackson that “unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year.” (Page 10)

The Ferguson municipal court handles most charges brought by FPD, and does so not with the primary goal of administering justice or protecting the rights of the accused, but of maximizing revenue. (Page 42)

And something longer, just to give some particulars:

The man … who was cited after allowing his child to urinate in a bush attempted to challenge his charges. [and] retained counsel who, during trial, was repeatedly interrupted by the court during his cross-examination of the officer. When the attorney objected to the interruptions, the judge told him that, if he continued on this path, “I will hold you in contempt and I will incarcerate you,” which … the court has done in the past… Believing [nothing] would alter the outcome, [the attorney] tempered his defense so as not to be jailed. Notably, at that trial, even though the testifying officer had previously been found untruthful …, the prosecuting attorney presented his testimony without informing defendant of that fact, and the court credited that testimony. The evidence thus suggests substantial deficiencies in the manner in which the court conducts trials. (Page 44)

Compared to Mayberry* (see footnote), it might be reasonable to ponder whether other jurisdictions also have their justice system rotting out and with “substantial deficiencies.”

Berrien Count, Michigan

Now, finally, let’s get back to Rev. Pinkney and his friend, Judge Wiley. What I first noticed when I was just aimlessly looking through the sources to my original post was the last paragraph to Pinkney’s “crimes against humanity” accusation:

Reverend Edward Pinkney, leader of the Benton Harbor Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO), was sentenced on June 26, 2008 by Berrien County Judge Dennis Wiley to a term of three to ten years in prison for quoting scriptures. The minister … was already serving a year in jail and five years probation for trumped-up charges related to a recall campaign held during 2006. (Source)


I decide to investigate, and again, good ole’ Mr Internet rises to the challenge:

The Rev. Pinkney is a social activist, campaigning against poverty, injustice, and racial discrimination.

The BANCO leader had been convicted in Butzbaugh’s courtroom by an all-white jury in March 2007 for four felonies and one misdemeanor for alleged vote fraud and ballot tampering. (Workers World)

Pinkney leads a campaign to recall one of the town’s commissioners. Irregularities are found. Following that conviction, in a rambling open letter to Judge Butzbaugh, the Rev quotes Deuteronomy:

Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass; if thou continue not to hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe to do all that is right; which I command thee this day, that all these Curses shall come upon you …

… and lots more fire and brimstone. Workers World continues:

After claiming that it was a threat directed at him, Judge Butzbaugh recused himself from the case, leaving the way open for Wiley to hand down the severe decision. The decision was given by Wiley after claiming that the contents of the article written by Rev. Pinkney were not protected under U.S. constitutional rights to free speech and represented a threat.

Not protected speech because Deuteronomy was actually meant as a real threat against the life of the Judge? Really???


After about a year of incarceration, the American Civil Liberties Union intervenes and Pinkney is acquitted on appeal.

Soon, the cycle starts anew, in 2010:

As he always does, Rev. Edward Pinkney led protesters Aug. 10 on opening day of Whirlpool’s golf course built on priceless Lake Michigan shoreline parkland deeded in perpetuity to the people of Benton Harbor – a nearly all-Black town – but grabbed to feed Whirlpool’s greed.

In the wake of that action, Rev Pinkney organizes a recall of Benton Harbour’s mayor. Hmmm, starting to tread on familiar ground here.

The recall was prompted by the mayor’s continued support for tax evasion by the Whirlpool Corporation, …

Instead of supporting a tax that would make Whirlpool pay its fair share for city services and employees, the mayor signed a $3.2 million loan that the residents of Benton Harbor, one of the poorest cities per capita in the United States, would now have to pay. (TruthOut.org)

This has too many parallels to the new Trump (yes – that Trump) golf course built in the slums of the Bronx, and its impact on local workers. But that is a digression for another day.

From the Detroit News, December 2014 we learn:

A Michigan man who was found guilty of fraud in a Benton Harbor mayoral recall election has been sentenced to 2½ to 10 years in prison, … accused of changing dates on petitions used to gather signatures in the planned recall election of Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower.

During his trial, Pinkney and three other witnesses testified that another person made all the illegal changes to the petitions.

And from ABC News we learn:

“All white juries should never happen in a black man’s trial. We are to be judged by our peers not by some hand picked racist idiots that this judicial system decides to put our lives in their hands. That’s not fair,” said Pati Heinz, a protestor who attended the trial. “The county commissioners have been stealing money, hundreds of thousands of dollars and they’re not going to jail! This man tries to speak the truth and they are railroading him!”

Benton Harbor Commissioner Marcus Muhammad says this harsh sentencing is only furthering the disconnect between white and black people in the community and the country. [White police officers shooting blacks go free], so for Reverend Pinkney to be convicted and sentenced to prison on this day only reflects that the justice system is in shambles!” said Muhammad.

My goodness!

Taken in the context of Ferguson, we must wonder how much administrative fairness Pinkney’s recall petitions were accorded: We can imagine the Rev to be an activist who is not so good with the details of legal and legalistic requirements and arrayed against an administration bent on preventing a recall – and with the resources to dig up even the slightest of irregularities.

Given what we have already seen from Judge Wiley, we can imagine his bias in the case against our Mr. Pinkney, who, let’s face it, must be just a real pain in the butt for city hall.

It is amazing and wonderful how transparent these events are through both the mainstream and particularly the leftist American press. It was refreshing in researching this to see that there are people on the side of normalcy against those with a mentality of Uncle Trump.

Canadians need not smugly think: “Oh, there goes that US again!” Soon I will write about our racial skeleton in the closet, where “residential schools” as buzz words signal only the first chapter of a deeper wound.

This post has already become far too long, even after extensive editing, so we shall continue this later …


* Mayberry was the 1960’s fictional setting for the Andy Griffith Show, where the lead played the role of a quiet, thoughtful, and beneficent sheriff in a small NC town. His deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), might have been a menace to the local black population, were there blacks to be beaten or shot. This black-and-white show was only white. Things were easy in Mayberry, where blacks knew their place and just sort-of drifted like ghosts through the occasional background during the show’s eight-year run. How fitting that the *only* words ever uttered by a black man (Opies’s – Ron Howard’s – coach) in Mayberry came in the years when the programme was broadcast in colour. There is a spoof of Mayberry with a back man pasted into various scenes: Why Come There Ain’t No Black People In Mayberry?

Photo credits

Photo by Daymon J Hartley. Used with permission.

One response to “A Visit to Mayberry and Black

  1. Pingback: Sex, Crime, Morality, … and Justice? | in the vernacular·

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