BlackBox Radio

November 8, 2005

Local Headlines 11-08

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 12:39 am

As Detroiters go to the polls today to elect a new Mayor, they will likely be met with poll challengers sent by the Republican party, despite objections by the NAACP. As reported by The Michigan Citizen, GOP officials said recently that they would be sending poll challengers to Detroit, Ecorse, and Kentwood in Grand Rapids mayoral elections as a training exercise ahead of the 2006 statewide elections.

But the Detroit chapter of the NAACP said the move is symptomatic of the GOP strategy to intimidate Black voters and has asked the state Republican Party to back off its plan to send challengers to Detroit’s mayoral election.

During the 2004 presidential election, Detroit experienced Republican challengers interfering with voters by asking them for their driver’s licenses and dispensing false information. For instance, some poll challengers reportedly told people that if they owed child support or were late on their rent, they could not vote.

Many critics connect the GOP’s current tactics to Jim Crow era policies that were also designed to discourage African Americans from voting. One Detroiter said,
“The poll taxes of the 50’s and 60’s, which served as a measure to suppress the Black vote, have now been shifted to a voter challenge to suppress the Black vote in the 2000s.”


Detroit will host the National Conference to Reclaim Our Cities November 12, under the theme “Money to Rebuild New Orleans and all U.S. Cities, Not for War.”

Expected to attend and address the conference are Curtis Muhammad of the New Orleans-based Community Labor United, which is mobilizing support for a people’s reconstruction of that city, Clarence Thomas of the Million Workers March movement, Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council, Larry Holmes of the Troops Out Now Coalition, Detroit City Council write-in candidate Maureen Taylor, and many others.

Dave Sole, president of United Auto Workers Local 2334 in Detroit and conference organizer said. “Our leaders need to be mobilizing people against the war, because the Detroit city deficit could be wiped out with one or two days of spending on the war in Iraq.”

Plenaries at the conference will deal with rebuilding New Orleans, the crisis affecting all U.S. cities, and the anti-war struggle, the Michigan Citizen reports. There will also be workshops on topics such as utility shutoffs, police brutality and immigrant rights.

The main session of the National Conference to Reclaim Our Cities will take place this Saturday, Nov. 12, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Student Center Ballroom on the Wayne State University campus. For more information, call 313-680-5508.


Last Tuesday, state senator introduced legislation to bar Michigan juveniles from being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Noting a study showing Michigan is the second-most aggressive state in imposing life-without-parole sentences on juveniles, Sen. Liz Brater of Ann Arbor, announced a four-bill package she said would give children who commit violent crimes a second chance at life.

According to a report issued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, 306 prisoners in the state are serving life sentences without a chance of parole for crimes committed before the age of 18. Almost half of them, committed their crimes before age 16.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released a study earlier this month showing that at least 2,225 juvenile offenders are serving life sentences without chance of parole in the United States, compared to a total of 12 elsewhere in the world. Michigan had the second-highest rate of giving youths life sentences without a chance of parole.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said she is open to considering changes in the current law.


During a recent keynote address in Battle Creek, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Deborah Thomas called for the state’s Black population, and working and poor people of all colors, to surround the state capitol building on May 1 to protest laws that bar felons from living in public housing, getting a college education, serving on juries, and voting, among other deprivations. She designated May 1 as the target date because it is Law Day.

Last year, Judge Thomas ordered a study of the race and ethnicity of Wayne County juries, noting that Black jurors appeared to be deliberately excluded from jury panels. The study showed that only 27 percent of Wayne County jurors are Black, in a county that is 42 percent Black, and in a city, Detroit, that is at least 81 percent Black.

One of the factors contributing to the exclusion, said Thomas, was a state law enacted in 2003 that barred all convicted “felons” from serving on juries. Previously, only those “under current sentence” for a felony were barred.

In response to Thomas’ order, and to allegations that other Black Wayne County judges were seeking to seat more Black jurors through the voir dire process, the State Supreme Court has proposed a rule that would bar efforts to balance juries to more adequately represent the population.

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