MCHR opposes the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)



(Info on the rally is below the statement)

The Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) joins with 1,500 labor, environmental, faith, and family farm and consumer organizations across the U.S. in opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The TPP is not about “the U.S. writing the rules versus China doing so.” The TPP’s rules are all about 500 corporate trade advisers over the past 5 years secretly rewriting the rules of 40% of the world economy for the benefit of trans-national corporations.  If approved by the U.S. Congress and the governments of the other 11 participating nations, the TPP will (among other things) –

1.    Promote more U.S. job offshoring and further gut the U.S. manufacturing base. U.S. workers would be forced to compete with counterparts in Vietnam (paid less than 65 cents an hour), Malaysia (rampant human trafficking), and other low wage economies. The TPP’s labor standards – modeled on the failed “Labor Action Plan’ accompanying the 2011 Colombia FTA – are grossly inadequate to the task of protecting human rights abroad and jobs here at home.

The TPP contains no enforceable safeguards against currency manipulation.  Thus, the often modest tariff cuts achieved under the pact for U.S. exporters could be easily wiped out overnight by countries’ willingness to devalue their currencies in order to gain an unfair trade advantage.

2.    Ban “Buy American” and “Buy Local” procurement preferences in many types of government purchasing.  Our tax dollars would be offshored rather than being invested at home.

3.    Undermine the recently negotiated global climate treaty; the decision to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, and roll back the environmental standards enacted as part of past trade deals.  The TPP’s “Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)” system would enable foreign investors to challenge bedrock environmental and public health laws, regulations and court decisions in international tribunals that circumvent domestic judicial systems.

4.    Allow exporters to challenge border food safety inspection procedures, jeopardizing food safety. Vietnam and Malaysia, for example, export massive quantities of shrimp and other seafood to the United States, significant amounts of which are currently rejected as unsafe.

5.    Delay the introduction of low cost generic medications, allow additional 20-year patents for new uses of drugs already under patent, expand monopoly patent protections for big drug firms – increasing health care prices and reducing access to medicine at home and abroad.

6.    Weaken gay and women’s rights by allowing the country of Brunei to remain in the TPP, even after it announced that it would begin stoning to death gays and single mothers under new sharia-based laws.

7.    Help banks unravel the new rules enacted to regulate Wall Street by prohibiting bans on risky financial products and “too big to fail” safeguards, while empowering foreign banks to “sue” the U.S. government over new financial regulations.

The TPP is just one of three global so-called “free trade” deals which threaten peoples across the globe (the other two: TTIP, TISA).  The fate of the TPP will shape the outcome of the other two, all the more reason to ensure that we stop it.  Our efforts in Michigan will contribute to the growing movement in opposition not only in the U.S. but in the other 11 nations included in the TPP.

The TPP elevates corporate prerogatives over human rights and democracy in an unprecedented scale, amounting to a corporate “coup-d’état.”  We stand with United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, who describes the TPP as a “prescription for disaster” and vows to vote out any lawmaker who supports it.



 TPP Feb 4 rally & vigil -2.0Printable version of the rally flyer

Join Stop The TPP-Michigan in raising our voices against the toxic and oppressive trade deal, the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership.) This deal, and others like it blatantly favor corporate rights over workers rights, indeed the sovereignty of nations and citizens alike. The impact such a trade deal would have if passed, would be disastrous for U.S. workers, the environment, and the people at large.

No more profits over people!!

February 4th marks the first day Pres. Obama can sign the TPP into law, per fast track legislation. But we still have a chance. We can still apply pressure. Especially before this goes to Congress. This campaign is just beginning, but our resistance is needed NOW.

We will meet for a rally behind the GM headquarters, at the GM Plaza Promenade at 4:00 p.m.

We’ll hear speakers talk about the TPP, and what it represents for the community, as well as on a larger scale. From there, we’ll march to the Transcending Labor’s Legacy monument at Hart Plaza, for a candle-lit vigil and community, as well as to announce coming actions and ways to resists corporate power grabs such as this. Our public action will coincide with similar rallies in 25 U.S. cities (and growing). And we’re just getting started!!!

Parking: Miller Garage @ 400 Renaissance Dr W, & Ford Underground Parking @ 30 E. Jefferson

There are many ways that you can help – with an organizational endorsement, getting the word out and recruiting your friends and co-workers, bringing your own signs, etc. If you would like to speak or perform at the event, or have any further questions, please contact:

Grace Alexander
248 358 5522

Kyle Martin

Listen to someone who is walking the Detroit to Flint Water Justice Journey on why the journey is important and what is still going on

Yesterday, I got a chance to talk to Nedya Jaber at the Baldwin Center in Pontiac about the Detroit to Flint Water Justice Journey that is currently taking place to lift up the need for clean and affordable water in Michigan.

Nedya is one of the walkers that has been on the journey since Detroit.

Listen to what she had to say about the events that have already taken place and those that are still ahead on the road to Flint:



Call (313) 520-7465 or (313) 579-9071 to speak directly with the walkers while they’re on their journey!

You can still join the walkers at upcoming events, walk with them on part of their journey, or support them with food donations, media coverage, or good company.

You can always call them to meet up with them and join their journey for part of the walk. Here is a list of upcoming events and walk meetup times:



10:00 AM to 11:00 AM: Rally for clean, affordable water, Flint City Hall, 1101 S. Saginaw Street, Flint, Michigan 48502.

11:00 AM: Bus to Lansing. Arrive in Lansing 1 PM.


Tuesday, July 7:

8:00 AM: Grange Hall Public Carpool Lot (exit 93 off I-75), Clarkston

Wednesday, July 8:

8:00 AM: Call 313-579-9071 that morning to arrange meeting place in Holly.

Thursday, July 9:

8:00 AM: Grand Blanc UMC 515 Bush Ave., Grand Blanc, MI 48439

*NOTE: Park on outer edges of lot; senior activity scheduled that day

Friday, July 10:

9:00 AM:  Woodside UCC Church 1509 Court St., Flint MI 48503 (Walk to City Hall begins at 9:30)

11:00 AM: City Hall Rally 1101 S. Saginaw St. Flint, MI 48502



The Detroit to Flint Water Justice Journey is sponsored by:

People’s Water Board Coalition

Highland Park Human Rights Coalition

Flint Coalition for Clean Water

Michigan Coalition for Human Rights

and other orgs listed on PWB website

MCHR Statement on Police Brutality and Misconduct

The Michigan Coalition of Human Rights (MCHR) condemns the savage beating and arrest of Floyd Dent by Officers of the Inkster Police Department. We call for a sweeping and independent investigation of the Inkster Police Department by the Department of Justice – Civil Rights Division.

Floyd Dent deserves restitution for his injuries – both mental and physical. Those directly involved – including the Inkster Police Department itself — must be held personally and legally accountable for their actions. However, justice in this case alone is not enough.

We reject any depiction of this as an isolated incident or as the act of a lone “bad apple” or “rogue cop.” Sadly, it is just one example of the systemic and institutionalized police misconduct and brutality that has plagued our nation’s law enforcement agencies, including Detroit and the surrounding area, for decades. This case, along with several other recent high profile cases, have brought national attention to realities of our justice system that have long been familiar to communities throughout the country.

The change in policing practices that is needed in Inkster, Metro Detroit and across the country requires a transformation of our law enforcement culture from one that treats us like threats to be neutralized, or as sources of revenue, to one that treats us like charges to be protected and served.

Commitment and action at all levels of government – federal, state and local – is needed to restore faith in one of society’s most vital institutions.

MCHR calls on leaders and the communities they serve to organize and mobilize peacefully until an enduring and permanent resolution is reached.

Background Material on Officer Melendez, Officer Randazzo and Chief Yost:

Officer Melendez has been a central player in major cases involving human and civil rights violations over the last twenty years, and, as with so many police departments with so many officers like him, he has been given carte blanche to repeatedly violate peoples’ rights with impunity. The following known history regarding Officer Melendez bears repeating:

  • He is currently a co-defendant in another case of alleged police brutality that took place in 2011. The plaintiff in that case, Deshawn Acklin, alleges that he was handcuffed and beaten by Melendez and other Inkster Officers until he was unconscious and defecated on himself, at which point he was arrested, sprayed with mace in the back of a police car and never charged with a crime. Melendez claims that he was reacting to Acklin reaching for a gun. However, as found by the court in its recent ruling denying summary judgment to them, the two officers’ stories conflict on a number of important points, such as: who was present where and when; the amount and nature of physical resistance; whether or not Acklin spat at officers; whether or not Acklin went to the hospital or the jail directly from the scene; and, when and if Acklin reached for a weapon. (1)

  • In total, including the Acklin case, Melendez has been the defendant in 12 lawsuits dating back to 1996 for allegations including wrongful arrest, planting evidence, assault and wrongful death. (2)

  • In 1999, the city of Detroit settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $1 million brought by the family of Lou Adkins who witnesses said was shot 11 times by Melendez and his partner while he was down on the ground, unarmed. At the time, Melendez was a member of the Detroit Police department. (3)

  • In 2003, Melendez was federally indicted along with 16 other Detroit Police Officers, accused of being the ringleader of a group of corrupt police officers that allegedly stole guns, money and drugs from suspects, planted evidence and conducted searches without warrants. (4) Melendez and the other defendants were acquitted of the charges in what prosecutors deemed jury nullification. (5)

Police Chief Vicki Yost’s, a 19 year veteran of the DPD who became the Inkster Chief of Police in August 2014, also has questionable events in her background:

  • In 2003, Eugene Brown, Yost’s partner in the DPD, was found liable in the 1999 shooting death of Lamar Grable. The jury awarded Grable’s family $4 Million. (6) The Michigan Court of Appeals, which upheld the judgment, found that, despite both Brown’s and Yost’s testimony that Grable supposedly shot at Brown first, there was no evidence Grable possessed a gun. The opinion also noted “…several inconsistencies between the officers’ version of events and their prior statements and between their trial testimony and the physical evidence…” including whether there was one or two rounds of shooting and how close Brown was to Grable when he shot him. (7)

  • According to a complaint filed by the ACLU and the law firm of Goodman & Hurwitz, P.C., on May 31, 2008 members of the DPD Vice Squad under Yost’s command raided the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID) in paramilitary commando-style gear. They “shoved, kicked, and hit” some of CAID’s 130 patrons who were attending an event known as “Funk Night.” The patrons were forced to lie down in the mud and some, who asked to see badges or inquired about what was happening, were allegedly brutalized by police officers. On the pretense that CAID was not properly licensed for Funk Night, all 130 patrons were detained, searched and charged with a crime. The DPD impounded 40 of the patron’s vehicles, which were legally parked and were not involved in any crime. Some of the patrons paid nearly $1,000 to get their vehicles back, while others never received them back at all. (11)

    The raid was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge who found that “the police misconduct at the CAID was not an isolated incident, but was in fact part of “a widespread practice” and “custom” by the Detroit Police Department of unconstitutionally “detaining, searching, and prosecuting large groups of persons” and impounding their cars based on their mere presence at a raid location.” (11)

Inkster Police Officer Phillip “Chuck” Randazzo is Officer Melendez’s Partner and also played a role in both the Acklin and Dent incidents. Some relevant information regarding Randazzo:

  • Randazzo was present at the scene and participated in Dent’s beating. In the video, he can be seen kicking Dent’s arm. (15)

  • Randazzo is a co-defendant in the Acklin case. Acklin alleges that Randazzo and Melendez were the two officers that assaulted him until he was unconscious. (1)

Comparison between Inkster, MI and Ferguson, MO

Both Inkster and Ferguson are nearly identical in size at 6 square miles. Both are suburbs of a larger metropolitan area. Each has between 20 – 25K residents. As of the 2010 census, 67% of the residents in Ferguson identify as African American while 73% identify as African American in Inkster. The Inkster police force is estimated to be 80 – 90 percent white (8) while the police force in Ferguson is 92 percent white (9). Approximately 25 percent of Ferguson residents live below the federal poverty level (9) compared to 38 percent in Inkster (10).

Some Remaining Questions

  • When was Melendez put on administrative leave?

  • When did Melendez join the Inkster police Department?

  • Who hired Melendez in Inkster?

  • Is the entire, unedited dashboard camera video of the Dent incident available?

  • Were all of the police officers on the scene of the Dent beating wearing microphones that were intended to record their activity as has been reported in several news outlets?

  • Is there a transcript of any of the hearings in the Dent case available, particularly the one where Melendez admits that he was racially profiling Dent?

  • Is the type of racial profiling Melendez admitted to (“black man in a Cadillac”) standard procedure for Inkster/Detroit Police?

Additional Examples of Police Misconduct in the Region

Police violence and abuse of authority are rampant. In addition to what we are learning about the Inkster Police Department and its officers, the following additional examples shed further light on the tip of the iceberg:

  • 2006: Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department had tolerated a pattern of violence and blatant racism for years, culminating in the horrific murder and vicious beating of two brothers, Clifton and Bruce Lee, respectively (18):

    • The “motto” of the Department was: “Why does county wear brown? Because blood shows up on blue”

    • An internal email generated within the Department: “MIRANDA RIGHTS (Revised) – You have the right to swing first. However, if you choose to swing first, any move you make can, and will, be used as an excuse to beat the shit out of you. You have the right to have a doctor and a priest present. If you cannot afford a doctor, or if you are not presently attending a church of your choice, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand what I have told you ASSHOLE?”

    • Racist emails and cartoons routinely circulated throughout the Department

    • The federal criminal prosecution of several of the officers involved

  • 2009: Officers of the Warren Police Department pulled over two young black men who were doing nothing other than “driving while black,” culminating in the unjustifiable death of Robert Mitchell, a 16-year old child who suffered immediate cardiac arrest after being tasered in the chest. (19)

  • The Detroit Police Department is responsible for countless wrongful convictions of innocent African Americans including Walter Swift in 1982 (16), Kimberly Sykes and Tevya Urquhart in 2002 (17), and Dwayne Provience in 2000. (20)

  • 2011: Redford Township Police Department arrested and wrongfully prosecuted 6 law abiding African American young men, charging them with fabricated crimes, setting exorbitant bonds and destroying the dash cam video footage that would have vindicated them. They were forced to endure over a year of criminal pretrial hearings until the charges were finally dismissed when the destruction of the dash cam videos were proven during a 4-hour evidentiary hearing in September 2012. Civil rights lawsuit resulted in nearly $300,000 settlement in 2015.

These are just a few examples of what is routinely tolerated, condoned and encouraged within law enforcement agencies throughout our community. It is no surprise that Mr. Dent’s vicious beating was committed in front of the officers’ own video cameras; for the most part, police officers are immune from any consequences for their routine violation of citizens’ constitutional rights.

The Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) strongly opposes the continuation of a culture of racism and violence that pervades our communities’ law enforcement agencies.

Unless and until the departments and municipalities are properly investigated and held accountable for their acquiescence in such acts of violence and racism, we do not believe that they will stop. This is not simply a case of one “rogue cop,” it is systemic. Until the system is fundamentally transformed, we will continue to be witness to countless examples of tragedies such as those that occurred in Inkster, in Ferguson Missouri, in Madison, Wisconsin, in Aurora, Colorado, in Salinas, California and in Staten Island, New York. Police brutality will not stop until the culture of police racism and violence is institutionally and fundamentally altered.





















Additional References

2006 Court Filing in Another Melendez Case


Story about Melendez after charges in 2003


Summary of Report about Napoleon Job Performance:

“But the report wasn’t as rosy about Napoleon’s job record as he was. In 2012, it says clearance rates were horrific: 23 percent for aggravated assaults, 11 percent for robberies, and zero percent for murders. Those numbers have led citizens to share  “a prevailing feeling of chaos and hopelessness,” the report says.

The report also pulled no punches about how the department is operating today, citing an “obvious effort by responding officers not to take reports,” “ineffective and inefficient investigation function,” and that the department “has evolved into the Chief’s private militia.”


Hilton Napoleon Resign 7ABC Story


Napoleon calls on state to help with funding:

“Either they’re going to give us the resources to put a police force out here, or they’re going to (have to) bring the National Guard in,” says Inkster Police Chief Hilton Napoleon.

Napoleon says his ranks are down from over 60 officers just two years ago, to only 24 men in uniform. He wants more officers to fight crime and he wants a piece of the state’s $400 million surplus.


Plan B Assault Complaint – Night Club incident Yost, Vice Squad:

A couple were celebrating the girlfriend’s birthday party when Yost’s vice squad raided the nightclub and beat the plantiffs for no reason. Hall was arrested and jailed on the charge of interfering with a police officer during the performance of the officer’s duties. His charges were eventually dropped without going to trial.

Claimed that Yost and other members of the Vice Squad raided Plan B nightclub and beat, falsely arrested, jailed and charged innocent patrons attending a birthday party.


All in With Chris Hayes Interview with Dent and his Attorney Greg Rohl – Down the Page:

Atty. Greg Rohl states that Melendez admitted to pulling Dent over because he was “a black man driving a Cadillac in a high crime neighborhood.


FREEP Article on Aquittal of 8 Officers including Melendez in 2004:

First sentence of this article: “A federal court jury Thursday acquitted eight Detroit police officers of violating the constitutional rights of drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes.”


Grable vs. Brown – Vicki Yost’s partner, wrongful death lawsuit in which Yost testified in her ex-partners favor and plead the 5th – COURT OF APPEALS OF MICHIGAN No. 256215,

2005 Mich. App. Lexis 3173, December 20, 2005, Decided –

“Although defendant and Yost testified that Grable shot at defendant and that defendant returned fire, there was circumstantial evidence to support plaintiff’s theory that Grable did not shoot at defendant because Grable never possessed a gun. Circumstantial evidence to support or oppose a proposition is equal with direct evidence. Reed v Breton, 264 Mich. App. 363, 375; 691 N.W.2d 779 (2004). Specifically, there was evidence that, shortly before the chase and shooting, Grable attended a Police Athletic League (PAL) party where he was searched for weapons and found to possess none. There was no evidence that Grable obtained a weapon between the time that he left the PAL party and the shooting occurred. There was also no evidence of Grable’s fingerprints on the gun found next to his body.”

. . .

“ Q. Mr. Grable was on the ground over here and you fire those four shots, you know now, into his chest, point blank range, contact range, as he fell to the ground. Let me ask you this. Is it possible, sir, that rather than Mr. Grable being erect, that he was instead already down on the ground and you punitively, kneeling down on one knee, sir, pumping him with those four rounds? Is that possible?”

“That’s possible.”

“Furthermore, there were several inconsistencies between the officers’ trial testimony and their prior statements and between their trial testimony and the physical evidence that could have caused a reasonable juror to disbelieve the officers’ version of events. Regarding the inconsistencies with the officers’ prior statements, Yost’s version of the events in her preliminary report, where she recalled only one round of shooting, was contrary to her version at discovery and trial, where she recalled two rounds of shooting between Grable and defendant. Yost’s original wording regarding the incident changed from defendant “tackled” Grable to “collided” with Grable and from Grable held what she “believed to be a weapon” to Grable was “armed” when he ran from the police. Defendant also had minor inconsistencies between his preliminary report and trial testimony regarding his distance from Grable when Grable shot at him and whether Grable “waited” for him behind the mound where the scuffle ensued.

There was also testimony from expert witnesses of inconsistencies between the officers’ version of the events and the physical evidence. Most notably, plaintiff’s expert, Dr. John G. Peters, testified that, evidence of stippling around one of the holes in defendant’s shirt, and not around the other hole, indicated that the barrel of the gun that shot defendant “moved some distance away” for the shot that showed no stippling. This was contrary to defendant’s testimony that he was shot when he and Grable were so close to each other that the barrel of Grable’s gun was probably touching his clothing. In addition, Dr. Peters noted that, in defendant’s preliminary report of the shooting and deposition, he failed to account for the near-contact wound to the back of Grable’s left arm. Dr. Peters testified that, if Grable had fired at defendant using his right hand as defendant contended, there should not have been gunpowder on both of Grable’s hands. Dr. Peters opined that the presence of gunpowder on both of Grable’s hands indicated that he held his hands in a defensive position when he was shot. Dr. Peters testified to inconsistencies between Yost’s testimony regarding the manner in which the gun found near Grable’s body was fired. Dr. Peters opined that these inconsistencies raised “a serious doubt” regarding the number of shots fired or what happened to the weapon as it was being examined. Dr. Peters found it odd that Yost’s version of the events seemed to become clearer as time passed since one’s memory is generally fresher closer to the event. Dr. Peters opined that defendant’s and Yost’s behavior could be consistent with peer secrecy and deviant police behavior.”


Quotes from Former Inkster Police Chief Hilton Napoleon:

“Former Police Chief Hilton Napoleon, who resigned last summer after a 3 1/2-year tenure that included internal strife and two officers’ union votes of no confidence, told the Free Press on Thursday that he’d known officers who would lie under oath.”

“I’ve had complaints of Inkster officers taking money off of people and planting drugs,” he said.


2000 Article about Detroit Leading the US IN Police Killings:

“Detroit police officers kill citizens at a higher rate than police in any other big US city, according to FBI statistics made public by the Detroit Free Press Monday, May 15. Detroit had a rate of 0.92 fatal shootings per 100,000 residents, far higher than New York and Los Angeles, two cities recently scandalized by revelations of widespread police killings and brutality.

Detroit, with nearly 1 million residents, averaged nearly 10 fatal police shootings each year between 1990 and 1998. By comparison, New York, with 7.3 million residents, averaged 28 fatal shootings a year during the same period—a rate of 0.39.

Over the past few days, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News have published exposés about the police shootings and subsequent cover-ups by internal police investigators, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Michigan State Police. The articles have detailed several cases in which police officers killed or severely wounded senior citizens, teenagers and mentally ill persons, and then were exonerated after claiming they had fired in self-defense.”


 Vicki Yost Quote on Incident and Investigation:

“As for the officers, Inkster Police Chief Vicki Yost says one of them is on administrative duty as this investigation goes on.”

“It’s important to know, we’re not hiding from this. We started the investigation. We launched internal investigation without a complaint. When all the facts are in, we’ll take the appropriate action,” says Chief Yost.”


More with info on Robocop


2012 Article About Continuing Police Brutality in DPD, Melendez, Consent Decrees


Justice Department Ferguson Report


More on Melendez

Anti-Arab & Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Leads to Hate Crimes. Islamophobia Must End.

The following statement was written by MCHR Board Member Dr. Saeed Khan and was enthusiastically approved by the Board as our official stance on the recent increase in violent crimes against Arab and Muslim Americans:


Over the past several weeks, and especially over the past few days, there has

been an unprecedented increase in crimes and attacks targeting Arab and

Muslim Americans and their facilities based upon and motivated by their

religious and ethnic affiliations.

On December 4, 2014, Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein, a fifteen year old Somali

American Muslim from Kansas City, Missouri was run over by an SUV that

severed both his legs. He died of his injuries four days later. The vehicle had

anti-Muslim messages written on it; authorities suspect that the incident was

deliberate and that Sheikh-Hussein was deliberately targeted for being


On February 2, an Arab Muslim American family was flying home from Ft.

Lauderdale on Delta Airlines to Detroit, one of its national hub airports. As

another passenger began to verbally abuse the young mother because of her

headscarf, the flight attendant decided to “resolve” the issue by making the

family move to the back of the plane, rather than rebuke or detain the

abusive passenger.

On Tuesday, February 10, three Muslim American college students from

Chapel Hill, North Carolina were shot while in their own home, execution-

style in the back of their heads, allegedly by a neighbor who had a history of

threatening them and who had exhibited hatred for religions and religious

peoples. Despite efforts to claim the incident was a result of a parking

dispute, compelling evidence suggests that the victims’ Muslim background

was the key factor in precipitating their murder.

On Friday, February 13, an Arab American family was verbally and

physically attacked in a Kroger supermarket in Dearborn. Witnesses have

stated that the suspects, who fled the scene and are still at large, allegedly

taunted the family with insults and threats pertaining to their Arab and

Muslim heritage.

On Friday, February 10, a building under construction at an Islamic center in

Houston, Texas, was set ablaze. Fire officials suspect that the fire was

intentionally set with an accelerant, and have declared that it was arson. The

fire comes days after a Dallas rally by Muslim Americans defending the

Prophet Muhammad was countered with a virulent group of protesters

invoking anti-Muslim slogans and threats, as well as similar protests against

Muslim Capitol Day, which was held in Austin on January 29.

That same day (January 29), Texas State Representative Molly White posted

on her social media account that she demands Muslim American visitors to

her office must first renounce terrorism before she will meet with them. She

further stated that she keeps an Israeli flag on her receptionist’s desk to

notify Muslims of her beliefs and ideology.

Hundreds of social media posts calling for the killing of Arabs and Muslims

have appeared since the release of American Sniper, nominated for an

Academy Award for Best Motion Picture.

Therefore, MCHR calls for the condemnation of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab

attacks by public officials and opinion makers. MCHR also calls for

increased investigations and prosecutions for the designation of such attacks

as hate crimes, especially as they involve the targeting of individuals and

communities based upon their religious and ethno-racial identity.


MCHR is an interfaith non-profit organization founded in 1980 by Catholic

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, the late Rabbi Richard Hertz and the late

Episcopal Bishop H. Coleman McGehee. MCHR promotes awareness of,

commitment to, and advocacy for human rights through education,

community organization, and action. MCHR opposes forces that suppress

human dignity, freedom, and justice locally and around the world. MCHR

also organizes and sponsors Freedom Tours that take high school students

to civil rights sites in the south to educate them about our nation’s civil

rights history and inspire them to be our future justice leaders.

International human rights network intervenes in Detroit water shutoffs case

International human rights network intervenes in case challenging large-scale disconnection of water supply to tens of thousands of low-income residents in Detroit


New York. February 9, 2015. The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), a global network of over 220 groups and 50 individual advocates from around the world working to secure economic and social justice through human rights, has requested leave from the U.S. District Court to be recognized as amicus curiae[1] in the case of Lyda et al. v. City of Detroit[2]in support of residents challenging the City of Detroit’s decision to cut off water supply to thousands of households unable to pay their bills.

As detailed in the plaintiffs’ complaint, by the end of August 2014 the City of Detroit had disconnected approximately 30,000 households of low-income persons and persons living in poverty from the municipal water supply and sewerage service, leaving them without access to drinking water and water for toilets and basic sanitation.

ESCR-Net, through its amicus brief, seeks to bolster the plaintiffs’ legal challenge by highlighting that the disconnections for inability to pay violate a range of legal obligations applicable to the U.S. under key international human rights treaties.

At the same time, ESCR-Net contends that Detroit’s City Charter, which includes a Declaration of Rights recognizing rights to water, sanitation and decent housing, must be respected. Pursuant to long-established principles of both U.S. law and international law, relevant domestic law must be interpreted consistently with treaty obligations.

Chris Grove, Executive Director of ESCR-Net, said, “Access to justice is required for violations of human rights, and we welcome the opportunity to assist the U.S. District Court with material relevant to consideration of the issues at stake. These issues impact the health, security and human dignity of thousands of Detroit residents and implicate our vision of a just society.”

“A number of human rights are arguably violated by these disconnections, including rights to water, sanitation, adequate housing, health, life, freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment, and non-discrimination. The international human rights obligations of the U.S. also apply to the City of Detroit, and these obligations require that denial of access to water be reversed immediately,” he added.

The City of Detroit’s water disconnection policy has shocked the international community and has prompted, among other reactions, the visit of two United Nations Special Procedures human rights experts to assess the situation in October 2014.[3] Despite the onset of winter, local groups report that the City has continued water shut-offs at the homes of low-income families, the elderly, and the infirmed.

It is hoped that the application of international human rights law will help the plaintiffs achieve a just and effective remedy, including renewed access to water and an end to any further disconnections.

A copy of the amicus curiae brief is available at


About ESCR-Net

ESCR-Net is the largest global network of human rights organizations, grassroots groups and advocates working to build a global movement to make human rights and social justice a reality for all. Please visit

This action is being led by ESCR-Net Strategic Litigation Working Group members Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia), the Global Initiative on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR), the Social Rights Advocacy Centre (SRAC), and the Social Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI).

For information regarding this amicus intervention, contact:

For information on the situation in Detroit or to speak with residents, contact:

Marian Kramer (313-471-9241), Maureen Taylor (313-729-5558) or Sylvia Orduño (734-846-9465). Office Tel. +1-313-964-0618

[1] An amicus curiae (or ‘friend of the Court’) is a person or organization who, although not a party to a case, is granted leave to submit material to the Court relevant to the disposition of the case and not already brought to the Court’s attention by the parties.

[2]Lyda et al. v. City of Detroit, Case No. 2:15-cv-10038-BAF-RSW, before Hon. Bernard A. Friedman in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division.

Activist Delegation Provides MCHR Board Members Global Perspective, Moving Accounts of Human Rights Challenges in Middle East and Africa

Detroit, Mich. —

On January 23, 2015, MCHR board members met with a U.S. State Department-sponsored International Visitor Leadership Program delegation from the Middle East and North Africa exploring Human and Civil Rights Advocacy and Awareness.

The delegation consisted of 16 individuals from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. They met with board members at the International Institute in Detroit. Prior to their visit here, the delegation had made stops in Alabama and Washington D.C. and will finish their U.S. tour in Arizona.

ivsp delegation
The State Department had specific objectives for the delegation throughout its U.S. tour and meeting with the MCHR Board, including:

*Examining the historical context of human rights advocacy in the U.S.

*Illustrating the influence of human and civil rights activists on policy at national, state and local levels.

*Exploring the role and structure of associations, NGOs and religious groups in advancing civil rights and equal opportunity.

*Analyzing a variety of human rights concerns related to critical issues, including disability rights, freedom of press/religion/speech, access to education and due process.

The delegation consisted of 12 men and 4 women, most of them appearing to be in their 30s and early 40s, visiting the U.S. for the first time. The group included human rights attorneys, NGO executives, government employees, labor and refugee experts and advocates for women, children and the impoverished. All experienced, dedicated and enthusiastic activists working in a region characterized by some of most extreme and catastrophic human rights violations imaginable.

Through simultaneous translation, MCHR board members Cary McGehee, Abayomi Azikiwe, Kim Redigan, Eric Hood, Dorothy Aldridge, Saeed Khan, Marge Sears and Lila Cabell of the People’s Water Board addressed the delegation providing a brief overview of MCHR. This included: Our role in the community, history of MCHR, current issues/activities (cited participation/support for the People’s Water Board), regular events (film series, lectures, annual dinner), special events (Freedom Tours), and our use of publicity, the Internet and social media to promote human rights and MCHR. The delegates listened closely to each speaker and most took notes.

Then, through the interpreter, we listened for nearly two hours as individual members of the visiting delegation provided first-hand accounts of their work and challenges. They spoke to a number of serious (some shocking) human rights violations and situations in their regions, including:

*An Egyptian attorney pointed-out that Arab Spring has brought turmoil with its promise and that regular Egyptian citizens are not being represented in the government, which has become more oppressive (no matter who is in power). He deals with many freedom of the press/free speech issues and says the government has been arresting and illegally detaining more journalists and known activists. He said that this trip to the U.S. may very likely result in his own arrest upon returning to Egypt.

*A human rights activist and law professor from Mauritania and a teacher from Yemen said their countries still deal with a legacy of slavery and indentured servitude, long entrenched in their cultures. In their two countries, they said, there are over 3 million black people in slavery.  For far too many in the West, these accounts of slavery in the year 2015 are simply incredulous.

*An attorney with the Palestinian Bar Association’s legal clinic said she and others have filed over 100 lawsuits against the Israeli government for the wrongful deaths and injuries of Palestinians and the destruction of homes and property during Israel’s latest military action. She said the cases must be brought in Israeli courts, where it is not only almost impossible to prevail, but equally difficult to actually be cleared to enter Israel and file a lawsuit. To date, three Palestinian plaintiffs have prevailed.

*Another attorney from Palestine talked about other possible actions, including the need to put international pressure on the Israeli government to change its Palestinian policies. This led to a discussion on the various BDS initiatives being undertaken by U.S. and European groups. She said that U.S. support of this type is much needed and

*An attorney from Jordan expressed deep concern about the negative impact of terrorist actions on Islam and all Muslims. He says Islamaphobia has worsened as religious terrorist violence continues and that politics has hijacked Islam.

*A number of delegates also described serious water availability and water rights issues in their countries. Problems include both water scarcity and competing political and corporate interests vying for control of the resource, trumping the basic water rights of the people. Privatization interests and plans complicate the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, as well.

As the delegation’s members related their efforts to address the many extreme human
rights violations in their region, each also expressed thanks and gratitude to MCHR for meeting with them and listening to their stories. Each delegation member who spoke also said that any kind of help or counsel would be much appreciated.

The human rights issues that these activists face are on a vast scale — and often
appear to be overwhelming, nearly hopeless situations. But these people will go back
home continue their efforts.

MCHR thanks the delegation for sharing their stories with us. Their visit and narrative
clearly remind us – again — that the human rights struggle is universal and ongoing.
As we consider the significance of their visit, the question for us should be: What can
MCHR do to assist and support these extraordinary activists?

MCHR opposes MiRFRA, Advisory Board member Rev. Harry T Cook issues poignant statement on the issue

MCHR opposes the proposed MiRFRA legislation on the grounds that it would allow discrimination against LGBT individuals and would establish a precedent that could be used to justify further discrimination in the future. The following is a statement issued by Advisory Board member Rev. Harry T. Cook, which sums up MCHR’s position on the proposed legislation:


By Harry T. Cook

All signs point to a resurgence of “faith-based” politics that almost surely will produce legislation and resultant policies that will have their ground in uncritical religious and ideological belief systems.

The words “faith” and “belief” have together become a corrupting and dangerous influence in the world. An imam, a would-be suicide bomber, an evangelist, a bishop, even a President of the United States — each is permitted to defend his or her choices by appealing to “faith,” the validity of which one cannot determine, and to “belief,” which one is supposed to tolerate rather than challenge under the rubrics of “everyone is entitled to his own opinion” and “it is wrong to criticize or challenge another person’s religion.”

By faith, the Crusades were undertaken; to defend belief, so-called heretics were incinerated; on faith, some people still believe Earth is but 6,000 years old and those who teach otherwise are anathema; for faith, ISIS extremists behead people who fail to be proper Muslims.

In each and every case, the particular article of faith or tenet of belief cited is purposely placed beyond empirical testing and open discussion. Warrant for trust in such articles and tenets springs from so-called sacred texts, the contents of which are also supposed to be beyond ordinary textual investigation, and which are to be taken as the express law and will of whatever god is imagined therein. “It says in the Bible,” “It says in the Koran”: these are the justifications given for so much of what the Scots poet Robert Burns called “man’s inhumanity to man.”

What is called for in the 21st century is courage, not faith; knowledge, not belief. Courage is that which enables a person to seek for and deal with what is real, rather than what is imagined or wished for. Knowledge is that which is arrived at by observation and rationalized experience. Courage to seek knowledge, rather than to rely upon blind belief in what some religious or political authority claims to be true, is the key to establishing a just society founded on reason.

The courage to search for and act upon knowledge regardless of sectarian demands will be what saves America from becoming a theocracy. History bears witness to the fact that widespread reliance upon faith in unseen deities and the laws said to have been laid down by them (always mediated by a ruling hierarchy and defended by personal preference) leads inexorably to theocracy, meaning government by ruthlessly applied central authority and suppression of dissent.

Uncritical tolerance of faith and belief systems will lead us there. A belief-based system — a religion, in other words — must be judged on the behavior of its adherents toward others, and by no other standard. The Jesus of the New Testament prescribed just such a standard: “Turn the other cheek toward the hand of the one who hit you (instead of hitting back), walk the second mile voluntarily after the first that was required, love both enemy and neighbor, give up that shirt you’re wearing today as well as your coat to the one who has neither, and forgive as often as it takes.”

Beyond that ethic, where religion is used — especially in league with government — to restrict human rights, to bless unjust wars, to maintain class supremacy, to dictate who can and cannot marry, to prohibit women from exercising their reproductive rights — theocracy has come into its own. Even now the Michigan Legislature is on the verge of enacting a “religious freedom” statute that, in effect, would license such bias and discrimination.

Theocracy is a real threat. Let the theocrats concentrate on the ethical core of their system and promote respect for the dignity of each and every human being: a faith worthy of the name.

Harry T. Cook is a retired Episcopal priest, a bible scholar and a member of the Advisory Board of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. He is a former Free Press reporter and columnist.

©Harry T. Cook

Aftermath of the UN visit to Detroit regarding water and housing

UPDATE (Feb 7, 2015): Check out this video documenting the recent UN visit regarding the water shutoffs in Detroit, produced by one of the UN special rapporteurs that visited Detroit last October.


Two special rapporteurs from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke at a press conference yesterday, at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel in Detroit, about the need for all levels of government to step up in their defense of human rights.

PIC_0708De Albuquerque and Farha clapping in support of residents’ testimony at the Sunday town hall meeting. (Photo: Dr. Jose’ Cuello)


Catarina de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteurs on the rights to safe drinking water/sanitation and adequate housing, respectively, both spoke to multiple press organizations, concerned civil service groups, and citizens about the continuing water shutoffs in Detroit and how they also affect the housing situation of citizens in the city. Both condemned the city’s actions as a violation of human rights, stating that the shutoffs primarily affect low-income African-Americans. Furthermore, without water there are increased health risks that can easily be avoided by not shutting off water access.

The UN rapporteurs also stated that the United States is bound by Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that humans have the right to an adequate standard of living. This includes municipalities that are under emergency management, as Detroit has been.

“If the city does not have the capacity, then others have to step in because the US government, at the federal level, undertook certain human rights obligations…” stated de Albuquerque.

The rapporteurs stated that for every dollar spent on allowing access to clean water, municipalities save $9 in health and productivity costs.

During their visit to Detroit, the UN rapporteurs found a level of retrogression not seen in their visits to other localities facing similar problems with water and housing. They also stated that nobody in the city is asking for free water- citizens understand they must contribute to the water system, but the water and sanitation costs are rapidly rising and wildly fluctuating. This is due to rising rates passed on to customers to deal with aging infrastructure, declining population levels in the city, and rising unemployment.

There was also a high number of instances in which residents had paid their water bills but were shut off anyways and had no way to contest their cases.

“We think that this lack of information and the lack of due process, in the way some of the disconnections have been taken, leads to fear,” stated de Albuquerque.

The issue of industrial/commercial sites that are delinquent and haven’t had their water shut off was also raised during the question session following the press conference. The UN rapporteurs stated that other municipalities that are poorer than Detroit have risen from similar situations by charging commercial/heavy users more for their increased water consumption.

“The way I view democracy… it is a precious and fragile thing,” stated Farha. “…You need to figure out how you’re going to protect democracy.”

Farha and de Albuquerque both spoke to the need of civil service organizations such as the People’s Water Board to continue their work fighting shutoffs and abuses within the city. They also want to continue communications between themselves and the organizations involved with the human rights struggles in the city and the region.

The press conference took place after two days of the UN rapporteurs surveying the affected areas and meeting with citizens and civil service organizations.

For more on the press conference and to see all of the UN rapporteurs’ recommendations for local, state, and federal government and the full text of their press statement, click here.

Below is the video of the entire press conference, courtesy of Michigan Coalition for Human Rights board member Dr. Jose Cuello.

– See more at:

Below is the video of the entire press conference, courtesy of MCHR board member Dr. Jose’ Cuello.

Live-tweets from the various events that the UN rapporteurs took place in this weekend can be viewed using the hashtag #UNinDetroit.

MCHR is a member of the People’s Water Board who were one of the main organizations responsible for organizing the UN visit to Detroit.

Statement: We Must Rid Our Justice System of Racial and Class Bias

In conjunction with the observance of the 85th birthday of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. in January, the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights is organizing a community-wide conversation with the goal of ridding our justice system of racial and class bias.

Representatives of police agencies and courts together with clergy, interested citizens and community leaders will be invited to address and find solutions to the troubling implications arising from the not-guilty verdict rendered in Florida’s People vs. Zimmerman case. 

The members of the jury seemed to believe they had little choice but to find Zimmerman not guilty due to the Florida “stand your ground” law that allowed Zimmerman to claim self-defense after he profiled, followed, and, against police orders, provoked a violent struggle with Trayvon Martin that ended in the latter’s death.  The jury was instructed to ignore all of the actions that led to the mortal encounter and consider only if Zimmerman’s life was endangered, although he was the one armed with a gun.

Against the background of America’s history of racial discrimination and strife, the original incident and all that followed upon it – from the much-delayed charging of Zimmerman with second-degree murder to the trial and finally to the not unexpected acquittal- evokes the terrible memory of Reconstruction-era justice in which African Americans were lynched by mobs, bombed to death in churches and persecuted with impunity by white citizens and authorities alike.

The verdict, coming within weeks of the U.S. Supreme Court’s gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, must be understood as a call for a moral renewal of our nation’s very soul. It cannot be said by anyone with a sense of morality that Trayvon’s family has seen justice done in this case.

 “Stand your ground” laws are emblematic of the breakdown of commonsense and human rights in our culture. That George Zimmerman can legally carry a lethal weapon again and use it a second time in “self-defense” is an astounding commentary on the American system of justice.

Therefore, MCHR calls for the repeal of laws that encourage vigilantism by private citizens. In keeping with such an initiative, MCHR calls for changes in the administration of justice – from police interaction with those suspected of crimes to their possible trials and sentencing that produces abnormally high rates of incarceration of African American males.

MCHR is an interfaith non-profit organization founded in 1980 by Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, the late Rabbi Richard Hertz and the late Episcopal Bishop H. Coleman McGehee. MCHR promotes awareness of, commitment to, and advocacy for human rights through education, community organization, and action. MCHR opposes forces that suppress human dignity, freedom, and justice locally and around the world. MCHR also organizes and sponsors Freedom Tours that take high school students to civil rights sites in the south to educate them about our nation’s civil rights history and inspire them to be our future justice leaders. Visit us at