By Frank Neisser
Boston’s African-American community of Roxbury and a broad coalition of supporters are standing strong with City Councilor Chuck Turner, who has come out fighting ever since his Nov. 21 arrest. The attack on Turner, who has been charged with extorting $1,000 and lying to the FBI, is viewed as part of a frame-up scheme to undermine the African-American community’s right to strong political representation. Turner won in the last election with more than 80 percent of the vote.
At 6 a.m. on Nov. 21, seven armed FBI agents had gone to Turner’s front door, terrorizing his household. He was arrested an hour later at City Hall, where he was already beginning his work day, and taken in handcuffs to Worcester, 45 minutes from Boston.
At the first word of the arrest, activists and allies went into high gear. Rank-and-file union leaders from United Steel Workers Local 8751—the Boston School Bus Drivers—along with organizers from the International Action Center, Women’s Fightback Network, Restore Our Heat & Lights Campaign, the Boston Workers Alliance, the youth group FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) and other community groups came forward to mobilize solidarity, defend the Turner household and offer whatever assistance was necessary.
People’s lawyers Barry Wilson and John Pavlos were secured and political supporters gathered in Worcester. Turner left the court surrounded by 40 supporters holding up signs and chanting, “Chuck, Chuck, Chuck!” He immediately spoke out to the throng of media, proclaiming his innocence and condemning the FBI abuse as well as the attack on his constituents’ right to the representative of their choice.
Horrific attacks on Turner from the Boston media and all corners of the capitalist establishment have thrown the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” out the window. In an unprecedented action, City Council President Maureen Feeney stripped him of all his committee chair positions and called for a special session of the City Council to consider removing him.
On Nov. 24 Turner, along with 500 supporters, held a rally and news conference on the steps of City Hall to demand that Feeney call off the City Council hearing and restore him to his committee positions. Feeney had to cancel the session.
About 70 community and grassroots supporters, including a delegation of more than 35 rank-and-file members of Local 8751, participated in another news conference and rally at Turner’s district office in Roxbury on Nov. 26. Turner said: “The media has not produced one story on the fact that I am the only Boston city councilor who in the modern era has maintained an office in the community. There has not been one story around the fact that my campaign owes Terri [Turner’s spouse] and I $140,000 because of our investment of our own resources in the maintenance of the district office.”
A mass meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2, and a Solidarity Day rally for Dec. 9. Turner’s next court appearance is at 3 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the Moakley Federal Court House in Boston. Visit SupportChuckTurner.com for details.
Turner’s massive support is based on four decades of grassroots activism and community organizing. He fought for jobs through the Third World Jobs Clearinghouse and United Community Construction Workers. He was a founder of the Boston Workers Alliance, the only organization of unemployed workers in the state, which also fights for formerly incarcerated workers’ right to a job.
Turner has fought on every community and progressive issue, from immigrant rights to foreclosure and eviction blockades and against war. Recently he spearheaded a campaign to restore heat and lights to those whose utilities have been shut off.
The attack on Turner seeks to cut off the grassroots leadership necessary to bring about the change people are looking and hoping for.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Michael Sullivan, who is prosecuting Turner as well as State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson (see Workers World, Nov. 13), is a notorious right-wing Republican whose specialty is politically motivated false prosecutions. He prosecuted the Plymouth 25—Native activists and allies who were the victims of a police riot against their peaceful demonstration on the National Day of Mourning (“Thanksgiving” Day) in 1997.
Turner’s case is part of a national campaign of racist, politically motivated prosecutions. These include the cases of: African-American Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee, who was convicted in October based on similar FBI entrapment and trial by media; Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, who was subjected to an unprecedented FBI raid of his congressional office and was forced out of his committee positions by Speaker Nancy Pelosi even before being indicted; and Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who was lambasted for defending herself from racist guards at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
These are but the most recent chapters in a long history of racist political frame-ups and abuse by the FBI that goes back to the attacks on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Adam Clayton Powell and Shirley Chisholm.
Robert Traynham of the International Action Center said: “Sullivan should be fired for politically motivated, racist frame-up prosecutions and abuse of the FBI. The FBI should cease and desist from its longstanding pattern of frame-ups and harassment of oppressed community leaders.”