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Community defends City Councilor Chuck Turner
Nov 3, 2010
On Oct. 29 a predominantly white and suburban federal jury falsely found African-American Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner guilty of one count of attempted extortion and three counts of lying to the FBI.
The case was based on an undercover sting operation and a cooperating witness who had passed bribes for years, and who himself declared Turner to be innocent in interviews in the Boston Globe. The witness condemned the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office, saying he thought they were conducting a corruption investigation, but that he had been used to bring down two strong progressive African-American politicians, Turner and State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, while no one else was touched. He only testified against Turner under threat of being jailed for contempt of court if he didn’t.
This guilty verdict is a reflection of an alarming, expanding racist conspiracy to oust African-American elected officials by demonizing them in congressional hearings or in the courts with various charges of ethics violations, especially corruption. In reality, these officials are singled out for who they are, for the disenfranchised communities they represent and in some instances, like Turner’s, for their radical politics.
More than 200 community residents, activists and supporters expressed their total solidarity with Turner at a rally in front of his district office in Roxbury on Oct. 30, saying, “We stand with Chuck Turner! Say no to FBI/U.S. racist frame-up! Chuck is innocent! U.S. government guilty! The verdict is the crime!” Roxbury is a predominantly Black community in Boston.
The jury never got to hear from more than 80 witnesses who were prepared to testify to Turner’s selfless service to the community, asking nothing for himself.
For every day of the councilor’s two-week-long trial his supporters packed the court room, forcing the U.S. District Court to provide a second courtroom for the overflow. Beginning with Turner’s arrest two years ago the community has understood this attack to be a political one on the entire African-American community and its right of self-determination to choose its own leaders.
Supporters poured out by the hundreds in rally after rally. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, founder of the International Action Center, came to Boston on Dec. 17 and stood next to Turner and condemned the nationwide pattern by the U.S. Attorney’s offices and the FBI of going after elected officials of color and progressive officials to remove them from office based on a political agenda.
An online petition demanding all the politically motivated prosecutions of progressive politicians and politicians of color be dropped and that the prosecutors be prosecuted has generated over 35,000 e-mail messages to Obama administration officials and congressional leaders. Support for Turner could not have been clearer than in the 2009 City Council race, in which he won re-election with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Strongly refusing to compromise his politics
At the Oct. 30 rally, Turner began the program by thanking his supporters and saying it was their support that gave him strength and serenity from the beginning.
Turner specifically recognized the Boston Workers Alliance and the Boston School Bus Union as being the core of his support throughout. He spoke from the School Bus Union sound truck, which had led many motorcades through the community in support of him.
Turner blamed U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and the FBI for his frame-up. He expressed his excitement at the progress the African-American community has made in electing more people of color to at-large positions on the City Council. He spoke of having organized all of his life for the liberation of African-American people. He spoke of the corruption of a system that was built by unpaid slave labor in both the North and the South, and cited the fact that the prison industrial complex is the fastest growing industry in today’s economy.
Turner invoked Shay’s Rebellion against bankers’ control of the U.S. government in the late 1700s, saying that the U.S. Constitution has been illegal from the start and protects only the rich and the banks. He called for a new people’s movement to build economic democracy for working people of all races and backgrounds. The crowd was also addressed by Minister Rodney X of the Nation of Islam and by longtime African-American City Councilor Charles Yancey.
Yancey called Turner “our leader” and equated the FBI attack on him to earlier FBI attacks on W.E.B. DuBois, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Cultural expressions of solidarity were provided by The Foundation and Gabrilla Ballard.
Love and support for Turner runs so deep in the Roxbury community that the Boston Globe was forced to cover the rally with a picture and a full account showing the depth of community support for him. The Globe also printed a separate article interviewing person after person from the community saying they knew the councilor to be a selfless dedicated servant of the people, who, alone among city councilors, has maintained a district office in the heart of Roxbury, paying the expenses out of his own pocket.
But the agenda of the real, racist rulers of the Boston establishment could be seen in the Boston Globe Oct. 30 editorial on the verdict. It revealed what they revile him for — that he dares to speak truth to power, pointing the finger at the Boston Police chief for the crimes of the police in the community, daring to say that U.S. soldiers had been guilty of the rape of Iraqi women, and telling his constituents the truth that the corporate rulers don’t want them to hear.
Turner’s supporters are determined to conduct a broad and tireless campaign to see that he not spend a single day in jail. Turner is urging supporters to write letters to Federal District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock asking that he be put on probation rather than spend time in jail, so that he can continue his work as a city councilor. These letters should be sent to City Councilor Chuck Turner, Boston City Hall, One City Hall Square, Boston MA 02201.
He is also asking supporters to write to Boston City Council President Michael Ross and the members of the Boston City Council at the same address, and ask them to delay any vote on Turner’s continued tenure on the Boston City Council until after he is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25. Further information can be found at supportchuckturner.com.