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        <h1 id="reader-title">Why is Rev. Edward Pinkney in Prison?
          Another Case of Political Persecution</h1>
        <div id="reader-credits" class="credits">by <span
            class="post_author" itemprop="author"><a
              href="http://www.counterpunch.org/author/jacmil1197/"
              rel="nofollow">Jackie Miller  </a></span><a
            href="http://www.counterpunch.org/author/jacmil1197/"
            rel="nofollow"><br>
          </a><span class="post_date" title="2015-08-13">August 13, 2015</span></div>
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              <p>Why is Rev. Edward Pinkney in prison?</p>
              <p>One answer comes to mind from my very first meeting
                with Pinkney in 2003. I drove from Lansing to Benton
                Harbor in southwest Michigan to witness a Berrien County
                Commissioners meeting soon after the Benton Harbor
                uprising. At that eye-opening introduction, white
                commissioners literally laughed at Black community
                members’ desperate appeals for justice for their young
                Black men, incarcerated or killed with impunity at a
                sickening rate. From this vignette straight out of the
                Jim Crow South, I left 90% white St. Joseph and crossed
                the bridge to Benton Harbor where well over 90% of the
                residents are Black and nearly half live in poverty
                according to <a href="http://census.gov/">census data</a>.</p>
              <p>Standing outside City Hall, Pinkney said to me, “You
                know, they offered me a Cadillac. I said, no, thank
                you.” The power elite in the county tried to buy him off
                to shut him up. It didn’t work. This is one reason he
                sits in Lakeland state prison today.</p>
              <p>He did not shut up then, and he has not shut up ever
                since. From prison, he puts pen to paper and writes <a
                  href="http://bhbanco.org">pages</a> of condemnation of
                the corrupt, racist corporate-political-media
                establishment destroying his home community, the same
                one forcing him to eat prison food unfit for humans.</p>
              <p>For years, he’s been preaching that this monstrous
                conglomeration of business interests and state authority
                is of a piece. Recently Pinkney <a
href="http://peoplestribune.org/pt-news/2015/07/build-a-society-where-the-people-not-corporations-make-the-decisions/">wrote</a>
                from prison:</p>
              <blockquote>
                <p>The vicious, cowardly attack on democracy in Benton
                  Harbor, Michigan, shows that the corporate power
                  structure is determined to crush anyone that stands in
                  its way. The Whirlpool Corporation and government
                  joined together to destroy the people of Benton
                  Harbor. We call it fascism. It is part of the process
                  underway across America in various forms. The once
                  stable working class of Benton Harbor was devastated
                  by automation and globalization and the community
                  began to resist. They have to contain the struggle.</p>
              </blockquote>
              <p>Benton Harbor: the first city in Michigan subjected to
                the fascist rule of a state-appointed Emergency
                Financial Manager. What’s at stake? Whirlpool Corp.,
                which raked in $177 million in <a
href="http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/whirlpool-corporation-reports-second-quarter-2015-results-and-reaffirms-full-year-2015-ongoing-guidance-300116744.html">profits
                  last quarter</a> (after expanding into <a
href="http://tarpley.net/judge-ferdinando-imposimato-first-signatory-to-support-italian-metal-workers-and-rev-pinkney/">Italy</a>
                where it proceeded to lay off workers), wants to
                transform economically-devastated Benton Harbor into a
                private lakeshore playground for the wealthy. The
                vulture capitalists already succeeded in stealing part
                of a Benton Harbor public park for a Jack Nicklaus
                signature golf course next to a luxury condo development
                called <a
                  href="http://www.workers.org/2012/us/occupy_pga_0607">Harbor
                  Shores</a>. We can expect to see more theft of land
                and resources from immiserated communities elsewhere, as
                Whirlpool shows how easy it is to get full cooperation
                from state and local governments, despite opposition
                from the people.</p>
              <p>Roger Bybee <a
href="http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/7237/democracy_vs._profit_central_issue_in_benton_harbor_takeover">wrote</a>,
                “There is no place in the United States that more
                cruelly illustrates the intensifying conflict between
                corporate power and democracy than Benton Harbor.”
                Pinkney saw it coming. For at least ten years, he’s
                warned that Benton Harbor is “the testing ground to see
                what they can get away with.” What comes to Benton
                Harbor is coming to your neighborhood soon. And what’s
                coming he named fascism and genocide, specifically Black
                genocide by means of globalization, gentrification,
                neglect, New Jim Crow injustice, and naked violence.</p>
              <p>Michigan civil rights attorney Hugh “Buck” Davis
                described it like this:</p>
              <blockquote>
                <p>In the 1960s, it was called Negro removal. In Bosnia,
                  it was called ethnic cleansing. It could be called
                  genocide, the removal of the minority population for
                  the purpose of redevelopment of the land. That’s
                  what’s happening in Benton Harbor and leading the
                  resistance is Rev. Edward Pinkney.</p>
              </blockquote>
              <p>Any one of the battles Pinkney’s fought against this
                establishment would be cause for the wealthy to
                celebrate his imprisonment. (Indeed, at a county
                Republican <a
href="http://www.bhbanco.org/2014/12/county-republican-embarrassed-by-party.html">meeting</a>
                the county clerk and sheriff both received a standing
                ovation when they announced Pinkney’s conviction). He’s
                more than a thorn in their side; he’s a bulldog with a
                grip on their heel, not about to let go if it kills him.
                He remains indomitable, unbreakable. What spirit, what
                love moves a person to this kind of courage?</p>
              <p>The same spirit, the same love that moves him now to
                spend his time in the prison library helping other
                prisoners with appeals and parole hearings. When he
                called me last week his most urgent request was not on
                his own behalf—he asked me to research felony penalty
                minimums and maximums in five states and mail it to him
                as soon as possible. During his last prison term in
                2008, overturned on appeal after a year of illegal
                imprisonment, he wasted no time organizing for basic
                needs, soap and toothpaste, for his fellow prisoners.</p>
              <p>Why is Rev. Pinkney in prison? Too many reasons to
                count. The timeline below hits some highlights, but
                still doesn’t paint a full picture of what he does that
                makes his resistance and leadership so dangerous to the
                master planners of the establishment.</p>
              <p>For over a decade, he spent nearly every day that
                Berrien County court was in session court-watching,
                taking notes, and helping defendants understand their
                rights. Each week for years he led a group of community
                activists from Benton Harbor to march on the courthouse
                in St. Joseph wearing the famous “Berrien County’s Most
                Wanted” T-shirts, listing the most corrupt and racist
                judges and other county officials.</p>
              <p>After testifying at the trial, <a
href="http://peoplestribune.org/pt-news/2014/11/significance-rev-edward-pinkney-trial/">Marquette
                  Coates</a> said:</p>
              <blockquote>
                <p>They threw my testimony in the garbage. They don’t
                  want to hear you. Rev. Pinkney helps
                  people, especially young Black men. They are giving
                  all these young men all this time for petty
                  crimes. Everyone I know is getting 20 years or more.
                  What are the children going to do? The parents,
                  women are crying over their sons. What preacher
                  besides Rev. Pinkney is there standing with the
                  people?</p>
              </blockquote>
              <p>On one visit I found him at the public library. Every
                Tuesday he held “office hours” there, consulting with
                Benton Harbor residents about discrimination claims,
                legal problems, whatever problems with which he could
                lend a hand. I saw firsthand that his political work
                grows from deep roots and relationships in his
                community. For years, he organized monthly
                community-wide forums, bringing in outside speakers,
                with an emphasis on economic and political
                self-determination and standing up to police brutality
                and harassment.</p>
              <p>I’d heard some observers question why Pinkney’s name
                figures so prominently in Benton Harbor activism, why we
                don’t hear more about other activists. I asked him and
                he answered that there are other grassroots leaders, but
                many people are too afraid to stand on the front line.
                Dorothy Pinkney lost her job because of her <a
href="http://www.mwro.org/wordpress/2009/03/20/whirlpool-gentrifier-of-benton-harbor/">activism</a>,
                and others have faced similar retribution for organizing
                with BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community
                Organization). Whirlpool rules the county and Pinkney is
                David to its Goliath. After Judge Sterling Schrock
                sentenced him to 2½ to 10 years last December, I heard a
                woman from Benton Harbor lament, “This is to keep all of
                us quiet. Now we have no one.” The necessity of
                intimidating the rest of the community is yet another
                critical reason he’s in prison right now, and explains
                why a <a
href="http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/04/26/free-rev-edward-pinkney-recall-whirlpool-stooge-benton-harbor-mayor-james-hightower/">SWAT
                  team</a> delivered his arrest warrant for alleged date
                changes on a petition, blocking his street with trucks
                and police cars driving up and down the block.</p>
              <p><a
href="http://peoplestribune.org/pt-news/2014/11/significance-rev-edward-pinkney-trial/">Emma
                  Kinnard</a>, delegate for the 3<sup>rd</sup> Ward in
                Benton Harbor, said, “Benton Harbor is losing more and
                more ground. The school system is failing. Over at City
                Hall, things are manipulated. They’re giving off the
                land to the developers for nothing. With the arrests
                over the recall election, people are now afraid. They
                want people to say, ‘Don’t kick against the system.’
                This is wrong.”</p>
              <p>At his trial last October, I heard Prosecutor Mike
                Sepic question witnesses about Pinkney’s and their own
                participation in monthly meetings of the community group
                BANCO. This line of questioning was blatantly
                unconstitutional, apart from violating due process and
                Michigan Rules of Evidence—but it did give a partial
                résumé of Pinkney’s community organizing career. Sepic
                only proved that the charade of a trial was a New Jim
                Crow political lynching.</p>
              <p>According to attorney Davis, “Given the thousands of
                irregularities in election petitions in Michigan every
                year, it’s clear that this is political prosecution in
                retaliation for successful community and electoral
                organizing. They like it until it looks like you are
                going to win. Two-and-a-half to ten years? He’s a
                political prisoner.”</p>
              <p>These are some of the reasons he’s in prison today. The
                <em>means</em> by which they put and keep him behind
                lock and key in prison clothes, eating prison food,
                coping with the threat of prison violence, are almost
                incidental. They are mundane tactics of white supremacy:
                frame-ups, false charges, wrongful arrest, tainted and
                coerced witnesses, false testimony, all-white juries,
                lying jurors, for starters. Local judges who fully live
                up to the racist criminal justice system in which they
                are entrenched. Judges and prosecutors who violate the
                law, due process, constitutional rights—not to mention
                morality, reason, and common sense—with the only
                consequence being further reward for their gross
                misconduct. They follow this with excessive penalties,
                outrageous parole conditions, house arrest, electronic
                tether, excessively high bond or denial of bond
                altogether.</p>
              <p>In 2009, Judge Dennis Wiley <a
                  href="https://solidarity-us.org/node/2233">prohibited</a>
                Pinkney from attending <em>his own appeal hearing</em>
                when he was unable to raise the $10,000 bond in time and
                remained under house arrest. All this for alleged
                non-violent crimes from someone who always met all
                conditions of parole. You have to see Berrien County
                court <a
href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/04/06/no-justice-for-rev-pinkney-again/">in
                  operation</a> to believe the arrogance and disregard
                for human life. It’s a Twilight Zone where judges can
                say anything with impunity. According to court
                observers, Berrien County judges have said, “I know
                you’re innocent and I’m going to put you away” and “I
                don’t care if there’s no law for this; I’m going to make
                one up.”</p>
              <p>On August 5, a three-judge panel of the Third District
                Court of Appeals in Grand Rapids ruled 2-1 against
                Pinkney’s motion for bond pending appeal. Perhaps most
                insulting, the prosecution argued that Pinkney’s release
                would “undermine public confidence not only in the
                electoral process…but also in the justice system
                itself.” Of course, the truth is that the “justice
                system itself” is being used to subvert the electoral
                process. Interpreting the prosecution and judge’s
                arguments becomes an Orwellian word game.</p>
              <p>ACLU of Michigan filed an <em>amicus curiae</em> brief
                in support of the bond motion stating that the
                conviction is “almost certain” to be reversed. Pinkney
                has already spent over seven months removed from his
                family and community. It could be many months more by
                the time the appeal is heard and decided. Pinkney will
                have “paid a debt to society he didn’t owe.”</p>
              <p>We owe a debt to Pinkney. His courage and leadership
                have slowed, though not yet prevented, the wholesale
                destruction of a community of 11,000. The people of
                Benton Harbor need him back, and we need him out of
                prison where he can remain healthy and continue his
                warrior work.</p>
              <p><a
                  href="https://www.credomobilize.com/petitions/free-rev-pinkney">Free
                  Rev. Pinkney Petition</a></p>
              <p><strong>Boycott</strong>: Whirlpool, Maytag, Amana, and
                Kitchen Aid</p>
              <p><strong>Send letters</strong>: Rev. Edward Pinkney, No.
                294671, Lakeland C.F., 141 First St., Coldwater, MI
                49036</p>
              <p><strong>Donations</strong>: <a
                  href="http://bhbanco.org">BANCO</a></p>
              <table>
                <tbody>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>2001</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Pinkney begins court watching,
                      leading weekly marches on Berrien County
                      courthouse, and speaking out against police
                      brutality and wrongful arrests.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>June 2003</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Benton Harbor <a
href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/07/08/police-abuse-and-poverty-fueled-benton-harbor-riots/">uprising</a>,
                      after police break up a peaceful vigil for
                      Terrance Shurn, killed in a police chase. BANCO
                      organizes marches and protests.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>Fall 2004 – 2005</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Pinkney leads successful campaign to
                      recall pro-Whirlpool city commissioner Glen
                      Yarbrough. Boycott Whirlpool campaign begins.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>April 2005</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Prosecutor sues City Clerk Jean
                      Nesbitt to set aside the recall. Nesbitt loses her
                      job and Pinkney is arrested, charged with
                      improperly possessing four absentee ballots (a
                      felony). A second recall election is held and
                      Yarbrough wins.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>2006</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Trial with mixed-race jury results
                      in a mistrial due to hung jury.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>2007</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Pinkney retried, this time with an
                      all-white jury, found guilty, sentenced to house
                      arrest and probation. Key prosecution witness
                      avoids prosecution on unrelated criminal charges.
                      Pinkney begins appeal.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>2008</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Pinkney criticizes the trial judge
                      in an article, quoting Deuteronomy; another judge
                      rules that he threatened the trial judge by virtue
                      of his special relationship with God and violated
                      probation; Pinkney sentenced to 3 to 10 years in
                      prison.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>2008</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">From prison, Pinkney runs for U.S.
                      Congress on the Green Party ticket, challenging
                      Republican Rep. Fred Upton, heir to the Whirlpool
                      dynasty.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>June 2009</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">ACLU helps secure his release on
                      bond, but he is <a
                        href="https://solidarity-us.org/node/2233">prohibited</a>
                      from attending his own appeal hearing when unable
                      to immediately raise $10,000 and Judge Wiley keeps
                      him under house arrest. Pinkney’s parole violation
                      conviction is overturned on appeal, but he is
                      denied a new trial for the election fraud charges
                      and completes his probation on electronic tether
                      at a personal cost of $105/week.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>March 2010</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm
                      appoints Michigan’s first Emergency Financial
                      Manager (EFM) to rule Benton Harbor.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>2008-2010</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Whirlpool’s front group takes Benton
                      Harbor’s lakefront Jean Klock Park for a Jack
                      Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, part of the Harbor
                      Shores multi-million dollar development. Planning
                      for the takeover began as early as 1992. Harbor
                      Shores also steals water without permit while EFM
                      raises household water rates.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>May 2012</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">BANCO organizes “<a
                        href="http://www.workers.org/2012/us/occupy_pga_0607/">Occupy
                        the PGA</a>” protest at Harbor Shores Senior PGA
                      Championship.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>November
                        2013                  </strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Pinkney and another petitioner turn
                      in signatures in favor of holding an election to
                      recall Mayor James Hightower. Hightower opposed a
                      city income tax which would have brought in
                      much-needed revenue from Whirlpool, Inc., to
                      Benton Harbor. Whirlpool pays no federal or state
                      tax, instead receives federal tax credits.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>April 2014</strong></td>
                    <td width="378"><a
href="http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/04/26/free-rev-edward-pinkney-recall-whirlpool-stooge-benton-harbor-mayor-james-hightower/">SWAT
                        team</a> and 30 officers surround Pinkney’s home
                      to deliver arrest warrant.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>May 2014</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Protest of Harbor Shores Senior PGA
                      Championship carries on, despite Pinkney under
                      house arrest on $105/wk electronic tether,
                      prohibited from computer use.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>April-Sep. 2014</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Court stays the vote to recall Mayor
                      Hightower due to questions about signatures. Later
                      another judge allows the vote to proceed as there
                      are sufficient signatures. Then Michigan Court of
                      Appeals and Supreme Court <a
href="http://sfbayview.com/2014/10/rev-pinkney-why-im-charged-with-election-fraud/">stay</a>
                      the election anyway.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>Aug. 2014</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Pinkney <a
href="http://www.bhbanco.org/2014/08/pinkney-to-register-in-lansing-for.html">files</a>
                      to recall County Clerk Sharon Tyler who illegally
                      turned over petitions to sheriff’s deputy.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>Oct. 2014</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Pinkney convicted by an all-white
                      jury on charges of altering dates on the Hightower
                      recall petition. No evidence, direct or
                      circumstantial, that a crime was committed was
                      presented, much less that Pinkney committed any.
                      (Defense request for a venue other than the one
                      Pinkney has protested since 2001 denied.)</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>Dec. 2014</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Judge Schrock sentences Pinkney to
                      2½ to 10 years. Over 130 letters of support are
                      ignored. For 30 days, Pinkney is <a
href="http://www.refusingtokill.net/PrisonUS/pinkney-AA-jan2015-payday.htm">quarantined</a>
                      in deplorable conditions.</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>Feb. and April 2015</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Schrock twice denies bond pending
                      appeal and orders Pinkney to pay $1,736.17 in
                      restitution to Mayor Hightower for “economic and
                      psychological damage.”</td>
                  </tr>
                  <tr>
                    <td width="90"><strong>Aug. 2015</strong></td>
                    <td width="378">Court of Appeals rules 2-1 against
                      motion for bond pending appeal. Decision will be
                      appealed to Michigan Supreme Court.
                    </td>
                  </tr>
                </tbody>
              </table>
              <p><strong>Additional reading:</strong></p>
              <p><a href="http://bhbanco.org">Benton Harbor BANCO (Black
                  Autonomy Network Community Organization) Blog.</a></p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2007/04/21/travesties-of-justice-in-a-black-city-in-michigan/">Travesties
                  of Justice in a Black City in Michigan</a>,” by BANCO,
                April 2007.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://www.mwro.org/wordpress/2009/03/20/whirlpool-gentrifier-of-benton-harbor/">Whirlpool
                  — The Gentrifier Of Benton Harbor</a>,” by Dorothy
                Pinkney, March 2009.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/7237/democracy_vs._profit_central_issue_in_benton_harbor_takeover">Democracy
                  vs. Profit is Central Issue in Takeover of Benton
                  Harbor, Mich</a>.,” by Roger Bybee, April 2011.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://sfbayview.com/2014/10/rev-pinkney-why-im-charged-with-election-fraud/">Rev.
                  Pinkney: Why I’m charged with election fraud</a>,” by
                Rev. Edward Pinkney, Oct. 2014.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/11/legacy-of-racism-and-national-oppression-in-michigan/">Legacy
                  of Racism and National Oppression in Michigan</a>,” by
                <a
                  href="http://www.counterpunch.org/author/abayomi-azikiwe/">Abayomi
                  Azikiwe</a>, November 2014.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28050-whirlpool-corporation-sentences-edward-pinkney-to-prison-with-no-evidence">Rev.
                  Edward Pinkney Imprisoned for Fighting the Whirlpool
                  Corporation</a>,” by <a
                  href="http://www.truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/49635">Victoria
                  Collier and Ben-Zion Ptashnik</a>, Dec. 2014.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://sfbayview.com/2014/12/national-defense-campaign-building-for-rev-edward-pinkney/">National
                  defense campaign building for Rev. Edward Pinkney</a>,”
                by Abayomi Azikiwe, Dec. 2014.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/02/20/1365768/-Free-Political-Prisoner-Rev-Edward-Pinkney-Convicted-with-no-evidence-by-an-All-White-Jury">Free
                  Political Prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney, Convicted with
                  no evidence by an All White Jury,”</a> by <a
                  href="http://www.truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/49635">Victoria
                  Collier and Ben-Zion Ptashnik</a>, Feb. 2015.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/03/06/civil-rights-activist-denied-appeal-bond/">Civil
                  rights activist denied appeal bond</a>,” by Abayome
                Azikiwe, March 2015.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://www.globalresearch.ca/racism-and-police-misconduct-african-american-michigan-community-leader-rev-pinkney-denied-appeal-bond/5434576">Racism
                  and Police Misconduct: African-American Michigan
                  Community Leader Rev. Pinkney Denied Appeal Bond</a>,”
                by Abayomi Azikiwe, March 2015.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="https://libya360.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/berrien-county-court-continues-racist-campaign-against-rev-edward-pinkney/">Berrien
                  County Court Continues Racist Campaign Against Rev.
                  Edward Pinkney</a>,” by Abayomi Azikiwe, April 2015.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="http://tarpley.net/judge-ferdinando-imposimato-first-signatory-to-support-italian-metal-workers-and-rev-pinkney/">From
                  Varese, Italy to Benton Harbor, Michigan: The Same
                  Struggle Against Whirlpool</a>,” by Webster G.
                Tarpley, June 2015.</p>
              <p>“<a
href="https://www.popularresistance.org/letter-from-political-prisoner-rev-edward-pinkney/">Letter
                  From Political Prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney</a>,” by
                Rev. Edward Pinkney, July 2015</p>
            </div>
            <p class="author_description"> <em><strong>Jackie Miller</strong>
                lives in Michigan. </em> </p>
          </div>
        </div>
      </div>
      <div> </div>
    </div>
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