Progressive journalist fights felony charges
By Bryan G. Pfeifer
A growing, broad-based coalition in metro Detroit is fighting to have five felony charges against people's journalist Diane Bukowski dropped immediately. Many view the attack on Bukowski as an attack against the entire progressive movement as well as freedom of the press.
"I believe these charges are retaliation against me and a total attack on the freedom of the press," said Bukowski at a press conference Dec. 15 at the AFSCME Local 312 union hall.
Dozens of individuals and representatives of labor, community and faith-based organizations attended the press conference.
The outrageous charges stem from an incident on Nov. 4 when Bukowski, a reporter for the Michigan Citizen, a progressive weekly newspaper, arrived at an accident scene on Detroit's east side where a motorcyclist and a pedestrian died after a police chase by Michigan state troopers.
Bukowski came upon the scene to observe and investigate. While taking photographs of the deceased motorcyclist, she was accosted by Detroit cops and state troopers, handcuffed and put in the back of a police vehicle. Originally charged with a misdemeanor, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Bukowski with five felony counts of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a police officer.
Bukowski and her allies say these charges are an attack against her for her years of steadfast anti-racist community reporting on a range of issues, including police brutality and police murders, utility shutoffs, foreclosures and union struggles. Bukowski and the Michigan Citizen have been fighting for access to public documents from Worthy's office in relation to police brutality and murder cases.
Bukowski says the attack against her is a clear intimidation tactic against freedom of the press. Before she was handcuffed and placed in police custody she had already interviewed witnesses at the scene who claim the state police vehicle ran upon the motorcyclist's back tire, forcing the crash and deaths and putting other lives at risk.
The Dec. 15 press conference was sponsored by the newly-formed Committee to Defend Diane Bukowski and Freedom of the Press. Speakers included representatives from Call 'Em Out; the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions; Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson; the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality; the Detroit Green Party; Michigan Citizen publisher Teresa Kelly; UAW Local 2334 President David Sole; and Bukowski's attorney, Arnold Reid.
"We are going to do everything to make sure Diane is completely exonerated. We're going to win this case. We're going to give them hell. We're going to fight," said Reid, who is working pro bono on the case and is also a journalist.
JoAnn Watson summed up: "It's outrageous that a woman like Diane, who has given her life to justice, is attacked like this. This is an attack on those who stand for justice. We're not going to stand for this."
Drop ALL charges now!
On Dec. 16 Bukowski supporters again packed the courtroom for a preliminary examination where testimony was given by the state troopers and Detroit police officers at the scene on Nov. 4. Because of lack of evidence on the part of the police, the judge dropped three of the five felony charges.
Future court dates are in the process of being scheduled and the defense committee will be mobilizing for these as well as other support actions. The committee is also soliciting funds for defense expenses.
"Diane is a voice, a soldier of the people speaking on our needs, our plight. This is critically important, especially during this time of economic crisis when independent reporting is so needed. We will fight until we win this battle," said Sandra Hines of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and a Bukowski defense committee member.
To contribute funds for the defense committee and for more information, contact attorney Arnold Reid at 248-855-6330 and/or Diane Bukowski at 313-205-6718.
Supporters are urged to contact Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and demand the remaining two charges against Bukowski be dropped immediately. Write to the prosecutor at 1200 Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, 1441 St. Antoine, Detroit, MI 48226; call 313-224-5777 or fax 313-224-0974.