Defiant Chuck Turner Lambastes Justice System and Mass Media at Roxbury Community College Rally
BOSTON/Roxbury - Councilor Chuck Turner (G/R-District 7) rallied over 200 supporters at Roxbury Community College on Tuesday in the wake of an announcement by Ronald Wilburn, the only witness and the linchpin of the federal bribery case against Turner, that he would no longer cooperate with the government. The event focused on preparing attendees to expand Turner's community-based approach to his defense as legal proceedings against him continue.
Turner, who is African-American, was arrested in a dawn raid by federal marshals at his Boston City Hall office last fall and accused of taking a $1000 bribe from Wilburn in a controversial move by outgoing U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Turner and his supporters have maintained his innocence and have stated repeatedly that race was a major factor in his treatment by law enforcement officials and the regional media.
His remarks centered on that theme throughout the event, "One of the things I said a couple of days after I was arrested was that as an organizer it was a waste, there was a sense of waste for a lot of people to be keeping me out of jail. I don't want to go to jail. But, just given the problems that we're struggling with, to have people spending a tremendous amount of energy just on trying to get me out of jail seemed to me to be not really a very good use of our energy. At the end of it what do we have? I'm out of jail, but we really haven't accomplished anything.
"So one of the things we've been looking at is how we could couple my arrest and the work around my arrest to the larger problem. And the larger problem is that we have a system of injustice in this country ... run wild. That is, we don't have - from my perspective - a justice system. We have a system of men and women who are operating at the local level, state level, federal level. But when you look closely at the operation both locally, statewide and nationally, you can see that it doesn't function fairly. It doesn't function fairly for black people. It doesn't function fairly for people of color. It doesn't function fairly for white people unless they have enough money to, in fact, buy the justice they're looking for."
A strategy unfolded over the course of Turner's remarks. "And so," he continued, "what we want to do - while we want to focus on my arrest, the attempt to put me in jail - we also want to help us all understand how this system of injustice works, the many levels on which it works, and more importantly to organize to bring about change."
Turner's critique of the American justice system turned swiftly into a critique of the American mass media, "Too often, we will take what they say about us and let them get away with it. You know when they tell these lies, why do we let them get away with it? Why do we let them get away with it? Why don't we stand up and confront the lies more vigorously? Some of us do it. But there aren't enough us. We need more of us standing up and saying we aren't going to let you confuse and cloud the minds of the American people.
"The only way people are going to get any sense of reality is if those of us who know the truth stand up and tell the truth. Why? Because the media is controlled by millionaires and billionaires. Why would we expect them to tell the truth? They are benefiting from the clouding of people's minds. They cloud people's minds because that keeps them passive. That keeps people in their control. And so if we are really going to try to bring a change to this country then we have to begin help wake us all up and we can't depend on anybody else to wake us up. Except us.
One of many crescendos during the two-hour event came when Turner made reference to the recent campaign to elect Pres. Barack Obama, "During the last couple of years there's been a lot of rhetoric about change. But you know and I know that change doesn't start from the top. Change starts from the bottom and the question I have is when are we going to stand up as American people and demand a justice system that works."
Entertainment was provided by the Raging Grannies, the Silver Leaf Gospel Singers, and The Foundation Movement.
Numerous attendees accompanied Turner to a hearing the next day in federal court on a protective order the U.S. Attorney's Office is attempting to force on him. The order, called a "gag order" by defense attorney Barry P. Wilson, would prevent Turner from disclosing sensitive information released by the prosecution as part of the ongoing legal proceedings. Turner's defense team states that such an order would be a violation of free speech rights in preventing them from publicly discussing any material contained in the large number of documents now associated with the case against him. They indicate a protective order would also be unfair given that the prosecution released key information to the media at the time of Turner's arrest - which they believe has improperly biased the general public and potential jurors against Turner in advance of his upcoming trial.