community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show: A preview of the US Social Forum coming up this June in Detroit, The film "Gasland" on Marcellus Shale drilling screens in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh rallies against Israel's attack on the Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla, A preview of "Radio Golf" presented by the Kuntu Repertory Theatre and more in our local and global headlines.
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Rustbelt Radio for June 7, 2010
Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media.
On today's show...
Rustbelt Radio is broadcast live from WRCT studios every other Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, and the program airs again on WRCT every Tuesday morning at 9AM.
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We turn now to local stories.
On Tuesday, June 1st, dozens of supporters gathered outside of the city-county building in downtown Pittsburgh to rally for the freedom of prisoner Terrell Johnson. Johnson is a former Hazelwood resident, who has been serving a life sentence for murder since his conviction in 1994. After nearly fifteen years behind bars, witnesses have emerged with evidence that they say will prove Mr. Johnson's innocence.
Terrell Johnson’s wife, Saundra Cole, speaking outside of the city-county building:
In 1994, Terrell Johnson was accused of killing 20 year old, Verna Robinson, a Hazelwood resident and known drug addict. Ms. Robinson had testified in a murder case involving gang members of the Hazelwood Mob. Police were supposed to keep her in protective custody as a safeguard against mob retaliation. Instead, the police later dropped her off at her mother’s house, which was situated in gang territory. Ms. Robinson was murdered by gun shots later that night.
Terrell Johnson and two other men became suspects in the case. Mr. Johnson was singled out because of assault charges still pending against him in a drug dispute between him and Ms. Robinson. Despite this dispute, Ms. Robinson was in fact a friend of the family.
Mr. Johnson went to trial first and was convicted even though he had two alibis that were never called to testify at the trial due to an incompetent lawyer and threats from gang members. Although the alibis didn’t testify, they did sign statements that said Mr. Johnson was babysitting that night.
Terrell's wife responds to reporter’s questions about what he was doing during the shooting:
The mother of Terrell Johnson, Vanessa Medley, explains that her son found out that he was a suspect after reading the newspaper one morning.
No murder weapon or fingerprints were ever found at the crime scene .The sole evidence used to convict Mr. Johnson is the testimony of Evelyn McBryde, a crack addict who claimed to witness the murder only after her arrest for shoplifting two weeks later at the Century III Mall. Evelyn McBryde was facing fifty years at the time for a long list of prior convictions, and decided to give testimony in return for a reduced sentence and ten thousand dollars compensation from the police.
A 2003 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story revealed information about McBryde that further exposed her questionable status as a reliable witness. The Innocence Institute, a project of Point Park University that investigates claims of unfair convictions, uncovered court records naming at least 50 charges she’d faced using 11 different names and six different Social Security numbers during a life of crime while repeatedly trading information to convict others in exchange for reductions in her criminal sentences.
In the Post-Gazette article, McBryde admitted that Mr. Johnson, quote “didn’t know what he was getting into. He just got caught up,” and that “If he’d had the money or the power like the other two, he’d have gotten off, too.” endquote
Meanwhile, the two other men originally accused in the murder of Verna Robinson were both later acquitted, one with a reduced charge of conspiracy, after their lawyers reviewed McBryde's testimony. During the two trials, a long list of inconsistencies were found, as well as outright lies that were disproved by other witnesses.
Mr. Johnson's court-appointed attorney, James DePasquale, later admitted at a post-conviction hearing that he did a poor job of defending Johnson. The trial judge, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lawrence O'Toole, agreed, and ruled in 1998 that Johnson should get a new trial, but in a 2-1 vote, a panel of Superior Court appeals judges reversed O'Toole's new trial order. Despite DePasquale's admissions, they did not believe his performance merited a new trial.
Finally, last August, a man came forward, Kenneth Robinson, who says that Ms. McBryde couldn’t have seen the murder because she was with him in a basement smoking crack several blocks away at the time of the murder.
Terrell Johnson has since been granted a new trial that is scheduled to begin August 2nd 2010. In addition to being granted a new trial, Mr. Johnson has been offered time served on a life conviction. He is refusing time served in order to wait for the new trial, in the hopes that the murder conviction will be overturned and he can pursue employment with a clearer record.
For more information or to help support the campaign to release Terrell Johnson, sign the online petition at www. Justice for terrell (That's: t-e-r-r-e-l-l) . blogspot.com.
Israel's unprecedented May 31st attack on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla has left 9 people dead and dozens injured.
Across the world, hundreds of thousands mobilized to speak out against this latest atrocity arising from Israel's continued policies of occupation and war against the Palestinian people and targeting of their supporters. Here in Pittsburgh, members of Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine, the Pittsburgh-Palestine Solidarity Committee, and others held a demonstration on Wednesday June 2nd in front of the Federal building.
Rustbelt Radio spoke with some of the participants, including Osman Ozaltin, a local student.
Osman shared the group's call to action:
Malek Yazici (yeh-ZIH-juh), is also from Turkey. She explained her reason for being at the rally:
Palestine solidarity activist, member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and local Pitt Professor Elaine Linn:
Since the attack on the flotilla and the kidnapping and detention of over 600 activists, the Free Gaza Movement has sent another ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, named after the young peace activist who was killed in 2003 when an Israeli army bulldozer drove over her—twice. The Rachel Corrie was stopped, its crew detained, and humanitarian aid seized off the coast of Gaza.
International diplomatic and popular outrage against Israel has never seemed higher since the brutal Operation Cast Lead claimed over 1,400 Palestinian lives in late 2008/early 2009. Swedish port workers have refused to accept Israeli boats, European ministers are calling for international monitoring and taking control of the Gaza sea passage away from Israel, and both Jewish and Iranian flotillas have been announced for the coming months.
Israel's attempts to spin the media were initially successful in the U.S. due to a media blackout resulting from the enforced silence of the 600 imprisoned activists. However, since their release, people have begun to hear their horrifying testimonies about the attack. Coupled with the sheer scale of the worldwide protest and the prominence of some of those protesting, the voices are proving hard for Israel to explain away and the international community to ignore. Former U.S. Ambassadors, UN Heads of Missions, and many other prominent US and European diplomats, artists, and public figures were among the flotilla's passengers.
U.S. Writer and feminist Alice Walker, who joined the Gaza Freedom March in Cairo at the end of 2009, called for people worldwide to:
"...support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel to End the Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and by this effort begin to soothe the pain and attend the sorrows of a people wrongly treated for generations. This action would also remind Israel that we have seen it lose its way and have called to it, often with love, and we have not been heard. In fact, we have reached out to it only to encounter slander, insult and, too frequently, bodily harm.
Disengage, avoid, and withhold support from whatever abuses, degrades and humiliates humanity.
This we can do. We the people; who ultimately hold all the power. We the people, who must never forget to believe we can win.
We the people.
It has always been about us; as we watch governments come and go. It always will be."
FOR MORE INFORMATION about the Gaza flotilla attack, visit the online Gaza Flotilla Archive at delegitimize.com, D-E-L-E-G-I-T-I-M-I-Z-E dot com.
On Thursday June 3rd there was a major blowout at a Marcellus shale gas well operated by EOG resources in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The well spewed untreated wastewater and gas 75 feet in the air for 16 hours before it was brought under control. The well site was in a remote area with no nearby homes. However, according to DEP Secretary John Hangar, 'The event at the well site could have been a catastrophic incident that endangered life and property.” In the early morning of Monday June 7th exactly that happened in Moundsville, West Virginia, where an explosion at a non-marcellus gas well badly burned 7 workers. Crews are still working to cap the well, which earlier today was burning with flames shooting 70 feet high.
Amidst these disasters, on Saturday June 5th, a new documentary on Marcellus shale drilling, “Gasland,” screened at the Byham Theater to a capacity crowd. The film, by Josh Fox, covers his tour of 26 states where deep shale gas extraction like Marcellus has already taken place. He documents widespread contamination of well water, people living with serious health problems from toxic air and water, homes and properties degraded by drilling infrastructure, and government agencies favoring industry over the protection of citizens. A panel discussion on the current and future impacts of Marcellus shale drilling in Pennsylvania followed the film.
Ned Mulcahy, a lawyer with Three Rivers Waterkeeper, told the audience how many drilling leases have already been signed in Pittsburgh— including parts of Lawrenceville, the 9th & 10th wards, and extensive areas of Mifflin— and in Allegheny County.
Stephanie Hallowich, who lives in Hickory, PA just 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh, has drilling activities taking place next to her property. She has recently had to vacate her home because her children are suffering health effects from air and water contamination.
Ned Mulcahy gave his assessment of the existing laws around drilling:
Several panelists asked people to call their legislators in support of various regulations to improve drilling safety. Filmmaker Josh Fox cautioned this may not be enough:
Myron Arnowitt, state director of Clean Water Action:
The film “Gasland” will premiere on HBO on June 21. To arrange a screening of the film in your community you can contact Josh Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, Rustbelt sat down with Dr. Vernell Lillie, the founder and artistic director of the Kuntu Repertory Theatre and associate professor emeritus of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Lillie founded the theatre in 1974 as a way to showcase the works of African American playwright Rob Penny and other playwrights, including August Wilson, whose works chronicle the tragedies and aspirations of the African American experience. The mission of Kuntu is to examine Black life from a sociopolitical-historical perspective, and to combine the salient features of the theater that both educate and entertain the audience, and that move performers and audience to social action. After each performance, the audience is invited to take part in an open, and sometimes heated, discussion about the issues and themes of the performance. Dr. Lillie's theatre only presents works that she describes as Kuntu Drama as she explains to us:
The Kuntu Repertory Theatre closes its current season of performances with "Radio Golf" by August Wilson. August Wilson was an African American playwright, poet, and director from the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh and spent much of his professional career there including founding the Black Horizon Theatre in the Hill District. His play, "Radio Golf" caps the 10 part series of plays, "The Pittsburgh Cycle", for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. Dr. Lillie explains what she loves about "Radio Golf"
That was Dr. Vernell Lillie speaking about August Wilson's "Radio Golf" being performed at the University of Pittsburgh until June 12th.
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media.
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In just a few weeks, the second-ever US Social Forum will take place in Detroit Michigan. Building off of the World Social Forum movement that began in 2001, the US Social Forum first took place in 2007 in Atlanta. This year's gathering is estimated to have upwards of 20,000 attendees from across the US. To shed light on the US Social Forum, the city of Detroit, and some current organizing movements, we bring you this special from the National Radio Project's Making Contact.
You've been listening to "The Road to Detroit" a special from Making Contact. For more on this, and other episodes, go to www.radioproject.org. For more on the US Social Forum, which takes place June 22-26th, go to USSF2010.org
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, and FRSC Santa Cruz.
Our hosts this week are [ ] and [ ] with contributions from Carlin Christy, Jessica McPherson, Seth Bearden, Nichole Faina. This week's show was produced by Shawn Watson (and) Phill Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. Become our fan on Facebook to receive updates on our latest episode. All of our shows are available on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG and this show can be heard again Tuesday morning on WRCT at 9 AM after Democracy Now!
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.