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Tension in Benton Harbor

Police, rain quell mayhem in Benton Harbor after 2 straight nights of riots: (6/19/03) Law enforcement officers, dressed in full riot gear and some in armored vehicles, lined East Empire Avenue yesterday to subdue violence in Benton Harbor, Mich., after two nights of rioting. But Mother Nature may have provided the biggest deterrence of all -- rain. The neighborhood where a 28-year-old motorcyclist died after a police chase remained calm, if not quiet, last evening and Michigan State Police troopers and authorities from several jurisdictions numbering as many as 300 helped patrol last night. Throngs of neighbors walked along East Empire, amongst police, passing the charred remains of a building at Pavone Street where Terrance Devon Shurn died when he lost control of his motorcycle early Monday morning. Most, though, headed for shelter when the rain started to fall about 6:30 p.m.

Hard times have taken sharp toll: (6/19/03) The years have weighed heavy on this place. More than a century past its origins as a fruit-producing powerhouse, the riverside city is now home to about 11,000 people. More than one-third of them live in poverty. More than 90 percent are black. Benton Harbor looked very different just a few decades ago. The city evolved from a resort town into a manufacturing center, and spiraled into decline beginning in the late 1960s.

Benton Harbor can expect help, Granholm vows: (6/20/03) Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said yesterday she will appoint a team from her office and this impoverished city of about 11,000 to see what impact the state can have in turning around its economic and educational fortunes. Ms. Granholm made the comments after emerging from a nearly two-hour meeting with city and community leaders at the Brotherhood of All Nations Church of God and Christ. The church is about a mile from the site where motorcyclist Terrance Devon Shurn crashed after a police chase early Monday. His death sparked riots Monday and Tuesday nights that destroyed six homes by fire and damaged many vehicles.

'Hurricane' Carter tries to calm a city caught in violence: (6/20/03) A figure such as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter seemed like a natural to bring calm to a city in turmoil. He's a former boxing star who rose from poverty only to be convicted of murder in 1967. A federal court later ruled that the conviction was racially motivated. Mr. Carter was freed in 1985. Mr. Carter seemed perfect to speak to the despair and hopelessness of Benton Harbor residents -- feelings that many believe led to two nights of violence after the death of motorcyclist Terrance Devon Shurn early Monday.

Rev. Jackson challenges riot-torn city to heal: (6/21/03) On Thursday, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm suggested that the state should "put its arms around" Benton Harbor, which had suffered from two nights of rioting earlier in the week. Yesterday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson physically put his arms around the city's children, hoisted up its babies, and stared into the eyes of some of the community's frustrated young men and challenged them to help rebuild the poverty-stricken city. Mr. Jackson, who arrived in Benton Harbor at the invitation of Mayor Charles Yarbrough, visited with city and community leaders and spoke to a crowd of roughly 300 at a community center.

 

Editorial: Anguish in Benton Harbor: (6/25/03) After a Berrien County, Michigan, sheriff's deputy quit chasing two men going like the wind on high-performance motorcycles, a Benton Township officer took off after a speeding biker, probably one of the same two. The officer trailed him into Benton Harbor and was either blocks behind, or bumping him, depending on whom you believe, when the biker slammed into a building and died. Compounding the tragedy, two days of rioting followed. Most of us intuitively expect police to go after lawbreakers. But in Benton Harbor, as in Toledo a few years back, there was righteous concern about people dying while being pursued for something less than a capital crime.

 

Followup by Associated Press: 

Funeral remembers man whose death sparked riot: (6/24/03) A motorcyclist whose death during a high-speed police chase sparked two nights of rioting was remembered at his funeral yesterday as a kind and loving man. More than 500 mourners filled Greater Faith Apostolic Church to pay their respects to Terrance Shurn. About a third wore white T-shirts in homage to the 27-year-old, whose nickname was "T-shirt." About 15 motorcycles took part in the funeral procession from the church to the nearby cemetery where Mr. Shurn was buried.

Benton Harbor police cleared in death of black motorcyclist: (7/09/03) Prosecutors have cleared police of any wrongdoing in the case of a black motorcyclist whose death during a police chase led to two nights of rioting last month. In a report released yesterday, Berrien County prosecutor James Cherry also said the night-time pursuit was not motivated by race.

2-town protest in Mich. targets racial injustice: (7/13/03) About 200 demonstrators marched yesterday from Benton Harbor to neighboring St. Joseph to protest racism and injustice. The 1 1/2-mile march started outside Benton Harbor City Hall, crossed the bridge over the St. Joseph River, and ended at the Berrien County Courthouse, where a 90-minute rally ensued. Benton Harbor was the site of two nights of rioting last month after a police chase during which a local motorcyclist died when he crashed into a vacant building. The Berrien County prosecutor has since cleared police of any wrongdoing in the death of Terrance Devon Shurn, 27.

$250,000 grant for homes announced by Granholm: (8/27/03) A $250,000 state grant will finance the construction of four new homes on and near the site of a deadly motorcycle accident that sparked two nights of rioting. Gov. Jennifer Granholm visited this southwestern Michigan city yesterday to announce the housing project, transfer property to the city, visit area schools, and meet with local officials. The governor said it was necessary for the houses to be built at the site where Terrance Shurn died during a high-speed police chase in June. "To have these homes built here is an important statement that this community is stepping forward and not moving backward," Ms. Granholm said during a groundbreaking ceremony at the site.

Task force delivers its riot report: (10/19/2003) A 21-member task force appointed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to identify and defuse the causes of riots that struck the city in June has met for the final time. Members say it will be up to the community to implement the recommendations in its final 150-page report to the governor, which will be available today. "Some thought the state would pour tons and tons of money to eradicate problems here," task force Co-chairman Greg Roberts told the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune for a story yesterday. "The governor said the state would embrace Benton Harbor ... but Benton Harbor has to help itself."

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