Drop the charges against Catherine Wilkerson

Drop the charges against Catherine Wilkerson
a Michigan doctor facing criminal charges
for defending a protester

As mass sentiment against the U.S. occupation of Iraq continues to grow across the world, many activists on college campuses are experiencing increased police repression and attacks on their First Amendment rights. One of these instances occurred on Nov. 30, 2006, in Ann Arbor, Michigan—home of the University of Michigan.

As a result of that protest, Dr. Catherine Wilkerson, a respected community physician who provides medical care to working-class people at a local clinic, was charged with two crimes stemming from an encounter with local and campus police. On Nov. 26, 2007, her trial is set to begin in Ann Arbor.

The ANSWER Coalition is supporting the efforts of the Committee to Defend Catherine Wilkerson to demand that all charges against her be dropped. Click here to show your support by signing a petition that will be hand delivered to University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie.

Background

Catherine WilkersonDuring a protest against the war on Iraq and threats of war on Iran, University of Michigan police brutalized and arrested three activists. Police tactics included the use of pressure point control tactics. PPCT is a pain compliance tactic that essentially uses painful pressure and manipulation of the body in order to force the victim to comply.

After brutalizing one protester and threatening him with pepper spray directly in the face, the police then pinned him to the ground in a manner that can result in suffocation. As the man groaned in agony, the officer used his knee and his substantial physical bulk to crush the protester's chest, face down against the floor. Between desperate gasps, the man told officers that he could not breathe, and then fell unconscious.

Dr. Wilkerson identified herself as a physician and demanded access to the man in order to examine him and determine if his life was in danger. After much resistance from the police, Dr. Wilkerson was allowed to examine the man and determined that he was still alive. As this was occurring, an ambulance with paramedics, the fire department and the Ann Arbor police arrived on the scene.

Dr. Wilkerson was forcibly kept aside. One of the medics then held a succession of three ammonia inhalants directly under the patient's nose, culminating with cupping his hands over the man's nose while he forced him to inhale the third capsule of the noxious gas. This caused the man to retch and nearly vomit as the medic taunted him, "You don't like that, do you?"

Dr. Wilkerson was outraged by the punitive and dangerous actions of the police and medics. She told the medics, "What you are doing has no efficacy and is punitive, and you know it."

For speaking out, Dr. Wilkerson too was brutalized by the police.

Police grabbed her from behind, wrenched her arms behind her, then slammed her against a wall and held her there as she begged him to release his painful grip. The officer then detained her against her will for a protracted period of time, forcing her to stand in a hallway despite her continued extreme shoulder pain.

Dr. Wilkerson was not arrested at this time, however, as she did not break any laws and was simply attempting to fulfill her ethical obligations as a physician.

Dr. Wilkerson later registered a complaint of police brutality at City Hall. One week after filing her complaint, she was shocked to find a letter in the mail from the county prosecutor informing her that she was being charged with attempted assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer and attempted assaulting/resisting/obstructing a paramedic.

The charges are a blatant example of police retaliation against a respected doctor and community activist for complaining about police misconduct.

Dr. Wilkerson faces jail time and hefty fines if she is convicted. She has refused to take the prosecutor's plea deal because she has done nothing wrong. In fact, her intervention in the police riot prevented possible grave injuries for those attacked by the cops.

Statement from Dr. Wilkerson

From "Scenes from a cop riot" by Dr. Catherine Wilkerson:

When I became a doctor I knew I would encounter a lot of human suffering, but I never envisioned a time when my efforts to alleviate it would get me brutalized by the police, then charged with a crime. I never envisioned a time when I would witness another health "professional" brazenly violate the most fundamental principle of medical ethics: first do no harm. But thirty years after graduation, at a political event on the campus of the University of Michigan, those things happened.

Click here to read Dr. Wilkerson's entire statement.

Take action

All the charges should be dropped on Dr. Wilkerson immediately. Community activists, medical workers and all progressive people should join in this demand. The ANSWER Coalition is supporting the efforts of the Committee to Defend Catherine Wilkerson to demand that all charges against her be dropped.

Click here to show your support by signing a petition that will be hand delivered to University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie.


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