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Demonstrators Protest Local Newspaper Over RacismTim King Salem-News.com
Former prison guard's determination for fighting prison racism sees a new front.
(SALEM, Ore.) - A group of demonstrators in Salem are angry with a local newspaper for ignoring racism, corruption and Civil Rights violations against African Americans; both inmates and guards, in the state prison.
The protest was led by former Corrections Officer William Coleman of Salem, who suffered extreme retaliation over blowing the whistle on racism in Oregon Corrections. He believes the problems taking place in the prisons are ignored by the paper, and it creates huge problems.
"What's on my mind are a lot of hate crimes that took place in the prison system that the Statesman Journal ignored. And what I hope to accomplish today, is that the Statesman Journal really decides, to print the truth about hate crimes and corruption in the prison system."
A former prison inmate named Chris who is white, agreed fully with Coleman about corruption in the prison system that costs taxpayers more than they know by far.
"They really don't tell the truth when it comes to the DOC and the state," he said. "I mean I have been in the prison system and I know how corrupt it is from being in it."
William Coleman has been fighting corruption and racism in Oregon's Corrections Dept. for years. Framed and railroaded in retaliation for blowing the whistle on racism in the prison, he has found the Statesman Journal Newspaper's treatment of his story very incomplete, and biased, and very frustrating.
It all came to a head recently when he called Bill Church at the Statesman to find resolution, and voice his concerns about the paper's protection of racism, and Church responded by hanging up on Coleman in the middle of the conversation.
"That is the guy that hung up on me, no one else seems to want to step up to the plate, and explain the situation that is really going on. They want us to leave, of course they want us out of here. They're asking us to leave, but we're trying to negotiate, mediate, and try to get some truth printed in the paper, finally. It affected my family, it affected other people's families, and they refused to investigate that with truth. That is what we are trying to do, and I believe if we keep pushing, we will have no choice but to print the truth."
Coleman and his advocates entered the newspaper, but the staff insisted that our photographer Dexter Phoenix leave the building. It seems odd for a media group to refuse access to a photographer, but this is corporate media. In fact everyone but Coleman and Civil Rights advocate Skip Osborne of Portland, were allowed to stay. As they walked out of the building, I asked Salem-News.com writer Ersun Warncke how it went.
"Well the guy that they wanted to see is apparently away in San Francisco at a conference so there wasn't a lot resolved, apparently there weren't any editors available to talk, or any managers available to talk."
Coleman said, "They just don't want to tell the truth, it is political, this newspaper is political, they want to keep it that way, so until the people come out, and support real news, it is going to continue being like this, so I just hope that people continue tuning into real news, because the Statesman Journal is a joke."
One of Coleman's allegations involved a hate message written on a African-American inmate's People Magazine, something Coleman says the prison tried hard to cover up. The prison also created racial tension by playing a movie for prisoners about the fall of Hitler, packed with Nazi supremacy and suicide. Coleman says the prison created the problems, all potential serious matters of liability to Oregon taxpayers, and there was no response from prison officials.
"They choose to cover it up, protect the white racist officer. And then on top of this, allow a Hitler movie to be played in the institution that really showed me what kind of people I'm dealing with, I'm dealing with people who could not, would not, do the right thing."
Coleman says the corruption he faced, establishes a path toward resolving the historic 1989 murder of Oregon Corrections Director Michael Francke.
"Because the corruption, the people in Francke's time, they are still around, still calling the shots," the former corrections officer said.
And while Coleman says his problems are one thing, the inmates who tried to help him when he was framed by a state prosecutor in Marion County, are another.
One of the inmates is Terrence Kimble. A examination of his case shows that it is impossible he committed the crime he is convicted of, and has spent ten years behind bars over.
"He spent that many years in prison for something you didn't do. I mean, no witnesses to testify that he did this, no DNA to prove that he did this, nothing. Why is this man in prison?"
Coleman says right is right and wrong is wrong, and he will crank up the pressure on Oregon to set this man free.
"I'm not going to rest until I see mr. Kimble walk through that gate saying, 'I'm a free man, I'm a free man, and I believe that is going to happen pretty soon."
To their favor, the Statesman Journal did cover this story. It was a small article, but it is their credit that they covered it. Hanging up on members of the public battling racism is bad business. The Statesman Journal and Bill Church learned that in a big way on this day.
Coleman says any movement is good, and long overdue.
"They've refuse to report this, it is ridiculous, I think a lot of changes have to be made, and I think some changes have to be made, and I think today is a good day to start some effective change at the Statesman Journal."
The group held their protest Monday morning at 11:00 a.m. in front of the Statesman Journal newspaper in Salem.
It all begs the question: what role does a media group have in maintaining the integrity of the community is based in?
It is commonly believed that journalists are the watchdogs of the government, yet in the case of the Salem Statesman Journal Newspaper, the watchdog appears to have been asleep for a long time.
As the man behind the effort to raise awareness of what he calls a "far bigger problem than anyone comprehends," William Coleman, an African-American from the deep south, who had a hard lesson after moving to Oregon and becoming a prison guard, hoping to find a new life, and instead finding himself in a position where he had to fight for his life.
Coleman blew the whistle on racism, corruption and hate crimes at the Oregon State Prison. It was the right thing to do by any system of belief. Coleman saw one inmate almost killed in a stabbing attack that he reported prior to it happening, that was ignored by the people who run the Oregon State Prison. In fact everything Coleman says is corroborated by excellent research and documentation.
It seems obvious that Mr. Coleman has been greatly underestimated.
Coleman says he can not overemphasize how much this failure of the Statesman Journal to adequately perform its role in the community, has set both Salem, and the Oregon taxpayer back.
Coleman's Case History
Coleman beat the state's case against him; which he describes as a trumped up set of charges for smuggling cigarettes into the prison. The charges were filed within four hours of Coleman filing a Whistleblower claim against the state of Oregon.
A Marion County prosecutor tried to drive the case home with a pair of white racist witnesses who were, Coleman says he has learned, paid to testify against him in court.
He took the case straight on, refused to accept one of numerous plea bargains offered to him by the state, and was found "Not Guilty" on all counts with a unanimous verdict no less.
The Statesman Journal ran a small blurb on this.
Coleman says he firmly believes that the Statesman Journal could have helped prevent Oregon's corrections department from becoming extremely corrupt many years ago, by simply investigating the facts and publishing them. Allegations of corruption predate the 1989 Murder of former Corrections Director Michael Francke, which so many believe led to a false Murder conviction against a man named Frank Gable, who is still serving time for the killing.
Instead of responding to this African-American man's extremely well documented account of crimes committed by state officials at the prison, the sleeping watchdog paper and the state's complacent Attorney General, John Kroger, maintain a prose that will require federal intervention to correct it.
This is not a simple story; it involves violence, bribery, huge Civil Rights violations, millions of dollars in laundered and lost taxpayer funds, and a 21-year old Murder that nobody is going to forget about until things are set straight.
Prior Attempts to Work with Statesman Reporter
In his attempt to get the case out in front of the public, Coleman worked with a reporter named Alan Gustafson at the SJ, but the real story Coleman kept telling, about racism and ugly happenings behind the walls of the prison, never seemed to make the cut.
Yet any allegations against Coleman, Gustafson and the newspaper management deemed to be serious front page material. Coleman gave talking to Gustafson one last try, and it did not change the reporter's position.
As related above, in a last ditch effort to convince the Statesman Journal that the racism he has proven to exist in the prison is a serious problem, Coleman called the newspaper and asked if he could speak to someone who is in charge of Gustafson. Coleman was told he should contact a senior news employee named Bill Church, so he did.
After reaching him on the phone, Coleman told Church he needed the paper's help to expose violent dangerous racism that sets the tone at the state prison.
Bill Church's reply from the Statesman Journal to this embattled African-American was, "I don't need to listen to any of this crap from you" and Church slammed the phone down in Coleman's ear.
Coleman says in the bigger picture, the paper's treatment of his case has been consistent with what he has he received at the hands of the state. Somehow though, no matter what, it seems that Coleman is destined to find the justice he seeks.
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