In December 2007, Dr. Catherine Wilkerson was acquitted of phony criminal charges brought against her by the University of Michigan and Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie. Now, she faces termination from her job for her anti-war political beliefs. This is an affront to free speech and social justice.
Dr. Wilkerson originally faced two counts of attempted obstruction/interference/assault of a police officer and a
Dr. Catherine Wilkerson
paramedic for assisting a victim of police brutality at a demonstration. It was a victory for protesters and their right to necessary medical assistance in the face of police violence.
The phony charges stemmed from an incident on Nov. 30, 2006 at the Michigan League in Ann Arbor where several protesters where arrested for heckling Raymond Tanter, a right-wing ideologue there to discuss "regime change" in Iran. Protesters were dragged from the event and arrested for heckling Tanter. Dr. Wilkerson came to protester Blane Coleman’s aid after he was taken down forcefully and rendered unconscious and unable to breathe by University of Michigan Department of Public Safety officers.
She again aided Coleman after medics began using a series of noxious ammonia inhalants on him. For helping, Dr. Wilkerson was thrown against the wall face-first by an Ann Arbor cop. She was released and not charged.
It was only two months later, after Dr. Wilkerson filed a citizen’s complaint with the Ann Arbor police, that she was arrested and charged.
Before her trial, community and national organizations rallied around her case. The Committee to Defend Catherine Wilkerson was formed. The ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) made a national call for support, to which thousands of you responded. As a result of ANSWER’s work, over 4,000 letters were sent to prosecutor Mackie demanding "Drop the charges on Dr. Wilkerson now!" The Party for Socialism and Liberation drafted articles and hosted Dr. Wilkerson at local meetings.
The pressure helped shine a light onto the unjust nature of the prosecution. After her acquittal, Dr. Wilkerson had hoped to return to caring for her patients at the Packard Community Clinic. However, the clinic decided to fire her because of her political activism. Medical Director Ray Rion and Executive Director Kimberly Kratz have deemed Dr. Wilkerson "not a good fit for the clinic." Rion criticized Wilkerson for helping treat Coleman, the victim of vicious brutality.
The clinic then presented Dr. Wilkerson with a vague, restrictive contract requiring her to "refrain from conduct, both at work and outside of work, which tends to reflect negatively on the reputation and public image of Employer, which may negatively affect the ability of Employer to retain current patients, attract new patients or attract donations, or which may otherwise in the judgment of Employer's Medical Director reflect poorly upon the public image of Employee or Employer." Dr. Wilkerson protested any undue restriction on her free speech and association rights. Citing her political activities, the clinic set her termination in motion.
Feb. 15 will be her last day of work. This is an attempt to further criminalize a heroic doctor for her constitutionally protected political beliefs and associations.
Dr. Wilkerson is known for advocating an end to the imperialist war on Iraq and for self-determination for Palestinians. Her progressive political views in no way interfere with her ability to practice medicine. In fact, her compassion and support for oppressed peoples only enhances it. Most of her patients at the community clinic are Black, Latino, Arab or Asian. As Dr. Wilkerson has said, "My patients overwhelmingly come from the ranks of the working class."
The Committee to Defend Catherine Wilkerson has issued an urgent action alert to "encourage the Governing Board of the Packard Community Clinic to stop the firing of Dr. Wilkerson and to stop the harassment of her for engaging in constitutionally-protected free speech activities on her own time and in her own name."
The committee is asking supporters to contact the Governing Board immediately, urging them to stop the unjust firing of Dr. Wilkerson. You can call the Packard Community Clinic by calling 734-971-1073.