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Dialectical Justice By: Lloyd Billingsley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 25, 2006

SACRAMENTO – Most criminals are well aware that bank robbery is major crime that usually draws in the FBI and earns the thief years in the slammer. Those currently casing a bank in California should be on notice that even if caught they could get away with only 60 days in jail, four months less than the mandatory maximum for first-time DUI.  To draw such a softball sentence, combined with media protection, it appears to help if the criminal is a professional ethnic and Marxist anti-war activist such as Carl Pinkston.

On September 14, Pinkston begins his brief sentence for activities on January 9, when the 51-year-old entered a bank in Roseville, a bedroom community of Sacramento.  looking to withdraw other people's money. "This is a robbery. Be quiet," said the note he gave the teller, who did not see a weapon but handed over the cash. Pinkston decamped in a green Ford Taurus. Unfortunately for him, a bank patron got in his own car and pursued the thief down the freeway.  Pinkston ducked into a residential neighborhood but the patron bagged his license number and later picked him out of a police lineup.

Though this was his first bust, Pinkston had already brought notice to himself as a political activist and even achieved the status of a "role model" in California's capital. Pinkston had a "revolutionary streak," as one publication put it, which led him to associate with the Marxist School of Sacramento, where he was photographed teaching the fine art of dialectical materialism. Founded in 2000, more than a decade after fall of the Berlin Wall, the tuition-free Marxist madrasa discussed such fare as Revolution in the Air: Marxist Radicals turn to Lenin, Mao and Che, by Max Elbaum, along with the history of the Black Panthers and SDS--all in the tradition of those who favored the Amerikkka spelling.


Pinkston matriculated through a group called New Voice. He described a kind of clandestine recruitment, where he was told to go to a pay phone for secret instructions. Pinkston conceded to a reporter that after the end of the draft and the advent of Ronald Reagan, "the Communist Party wasn't a beacon for anybody." Nontheless, Pinkston remained on the left. Though Amerikkka was supposedly an Oppressive Place, he used the mercies of affirmative action to get a job with the state of California, and was later able to work as an accountant.


“There are no mass movements today," Pinkston told the Sacramento News & Review last year. "There are camps and struggles, but there’s no key strategic vision for a new society.” He had become a fixture in the Sacramento Area Black Caucus and president of Sacramento-Yolo Peace Action. In that role he authored a letter to the Sacramento Bee that blasted "programs that don't address real threats" such as "Star Wars." What the nation needed was more treaties and a "peace dividend" that invested in "jobs, education and health care."


Another letter to the Bee called for "an immediate halt in all U.S. aid to Israel until Israel withdraws to its 1967 borders (including dismantling the settlements), adheres to all U.N. resolutions and international laws and changes its apartheid laws, which give special rights to people of one religion. We stopped supporting apartheid in South Africa and should not support it in any other country."


In the mid-1990s Pinkston and activist Eric Vega organized the Freedom Bound Center, which Pinkston described as a "youth activist training center, training the next generation to replace us." Officially, the mission was to "promote democratic participation, empower economically and socially disadvantaged communities," and so on, with an emphasis on "young people of color."


Pinkston became executive director of the Freedom Bound Center and in July, 2005, organized a reception for a massive Cuba caravan backed by Pastors for Peace and other groups bound to prop up the Castro dictatorship. Last fall the Center cut Pinkston loose, according to board member Estella Sanchez, founder of the Sol Collective, who favors T-shirts emblazoned with AK-47s. Vega told reporters that Pinkston's departure prompted the organization to check its financial records. Pinkston was also checking his own and finding them wanting. In early January he pulled the bank job in Roseville.


A prominent professional activist turning to crime is story of considerable interest but the heist drew only a brief mention, without comment, in the Sacramento Bee, whose writers had otherwise quoted Pinkston many times. In June he pleaded no contest to a single charge of bank robbery, drawing the 60-day sentence plus probation. In any of Pinkston's beloved Marxist regimes the result would have been rather different than in oppressive Amerikkka. 


The deputy district attorney in charge of the case showed his grasp of the obvious when he described the sentence as "light" and hinted that letters to the court on Pinkston's behalf might have influenced the decision. The judge mentioned "extraordinary circumstances." Pinkston hailed his own "principled dedication to community service, the lack of personal gain, and the presence of extraordinary heartfelt remorse."


Again the Bee ran no story. Pinkston wasn't talking but in emails to the Sacramento News & Review he explained that he had been suffering from depression for most of his life, and that over the past year it had become critical. Depression was "increasingly affecting greater numbers of African-American men" and Pinkston planned to start speaking on this theme to churches and youth groups.  Those being mentored might see the subtext:  with a left-wing resume, a glowing self-description and a clever excuse, robbing a bank is low-risk proposition. 


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Lloyd Billingsley is the author of From Mainline to Sideline, the Social Witness of the National Council of Churches, and Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s.

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