Benton Harbor Riots: 10 Years Later - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Benton Harbor Riots: 10 Years Later

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Sunday marks ten years since riots broke out in Benton Harbor.

June 16th 2003, Terrance Shurn died in Benton Harbor after crashing into an abandoned building while riding his motorcycle.

He was being chased by police.

For the next couple days those living in the city rioted in the streets.

The unrest brought national attention to the city.

Residents, community leaders, even the Governor at the time said something needed to be done.

"It was a very turbulent time," says Mayor James Hightower, remembering the rioting, "I experienced a piece where there was a vacant apartment building next to my home that was set on fire," he says.

During the unrest homes were set on fire. Police and fire vehicles were damaged. Even the windows of a FOX28 vehicle were smashed

But all this violence wasn't just because of Shurn's death.
In 2003 residents said that was just the final straw after years of problems in the city.

"Protecting and serving us, how can they protect and serve us when they don't respect us?" questioned a Benton Harbor resident in 2003.

Another resident said, "They don't give a damn about us man, flat out."

Back then FOX 28 spoke to Reverend Edward Pinkney about the problems in Benton Harbor.
Ten years later he vividly remembers the community at that time.

"It was a very hostile environment.  The people was just fed up," says Pinkney, adding not much has changed.

"We haven't really advanced very much, if any, at all," says Pinkney.

Mayor James Hightower disagrees.

He says the riots were a wake up call.

"A lot has happened over the ten years," says Hightower. He adds, "Since 2003 the overall crime rate has been cut in half."

Hightower says you can see the change, "You see new homes, we have new homeowners."

There's also the new Harbor Shores Golf Course and a new Main street called the arts district with restaurants and a brewery.

Reverend Pinkney says that's not helping most residents, "On the other side of main street is ok but once you go inside the city the infrastructure is basically destroyed."

He adds, like ten years ago, there's frustration.

"People are fed up.  We can no longer sit back and say business as usual in Benton Harbor," says Pinkney.

Hightower admits the city is far from where he wants it to be, but says the mood is nowhere near what it was when the riots started.

"Benton Harbor is really full of hope right now," says Hightower.

Either way they both agree they don't want to see the violence of 2003 again and they would both like to see local control returned to the city soon.

Mayor Hightower says there's a chance for that in the next fiscal year.

Meanwhile, FOX 28 reached out to Charles Yarbrough, who was the Mayor at the time.

He did not wish to be interviewed on the anniversary of the riots.

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