Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore state attorney, spoke very impressively in announcing arrest warrants for the 6 officers who murdered Freddy Gray. As I noted yesterday here, she responded to all the protest – she heard, as she says below, the cry “no justice, no peace.” She demanded a swift, independent investigation (her investigators stood behind her); she also checked with the police department, the sheriff’s department and the governor (who ordered a speedy coroner’s report which turned out to be one of homicide).
Her action reveals accountability, a first in the series of nationally publicized police homicides (the sheriff in North Charleston did denounce the murder of Walter Scott, but it was plain on video; this is a different kind of investigation, speaking sharply to evidence not all of which can yet be seen in public although the stopping of a man for running and severing his spine in police custody is clear to everyone outside the “authorities”).
Mosby made herself accountable, spoke with genuine authority. She also has great credibility because her mother and father were both police officers, her grandfather a founder of the Black Policeman’s Association in Boston (She also had a cousin shot dead by the police on her family’s doorstep). She was able to speak both to protestors and to the police – that not all police are responsible for the horrors of some – with great force.
Baltimore’s police are, in fact, racist occupiers of an oppressed community. That she did not say. But her striking swiftly to gather evidence of murder and charge those responsible coupled with her police background is likely to rally any decent officer (and make some others wake up).
What she has done, if carried out in the prosecution itself, may actually mark a turning point in the country (given the protests from below – she hear and speaks to young people – as well as pressure from the comparatively sane part of the elite: see below). Her words are worth listening to.
As background, consider two signs in the corporate press – a hopeful one and a disastrous one.
The hopeful one: the New York Times, developing President Obama, spoke clearly about the startling history of police murders – 100 cases settled out of court in the last three years, including a grandmother beaten, her shoulder broken, for calling an ambulance for her hurt grandson…
Those responsible for the actions of the Baltimore police force – not just those who arrested Freddie Gray for looking an officer in the eye and running (with a smashed voice box and a severed backbone while in custody…) need to be arrested/removed from public life.
Many voices spoke out, notably John Angelos, son of the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, against the racism (frequent from some white sportscasters and callers on sport shows) toward the protestors. But Angelos also has a deeper view:
“Baltimore Orioles chief operating officer John Angelos…took to Twitter this weekend to defend the Baltimore protests after they were attacked on local sports radio. He wrote “my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.” (Democracy Now, April 28, 2015 here)
Angelos rightly underscores President Reagan’s deindustrialization of the United States, the throwing away of blue collar jobs, and the failure of the federal government to have much public works and education programs to do something about it. Angelos links this rightly to the increasing emergence of a gigantic American police state (surveillance; 25% of the world’s prisoners, 2.3 million – see Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow).
Here is a sports owner who feels something for the country as well as the team…
The column in the Times below from D. Watkins about how he was treated growing up by the Baltimore police, stopped for nothing, thrown on the ground, over and over, makes very clear whose side – a vicious occupying force – the police in Baltimore and around the country is.
“When I was 10, a group of thugs kicked in the door to my home, knocking it off the hinges, looking for drugs. They held my family and me at gunpoint for hours while they tore our house apart. When they left my mom called the cops; they arrived two hours later, treating us as if we were the crooks and complaining about writing the police reports.
When I was 12 I would play full-court basketball at Ellwood Park, on the city’s east side. One day the cops came through, saying they were looking for a robbery suspect. Suddenly about six officers entered the court from all four directions and made everyone lie on the ground, face down. A friend of mine, whom we called Fat Kevin, asked, “Why y’all treatin’ us like animals?” One of the cops shouted, “Because you are worthless!” though he also used a much more vulgar, and around here a much more common, term.
Then, when I was 14, a cop clothes-lined a kid named Rick off a moped. Rick hopped up, yelling, “What did I do?” and was instantly clubbed down by the cop and his partner. Rick’s face was badly bruised for weeks.”
Note, Watkins reports: black folks only call the police if they need them for an insurance claim (and probably think it over even then…)
The disastrous one – in the main, with the exception of a story Tuesday from the Washington Post – the protestors are treated as thugs (the Mayor Rawlings apologized Wednesday, saying rightly that no one in Baltimore is a thug…).
(One might except certain police officers for the time being, however…).
Actually, as is available at Mother Jones below and here, the protests started when the Mondawmin bus station was shut down by police so that children couldn’t get a ride home from school. That was the final straw, after the shooting and years of police violence.
Note the police came out, with riot gear and tear gas, to provoke. In a sign of the enmity of the elite for ordinary people within our “democracy,” they gave young people to have no way to get home.
The police caused the riot. It was a police riot.
The raw anger was such that Baltimore was set on fire (the film on BBC three nights ago was shocking). This was a terrible mistake, as is the criminality, and counterproductive (the crimes are used to deflect attention from murders and beatings and false arrests by the police).
Yet there are many stories of black heroism and trying to stop violence, (h/t Rachel Harding).
Further in contrast to setting fires, serious, organized nonviolent protest – notably civil disobedience disrupting normal city procedure (sit ins at city hall for example or at city council meetings) around police obrutality and providing jobs – would spotlight the now recognized (because of all the previous protest, Black Lives Matter!) the Occupying force.
I offer this in a limited disagreement with Rob Prince’s fine essay on this mirror of the ’60s below.
Even the Times rightly says that the police are at Occupying force, here and throughout the country, keeping down the unemployed, taking out veterans, grandmothers, boys on dirt bikes, 12 year old Tamir Rice: the epic saga of racist police murders goes on and on.
Prosecutor Mosby has made an important statement, one of accountability to ordinary people.
But the situation in the country can be changed only through a massive program for education and jobs. Such a program would benefit ordinary white folks as well.
Dominique Hazzard invited all of us to imagine here (h/t Rachel Harding):
The Science Fiction of Freddie Gray
That is the America we need.
New York Times
But it’s not only about Freddie Gray.
Like him, I grew up in Baltimore,
and I and everyone I know have
similar stories, even if they
happened to end a little
differently. To us, the Baltimore
Police Department is a group of
terrorists, funded by our tax
dollars, who beat on
people in our community daily,
almost never having to explain or
pay for their actions. It’s gotten to
the point that we don’t call cops
unless we need a police report
for an insurance claim.
the cops. We’ve
watched as Mayor Stephanie
Rawlings-Blake, in conjunction
with Police Commissioner Anthony
W. Batts, spent over a week
investigating what appears to
be an open-and-shut case. I’d
like to think that if I broke a person’s
neck for no reason,
I’d be charged in minutes [no,
the police don’t even have to make
public the records, just like
in Ferguson]. But the system — even
when it’s run by a black mayor
and a black commissioner, even
when a majority of the
City Council is black — protects
the police, no matter how
blatant and brutal they are.
cases of innocent
victims of police brutality who
received a combined
amount of nearly $6 million in
settlements from the
city over the last three years, or
Tyrone West, Anthony Anderson,
Freddie Gray and the more than
100 people killed by local police
officers in the last
decade, and dive straight into
some of the random
experiences I’ve had with cops
black in Baltimore.
kicked in the door to my home,
knocking it off the hinges,
looking for drugs. They held
my family and me
at gunpoint for hours while
they tore our house
apart. When they left my
mom called the cops;
they arrived two hours later,
treating us as if we
were the crooks and
complaining about writing
the police reports.
at Ellwood Park, on the city’s
east side. One day the
cops came through, saying
they were looking
for a robbery suspect. Suddenly
about six officers
‘entered the court from all four
directions and made everyone
lie on the ground, face down.
A friend of mine, whom we
called Fat Kevin,
asked, “Why y’all treatin’ us
like animals?” One
of the cops shouted,
“Because you are worthless!”
though he also used a much more
vulgar, and around here a much
more common, term.
kid named Rick off a moped.
Rick hopped up
, yelling, “What did I do?” and
clubbed down by the cop
and his partner.
Rick’s face was badly
bruised for weeks.
from the years in
between, or the years
after, ranging from
pre-K to graduate school.
they were marching, or
torching a cop car,
or cleaning up Tuesday
Baltimoreans have almost all
had similar stories.
peaceful. The first
acts of violence didn’t occur
until after a
nonviolent, if agitated,
night at City Hall. From there,
a group of protesters, including
myself, marched to Camden Yards,
where the Orioles were
playing the Boston Red Sox. As
we passed a strip of bars, a group
of white baseball fans
, wearing both Baltimore and
were standing outside yelling,
care! We don’t care!” Some
called us monkeys
and apes. A fight broke out,
and people were
hurt. Many other Baltimoreans
feel the same way, which is
why a diverse collection
of protesters has taken to
the streets every day since
Freddie Gray’s death on April 19.
The police officers in Baltimore,
as in many places
in the country with dense
are out of control, have been
out of control. One of the
major reasons is that many
Baltimore police officers don’t
live in Baltimore
City; some don’t even live
in Maryland. Many don’t
know or care about the
citizens of the communities they
police, which is why they can
come in, beat us and kill us without a
sign of grief or empathy.
might ask, “Why Baltimore?” But
the real question is, “Why
did it take so long?”
paying attention to the peaceful
protests in Sanford, Fla.,
Ferguson, Mo., and New York,
only to be let down by the end result,
over and over again.
hands, following pastors and
are pointless.[mass nonviolent
shutting down of
public functions is not the same
protests”; note that this important
alternative is kept out of public
discourse in the mainstream
press.] The only option is to rise up,
and force Mayor Rawlings-Blake
to make what should
be an easy choice: Stop
livelihoods of the cops who
killed Freddie Gray,
or watch Baltimore burn to the
Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore Riots Didn’t Start the Way You Think
Police were forcing busses to stop and unload all their passengers. Then, [Frederick Douglass High School] students, in huge herds, were trying to leave on various busses but couldn’t catch any because they were all shut down. No kids were yet around except about 20, who looked like they were waiting for police to do something. The cops, on the other hand, were in full riot gear, marching toward any small social clique of students…It looked as if there were hundreds of cops.