Baltimore waits for answers on black man’s death in police custody

30 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Baltimore Officials: No Immediate Decision in Gray Case.

Having weathered two all-night curfews with no major disturbances, Baltimore officials are now trying to manage growing expectations they will immediately decide whether to prosecute six police officers involved in the arrest of a black man who later died of injuries he apparently received while in custody.If you happen to be a person who has felt it necessary this week to enter conversations about police brutality or pervasive racial inequality or riots in order to insert your concern for Baltimore residents and business owners affected by the small faction of otherwise peaceful, nonviolent protesters rallying after the recent death of Freddie Gray, stand down.

The recent unrest in Baltimore is the result of many factors which stretch back generations, but the recent tumult is largely tied to the death of one man: Freddie Gray.Wednesday saw Baltimore’s largest march in more than a week of demonstrations since Freddie Gray died after suffering spinal injuries while in police custody.

In an effort to be transparent, authorities have told the community they plan to turn over the findings of a police investigation into Freddie Gray’s death to a state’s attorney by Friday. By now, the basic details are no doubt familiar: the 25-year-old Gray was arrested two weeks ago, reportedly on a weapons charge, and then died a week later. We can acknowledge that the system is fucked up and broken, or that we’re in dire need of an infrastructural overhaul, or that people who are routinely terrorized and fear for their lives are perhaps logically justified in feeling angry or even daring to express that anger publicly — none of this also implies an automatic condoning of burning Baltimore to the ground. But protesters on the streets and high school students who met with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday have said there are rumors circulating that some kind of “verdict” will be rendered as soon as Friday. It also doesn’t mean we’re prevented from finding it unfortunate that sometimes everyday people – kind, hardworking, engaged members of a community – might find themselves on the receiving end of property destruction or looting.

Last night, the Washington Post reported on a leaked document, written by a Baltimore police investigator, that takes the story in a rather striking direction. Both Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts spent much of the day Wednesday trying to explain that no final resolution to the case would come Friday. There’s room here to understand that these individual losses are difficult and sad and unfair, and if we can put a little more good into the world by keeping these people in our minds or in our relief efforts too, great.

Hassan Murphy, a lawyer for Gray’s family, underscored their comments, saying, “This family wants justice and they want justice that comes at the right time and not too soon.” Gray, 25, was pinned to a sidewalk, handcuffed and hoisted into a police van where he was put in leg irons after Baltimore officers said he made eye contact with them and ran. Batts has said, in an interview with Baltimore station WJZ-TV, that a second man in the police van described hearing Gray “thrashing about.” Batts also said the man indicated that he didn’t see anyone harm Gray and that the driver didn’t drive erratically. Hundreds of people gathered in New York City’s Union Square chanting “black man, no justice.” “We cannot release all of the information from this investigation to the public because if there is a decision to charge in any event by the state’s attorney’s office, the integrity of that investigation has to be protected,” he said. But somewhere along the way, Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury, and the six officers involved were suspended with pay amid the criminal investigation.

In the context of repeated, unjustifiable violence affecting a disproportionately large number of minority victims at the hands of undertrained, careless or – worst of all – aggressive and unchecked police officers, a ruined storefront becomes pretty irrelevant. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety. The mayor and others tried to stay focused on the positive Wednesday, applauding residents for obeying the 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew that first went into effect Tuesday night and for preventing a repeat of Monday night’s violence.

Though the claims are extraordinarily hard to believe, this is the first tidbit of information the public has received from inside the official investigation into Gray’s death. If the scariest thing you see happening in America is that 100 or so protesters in Baltimore became rowdy and destroyed a handful of buildings, wake the hell up. In other words, all we have to go on by way of Baltimore law enforcement, at this point, is this leaked document pointing to a theory that strains credulity. While the city was returning to normalcy, residents in the most affected neighborhoods vented their frustration with police and expressed a desire to see at least some of the officers who arrested Gray, held accountable. “The best (outcome) would be one where the officers were disciplined and officials realized what happened and owned up to their wrongdoing,” said Larry Little, 22, a Baltimore resident who joined the march on Wednesday.

Today they look better than yesterday, so we’re making a lot of progress.” There were signs throughout the city of life getting back to normal, with schools reopening and cars rolling as usual through streets that had been cleared of debris. But widespread protests Wednesday night — not only in Baltimore, but in several cities including Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. — made it clear that tensions over the case are far from subsiding.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch to Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton – to weigh in and vow to work on improving law enforcement and criminal justice in minority communities nationwide. Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols, Juliet Linderman, Matthew Barakat, Tom Foreman Jr., Jessica Gresko, Brian Witte and Jeff Horwitz contributed to this report. Lynch, sworn in as attorney general on Monday, called Baltimore’s riots “senseless acts of violence” that are counterproductive to the ultimate goal of “developing a respectful conversation within the Baltimore community and across the nation about the way our law enforcement officers interact” with residents.

When we create a space to talk specifically about how black lives matter, because those are the lives that are being overwhelmingly lost to police brutality, we don’t suddenly fail to remember that other human lives hold worth as well. Clinton on Wednesday urged police departments throughout the country to use body cameras and called for an end to excessive prison sentences that burden black communities. Are we so obtuse, so self-centered that we honestly can’t stand to let those spaces exist without feeling threatened and then jumping in at the first opportunity to loudly reminder everyone that if we wanted to, we could be talking about different people instead?

The Baltimore neighborhood that saw the worst of the violence was already filled with many burned-out buildings and vacant lots that had not been rebuilt since the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. It’s easy to crow #BlueLivesMatter (and they do!) when the majority of interactions you’ve had with police have gone as they’re supposed to, when the system in place to protect us against potential abuses of power works exactly as we trust it will. Each year, police departments in major cities cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in lawsuit payouts for what is politely termed “misconduct.” In the last ten years, settlements in Chicago alone have reached nearly half a billion. In a conversation with Bill Keller at the Marshall Project, former reporter and creator of “The Wire” David Simon, discusses Baltimore’s long-standing culture of police brutality and mistrust, dating back at least to the early ’80s: …the need for police officers to address the basic rights of the people they were policing in Baltimore was minimized.

It was done almost as a plan by the local government, by police commissioners and mayors, and it not only made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did. The city is burning because the police killed Freddie Gray.” And not just Freddie Gray. “There shouldn’t be calm tonight,” Hill explained. “Black people are dying, have been dying in the streets for months, years, decades, centuries.” when it was Egypt, you called it a REVOLUTION. when it is Baltimore you call it a RIOT. if you had no questions about why Egyptians were burning shit down IN THEIR OWN COMMUNITY, ask no questions about Baltimore. chew your words well before you swallow them. #BaltimoreRising America was founded by fighting radically against our oppressors – it took a revolution and then a war to win our freedom. If, through the witness and experience of your community, you came to understand the strong possibility that a police officer might deny your rights or brutalize you or murder you, and that this might happen regardless of how well you did in school, or what job you held, or whether or not you were engaging in any illegal behavior in the first place, or who was or wasn’t waiting for you back home? After years of talking about it, of gathering and marching and holding signs about it, of photographing or hashtagging or making a popular TV series about it without much changing, at what point might you set down your protest sign and seek a new way of making yourself and your worth more visible?

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