Stop rioting, they told us. We did that, too.
Let the justice system do their job, they told us. We even did that.
Be patient, they told us. Well, we've been doing that for more than a century.
And still . . .
And still . . .
I don't know that I've ever cried while writing a blog post before, but I'm crying now. Tears of sadness and tears of frustration -- mixed in with a liberal amount of tears of anger.
It was April 12, 2015 around 9:15 in the morning when it happened. Freddie Gray was minding his business, walking in his Baltimore neighborhood. Police Lt. Brian Rice and police officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero were on bike patrol. Gray caught Rice's eye, and according to the police lieutenant, took off running.
The police gave chase, and tackled Gray to the ground. They found a knife, blade folded into the handle, clipped to the inside of Gray's front pocket and arrested him. Gray, who suffered from asthma, asked for an inhaler, but was ignored. Bystanders videotaped the arrest on cellphones -- the young man did not appear to be hurt when the officers placed him, handcuffed into the police van -- which had two benches, each with five sets of seat belts.
|Typical Baltimore Police Van|
Ever heard of a Rough Ride? Or a Nickle Ride?
They are terms for a form of police brutality that officers can inflict without ever laying a hand on a person.
They simply handcuff/shackle a suspect and place him/her in the back of a police van. Then the driver of the van then starts speeding on bumpy roads, making series of sharp turns, coming to sudden stops -- all designed to throw the bound and helpless suspect around in the unpadded metal van.
There've been numerous cases where a nickle ride has resulted in serious injury to a suspect, including landing them in wheelchairs and led to multi-million dollar settlements around the country.
Records would show that the officers driving the police van made three stops before taking Freddy Gray to the police station; once to place shackles on Gray, the other to place another person in the back of the van with him.
When the van finally arrived at the police station Gray was found barely conscious. He was taken to the hospital (saying "rushed to the hospital" seems inappropriate here) and died a week later. His neck was broken. His vocal box was crushed. His spinal cord severed.
Despite extensive surgery, Gray died in the hospital on April 19th.
The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, adding it is "believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred when Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seat belt while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon."
There were Baltimore citizens who held protests about Freddie Gray's death, but that didn't really get any media coverage or attention.
That caught a lot of attention. National media attention. All of a sudden everyone was paying attention to a death of the young guy in Baltimore. Time Magazine even had a cover devoted to it.
And Baltimore mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, held a press conference after the rioting and called the participants thugs.
They got things rolling, whatever she or anyone else might want to call them.
But after the Trayvon Martin case, the Michael Brown case, the Eric Garner case, and so many over the past five years, the community didn't really think there would be any justice for Freddie Gray's family.
But then on May, 1st, Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City's State Attorney, held a dynamic press conference in which she announced charges against six police officers in connection with Gray's death -- the most serious charges being depraved-heart manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and manslaughter by vehicle.
People began to hope, really hope . . .
Someone. Was. Finally. Going. To. Be. Held Accountable. For. Murdering. Our. Young. Black. Men. And. Women.
But then one officer's trial ended in a mistrial. Two other officers were tried and acquitted. The charges were dropped against all the officers earlier today -- July 27, 2016.
To say the community is stunned, hurt, and confused would be an understatement. Freddie Gray did not break his own neck, crush his own vocal box, and sever his own spine.
The officers admit that they did not seat-belt Freddie Gray although Baltimore Police policy dictated they should have.
They admittedly ignored Freddie Gray's repeated requests for medical assistance.
But no one was responsible for his death?
Not even a teeny-weeny bit responsible?
Give me a damn break!
And even Marilyn Mosby, in the press conference this morning announcing the dropping of the charges, was furious. She said there were police officers who were witnesses to the case, but still were appointed to the investigative team. Lead detectives, she said, were not only uncooperative, but actually started a counter-investigation to disprove the state's case.
"We can try this case this case 100 times, and cases just like it, and we would still end up with the same result," she said in a fiery tone.
Mosby went on to say that while justice may not have been done in this case, that at least the spotlight turned on it will prevent what happened to Freddie Gray from happening to others.
I mean . . . What?
And now we're supposed to hang our hopes on that?
I'm sorry. I'm 58-years-old, and I've been fighting social injustice all my life. I've been to protests, I've witnessed riots. I've sat in on trials. I've written newspaper stories and editorials. All trying to get justice for the social injustices I see around me. What is it that you want me to now?
The people of Baltimore . . . they did everything they were supposed to do. Everything they could think of and everything society told them to do.
They used their voting power. At the time of Freddie Gray's death the mayor was Black, the police chief was Black, the city council was Black, the city's state attorney was Black, the U. S. congressman representing the district was Black . . . and you know the ethnicity of the U. S. president for whom Baltimore overwhelmingly voted.
They held peaceful protests after Freddie Gray's death. Peaceful protests!
It was only when that failed to get attention that the rioting started. And then, when political and social leaders asked the city to stand down and wait to hear if charges would be brought, they did.
And when Marilyn Mosby said charges were being brought, and the young black men and women's voices were being heard, they believed her. They cheered her. And they waited for her to bring damn thing home.
But she couldn't.
Not only because the prosecution was rigged against us . . . that's seems obvious just listening to Mosby's own words . . . but more importantly, the whole damn system is rigged against us.
So, wait . . . what is it you would have us do now?
Never mind. I think it's time we decide for ourselves.