Did you hear about that unarmed black man killed this month? No the other one...No the other one...No the other one... #FreddieGray
by Shaun La
The footage involving Freddie Gray and the Baltimore City cops brought it all back.
Growing up in 1990s Baltimore, some of the cops would use Black Baltimore as a playground to do whatever they wanted to do. Pre-teen years, I would hear from the teen-agers and the older men in my neighborhood about the harassment, brutality and false arrests. I would watch their eyes and hear them mumble profanity at the patrol cars riding by them slowly, while the cops would make eye contact right back at them.
In my teen-age years, I would start to see it for myself. Cops handcuffing you, followed with an order for you to stand in the hot sun. They would go back to sit comfortably in their patrol car with the A.C. running, eyes fixed on you, claiming they are radio-ing in your description, which would take them 20 or 30 minutes to complete.
The physical brutality by their hands ran rampant in the 1990s, especially in the summer seasons. Lord knows what my uncles and the fathers, older brothers and uncles of my childhood friends went through in the 1980s and 1970s, before mobile phone cameras and the Internet. Not to mention the verbal insults that you would hear from some of these cops smelling like aftershave and mouthwash: "Roaches!" "Junkie!" "[N-word]!" "Dummy!" "Shut the [expletive] up! I will lock you up if you say one more word." You could be sitting in your home, with your window up and open in Black Baltimore and hear this kind of dialogue.
Lately, this is why I have not been tuning into CNN or The Baltimore Sun online to see what the media is saying about my city. This is why 90 percent of time, I will stay quiet when people who are not from Baltimore ask me with intrigue in their eyes, "Is 'The Wire' like Baltimore?" Years ago when "The Wire" was on the air, people use to question me about why I would decline to watch it; I would answer, "two white men are the creators of this show, and one is a former Baltimore City cop." I knew that I would lose them if I went into the details like I did in the paragraphs above this one, so I would stop my reasoning right there.
The media does Black Baltimore no favors in the fairness category. Either my people are hooked on drugs, romanticized as some mythical drug-kingpin or, as of recently, violent protestors without a cause. Such unfairness will instruct you to pay no mind to the progress the city has made and the history fueling today's protests: generations of blacks in Baltimore going through police brutality, verbally, emotionally and physically.
It is in my best prayers that Freddie's family heals and becomes stronger. Matter of fact, I extend that prayer to every black family who lost their loved one to police brutality. There is an element of being black and dealing with oppression that won't ever be fully expressed on television or in the newspapers, because after the camera crews leave, the inequalities somehow find a way to continue. Maybe in the future, if complete freedom does find a way to come, it will be in the form that such an element is not edited by those who do not know or understand. Maybe then they will shut-up and listen.
© 2015 Baltimore Sun
Shaun La is a photographer, writer and a former Baltimore resident who now lives in New York City. His website here
Read The War on The American People... black men, having been searched and with their hands cuffed behind them, 'commit suicide' in the back seat of a police car, as if we were supposed to believe that...
"the police are doing what they are hired to do, to keep poor people from causing disturbances --- and really, that they kill some people doesn't matter in the larger scheme of things! (as with the drone war overseas, we're sorry about those accidental deaths)
'law-enforcement' is handled in a thuggish manner and the thugs know that they will not be punished for their crimes -- whether here or over there."
there will be lots of 'analysis' of the situation and the statistics will fly...
You Will Be Surprised Who the Outside Agitators Really Are in Baltimore
The mayor of Baltimore was right to blame outsiders for causing trouble, but got it wrong.
By Max Blumenthal / AlterNet -- April 28, 2015
On Monday, the country watched as a band of outside agitators descended on the streets of Baltimore, attacked locals with blunt force, intimidated innocent bystanders, and even threw rocks at native residents. Every day, these gun-toting rogues come from as far as New Jersey and Pennsylvania to intimidate the good people of Baltimore, forcing communities to cower under the threat of violence. The agitators are known for their menacing dark blue garb, hostile behavior and gangland-style codes of secrecy and silence. Though many of these ruffians have attempted to conceal their identities from their victims, they can be easily spotted by the badges that signify membership in the widely feared Baltimore Police Department.
According to data posted on the city of Baltimore’s OpenBaltimore website in 2012, over 70 percent of Baltimore Police Department officers live outside city limits, with at least 10 percent living over state lines, in places as far away as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. By contrast, almost all of those arrested in ongoing protests sparked by the police killing of the unarmed Baltimorean Freddie Gray reside firmly within the city. These facts were apparently lost on Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake when she blamed “outside forces” for all the looting of local businesses and attacks on cops. Similarly, the Baltimore Police Department claimed that "outside agitators continue to be the instigators behind acts of violence and destruction,” even as it conceded in the same statement that “the vast majority of arrests reflect local residency.” No evidence of outside agitation was produced by the mayor or the police, and none was demanded by much of the media covering the ongoing troubles.
This week’s scenes of mostly white cops battling the African-American youth of Baltimore captured a legacy of deeply entrenched racism that stretches back to Maryland’s Antebellum days. Though Maryland ended the slave trade in 1783, over 40,000 slaves remained in bondage in its Eastern Shore, near the border of Virginia, until Emancipation Day. When the Sixth Massachusetts Militia marched through Baltimore on April 19, 1861 on its way to protect Washington DC from advancing Confederate forces, the Union troops were attacked in the center of town with rocks, bricks and even pistols by local Southern sympathizers. Maryland’s last recorded lynching of a black man occurred in the town of Princess Anne on the Eastern Shore in 1933, when a thousand whites dragged assault suspect George Armwood from his jail cell, tortured him, hacked his ear off and hung him from a tree. It was the 33rd documented lynching in the state since 1882.
Gerald Horne, a professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Houston, sees the legacy of slavery as an underlying factor in the policing of majority black cities like Baltimore. “The origins of the urban police department lies precisely in slavery,” Horne remarked in a recent interview with The Real News founder Paul Jay. “That is to say, slave patrols that were designated to interrogate, to investigate Africans who were out and about without any kind of investigation. You fast forward to 2015 and you still see more than remnants of that particular system.”
The Gilmor Homes area where Freddie Gray was violently apprehended and later killed by Baltimore police officers is one of the city’s most heavily policed areas. Eddie Conway, a local civil rights activist who served 43 years in prison after a dubious conviction for killing two cops, explained in an interview with Democracy Now! that Gilmor Homes is “a ‘broken windows’ police area in which people and residents in that area are arrested for sitting on their own steps. They are loitering in their own community, on their own steps, and they're harassed constantly.”
“[Cops] won’t let us go nowhere,” one young Gilmore Homes resident complained to The Real News, “They’ll tell us, ‘Move, we gotta go here, you gotta move off there.’ We ain’t doing nothing!”
When Paul Jay relocated The Real News operations to Baltimore in 2013 and initiated a series of roundtable discussions with local cops, he learned about the hostile racial attitudes white officers were importing into the city. “I’ve talked to some black cops in Baltimore and one of them told me that in the locker room,” Jay said, “and when they’re getting ready to go on their shift, some of the white cops joke…’Time to go back to work in the zoo.’”
While the Baltimore Police Department recruits its manpower outside city limits, its leadership is regularly junketed to training tours in Israel, the occupying power whose hyper-militarized settlers act as some of the Middle East’s most aggressive outside agitators. In September 2009, members of the Baltimore PD “toured [Israel] and met with their Israeli counterparts to exchange information relating to best practices and recent advancements in security and counterterrorism,” according to the trip’s sponsor, Project Interchange. A separate Israel tour organized by the neoconservative Jewish Institute for National Security saw members of the Baltimore PD “begin the process of sharing ‘lessons learned’ in Israel with their law enforcement colleagues in the United States.”
Back in Maryland, the rate of citizens killed by police officers is skyrocketing. A report by the ACLU has found that 109 people died after encounters with Maryland police between 2010 and 2014, that almost 70 percent of those who died were black, and that over 40 percent of them were unarmed. In Baltimore alone, the city was forced to pay $5.7 million in lawsuits by suspects who accused police officers of beating them brutally and without cause.
Even after the National Guard vacates the streets of Baltimore and the state of emergency is lifted, vast swaths of the city will remain under occupation. Rather than return to a deadly status quo, the city could start answering the crisis by enacting residential requirements that force police officers to live in the neighborhoods they patrol.
Outside agitators have caused enough trouble in Baltimore. It’s time to send them back where they came from.
Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. Find him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.
we are disintegrating into a civil war...
Apartheid Games: Baltimore, Urban America, and Camden Yards
Dave Zirin on April 28, 2015 -
If you don’t understand Oriole Park at Camden Yards, then you don’t understand why Baltimore exploded this week. If you don’t understand Oriole Park at Camden Yards then you don’t understand why what happened in Baltimore can replicate itself in other cities around the United States.
There was a moment at Saturday’s protests—two weeks after the police severed the spine of Freddie Gray—when police revealed themselves. I was there and can tell you that for most of the day it was stunning how light the police presence appeared to be. They made the choice to turn the West Baltimore police station, whose officers arrested Freddie Gray, into an armed encampment, while giving the streets over to the march. Yes, helicopters and surveillance drones flew overhead, but police were largely absent. For me, this was not comforting. The only other times I have seen these kinds of police tactics at a demonstration was in Latin America and South Africa, where the appearance of no police would be given, but then you would turn a corner and they would appear, seemingly out of a cloud of tear gas.
This is what happened as the march left the confines of West Baltimore and approached Camden Yards where the Orioles were playing the Boston Red Sox. As Jelani Cobb reported in The New Yorker,
There was a comparatively light police presence along the route, but dozens of officers in riot gear blocked the crowd from getting near the stadium, which seemed to confirm the protesters’ most damning suspicions. A man near the front shouted, ‘They only care about the Orioles!’
Camden Yards has for twenty-five years been at the heart of what has been held up as the recipe not only for what’s been described as Baltimore’s urban “renewal” but as a template for every city like Baltimore that once was the site of real industry with a decent tax base and union labor. That’s why we have seen similar ballparks, big on charm and big on public subsidies, get built over the last generation—to name a just a sampling—in Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago’s South Side, and Pittsburgh. All of these cities were at one time synonymous with industry and multiracial labor power. Now they have boarded up factories—or factories that have been transformed into postmodern coffee shops or bars—and baseball stadiums. These stadiums were all built with promises not only of economically competitive teams but of jobs that would replace the industrial labor of the past. If we didn’t know it before, the scene at Camden Yards should carve it permanently into the tablets of history. This sports-centric urban planning has been a failure built on a foundation of lies—exercises in corporate welfare and false political promises we were, lacking a credible public policy alternative, willing to swallow. What the stadiums have become instead are strategic hamlets of gentrification and displacement. They have morphed into cathedrals to economic and racial apartheid, dividing cities between haves and have-nots, between those who go to the game to watch and those who go to the game looking for low-income work.
Ironically, the only person who seems to understand this dynamic among the elites of Baltimore is Orioles COO John Angelos.
This is ironic not only because of his social position but because his father Peter Angelos—a man who grew up working-class and made his fortune in labor law—was involved in a bitter struggle with stadium workers, many of whom lived in area homeless shelters, around paying them a living wage. I covered this story in 2007 and can still recall the courage, bitterness, and sadness of stadium workers who felt like they had no choice but to go on a hunger strike to draw attention to their treatment.
This leaves more than a mark. It leaves a sore that can often go unnoticed but that when incidents like the killing of Freddie Gray take place become inflamed.
This reality of sports-driven apartheid was made even clearer outside the stadium on Saturday, as a familiar scene to Orioles and Ravens fans—one I have seen countless times—entered the same oxygen as the West Baltimore demonstrators.
The scene is as familiar to me as it is repulsive: almost exclusively young, white fans, from the surrounding suburbs or the city’s gentrifying neighborhoods, show up and get absolutely shit-faced drunk and either aggressively hit on random women or fight each other before, during and after games. I’ve seen more scuffles outside of sporting events in the last decade than my wife has seen teaching in a DC public high school and it’s not even close. On Saturday, these fans acted like they always act, except this time they turned their taunting, frat-house Tucker Carlson comedy routines outward at the people who travelled a short geographical but cavernous psychological distance from West Baltimore. Not shockingly, confrontations ensued, although, with much of the cellphone video coming from inside the sports bars, the events have been wildly distorted.
Whenever black people, out of frustration with police brutality, institutionalized poverty and neglect express this anger, there are endless cable news blatherings about what are called “pathologies” in poor black communities. The discussion about the “pathologies” of violent, largely white sports fans acting barbarically before and after games is long past due.
A publicly funded stadium is not the root cause of what plagues our cities, but it’s a flashing, blaring sign of a set of economic priorities that like sports has created a country that defines people as winners or losers—but, unlike sports, a country where the happenstance of your birth determines on what side of that line you reside.
The latest breaking news is that the Orioles have decided to return to the field this week after canceling several games due to the protests, but will do so in front of an empty stadium; no fans (or workers) allowed inside.
This locking out of spectators is done in European soccer leagues as punishment when fan clubs engage in coordinated acts of racism or bigotry against either visiting fans or opposing players. That is not why the fans are being locked out in Baltimore, although perhaps that wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
This decision was clearly made on public safety grounds, but there will be something haunted about the visuals that will ensue. Whenever the Orioles play away from home, many of the surrounding businesses resemble a ghost town, revealing the instability of sports as an economic stimulus. Now the inside will be a ghost town. No screaming. No cheering: as quiet as Freddie Gray, and as searing as the promise of a stadium once built with the prospect of jobs and renewal, that has become a hub of police-protected boorish decadence and poverty jobs. It’s a place that may have acted as symbolic gasoline on the fires in Baltimore but it is not a Baltimore story. It’s the United States in 2015, and it’s a far cry from a game.
"the legacy of slavery as an underlying factor in the policing of majority black cities like Baltimore. “The origins of the urban police department lies precisely in slavery. That is to say, slave patrols that were designated to interrogate, to investigate Africans who were out and about without any kind of investigation. You fast forward to 2015 and you still see more than remnants of that particular system.”
Gerald Horne, professor of history and African American Studies, University of Houston
5 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Baltimore
109 people have been killed by Baltimore police since 2010:
40% of them were unarmed and nearly 70% were black.
By Michael Arria / AlterNet
April 28, 2015
Freddie Gray's family says 80% of his spine was severed and his voice box was crushed. It's believed that Gray was the victim of a "nickel ride," a purposely rough ride designed to dole out "street justice" to suspects. As David Graham wrote in the Atlantic, "Once Gray was in the van, he was handcuffed. Apparently because he was "irate" during the ride, officers stopped and shackled his legs, too. The one thing they didn't do was buckle his seat belt. Not only does that sound like common sense, it's also department policy—and BPD admits it was violated."
While news cameras have descended upon the city of Baltimore and knee-jerk analysis is being offered around the clock, it's important to keep some things in mind.
Those denouncing protesters in Baltimore and calling for "nonviolence" ignore the far greater violence that the system inflicts every single day on Black communities.
Socialist Worker --- IT TURNED out to be Baltimore.
Ever since the African American residents of Ferguson, Missouri, took to the streets for weeks and months of defiance, the question hasn't been whether their resistance would spread, but when it would, and where it would appear.
Ferguson cast a spotlight on the epidemic of racist police violence, committed with impunity, that plagues communities across the country. But the response from government officials in charge of keeping people safe--particularly from the women and men who are supposed to "serve and protect"--has been, at best, all talk and no action.
At worst, the response from the political and media elite has been scapegoating and demonization of the very people suffering the brunt of the abuse and violence.
There has been some talk in Congress about the absurd militarization of police departments that now deploy state-of-the-art military technology distributed from the Pentagon's massive arsenal--but no action to take the tanks away. Barack Obama's Justice Department issued a strongly worded report criticizing the Ferguson Police Department for its bias--but it couldn't be bothered to press charges against the cop who murdered Mike Brown.
Thus, the only action to come from officials of the state has been the police--and we know what that has produced. Since the beginning of 2015, law enforcement officers have killed 381 people as of April 28--a horrifying rate of more than one murder every eight hours.
One of these murders was bound to produce the next social explosion--which, of course, was presented in the media as senseless "rioting."
There were signs in Madison, Wisconsin, where anti-racists responded within hours to the March killing of unarmed 19-year-old Tony Robinson in his friend's apartment--followed by days of demonstrations, often led by high school students after a walkout from classes. The pot continued to simmer a month later when the entire country watched a South Carolina officer fire eight bullets into the the back of a fleeing Walter Scott.
And then the lid blew off in Baltimore after police chased and tackled Freddie Gray for a 21st century version of a Black Code violation: making eye contact with a cop and then running. Gray was "folded up like origami", in the gruesome words of one eyewitness, and by the time he emerged from a police van, he had a nearly severed spinal chord and crushed voice box.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THOUSANDS OF mostly Black people in Baltimore took to the streets during the week after Gray died. But it was the provocations of the Baltimore police that prodded protesters into physical confrontations that reportedly caused injuries to 15 police officers. (As for how many people the cops "reportedly" injured, we can't say because there is no "reporting" on that.)
The first major clashes started at Mondawmin Mall, the gathering point for a social media call for high school students to protest. The cops showed up in full Robo-cop riot gear, closed the local transit station so the students couldn't get home, and then confronting the youth with mace and Tasers. No surprise that rocks got thrown.
Now there is frantic talk in the national media about "violence" in Baltimore. That was missing for the past five years as Baltimore police killed 109 people, according to the ACLU.
Just in the last four years, the Baltimore Police Department paid out $5.7 million in brutality and civil rights settlements. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed an assault, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.
In this context, the media's frantic depictions of rock-throwing as an "outbreak of violence" in Baltimore can only be described as obscene. As Atlantic correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates put it:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.
And yet Barack Obama, the first African American president in a country founded on slavery, presented himself as the con artist-in-chief when he denounced protesters as "criminals and thugs." "They're not making a statement. They are stealing," the president chided. "One burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way have been lost in the discussion."
talk of non-violence is deceptive when it comes from a state built upon and maintained by violence in the extreme...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE ERUPTION in Baltimore is not a repeat of the resistance in Ferguson. It represents an expansion of the struggle, and its evolution onto new terrain.
Baltimore is similar to Ferguson in that both have a majority Black population that suffers abuse and violence at the hands of police, while enduring increasing inequality. The Baltimore metropolitan area has the 19th largest economic output in the U.S., but a Johns Hopkins study found that youth in poor neighborhoods face conditions similar to their counterparts in Nigeria and India. As Dan Diamond wrote for Forbes:
Black infants in Baltimore are almost nine times more likely to die before age 1 than white infants. AIDS cases are nearly five times more common in the African-American community..."Only six miles separate the Baltimore neighborhoods of Roland Park and Hollins Market," interim Hopkins provost Jonathan Bagger said last year. "[B]ut there is a 20-year difference in the average life expectancy."
That's how Baltimore is like Ferguson. It is unlike Ferguson in that it is a major urban center in the heart of the Northeast Corridor and an hour's drive from the nation's capital. It is run by a Black political establishment and is, as one SocialistWorker.org contributor wrote on social media, "fully integrated into the post-civil rights landscape--a landscape that includes massive levels of segregation, intense concentrations of poverty and astounding brutality alongside a new Black middle class and political class."
Finally, thanks to shows like The Wire, Baltimore is probably second only to Detroit in its infamy as a city whose Black working class has been decimated by de-industrialization.
When Jacobin associate editor Shawn Gude described the scene in West Baltimore after a riot, he wrote: "[T]he most salient thing wasn't the destruction wrought by protestors--the cop car demolished, the payday loan store smashed up--but by capital: the decrepit, boarded-up row houses, hovels and vacants in a city full of them."
These conditions that form the backdrop to Freddie Gray's murder will force many activists in the Black Lives Matter movement to confront--as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X both did in another era--the intersections of racism and capitalism.
As King said in a speech less than a month before he was assassinated in 1968--words that were repeated many times on social media over the past week:
I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the [Black] poor has worsened over the last 12 or 15 years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.
Opponents of injustice today face the task of building on the bitter anger and the desire to fight for change demonstrated by the eruptions in Ferguson, Baltimore and beyond.
We need to challenge the hypocrisy and lies about what happened this week on the streets of Baltimore, to organize toward some measure of justice in the here and now--starting with the indictment of the cops who murdered Freddie Gray, just as surely as if they pulled a trigger--and to put forward the vision of a different world worth fighting for, built on solidarity, democracy and justice.