Baltimore, MD – Last week, an artist in Baltimore began writing names of fatal victims of the police force along the sidewalk. She began with victims killed on May 1st of 2013 and wrote every name that was recorded until the present day. Names stretched from Penn Station to a George Washington monument in the middle of the city, which is nearly a mile in distance.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked the Justice Department on Wednesday to conduct a full-scale civil rights investigation into the pattern and practices of the Baltimore Police Department — a probe that would examine excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests.
“We all know that Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I’m willing to do what it takes to reform my department.”
Attorney general Loretta Lynch does not rule out broader federal probe of Baltimore police
The Justice Department already is conducting a “collaborative review” with Baltimore police, but its recommendations will not carry the weight of law. Such reviews differ from full-scale civil rights investigations because they are launched by agreement with local officials and are not enforced by court order.
by Ajamu Baraka
No rational person exalts violence and the loss of life. But violence is structured into the everyday institutional practices of all oppressive societies. It is the deliberate de-humanization of the person in order to turn them into a ‘thing’ — a process Dr. King called “thing-afication.” It is a necessary process for the oppressor in order to more effectively control and exploit. Resistance, informed by the conscious understanding of the equal humanity of all people, reverses this process of de-humanization. Struggle and resistance are the highest expressions of the collective demand for people-centered human rights – human rights defined and in the service of the people and not governments and middle-class lawyers.
That resistance may look chaotic at this point – spontaneous resistance almost always looks like that. But since the internal logic of neoliberal capital is incapable of resolving the contradiction that it created, expect more repression and more resistance that will eventually take a higher form of organization and permanence. In the meantime, we are watching to see who aligns with us or the racist state.
Photographer and college instructor Nate Larson captures a scene among many acts of citizenship seen in Baltimore, MD in the past few days during the Baltimore protests for the killing of Freddie Gray – the Human Wall separating protesters from police constructed by Baltimore residents.
Nate Larson’s HOLDING THAT LINE, PART TWO
Earlier today, I photographed the #Baltimore protests at North Avenue & Pennsylvania Avenue with my students from #MICAphoto. I was struck by the line of police blockading the street and made a portrait of each of the 27 officers comprising the human wall.
This evening, I went back, and there were 26 citizens forming a human wall, separating the crowd from the police, for their mutual protection. My heart was heavy all day but lifted at this spirit of self-sacrifice and generosity. I made a portrait of the 22 members that gave their permission.
The bills will allow police to wear body cameras, increase the liability cap for lawsuits against government employees, and encourage the state to collect more data on police behavior.
But more substantial reforms, including legislation to add a civilian review process and to have state prosecutors investigate all killings by police, were shot down during a legislative hearing in Annapolis earlier this year.
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 none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.
This excellent article from The Atlantic explicates the historic violent policing of Baltimore citizens. The video documents an earlier incident where the charges against the defendant were dropped and restitution later paid to the now recognized victim of legalized violence. #FreddieGray #BlackLivesMatter
What’s crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses. The difference is that this time we needn’t wait for a DOJ report to tell us so. Harrowing evidence has been presented. Yet America hasn’t looked.
I include myself.
Despite actively reading and commenting on police misconduct for many years, I was unaware until yesterday that the Baltimore Sun published a searing 2014 article documenting recent abuses that are national scandals in their own rights.
A grandmother’s bones were broken. A pregnant woman was violently thrown to the ground. Millions of dollars were paid out to numerous victims of police brutality.
And almost none of us noticed!
So I join all who say that protests in Baltimore should remain peaceful, and I will continue to withhold judgment about Gray’s death until more facts are known.
But I also insist that Baltimore protests are appropriate regardless of what happened to Freddie Gray, as is more federal scrutiny and intervention. Although much was rightly made of Ferguson’s racially unrepresentative local leadership, the presence of a black mayor and a diverse city council has not solved Baltimore’s police problem, partly because the DOJ responded to revelations of epidemic brutality with less than the full-scale civil rights probe that some residents requested and because Maryland pols have thwarted reform bills urged by city leaders.