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.
Violence isn’t the only thing happening on the streets of Baltimore.
The nation has seen a barrage of images of the rioting that erupted in the city Monday after the funeral for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was gravely injured while in police custody this month and later died. Rioters hurled rocks. They burned patrol cars. They looted.
But there were also peaceful protests. There were residents thanking police. And on Tuesday, with schools closed and streets quiet, volunteers worked to clean up their city.
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.
Baltimore violence follows in tragic pattern
Rachel Maddow reviews the recent history of civil unrest in response to police violence against people of color, exposed to the public by a series of mostly civilian sourced videos.
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.