The outrage that erupted and spilled into the streets of Baltimore in the days after 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray died in police custody harkened back to another painful and ugly moment in American history.
Heavily armed police on the streets, clouds of tea gas, protesters being dragged away against their will: it could have been Baltimore 48 years ago—1968—after the assassination of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
But it was April 2015.
The city burned with anger, outrage and grief for days. Several months later, six Maryland police officers—not all were white—were charged in connection with Gray’s death. The state prosecutor cited the cops for improperly arresting and shackling Freddie Gray in violation of police rules by loading him into a van without the required safety restraints, and also ignoring his pleas for help.
The city also reached a $6.4 million wrongful death settlement with Gray’s family, but refused to characterize it as a “judgement” of the police who were transporting the victim.
Freddie Gray, the riots and the sudden shattering of business as usual in Baltimore morphed into a symbol of all the other recent violence between police and the black community, some recorded on smart phones and uploaded to social media websites.
A year later, things are quiet. But much remains unresolved, prime to erupt again as law enforcement grapples with a crisis that until recently had been swept under the carpet.
Faltered Dreams: What the Deaths of Dr. King and Freddie Gray Say About the Nation
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad – Counterpunch
The death of Freddie Gray and the protests that his plight helped to inspire should serve as a reminder that the nation, even nearing the end of the second term of the nation’s first black president, has failed to take the necessary and challenging economic steps to bridge racial inequality….
Dr. King said a few days before his assassination “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.” Sadly the nation has been devoid of the will for almost 50 years since King’s death and a year after the death of Freddie Gray the nation still has a lack of will to comprehensively address racial economic inequality.
Altering Baltimore’s Narrative Through Art
E.R. Shipp – The Baltimore Sun
We saw it coming a year ago, even as fires smoldered, the Orioles played baseball in an empty stadium and the National Guard patrolled the streets. Young people took to the streets with poetry slams and dance….
Freddie Gray’s Death, Two Baltimores
Lottie Joiner – USA Today
…[T]here has been less media attention on the protests that have continued outside of city hall, many over the incarceration of activists arrested during the Uprising. That’s where I found Kwame Rose. The young activist gained national attention after squaring off with Geraldo Rivera during a moment he didn’t even realize was being televised….
But have massive protests and an ongoing trial caused police in Baltimore to change? It depends on who you ask.