Police brutality has been an elusive and deadly problem in the African American community for over 100 years. As has often been the case in the pas for many people of African descent, as well as those of Native American and Latino descent, incidents of police brutality are often swept under the rug, paid off via civil suit, or otherwise treated as less than what they actually were- a murder. As was reported by The Shadow League earlier this week, 25-year-old Freddie Grey died a week after his spine was fractured following an incident that was originally reported as occurring “without force or incident." That lie was grounds enough for the six arresting officer to have been suspended initially. But the poor, Black populous of Baltimore, Maryland were not trying to hear calls for calm that showered down from their counterparts in Baltimore’s Black bourgeois; the Mayor (Stephanie Rawlings-Blake), the Chief of Police (Anthony Bates), and scores of Black clergy and business owners.
As a result, after days of peaceful protests, violence erupted not far from where the mortal remains of Freddie Grey were being laid to rest. A multitude of news organizations hypothesized that emotions were running high the day of the funeral and that energy spilled not soon after the memorial service. However, there have been several reports from very reputable publications (Baltimore City Paper, Buzz Feed) that are reporting that drunk, belligerent and callous Orioles and Red Sox fans provided the initial spark that erupted into violence.
As was to be expected, the vast majority of the cable news networks bombarded America with images of the unwashed masses peppering the police with bricks, mortar and bottles while looting local businesses. Indeed, there were many police vehicles burning, local businesses cleared of their inventory and at least 15 police officers were reportedly injured. It is not too much of a reach to imagine your Aunt Petunia clutching her proverbial pearls at the mere site of these “thugs” running amuck in inner city America. It is the very same type of pearl clutching that led most of White America to abandon their inner city haunts for the safety and separation that the suburbs offered in the late 1960's and early 1970's.
Police brutality has been the spark for Black-led insurrections across America since the definition of the term “race riot” was co-opted by Blacks from White America in the 1950's. Police brutality was the primary catalyst for the creation of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and a primary historic battle for the Nation of Islam during the first 30 years of its existence. Additionally, the Jersey City Riots of 1964, the Watts Riots of 1965, the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, and scores of other forgotten insurrections, protests and sit-ins were caused, at least in part, by police brutality.
When Baltimore's uprising occurred Black bourgeoisie, and those employed by them, continually called those who engaged in the riots thugs and criminals. However, when was the last time you heard of a legal act of social unrest? The very thought is laughable.
Up until January 2014, the very idea of a police officer being charged for shooting a Black person in the line of duty was laughable as well. But Charlotte, N.C. police officer Randall Kerrick faced voluntary manslaughter charges for shooting former Florida A&M football player Johnathan Ferrell following a traffic accident in a residential area. He was hit 10 times, according to a police reports. Kerrick’s trial is slated to take place on July 20 in Charlotte.
Just last month the world was introduced to the heinous crime against humanity perpetrated by former North Charleston officer Michael T. Slager against 50-year-old Walter L. Scott. Unlike Kerrick, Slager then lied about the encounter. He currently sits behind bars awaiting a trial date. The former poice officer is facing murder charges, which likely has more to do with the shocking nature of the video than anybody’s sense of justice. Indeed, justice is relative to one’s perspective.
An insurrection for the poor is a riot to the middle and upper class just like terrorist and freedom fighter are interchangeable in U.S. foreign policy.
On Friday May 1st, Baltimore Chief Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby charged the six police officers with a range of crimes in the death of Freddie Gray, including murder and manslaughter. The nation breathed a sigh of relief and protesters and rioters alike are being celebrated, albeit in varying circles and to varying degrees, for their role in helping to bring attention to the maleficence of the arresting officers.
The prosecutor’s office filed charges almost immediately after the medical examiner’s office ruled Gray’s death a homicide. Mosby’s announcement drew cheers from the assembled audience at the Baltimore War Memorial Building and prompted celebrations in the streets across the city. Indeed, it would seem like the value of Black life is finally being respected across in citadels of justice in the former Confederacy. However, we would be derelict in not recommending caution to our constituency. After all, the reason for the riots in the first place is the historic brutality of inner city police departments across the country and throughout history. Though the charges levied against Krenner, Slager and the Baltimore Six does give one hope, failure to prosecute all eight of the officers, as well as the scores of other officers who have committed similar crimes throughout the country, amount to little more than patronizing lip service.
Without justice, peace is fleeting and temporary, historically.