[Content note for police violence]
Update: Today, Baltimore chief prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced that Freddie Gray’s death has been ruled a homicide and his detention and arrest ruled illegal. The six officers involved in his arrest are charged with (assortedly) offenses including involuntary manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter (gross and criminal), second degree assault, false imprisonment, misconduct in office, and, for the driver of the van, second degree depraved heart murder. Warrants have been issued for all.
Previously: In the wake of Freddie Gray’s death from injuries mysteriously sustained while in police custody two weeks ago, and following his funeral yesterday, people in Baltimore have protested — some of it peaceful, much of it, as of Monday afternoon, violent, and with staggering consequence. Now, as the community comes back out into their neighborhoods, peaceful protesters continue to gather to voice their frustrations, and a lot of other people have things to say, too.
At The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about calls for calm in the protests in Baltimore.
What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?
The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray’s death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted. (“The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”) There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green. (“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.”) There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. (“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face.”)
Edward Bowser writes for al.com about the Martin Luther King quote frequently repeated in the past couple of days, that “riot is the language of the unheard.”
The quote was lifted from a CBS interview with Mike Wallace on Sept. 27, 1966, in which King discussed a vocal minority of protesters who saw violence as the only means to battle civil unrest. King empathized with their pain, explaining to America that a riot is, indeed, the language of those without a voice.
Fifty years later, the unheard are speaking out again.
For decades, Baltimore has been a deeply segregated city, with much of the rioting confined to a neighborhood where a third of families live in poverty. They’ve struggled in silence. The family and supporters of Freddie Gray can relate to that frustration – for weeks, they’ve patiently waited for answers in Gray’s death.
No indictment. No explanation. Seemingly no compassion from law enforcement. Nothing but silence.
True to King’s words, the unheard are now speaking in brutal fashion.
But there’s much more to King’s 1966 interview, which begins with these words:
“I will never change in my basic idea that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to the Negro in his struggle for freedom and justice. I think for the Negro to turn to violence would be both impractical and immoral.”
The Huffington Post’s Julia Craven talks with WGN radio about her observations from the ground. At HuffPo, she recounts how the rioting started in Baltimore, and continues to give a view from the community in Baltimore via Twitter.