Friday, May 1, 2015

Baltimore Prosecutor Charges Six Police Officers, Calls Freddie Gray’s Death a "Homicide"

Friday, May 1, 2015

WATCH: Baltimore Prosecutor Charges Six Police Officers, Calls Freddie Gray’s Death a "Homicide"

Watch full press conference by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby when she announced charges against six police officers, including one with murder, in the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old African-American man who was arrested and suffered a fatal neck injury while riding in a moving police van.

"To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America," Mosby said, "I heard your call for 'no justice, no peace.'"

Mosby said the officers failed to provide medical attention to Gray even though he asked for help on at least two occasions.

"Mr. Gray suffered a critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside the BPD wagon," Mosby said.

Caesar Goodson, the officer who was driving the van, is charged with murder and involuntary manslaughter. Three others are also charged with involuntary manslaughter: Sgt. Alicia D. White, Officer William G. Porter and Lt. Brian Rice. All six are facing lesser charges as well, including Officer Edward M. Nero and Officer Garrett E. Miller.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland hailed the decision to charge the officers. "We know that today’s announcement is only a first step in a state that has historically prosecuted less than two percent of police-involved deaths, while prosecuting thousands of African-Americans for petty offenses," said Susan Goering, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland. "Our systems of justice have been far more willing to treat officers as innocent until proven guilty than they are the communities who are being policed—communities where people are presumed guilty and stopped, searched, and arrested without cause."

Full Coverage of Freddie Gray’s Death From Democracy Now!


MARILYN MOSBY: Good morning. First and foremost, I need to express publicly my deepest sympathies for the family of the loved ones of Mr. Freddie Gray. I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Gray’s family to discuss some of the details of the case and the procedural steps going forward. I assured his family that no one is above the law and that I would pursue justice on their behalf.

To the thousands of city residents, community organizers, faith leaders and political leaders that chose to march peacefully throughout Baltimore, I commend your courage to stand for justice. I also commend the brave men and women, both in uniform and out, who have stepped up Monday night to protect our communities from those who wish to destroy it.

As the city’s chief prosecutor, I’ve been sworn to uphold justice and to treat every individual within the jurisdiction of Baltimore City equally and fairly under the law. I take this oath seriously, and I want the public to know that my administration is committed to creating a fair and equitable justice system for all, no matter what your occupation, your age, your race, your color or your creed. It is my job to examine and investigate the evidence of each case and apply those facts to the elements of a crime in order to make a determination as to whether individuals should be prosecuted. This is a tremendous responsibility, but one that I sought and accepted when the citizens of Baltimore City elected me as the state’s attorney. And it’s precisely what I did in the case of Freddie Gray.

Once alerted about this incident on April 13th, investigators from my police integrity unit were deployed to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr. Gray’s apprehension. Over the course of our independent investigation in the untimely death of Mr. Gray, my team worked around the clock, 12- and 14-hour days, to canvas and interview dozens of witnesses, view numerous hours of video footage, repeatedly reviewed and listened to hours of police videotaped statements, surveyed the route, reviewed voluminous medical records, and we leveraged the information made available to us by the police department, the community and the family of Mr. Gray.

The findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation, coupled with the medical examiner’s determination that Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide, which we received today, has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges.

The statement of probable cause is as follows: On April 12, 2015, between 8:45 and 9:15 a.m., near the corner of North Avenue and Mount Street, Lieutenant Brian Rice of the Baltimore Police Department, while on bike patrol with Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero, made eye contact with Mr. Freddie Carlos Gray Jr. Having made eye contact with Mr. Gray, Mr. Gray subsequently ran from Lieutenant Rice. Lieutenant Rice then dispatched over departmental radio that he was involved in a foot pursuit, at which time bike patrol officers and Nero—Officers Miller and Nero also began to pursue Mr. Gray.

Having come in contact with the pursuing officers, Mr. Gray surrendered to Officers Miller and Nero in the vicinity in the 1700 block of Presbury Street. Officers Miller and Nero then handcuffed Mr. Gray and moved him to a location a few feet away from his surrendering location. Mr. Gray was then placed in a prone position with his arms handcuffed behind his back. It was at this time that Mr. Gray indicated that he could not breathe, and requested an inhaler, to no avail.

Officers Miller and Nero then placed Mr. Gray in a seated position and subsequently found a knife clipped to the inside of his pants pocket. The blade of the knife was folded into the handle. The knife was not a switchblade and is lawful under Maryland law. These officers subsequently removed the knife and placed it on the sidewalk.

Mr. Gray was then placed back down on his stomach, at which time Mr. Gray began to flail his legs and scream as Officer Miller placed Mr. Gray in a restraining technique known as a leg lace, while Officer Nero physically held him down against his will until a BPD wagon arrived to transport Mr. Gray.

Lieutenant Rice, Officer Miller and Officer Nero failed to establish probable cause for Mr. Gray’s arrest, as no crime had been committed by Mr. Gray. Accordingly, Lieutenant Rice, Officer Miller and Officer Nero illegally arrested Mr. Gray.

Upon arrival of the transport wagon, driven by Officer Caesar Goodson, Lieutenant Rice, Officer Nero and Officer Miller loaded Mr. Gray into the wagon, and at no point was he secured by a seatbelt while in the wagon, contrary to a BPD general order. Lieutenant Rice then directed BPD wagon to stop at Baker Street. At Baker Street, Lieutenant Rice, Officer Nero and Officer Miller removed Mr. Gray from the wagon, placed flex-cuffs on his wrists, placed leg shackles on his ankles, and completed required paperwork. Officer Miller, Officer Nero and Lieutenant Rice then loaded Mr. Gray back into the wagon, placing him on his stomach, head first, onto the floor of the wagon. Once again, Mr. Gray was not secured by a seatbelt in the wagon, contrary to a BPD general order.

Lieutenant Rice then directed Officer Goodson to transport Mr. Gray to the Central Booking & Intake Facility. Following transport from Baker Street, Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the BPD wagon. From Baker Street, Officer Goodson proceeded to the vicinity of Mosher Street and Fremont Avenue, where he subsequently parked the wagon and proceeded to the back of the wagon in order to observe Mr. Gray. Despite stopping for the purpose of checking on Mr. Gray’s condition, at no point did he seek nor did he render any medical assistance for Mr. Gray. Officer Goodson returned to his driver’s seat and proceeded toward the Central Booking & Intake Facility with Mr. Gray still unsecured by a seatbelt, contrary to a BPD general order.

Several blocks later, Officer Goodson called into dispatch that he needed to check on the status of his prisoner, and requested additional units at Dolphin Street and Druid Hill Avenue. Officer William Porter arrived on the scene near Dolphin Street and Druid Hill Avenue. Both Officer Goodson and Officer Porter proceeded to the back of the wagon to check on the status of Mr. Gray’s condition. Mr. Gray at that time requested help and indicated that he could not breathe. Officer Porter asked Mr. Gray if he needed a medic, at which time Mr. Gray indicated at least twice that he was in need of a medic. Officer Porter then physically assisted Mr. Gray from the floor of the van to the bench; however, despite Mr. Gray’s appeal for a medic, both officers assessed Mr. Gray’s condition, and at no point did either of them restrain Mr. Gray per BPD general order, nor did they render or request medical assistance.

While discussing the transportation of Mr. Gray for medical attention, a request for additional units was made for an arrest at the 1600 West North Avenue. Officer Porter left the vicinity of Dolphin Street and Druid Hill Avenue to assist in the arrest of another prisoner at North Avenue. Despite Mr. Gray’s obvious and recognized need for medical assistance, Officer Goodson, in a grossly negligent manner, chose to respond to the 1600 block of West North Avenue with Mr. Gray still unsecured by a seatbelt in the wagon, without rendering to or summonsing medical assistance for Mr. Gray.

Officer Goodson arrived at North Avenue to transport the individual arrested at the location of North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, at which time he was again met by Officer Nero, Miller, Porter and Lieutenant Rice. Once the wagon arrived, Officer Goodson walked to the back of the wagon and again opened the doors to the wagon to make observations of Mr. Gray. Sergeant Alicia White, Officer Porter and Officer Goodson observed Mr. Gray unresponsive on the floor of the wagon. Sergeant White, who was responsible for investigating two citizen complaints pertaining to Mr. Gray’s illegal arrest, spoke to the back of Mr. Gray’s head. When he did not respond, she did nothing further, despite the fact that she was advised that he needed a medic. She made no effort to look or assess or determine his condition. Despite Mr. Gray’s seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summonsed for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer.

After completing the North Avenue arrest and loading the additional prisoner into the opposite side of the wagon containing Mr. Gray, Officer Goodson then proceeded to the Western District police station, where, contrary to the BPD general order, he again failed to restrain Mr. Gray in the wagon for at least the fifth time. At the Western District police station, the defendant arrested at North Avenue was unloaded, escorted and secured inside of the police station prior to attending to Mr. Gray.

By the time Officer Zachary Novak, Sergeant White and an unknown officer attempted to remove Mr. Gray from the wagon, Mr. Gray was no longer breathing at all. A medic was finally called to the scene, where, upon arrival, the medic determined that Mr. Gray was now in cardiac arrest and was critically and severely injured.

Mr. Gray was rushed to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma, where he underwent surgery. On April 19, 2015, Mr. Gray succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead. The manner of death, deemed a homicide by the Maryland State Medical Examiner, is believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred while Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seatbelt in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon. All events occurred in Baltimore City, state of Maryland.

While each of these officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty, we have brought the following charges:

Officer Caesar Goodson is being charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree negligent assault, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, misconduct in office for failure to secure a prisoner, failure to render aid.

Officer William Porter is being charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree, misconduct in office.

Lieutenant Brian Rice is being charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree, assault in the second degree, misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

Officer Edward Nero is being charged with assault in the second degree, intentional; assault in the second degree, negligent; misconduct in office; false imprisonment.

Officer Garrett Miller is being charged with intentional assault in the second degree; assault in the second degree, negligent; misconduct in office; and false imprisonment.

Sergeant Alicia White is being charged with manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office.

While I am committed to transparency, what I have revealed here today is now a matter of public record; however, the evidence that we have collected and continue to collect cannot ethically be released to the public. And I strongly condemn anyone in law enforcement with access to trial evidence who has leaked information prior to the resolution of this case. You are are only damaging our ability to conduct a fair and impartial process for all parties involved. I hope that as we move forward with this case, everyone will respect due process and refrain from doing anything that will jeopardize our ability to seek justice.

To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for "no justice, no peace." Your peace is sincerely needed, as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man. To those that are angry, hurt or have their own experiences of injustice at the hands of police officers, I urge you to channel the energy peacefully as we prosecute this case. I have heard your calls for "no justice, no peace"; however, your peace is sincerely needed, as I work to deliver justice on behalf of Freddie Gray.

To the rank-and-file officers of the Baltimore City Police Department, please know that these accusations of these six officers are not an indictment on the entire force. I come from five generations of law enforcement. My father was an officer. My mother was an officer, several of my aunts and uncles. My recently departed and beloved grandfather was one of the founding members of the first black police organization in Massachusetts. I can tell you that the actions of these officers will not and should not, in any way, damage the important working relationships between police and prosecutors as we continue to fight together to reduce crime in Baltimore. Thank you for your courage, commitment and sacrifice for the betterment of our communities.

Lastly, I’d like to thank my team for working around the clock since the day that we learned of this tragic incident. We have conducted a thorough and independent investigation of this case. This independent investigation was led by my deputy state’s attorney, Janice Bledsoe and Michael Schatzow; my investigators, Wayne Williams, Avon Mackal; and the hard-working investigative team that were here and still are very much committed to pursuing justice.

I would also like to thank the Baltimore City Police Department, particularly Major Brandford of the homicide unit and Rodney Hill of the internal affairs division, for providing us with a hard copy of their investigative materials yesterday, information that we already had. And lastly, I would like to thank Baltimore City Sheriff Department in assisting us with this investigation as an independent law enforcement agency with police powers.

To the governor of this great state of Maryland, thank you for expediting the autopsy report, which enabled us to do our job.

Last, but certainly not least, to the youth of this city, I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment. This is your moment. Let’s ensure that we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause. And as young people, our time is now.

I’m going to take a few questions.

REPORTER: How much of the police investigation, that was delivered to you yesterday, factored into your decision to go forward with these charges? And how much of it was strictly your independent state’s attorney investigation?

MARILYN MOSBY: What I can tell you is that we’ve been working with the police department from day one. And from day one, I also sent my own investigators to the scene. So we’ve been leveraging, and we’ve been being briefed on what’s been going on with the police department. So what we received from the police department yesterday, we already had. I can tell you that we independently verified those facts and everything that we’ve received from the police department. So it’s a culmination of the independent investigation that we conducted, as well as the information that we received from the police department.

REPORTER: And did the officers—were they cooperative with your investigation?


REPORTER: All six?

MARILYN MOSBY: No. They gave a statement. And I can’t get too far into the facts of this case. I can’t—I can’t answer that.

REPORTER: Mrs. Mosby, have all—have they been—how many officers have been arrested? And are they in custody right now?

MARILYN MOSBY: A warrant has been issued for their arrest.

REPORTER: Have any of them been taken into custody?

MARILYN MOSBY: I can’t tell you that at this point. I know that a warrant has been issued. We filed the statement of charges this morning at about 9:30, 10:00 this morning.

REPORTER: Can you talk about the significance of this happening in an expeditious way, thorough, but expeditious, given what we’ve witnessed this week? In the course of one week, we’ve gone from riots to, in your eyes, the accomplishment of some justice.

MARILYN MOSBY: Well, what I can say is that from the beginning, we knew that this was a serious case. We’ve been working independently. And I can tell you that we put all of our resources to make sure that we were pursuing and leading where the facts took us in this case, which was to pursue justice.

REPORTER: Ms. Mosby, the FOP has asked for you to appoint a special prosecutor because of your post prior to the city police department. Do you care to respond to that?

MARILYN MOSBY: I can tell you that the people of Baltimore City elected me, and there’s no accountability with a special prosecutor. I can tell you that from day one, we independently investigated. We’re not just relying solely upon what we were given from the police department, period.

REPORTER: Excuse me. Excuse me. Do you think that race was a factor in his arrest?

MARILYN MOSBY: I can’t tell you that. I can’t give you my opinion.

REPORTER: Your husband, Councilman Mosby, has spoken a lot about the riots, and he’s said that some of the protesters have a point, that they’re onto something. Are you worried about the appearance of any conflict of interest?

MARILYN MOSBY: I don’t see an appearance of conflict of interest. My husband is a public servant. He works on the legislative side. I am a prosecutor. I am also a public servant. I uphold the law. He makes the laws. And I will prosecute any case within my jurisdiction.

REPORTER: Are you [inaudible] of one another?

MARILYN MOSBY: I can’t answer that question.

REPORTER: Can you tell us about the independent investigators that assisted you in this case and why you brought them in?

MARILYN MOSBY: I thought it was very important to have an independent analysis as to what took place and transpired from the very beginning. We are independent agencies from the police department.

REPORTER: Ms. Mosby, what do you think needs to be done to make sure what happened to Freddie Gray doesn’t happen again?

MARILYN MOSBY: Accountability.

REPORTER: How are we going to get that?

MARILYN MOSBY: You’re getting it today.

REPORTER: How do you make sure that this is systematic? The system has failed for so long.

REPORTER: Can you talk about the resources your office had independently of the police department to pursue this case?

MARILYN MOSBY: I can tell you, as I stated, we had a number of investigators. You can see it’s been an all-hands-on approach from the very beginning. So I sent my investigators out to the scene. We have a number of them who are right here. We have our work in collaboration and working with the Baltimore Sheriff’s Department, who has police powers, and again, independent from the Baltimore City Police Department. So, yes, we have leveraged the police investigation, but at no point did we compromise our own independent investigation into this case.

REPORTER: Do you think that it’s important to change the bill of rights that police have right now, where they have the 10 days to not talk to anybody until something the community has wrote up?

MARILYN MOSBY: I can’t give you my opinion on that.

REPORTER: Commissioner Batts isn’t standing with you. What’s his reaction to this?

MARILYN MOSBY: You would have to ask Commissioner Batts.

REPORTER: Have you spoken [inaudible]?

MARILYN MOSBY: I have spoken with Commissioner Batts. I’ve spoken with the mayor. I’ve spoken with the governor, yes.

REPORTER: Did you invite them to stand with you today?

MARILYN MOSBY: I spoke with the governor. I’ve spoke with the commissioner. You’d have to ask him.

REPORTER: Can you tell us any more about the officers’ background? Have you had any previous complaints of abuse or anything like that?

MARILYN MOSBY: I can’t do that. All that again, we have to be mindful that this is still an ongoing investigation, and I can’t—I have to be mindful of what can come out at this point. Thank you.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Chris Hedges and Charles M. Blow On The Urgent Necessity of a New Black Radicalism in the Wake of National Police Violence Against African American Citizens (With a Crucial Historical Reminder by Frederick Douglass)


As usual Chris Hedges, like Henry Giroux, tells the whole truth and nothing but while we sit around muttering and waiting for papier mache messiahs like the President and their zombie acolytes to "save us" from ourselves. It's way past time to run far away from our collective delusions and fight for something that is far more important and necessary than ANY politician's "status" or "legacy”…and pass the word.  Thanks Chris...


Rise of the New Black Radicals
April 26, 2015
By Chris Hedges

A protester raises his fist outside the Baltimore Police Department’s Western District police station during a march and vigil for Freddie Gray last Tuesday. Gray died of a spinal injury April 19 while he was in police custody. (AP / Patrick Semansky)

The almost daily murders of young black men and women by police in the United States—a crisis undiminished by the protests of groups such as Black Lives Matter and by the empty rhetoric of black political elites—have given birth to a new young black militant.

This militant, rising off the bloody streets of cities such as Ferguson, Mo., understands that the beast is not simply white supremacy, chronic poverty and the many faces of racism but the destructive energy of corporate capitalism. This militant has given up on electoral politics, the courts and legislative reform, loathes the corporate press and rejects established black leaders such as Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson. This militant believes it is only in the streets and in acts of civil disobedience that change is possible. And given the refusal of the corporate state to address the mounting suffering of the poor and working poor, draconian state repression and indiscriminate use of lethal state violence against unarmed people of color, I think the new black radical is right. It will be a long, hot and violent summer.

The world’s hundreds of millions of disenfranchised youths—in America this group is dominated by the black and brown underclass—come out of the surplus labor created by our system of corporate neofeudalism. These young men and women have been discarded as human refuse and are preyed upon by a legal system that criminalizes poverty. In the United States they constitute the bulk of the 2.3 million human beings locked in jails and prisons. The discontent in Ferguson, Athens, Cairo, Madrid and Ayotzinapa is one discontent. And the emerging revolt, although it comes in many colors, speaks many languages and has many belief systems, is united around a common enemy. Bonds of solidarity and consciousness are swiftly uniting the wretched of the earth against our corporate masters.

Corporate power, which knows what is coming, has put in place sophisticated systems of control that include militarized police, elaborate propaganda campaigns that seek to make us fearful and therefore passive, wholesale surveillance of every citizen and a court system that has stripped legal protection from the poor and any who dissent. The masses are to be kept in bondage. But the masses, especially the young, understand the game. There is a word for what is bubbling up from below—revolution. It can’t begin soon enough.

The global leadership for this revolt comes not from the institutions of privilege, elite universities where ambitious and self-centered young men and women jockey to become part of the ruling 1 percent, but from the squalid internal colonies that house the poor and usually people of color. The next great revolutionary in America won’t look like Thomas Jefferson. He or she will look like Lupe Fiasco.

T-Dubb-O is a hip-hop artist from St. Louis. He is one of the founders, along with Tef Poe, Tory Russell, Tara Thompson and Rika Tyler, of Hands Up United. The organization was formed in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. It has built close alliances with radical organizations in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin American, in Europe and in Palestine.

“I honestly think it’s going to be worse than last year, this summer,” T-Dubb-O said when I met with him and Tyler at Princeton University, where they had gone to speak to students. “People have become more radical,” he said. “They’ve realized the power that they have. They’re no longer afraid of the police, the state, but also you have a police and a military force that’s been training for a year to deal with this type of circumstance. So I honestly think this summer is gonna be worse. More violence from the police, and this time you won’t have a group of people who is just gonna sit there and let it happen to ’em—you’re gonna have people that are actually gonna fight back instead of just continue to be peaceful protesters. Right now everybody is just on edge. I mean, it’s the same situation we was in before Mike Brown. People that don’t have jobs, there’s crime everywhere, there’s drugs everywhere, there’s predator policing. It’s the same circumstances, it’s just no cameras.”

“In my city every day, police is pulling somebody over, harassing them, extorting them,” he said. “Because that’s what it is—it’s legal extortion. When a government is making 30 to 40 percent of their yearly budget off of tickets, fines and imprisonment, it’s extortion. It’s the same thing the mob did in the ’20s. So we fight. We can’t go back to normal lives. We get followed, harassed, death threats, phones tapped, social media watched, they hack into our emails, hack into our social media account, we all got FBI files. They know we here right now. So I mean it’s not a game, but it’s either continue to deal with not being able to just live like a regular person, and dream, and have an opportunity, or get up and do something about it. And we decided to do something.”

Tyler said she was propelled into the movement by seeing the body of Michael Brown, which the Ferguson police left lying in the street for more than four hours.

“I went to Canfield [Drive, where Brown was killed],” she said when we spoke. “I saw the body. I saw the blood. I just broke down. And ever since then I’ve just been out there [as an activist] every day.”

“They left [Brown] in the street for four and a half hours in the hot sun on concrete, just for display,” she said. “That reminded me of a modern-day lynching. Because you know, they used to lynch slaves and then have it displayed. And that’s basically showing us that this system is not built for us. It made me wake up a little bit more.”

“Just envision a debtor’s prison being run by a collusion between city officials, police and court judges, who treated our community like an ATM machine,” Tyler said. “Because that’s all they did. Ferguson is in St. Louis County. It’s 21,000 people living in 8,100 households. So it’s a small town. Sixty-seven percent of the residents are African-American. Twenty-two percent live below poverty level. A total of $2.6 million [were paid in fines to city officials, the courts and the police] in 2013. The Ferguson Municipal Court disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases. That’s about three warrants per household. One and a half cases for each household. You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and three warrants per household from an average crime rate. You get numbers like this from racist bullshit, arrests from jaywalking, and constant low-level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”

“For an example,” she went on, “I got pulled over. I turned a left [illegally] and my car was searched. I was met with three different officers, two detectives. I got a traffic ticket. I had a ticket because I didn’t have my license on me. So I had a ticket for not having my license, and then I got a ticket from turning the wrong way. I did not go to court because I was out of town. However, I called them and told them I will not appear to court and my lawyer would handle it from there. I got a letter in the mail that said failure to appear to court, and they have a warrant out for my arrest. They’re threatening to take my license and suspend it because I didn’t appear to court. So these are just the things that had happened in St. Louis right now. You can get a ticket from walking across the street, or a ticket from not cutting your grass, and then you’re stuck in this system that they put us in, that is oppressed, and keeps us oppressed.”

“I was arrested when I was pregnant, I was 37 weeks and I was arrested in St. Charles County by four white officers,” she said. “They took me into custody when I had this big-ass stomach. And I’m like, I’m pregnant. I had a traffic ticket for parking in the wrong meter. And they wrote me a ticket and I never paid it, so they took me. I had a warrant out for my arrest. I sat in jail, pregnant, had my baby a week early because I was stressed out and crying my eyes out in jail.”

“No person should have to go through this,” T-Dubb-O said, “whether it’s in America, Palestine, Mexico, Brazil, Canada. Nobody should have to go through this. You look at a bunch of young people [in Ferguson], their age ranges anywhere from 12 to 28 or 29, that went against the most powerful military force in this world. That’s pretty much what happened. … That’s not what’s explained, but that’s what it was. It was tanks on every corner, our phones tapped, they follow us. Every day we was out there we thought we were gonna die. At one point in time they said they were gonna kill us. ‘We’re not shooting rubber bullets tonight, we’re shooting live ammunition.’ And these are the things that you don’t see on the news. It was just because we was tired of being treated as less than people. Just for opportunity to be able to walk the streets and live and breathe and do what everybody else does. And that’s pretty much what we was fighting for. I mean, the level of oppression, it’s kind of hard to fathom, and believe that it’s actually true in America, especially the middle of America. But it’s real, where you have people that are judged off the neighborhoods they come from and the color of their skin and they’re denied certain opportunities.”

“In St. Louis if you’ve been arrested and you’re facing a misdemeanor or felony charges, you’re not allowed a Pell Grant to go to college,” he said. “So if you can’t afford to pay to go to college you’re just stuck. If you’re on probation and you’re trying to get a job, it’s a right-to-work state, they have the right to deny you employment because of your past. They don’t have to give you an opportunity to work. Where do they leave you, back in the same system that puts you in the same position where you made the first mistake. It’s all set up like this.”

“I’ve been tear-gassed six times,” Tyler said. “I’ve been put on the car, had different guns to my head. I’ve been shot at with rubber bullets, live ammo, wooden bullets, bean bag bullets, sound cannons, everything you can think of. I’ve went up against militarized police, and they did different things like a five-second rule, like I would get arrested if I stood still for longer than five seconds. I would get arrested if I didn’t walk longer than five seconds. It was just different things. They don’t wear their name badges. They don’t tell us who they are. They’re not transparent at all. They harass us. Women have been hogtied, beaten. I got arrested for standing on the sidewalk, just recording them.”

T-Dubb-O after the murder of Brown and the unrest in Ferguson was invited with other community leaders to meet with President Barack Obama in the White House. The president, he said, spoke “in clichés” about black-on-black crime, the necessity of staying in school, working hard and the importance of voting.

“He asked me did I vote for him,” he said, “I told him no. I didn’t vote for him either time, because I didn’t want to vote for him just because he was black. I felt like that would have been shallow on my end. Because he’s never honestly spoken and touched and said he was going to do anything for my community or the issues that we face on a daily basis, so why would I vote for somebody like that, whether you white, black, male, female, so on and so forth?”

As president he is proof that the system works, Obama told T-Dubb-O. The hip-hop artist said this statement shows how out of touch Obama is with the reality faced by poor people of color.

“When you have an 11-year-old boy whose mother is single, or has a single father who’s working two or three jobs just to put food on the table, he has to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, catch public transportation to school,” T-Dubb-O said. “Everything around him is damnation. You can’t expect an 11-year-old to have the mental capacity of an adult, to say I’m going to make the mature decisions and not get into trouble. So I don’t care about black-on-black crime. I don’t care about the normal cliché of working hard, you can do anything, you can accomplish, because that’s bullshit. And excuse my language, but I can’t tell a little boy up the street in my neighborhood, where over a hundred murders happened last year, that he can be an astronaut if he wants to be, because that’s not possible.”

“I think D.C. is a perfect example of what America is,” he said. “You have this big white house representing the government, that was built by slaves, that’s beautiful, excellent manicured lawns, and right outside the gate you have 50 homeless people sleeping in a park. Right outside of the gate of the White House. That perfectly describes America.”

“The difference between us and those leaders is that we aren’t doing it for fame, we aren’t doing it for political gain, we aren’t doing it for money,” he said, speaking of Obama, Sharpton, Jackson, Dyson and the other establishment black leaders. “We’re doing it because every day that we’ve lived we’ve been denied normal human rights, and we could have lost our life. We don’t believe those leaders are properly representing our community. Because they are no longer a part of the community, they don’t speak for the community, and honestly they don’t do much for it. They do some things, because they have to, being 501(c)3s, but they don’t speak for the people.”

Jackson and Sharpton have been heckled by crowds in Ferguson and told to leave, along with crews from CNN. Tyler described CNN and other major news outlets, which steadfastly parrot back the official narrative, as “worse than politicians, worse than police.”

“So people in Ferguson is basically like, fuck Al Sharpton, and fuck Jesse Jackson, for real,” Tyler said. “And that’s the best way I can put it, for real, because they are co-opted, first off. They had their own movement. They were co-opted. Their movement got destroyed. Now they want to come to the new leaders and try to come in our movement and give guidance and stuff, but it’s a totally different generation. They marched with suits and ties and sung ‘Kumbaya’ and stuff. It’s people out there that look like him,” she said, motioning to T-Dubb-O, “shirtless, tattoos, like Bloods, Crips, whatever, out there just mad, because they was pissed off and they was passionate about it.”

“Jesse Jackson came, actually we were in the middle of a prayer for Michael Brown’s mother, and we were at the memorial site in Canfield Apartments, where he was killed and laid down in the street for four and a half hours,” Tyler said. “Everyone has their heads bowed and he comes over and starts shouting ‘No justice, no peace’ in the middle of a prayer. So instantly the community is pissed the fuck off—like who the hell is this? I finally recognized his face. I went over to him, because the guys were ready to fight him. Like, you don’t come over here and, this mother’s grieving, we’re all upset, and break up our prayer. And he’s all like ‘No justice, no peace!’ He has his bullhorn, and his sign and everything, just for a photo op. So I went over and I said to him, you probably should leave, because they’re really angry and they’re gonna get you out of here. And he was like ‘No justice, no peace!’ and he just kept chanting. So I moved out of the way, and the dudes told him, like ‘Hey bro, if you don’t back the fuck up we’re gonna make you leave.’ And he’s like, ‘This is what’s wrong with us!’ and ‘generational divide!’ and everything like that. And you know the community wasn’t taking for it, so he got scared, and him and the people he came with, like his best-dressed suit on and everything, and everybody was out there shirtless, or tank tops, or just in their normal clothes. And he came out there with a cameraman and everything, like this is just a frenzy or a freaking parade or something to film. So people were pissed off and he instantly left, and he hasn’t really been back since.”

“Every national organization you can think of is in St. Louis, Mo.,” T-Dubb-O said. “We have Urban League. We have the NAACP. We have all these different organizations. But yet for the last two decades we’ve always had one of the three top murder rates, one of the three highest crime rates. Poverty level is crazy, unemployment, you have all these mission statements on your website saying you do this and you do that, yet those programs aren’t available in our city. But you have offices here. You’re getting grants. But you’re not doing anything. And the community sees that now. So it’s gonna come a point in time to where all 501(c)3s,  and all organizations, have to actually be active in the communities that they’re representing.”

The young Ferguson activists respect only the few national black leaders who do not try to speak for the movement or use the unrest as a media backdrop to promote themselves. Among those they admire is Cornel West.

“He was kind of like a big brother or father of the movement,” Tyler said of West. “Instead of stepping up, he always brought me with him. He always uplifted us. They’ll try to put him in front of the camera, he’d always bring somebody with him. He would say, ‘These are the people, these are the new leaders of the world, and you guys need to talk to them.’ He’s very transparent. He always voices and uplifts our name.”

The activists are preparing for increased unrest. And they are preparing for increased state repression and violence.

“As far as politics,” T-Dubb-O said, “it’s going to go either one of two ways. Right now we have a window that’s closing pretty fast, to where we can either re-create this system for something that’s going to actually be equal for all people, or they’re going to re-create the system to where we’ll never be able to punch it in the mouth like we did in Ferguson again.”

“We don’t know what it’s gonna look like, honestly,” he said of the coming unrest. “It’s been legal to kill a black man in this country. Just since Mike Brown, 11 more people has been killed by police in St. Louis alone, one being a woman who was raped then hung in jail. But none of the other murders got national coverage. It was just two standoffs with police yesterday. So I mean, we don’t know what that’s going to look like. We know we’re dedicated. We’re going to continue to fight. It’s going to take full-fledged revolution to make a change. The worst of the worst would be civil war. That’s just where my mind is.”

“I don’t see them pulling back,” he said of the state and its security forces. “They have no problem killing people. They have no problem shooting gas at babies, pregnant people, old people. They don’t have an issue with it. And our politicians are just standing around with their arms folded.”

“As long as the powers that be are in control, the oppression isn’t going to go anywhere,” he said. “It’s really going to take people to unite worldwide, not just in America, not just in St. Louis, not just in one particular city or state. It’s gonna have to be people identifying their struggles with each other worldwide, internationally, and say enough is enough. That’s the only way oppression will ever leave.”

© 2015 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
—Zora Neale Hurston…/charles-blow-violence-in-baltimore…

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Columnist
Violence in Baltimore
by Charles M. Blow

April 29, 2015
New York Times

Daquan Green, 17, in front of a phalanx of Baltimore police officers standing guard near the CVS pharmacy that was set on fire. Credit Andrew Burton/Getty Images North America

This week, Baltimore was engulfed in violent revolt as citizens took to the street in the wake of the mysterious and disturbing death of Freddie Gray after he’d been taken into police custody.

Projectiles were thrown. Stores were looted and some set ablaze. Police officers were injured.

It was ugly.

And in that moment, America was again forced to turn its face toward its forsaken and ask tough questions and attempt to answer a few.

Even Hillary Clinton stepped into the fray Wednesday, saying:

“We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America. There is something profoundly wrong when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.”

Related coverage by Charles M. Blow:

Politics, public opinion and social justice.


‘Lynch Mob’: Misuse of Language
APR 27
Has the N.R.A. Won?
APR 20
Woe of White Men, Again?
APR 16
Walter Scott Is Not on Trial
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In South Carolina, Shot in the Back as He Ran


This was an aggressive speech by Clinton and a major departure from her 2008 run, when, after an embarrassing loss to Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses, she went on the attack in New Hampshire, with ABC News reporting it this way:

“While the senator was vague, her campaign pointed out to ABC News examples of Obama’s liberal positions, including his 2004 statement to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for federal crimes.”

On Tuesday, the day before his wife’s speech, Bill Clinton had weighed in. As the Guardian reported:

“Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has called for an end to mass incarceration, admitting that changes in penal policy that happened largely under his watch put ‘too many people in prison and for too long’ and ‘overshot the mark.’”

The Guardian goes on to explain:

“In 1994 Clinton championed a crime bill that laid down several of the foundations of the country’s current mass incarceration malaise. Vowing to be ‘tough on crime’ — a quality that had previously been more closely associated with the Republicans and which Clinton adopted under his ‘triangulation’ ploy — he created incentives to individual states to build more prisons, to put more people behind bars and to keep them there for longer. His also presided over the introduction of a federal three-strikes law that brought in long sentences for habitual offenders.”

Hillary Clinton’s speech on Wednesday was indeed a remarkable and audacious one for the candidate, and went far further than many of her Republican rivals would dare to go (although there is growing bipartisan consensus around prison reform), but the unacknowledged and unexplained shift in the middle of a heated moment could quite reasonably raise doubts of sincerity or commitment to execution.

The black community in America has been betrayed by Democrats and Republicans alike — it has been betrayed by America itself. Therefore, it can be hard to accept at face value any promises made or policies articulated. History demonstrates that too many forked tongues have delivered too many betrayed covenants.

As James Baldwin put it in his essay “Journey to Atlanta”:

“Of all Americans, Negroes distrust politicians most, or more accurately, they have been best trained to expect nothing from them; more than other Americans, they are always aware of the enormous gap between election promises and their daily lives.”
Continue reading the main story

Baldwin continued:

“It is true that the promises excite them, but this is not because they are taken as proof of good intentions. They are the proof of something more concrete than intentions: that the Negro situation is not static, that changes have occurred, and are occurring and will occur — this, in spite of the daily, dead-end monotony. It is this daily, dead-end monotony, though, as well as the wise desire not to be betrayed by too much hoping, which causes them to look on politicians with such an extraordinarily disenchanted eye.”

It is this disenchantment, as well as the steady beat of black bodies falling, the constant murmur of black pain and the incessant sting of black subjugation that contributed to the conflagration of rage this week in Baltimore.

You could easily argue that that rage was misdirected, that most of the harm done was to the social fabric and the civil and economic interests in the very neighborhoods that most lack them. You would be right.

But misdirected rage is not necessarily illegitimate rage.

Some might even contextualize the idea of misdirection.

The activist Deray McKesson argued this week about the violence that erupted in Baltimore: “I don’t have to condone it to understand it.”

Indeed, The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates argued quite convincingly in November that violent revolt has often been the catalyst for change in this country and that nonviolence, at least in part, draws its power from the untenable alternative of violence.

None of this promotes violence as a tactic, but rather is a fuller understanding of the contradictions of America’s current, incessant appeals for peace.

We can’t roundly condemn violent revolt now while ignoring the violent revolts that have littered this country’s history.

We can’t rush to label violent protesters as “thugs” while reserving judgment about the violence of police killings until a full investigation has been completed and all the facts are in.

We can’t condemn explosions of frustration born of generations of marginalization and oppression while paying only passing glances to similar explosions of frustration over the inanity of a sports team’s victory or loss or a gathering for a pumpkin festival.

Nonviolence, as a strategy, hinges on faith: It is a faith in ultimate moral rectitude and the perfectibility of systems of power.

But that faith can be hard to find in communities that see systems of power in which they feel they have no stake and an absence of moral courage on the part of the powerful to expand the franchise.

It has been my experience that people who feel no investment in systems of power — no belief that they have access to that power and that that power will treat them fairly — are the ones most likely to attack those systems with whatever power they think they have.

The time that any population will silently endure suffering is term-limited and the end of that term is unpredictable, often set by a moment of trauma that pushes a simmering discontent over into civil disobedience.

And, in those moments, America feigns shock and disbelief. Where did this anger come from? How can we quickly restore calm? How do we instantly start to heal?

That is because America likes to hide its sins. That is because it wants its disaffected, dispossessed and disenfranchised to use the door under the steps. That is because America sees its underclass as some sort of infinity sponge: capable of quietly absorbing disadvantage, neglect and oppression forever for the greater good of superficial calm and illusory order. And expected to do so.

No one of good conscience and sound judgment desires violence or would ever advocate for it. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.”

But King is not the only person worthy of quoting here. There is also the quote often attributed to Zora Neale Hurston: “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” 


(b. 1970)


Frederick Douglass in 1857 and Charles M. Blow in 2015

"The time that any population will silently endure suffering is term-limited and the end of that term is unpredictable, often set by a moment of trauma that pushes a simmering discontent over into civil disobedience.
And, in those moments, America feigns shock and disbelief. Where did this anger come from? How can we quickly restore calm? How do we instantly start to heal?

That is because America likes to hide its sins. That is because it wants its disaffected, dispossessed and disenfranchised to use the door under the steps. That is because America sees its underclass as some sort of infinity sponge: capable of quietly absorbing disadvantage, neglect and oppression forever for the greater good of superficial calm and illusory order. And expected to do so”
—Charles M. Blow, April 29, 2015

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
—Frederick Douglass, August 3, 1857