Update from Baltimore

A perspective from YAC member Shaun Verma.
Johns Hopkins 2017

BALTIMORE, MD – The stark images of the Baltimore Riots being released nationally on most news media show shootings, arrests, looting. Baltimore is shown literally up in flames and on campus we are told to stay off the streets. Battles of Baltimore, Baltimore Burning; the headlines on CNN and other national media paint a very different narrative from what is happening on the ground. What is said to be “massive protests taking over Baltimore as curfew approaches” is actually people uniting from many different communities, providing solidarity, cooperating, to create a better Baltimore city without police brutality and the unequal treatment of any race.

Last week, a black man was killed. Freddie Gray was chased down by police and his spine was broken at some point between the arrest and his police transport. The police department had been unbelievably opaque and has been pushing off further investigation and trial. The police were unresponsive in the first week of protests other than hardlining them with riot control. On Monday night, protests escalated into riots across Baltimore, the National Guard rolled in, and the last few days the rest of the nation has tuned in.

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Protests have been going on for the last week and a half, most of them peaceful. Protestors want justice for Freddie Gray, and most protestors are demanding that the policemen associated with the incident be charged for murder. Officials have already stated that the officers involved in Gray’s arrest did not give him timely medical care and did not put him in a seat belt when he was being transported in a police van, a violation of department policy. After the preliminary investigation, 6 policemen were suspended due to the incident. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby will ultimately determine whether charges will be brought against any of the six suspended officers.

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Freddie Gray’s death is one in a long line of cases of police brutality in the city of Baltimore. However, many of these don’t make the news. The video taken, showing almost definitively that Freddie had been hurt, is what has spurred the movement taking place. New York, Boston, Detroit, and other cities across the world are uniting with Baltimore for justice for Freddie Gray.

The systematic killing of black lives across the country due to police brutality is unacceptable. However, in every thousand people there are the twenty or so that resort to violence, who take advantage of vulnerable situations. For those creating violence, I plead to tell them that this is not the answer. It truly does hurt to see people lash out and create violence, for it only recreates the violence that we wish to rid ourselves of. All lives matter, and that’s why we must provide solidarity, not resort to violence.

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I did manage to make it on front page of CNN the other day (my friends and I in the bottom of the frame)! As part of the Campus Connection Peaceful Protest, students from college campuses across Baltimore came together on Wednesday, April 29 to demand justice for Freddie Gray. We all play a part, and that’s why we all must step up.

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Please everyone stay safe, but also stay informed! Always check your sources. The news on Baltimore can be more fictional than The Wire sometimes.

This is an issue that affects all of us. Youth are in a unique position where they can have their voices heard, and that’s why we all have the responsibility to step up for Freddie Gray.

Shaun Verma, JHU ’17

News Update Thursday – Investigation Decision

Video of Freddie Gray’s Death:

About the Culture of Police Brutality in Baltimore:

Images of Protests:

Article from before it got violent, about the protests: