Voices of Protest for Freddie Gray
Baltimore is recovering from a violent night of protests after the death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old black man died mysteriously on April 19, days after being seized by police, placed in a police van, and taken into custody. It’s unclear what happened inside the van, but eventually part of Gray’s spine was broken. On Monday night, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that a curfew would go into effect Tuesday night. “What we see going on in our city is very disturbing,” she said.
Gray was not the first Baltimore resident to emerge from a police van harmed. In 2005, Dondi Johnson Sr., a 43-year-old plumber, was arrested for public urination and put in the back of a police van by officers who didn’t buckle his seat belt. He emerged with a fractured neck and quadriplegia and died in the hospital. Jeffrey Alston was paralyzed from the neck down after a rocky ride in a police van in 1997. An asthmatic like Gray, Alston was denied an inhaler when he requested one.
Actor Bette Midler shared her outrage about the series of incidents as they came to light:
Two other men emerged from police vans in Baltimore paralyzed from the neck down. WTF goes on in those vans? The cruelty of a "rough ride".— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) April 25, 2015
Historian and New Yorker contributor Jelani Cobb filmed police in riot gear chasing protesters down the street outside Camden Yards on Saturday when protests escalated. Thirty-five citizens were arrested by the end of the day:
As tensions increased following Gray’s funeral on Monday, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, asked protesters not to meet the expectations of onlookers anticipating a riot:
If you have a brick or a rock in your hand, pls put it down. We have right on our side. They want to see us do wrong. #FreddieGray— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) April 27, 2015
Sam Sinyangwe, co-creator of Mapping Police Violence, brought his project’s chilling data to the forefront as he tweeted about the violence in Baltimore:
100% of people killed by Baltimore police department last year were black. We should expect them to be shut down by any means. #FreddieGray— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) April 27, 2015
The proximity of the White House to the protests came into focus for activists who wondered when President Obama would weigh in:
Late Monday, as a CVS was looted and burned and media outlets clamored to capture images of the city in flames, St. Louis–based anthropologist Sarah Kendzior shared her take:
You think you are watching the breakdown but you are watching the fallout from what was already broken. #Baltimore— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) April 27, 2015
As calls for nonviolence poured in overnight from officials such as Attorney General Loretta Lynch, activists in Baltimore expressed frustration at the public for focusing on the riots instead of what came before:
If y'all really cared you would know Baltimore "Peacefully Protested" for a whole week..still no answers on Freddie Gray death— Leak (@ChiefMaliik) April 27, 2015
On Tuesday morning, activists called for onlookers around the country to remember where the violence began: