We, along with many others, have been watching the events in Baltimore over the last couple weeks. They followed a pattern that’s become all too common; a black man dies during a confrontation with the police. A cellphone video of events draws national attention.
Baltimore looked as if it were going to follow the path set forth in Ferguson. At the same time that the police investigation’s findings were sent to the state attorney’s office, we saw attempts to paint Freddie Gray as the person at fault. Conservative media began hyping his arrest record (which has nothing to do with the case). The police said that he had been arrested for possessing a switchblade. The Washington Post reported that another person who had been arrested and was in the same police van as Freddie Gray said that Freddie might have been trying to injure himself.
This time, it didn’t go as planned. The day after the Washington Post story, Donta Allen, the person who their story referred to, said the Post distorted his story. Then came yesterday.
Marilyn Mosby, the state attorney for the region that includes Baltimore, held a press conference. During the press conference, we discovered that the Baltimore medical examiner had ruled Gray’s death a homicide. We learned that the knife that Gray had when he was arrested was not a switchblade, and was perfectly legal for him to carry; in other words, he was illegally arrested in the first place. And, we learned that six officers were being charged with crimes ranging from murder and manslaughter to assault and false imprisonment.
“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 attacks on Marilyn Mosby and her character have already started. The Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police union in the country, has called for Mosby to recuse herself due to her husband being a Baltimore city councilman who’s taken the protesters’ side publicly on more than one occasion. Of course, they overlook that she comes from a family of police officers as well. The conservative media have come out and said she’s too inexperienced to handle a case like this (she was elected this past November). Or, they go the full sexist route in an attempt to delegitimize her case.
The accused officers still have to be tried, and the defense will almost assuredly try to get a change of venue by claiming that the defendants won’t get a fair trial in Baltimore. Hey – it worked in the first trial for the officers who beat Rodney King back in 1991; they got the trial moved from Los Angeles to Simi Valley and a jury of Ventura County residents – ten white, one Hispanic and one Asian. We all remember how that turned out…
None of this in any way diminishes the fact that a city did the right thing today, and took steps towards holding their police accountable. Police brutality’s been the name of the game for way too long in cities and towns all across the country; it’s about time they’re held accountable for their actions. Yesterday may prove to be Baltimore’s finest hour.