Once again the world owes a great debt of thanks to people who take to the streets in protest of police murder. The extra-judicial killing of Black people is commonplace in this country, taking place nearly every day. The cry, “Black lives matter” is a fixture on the national consciousness and that is only because the people of Ferguson, Missouri, made it so.
The toll of police murder in this country is horrific and proves that claims of American justice and democracy are blatant lies. In 2014 alone, 1,100 people were killed by police. These police are rarely even charged, much less prosecuted successfully. Freddie Gray died in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland and a medical examiner has ruled his death a homicide. The State’s Attorney has brought charges against six officers, but that by no means gives any assurance of justice.
Eric Garner was killed by police, on camera, in Staten Island, New York, but a grand jury declined to prosecute. Such was the case with Michael Brown’s murderer in Ferguson. The killers aren’t brought to justice for one very simple reason. They are doing the bidding of a system which still operates under the assumption that any Black person is the property of any white person. Police are modern day slave patrollers and they are given carte blanche to mete out any treatment they choose to Black people.
Black life criminalized
The civilian complaint review boards, blue ribbon commissions and other forms of public relations must be rejected out of hand. The only way to seek redress is to plainly speak the truth about White supremacy and its continued presence in American life.
Black life itself is criminalized in this country. Driving while Black, bike riding while Black, walking while Black, are all potential justifications for police execution. The idea of white rights over the lives of Black people has been completely normalized and accepted. That is why even murders committed on camera are not punished and that is why charges against the officers who killed Freddie Gray are not yet cause for celebration.
After nearly a week of protests, an uprising that some call riots, a state-sanctioned march took place in Baltimore. It was a far cry from the righteous anger which shook the city and had the look of a fund raising walk-a-thon and not the political demonstration it should have been. There was a brutal honesty when Black Baltimoreans spontaneously took to the streets on previous days. It is in all likelihood not coincidental that charges were announced the day before. Anger was blunted after the police were charged and took pressure off of the Baltimore political class.
‘A bad idea’
Of course many of the protesters who originally took to the streets were criticized by the press and politicians. Those who damaged property were singled out for condemnation and some were singled out for punishment. Allen Bullock is an 18-year old who was photographed vandalizing a police car. His parents wanted him to do “the right thing” and turn himself in to the police.
As every Black person ought to know, that is always a bad idea. Young Mr. Bullock has been charged with eight misdemeanors but he is still in custody and must post $500,000 bail in order to be released.
None of the six officers charged had such a high bail amount. The killers are walking the streets and a young man who made an unwise decision will sit in jail for as long as the system chooses.
None of the politicians in Maryland have come to Bullock’s defense. They heap praise on State’s Attorney Mosby but won’t lift a finger to demand that Allen Bullock and others with astronomical bail amounts be set free. They also haven’t explained why white Baltimore was untouched by the recent curfew. The city was turned into a “sundown town” with Black people risking arrest if they dared leave their homes.
Black life in America
The tenuous nature of Black life in America is on full display in Baltimore. Three of the officers charged in Gray’s death are also Black. The mayor is Black, the member of congress for that district is Black, the police commissioner is Black and none of them could keep Gray from being slammed about in the back of a van and suffering fatal spinal injuries.
There should be no celebrating unless all of the police responsible for Freddie Gray’s death are convicted. There should be no celebrating until Allen Bullock is released from jail. There should be no congratulations to the mayor, congressman or state attorney until they explain why the police prevented children from leaving school and helped to provoke the events which were then so loudly condemned.
In short, there is still no justice in Baltimore, just as there isn’t any for Black people in the rest of the country. It is protest, truth telling, and community control of the police and every other facet of public life that will bring an end to the carnage. The slave patrol and the sundown town ought to have disappeared in the 21st century, but for now it is still true that no Black life matters.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report.