Friday, May 1, 2015

What People Care About This Week: Freddie Gray

Recently 25 year old Freddie Gray died after injuries sustained after his arrest in Baltimore by police. This has led to riots, protest, and multiple injuries. But first I'm gonna go back to what caused this to happen. I am gonna try and be as factual as I can be while writing this because this is all still under investigation and not all of the information has been released. Every day more comes out that makes me go “Okay, but...” and “I get that, but...”

To me a lot of what is wrong with this case, the people involved, and not to sound like a hippie, the system, is the procedures that are in place.

Gray lived at home with his two sisters, one of whom was his twin. He had been arrested a lot of times. A lot. It is shown that he was arrested 22 times for various crimes, primarily drug related and some assaults. There has been 20 cases against him in court with five of them still being active. I'm not writing this stuff to paint this guy as a criminal. He was a criminal. That isn't even a question. I'm just stating what I believe are facts. But criminal or not he didn't deserve what happened. 

Six officers have been put on paid suspension while the investigation into Gray's death continue. Lieutenant Brian Rice, 41, (18 years as a cop), Sergeant Alicia White, 30 (5 years as a police officer), Officer Garrett Miller, 26 (3 years as a police officer), Officer Edward Nero, 29 (3 years as a police officer), Officer Caesar Goodson, 45 (16 years as a police officer), and Officer William Porter, 25 (5 years as a police officer). There has been information about one of these officers, Rice the one with the longest career, regarding mental health issues and the removal of his police and personal weapons just three years ago.

On April 12th, 2015 police on bikes chased after Gray ran when seeing them. They tackled him and found a switchblade on him. There is video of his arrest where you hear people shouting for the police to stop hurting him. I am paraphrasing. There was lots of cursing. Some witnesses say they saw things that didn't happen. Others say that Gray was being folded by police. A little over ten minutes after being arrested he was put into a police van. Now this is where things get squirrely because the information that the police give does not match up with their own reports or what cameras got.

While in transport and screaming the van stopped to restrain Gray and made four more stops including a grocery store. He was taken to a hospital after becoming unconscious. Now, the grocery store part is interesting because the owner of that store had video footage that was destroyed during the rioting Gray's death caused. While in the hospital Gray went into a coma. In the police report, Officer Miller stated “The defendant was arrested without force or incident” and “ that he suffered a medical emergency during transport.” One of those statements appears true.

While Gray was in a coma he was resuscitated and had surgery. His family talked about three fractured vertebrae, a severed spine, and injuries to his throat. Gray died one week after his arrest. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said “We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.” He also admitted/acknowledged that Gray was not properly secured while being transported. 

Medical examiners said Gray got more injuries from being slammed around in the police van and that head injuries were consistent with the bolts that were in the van. Did he injure himself while in the back of the van? Some say he did. One site even said that he had surgery a week before this incident and that is why his spine was damaged.

Back in December Gray and his sister filed a lawsuit regarding a car accident. They were set to receive a settlement but the case was dismissed when neither of them appeared in court. A lot of sites reported the neck injury as fact because when people have an agenda they don't let little things like fact checking get in the way of having people believe what they say. When they were younger they suffered effects from lead in paint that may or may not have caused behavior problems as well as their mothers drug use. The case was settled before going to trial back in 2010.

On the day of Gray's funeral protesters began setting fires, attacking people, and looting. On that first day 34 people were arrested and 15 cops were injured. The National Guard was brought in along with 500 state troopers and 5,000 police from other parts of the country to restore order and reinforce the curfew.

There is this term floating around that I had never heard before but knew of in practice called a “rough ride.” What this entails is police leaving someone restrained improperly and driving in a way that will cause them to be injured. 43 year old plumber Dondi Johnson Sr. of Baltimore became a paraplegic in 2005 after riding with Baltimore police. His family got $7.4 million for that which was reduced to $219,000. He died two weeks later due to pneumonia caused by the injury. In 2004 Jeffrey Alston sued for $39 million after he was paralyzed from the neck down and received $6 million. The officers were never disciplined. Christine Abbott, a 27 year old library assistant, is suing in federal court for injuries she got in the back of a police van in 2012. These kind of incidents go back as far as 1980.

I know there are some people that saw how many words were on this and decided to skim through or just not read this altogether. There have been too many stories in the news of police brutality and wrong doing. At a certain point people lose their patience for the justice system as it is and instead of being peaceful, marching, or talking to their representatives they act like violent children and burn things. I will never support a riot. I lived through the L.A Riots back in 1992 and saw my city burned down. It hasn't been the same since. It did nothing but make the public skittish when a famous Black person is put on trial and made businesses never want to return. “Why won't more businesses build in our area?!” Because you burned the last one down!

There was that video of a mother smacking her son around after spotting him getting set to loot during the riot. She dragged his dumb ass around and shouted at him. He put himself in danger. He put her in danger by having her have to go get him. Turns out that she is a single mother with six children that said that she didn't want him to end up like Freddie Gray.

President Obama said “There's no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they're not protesting. They're not making a statement. They're stealing. When they burn down a building, they're committing arson. And they're destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities. That robs jobs and opportunity from people in that area.” Okay. So what do you plan on doing about it, sir? During the rioting in Ferguson he was on the news asking for peaceful protests while on the split screen cars were being flipped over.

I won't deny people their rage but I disagree with the tactics implemented while expressing it. You think the guy I saw on the news was thinking of social injustice when he was running out of the store with a pile of jeans and shirts? You think a small business owner is going to want to reopen their shop? Not likely. But you know who will? Those giant businesses that people love to bash. You destroy ten small local stores and a Wal-Mart gets put there. Happy now? No? Too bad.

Peaceful protests do not get attention. When my friend asked me if I saw what was happening in Baltimore I said that they showed it for about ten seconds before talking about the drought. I pointed out that the sun was still up and that fires look better when filmed at night. Sure enough, once the sun went down almost every news outlet was posting footage and photos of the rioting. 

Can you blame the media? You can if you want. I'd rather blame people who think fires, violence, and stealing solve problems. If you don't give the media something to show they won't be there. The media does cause panic and in some cases make things up. But they can't make up you dancing on top of a damaged police car.

Now I am going to finish this by talking about what I mentioned earlier regarding procedure. From the bottom to the top it is wrong. I am not against police chasing someone that has a long criminal record and also has a knife on them. I don't care what race you are. What I am against is this rough ride nonsense. I am against having an officer on the force that had to have their weapons taken away from them due to mental issues. I am against people posing in front of the police to have their photo taken for social media. The picture I used with the protesters protecting police needs to be one shown more. No words need to be said. That picture explains it all.

For years people have been told that if you obey the law you will be fine. Of course we know that to not be true. You tell a cop you can't breathe you'll be choked up. You put your hands up you get beaten. You run you get shot in the back five times. You reach for your ID they asked you to get you get shot. You film them doing wrong your camera is taken and smashed. 

Hell, the ACLU now has an app that allows you to instantly send footage of police brutality. I'm not kidding. That's real. We have reached a boiling point that is close to irreversible. I told my cousin that if I am stopped by police now that I will just spread my arms and legs and just fall to the ground. There is no right or wrong way to react to police now. No matter what you do this person can and will hurt or kill you depending on their mood. Or mental stability.

I know its hard to believe but I am not anti-police. I'm anti stupid. And there are a lot of stupid people that are in law enforcement. I'm sure you know someone that was in the police department or military that you wouldn't leave your kids with. They're just humans and most of us are a mess. Look at the ages of the police involved in this. You think a 23 year old knows how to function well enough to enforce the law? 

In all of these news stories you always hear someone say “There are good cops out there.” Why aren't these good cops talking about the bad ones? When you silently stand with someone that does wrong the public will naturally not trust you.

If Freddie Gray was still alive would he have been a contributing member of society? Who knows? I'm alive and I'm not. Will the officers involved be charged with a crime? Not likely. In two weeks someone else will be beaten or killed by police and we'll move on. This is the new normal. 

Malcolm X once said “If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Do some research. Don't click one link and have it form your opinion. If you protest do it peacefully. If you can do not get involved with the police in any way. Vote for people you believe will cause the change you want, not with your political party you've attached yourself to like a leech. Above all else make sure a camera is always watching you. Remember back in the 80's that was the fear? “Big Brother is watching you!” Now we want cameras everywhere. Especially on the police.

Click here for previous What People Care About This Week.


Anonymous said...

Good info...I recently heard the reason the protesters in Baltimore got violent is because people showed up yelling n word and n word lovers at the protesters and that is when hell broke loose. Not sure of other details..not saying its right ...but if this is what happened its definitely missing from media depiction

Dante said...

I doubt the validity of that story. If someone was brave (dumb) enough to do that then we'd be talking about a murder taking place. Also, there should not be a word strong enough to make you attack someone. Why give anyone that amount of power over you?