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The National Guard was unleashed on Baltimore yesterday to quell unrest following the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died of injuries sustained in police custody. On 12 April, Gray was pinned to the pavement by officers before being loaded into a police van. When he was taken out of it his spine was ‘80 per cent severed’, according to the family’s lawyer. He spent a week in a coma and died on 19 April.

On Saturday I went to join a protest due to start at the corner of Presbury and North Mount streets. On my way there from the subway station I passed an alleyway with four police cars in it, their lights flashing. The cops appeared to be questioning people. A group of residents, all black, stood at the entrance to the alley, their phone cameras trained on the police.

I asked what was going on. ‘This shit happens every day around here.’ When a fifth police car arrived, a few members of the group put their hands sarcastically in the air. One man told the officer at the wheel that the alleyway couldn’t accommodate any more police vehicles.

Phone footage can occasionally force the police to be accountable, as in the case of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man shot several times in the back by an officer in South Carolina.

Gray’s arrest was captured on film too, but only up until the moment he was shoved into the van. His crime had been to flee the police unprovoked in a ‘high-crime area’ – a.k.a. ‘running while black’.

Given the cops’ track record, it’s hardly surprising people run from them. Technically it doesn’t count as probable cause for arrest, but the Supreme Court has determined that the fourth amendment protecting against arbitrary detention doesn’t necessarily apply in ‘high-crime areas’.

The court hasn’t defined, however, what these areas are. According to a 2008 article in the American University Law Review,

There is no agreement on what a ‘high-crime area’ is, whether it has geographic boundaries, whether it changes over time, whether it is different in different parts of the country, whether there are different types of ‘high-crime areas,’ or who determines that an area is, in fact, a higher crime area.

Meanwhile, the ability to designate high-crime areas encourages the police to commit crimes in them. Last September, the Baltimore Sun reported that the city had paid out $5.7 million since 2011 in police abuse lawsuits. There was a state of emergency in Baltimore long before it was declared yesterday.

Comments

  1. Toltec says:

    New York Times columnist Charles Blow excoriated Baltimore Police Union representative Gene Ryan for describing the rioters as a “Lynch Mob” based on our Bill of Rights that police as equal citizens to all other Americans should have their day in a court of law, when charged with a crime, like every other Americans. They ought not be prosecuted outside the law. Blow, nevertheless, described in tedious detail the history of racist lynchings in order to correct the Ryan designation of a “Lynch Mob” as a malaprop. But was it? Who would Blow wish to call to his aid when he was raped by his uncle, as he describes in his recently published memoir? Except for his toeing the line of his publisher on political matters, Blow might have accepted that a street mob’s violence needs a lawful power to protect innocent people. A street mob does behave like a lynch mob, only the victims in Baltimore, unlike black lynch victims, have the power to protect their lives. Too bad the most recent victim of the police, Freddie Gray, didn’t have the same power.

    • gotnotruck says:

      WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS WHY DO MOST PROSECUTIONS OF POLICE RELY ON GRAND JURIES, NOT COURT TRIALS. “A JURY OF PEERS” FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS WOULD BE AFRICAN AMERICANS. I TOOK NO OFFENSE FROM BLOW’S OP ED. I DID WHEN BOB HERBERT, AN AFRICAN AMERICAN, CALLED GIULIANI’S WELL NAMED “STREET CRIMES UNIT” KILLED AN UNARMED BLACK MAN EVERY FEW WEEKS, SODOMIZING ONE WITH A TOILET PLUNGER, “JIM CROW JUSTICE” A PRIME EXAMPLE OF TALKING ABOUT RACISM IN THE SOUTH AS A WAY OF NOT TALKING ABOUT RACE IN THE REST OF THE COUNTRY. NOW GILLIAN SAYS “OBAMA DOESN’T LOVE AMERICA.”

      BY THE WAY AT LEAST ONE IN FOUR BOYS AND TEENS WERE RAPED, BY WOMEN OR MEN. NEIGHBORS OR RELLIES.

      • gotnotruck says:

        WHY NOT REVIEW “REBELLION IN BLACK AND WHITE: southern student activism in the 1960s.” BY A PROF AT NYU, ANOTHER AT U OF SOUTH CAROLINA. I WAS ONE. FELT GREAT TO BE CURSED, SPAT AT, THINGS THROWN WHILE PICKETING A MOTEL OUTSIDE TOWN BY MYSELF. WHERE WE SAT IN IS NOW PART MLK BLVD. NONE IN MIDTOWN MANHATTAN. ANOTHER BETWEEN DURHAM AND CHAPEL HILL YANKEES WHITES HAVE ASKED ME WHEN I TELL THEM I WAS IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, ONE LATINO, ANOTHER A JEWISH MAN, ASKED “ON WHICH SIDE?” AFRICAN AMERICANS SAY “THAT’S WHY THEY CALLED IT A MOVEMENT.”

  2. rupert moloch says:

    Baltimore police media liaison seems now to have leaked the suggestion that the severing of Freddie Gray’s spine was some variety of “self-inflicted injury”.

    Wikipedia has useful entries on fatalities as a result of US police shootings; how complete that data is, I’m unsure. A brief survey seems to indicate that fatal shootings are most often the result of unpredictable & extreme behaviour by malefactors. Given the US propensity for gun violence this might suggest a steely discretion on the part of law enforcement officers generally. The big HOWEVER in the equation is that poor minorities suffer a very disproportionate burden of extrajudicial police homicide.

    • gotnotruck says:

      HMM. HOW WOULD ONE SEVER ONE’S OWN SPINE? PEOPLE I KNOW IN APPALACHIA ARE AGAINST MILITARY GUNS, FOR BACKGROUND CHECKS, AS ARE 70% OF NRA MEMBERS. LIKE AIPAC THEY BUY CONGRESS. I’D LOVE TO PRY THE GUN FROM CHARLESTON’S COLD DEAD HANDS, AS I’D LOVE TO WATERBOARD PSYCHOPATH DICK CHENEY, BUT WOULD BE UNABLE. HESTON HAD AN AMERICAN FLAG THAT RAISED AND LOWERED ITSELF PLAYING THE RIGHT MUSIC.

      HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE FOR RUSSIA AND CHINA TO EMERGE IN YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS AS A MILITARY THREAT. THE EU SHARES CHINA’S VALUES. CAMERON: “I’LL JUST SEE THE DALAI LAMA”. ARE YOU AWARE CHINESE AND RUSSIAN SHIPS HAVE BEEN CRUISING THE MEDITERRANEAN. RUSSIANS CRUISING YOUR WATERS, NORWAY’S, FINLAND’S AND A ESTONIAN DISAPPEARED, AS PEOPLE DID IN VIENNA, (GOD AWFUL PLACE!) WHEN I WAS FORCED TO LIVE THERE FOR A YEAR. SWASTIKAS AND “JUDEN REIN” ON EVERY OTHER WALL. FAKE GEMUTULICHEIT, DIRNDLS, WINE WITH ANTI FREEZE. NAW NAW NAW AMERICA MUCH MUCH WORSE. IRAQ YOU BEGIN WITH IRAQ, SANS SKYKES PICOT. WAS IT GETRUDE BELL WHO PUT TOGETHER SUNNIS, SHIIA AND KURDS. GREAT IDEA! REMOVE DICTATOR BIG PROBLEM. DID BLAIR KNOW? THE GUARDIAN FOR GOD’S SAKE SAID THE ATTACK ON THE USS COLE, NOTHING, BUT THE ATTACK ON OUR EMBASSY IN KENYA WAS “AN ATROCITY”. ONLY ONE OF THE 9/11 TERRORISTS WASN’T A SAUDI. WE ARE NOW EXPORTING ENERGY. SORRY FOR STREAM OF UNCONSCIOUSNESS. I’M AN ATHEIST MYSTIC NUTCASE. .

  3. gotnotruck says:

    CAPS FOR BAD EYES. WHAT A SURPRISE THAT AMERICA IS AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST. I ASKED TO HARDTALK MR BBC HARDTALK. HE DID A SOFTBALL INTERVIEW WITH A FAN. MY FIRST QUESTION WOULD BE “WHY DO BRITS HATE AMERICA?” BECAUSE WE FOUGHT TWO WARS HELPING YOU. WE DIDN’T OUTFIGHT YOU. WE OUTPRODUCED YOU. WE SHOULDN’T HAVE MADE YOU PAY THE MARSHALL PLAN BACK.

    HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE WAR OF 1812? OF TWO BRITISH AMERICAN STUDIES STUDENTS NEITHER HAD NOT HEARD OF IT. A GHANAN CAB DRIVER DID. HE SAID “THEY” – YOU – “TREATED US LIKE SLAVES. WE FOUGHT TWO WARS AGAINST THEM”. AN INDIAN MAN’S MOTHER TOLD HIM THE FIRST THING SHE WANTED HIM TO DO IN LONDON WAS HAVE HIS PICTURE TAKEN OF A WHITE MAN POLISHING HIS SHOES. DOWNER ABBEY MADE WE WONDER WHERE THE SNOBS MADE THAT MONEY? COULD THE BBC DO AN HONEST SERIES ON THE HISTORY OF ITS EMPIRE? NO. COVERING JAMAICA, WHERE YOU WORKED SLAVES, (BUT MUCH WORSE THAN IN VIRGINIA), WORKED THEM TO DEATH AS BRAZILIANS DID: MORE WHERE THOSE CAME FROM, HENCE EXPENDABLE. “COME ALONG, TRICKY”, ENDLESS “MASTERPIECES”. PBS NEWS SHOULD BE SHOWN IN EUROPE AS THE BEEB IS. IN ANDALUSIA: RACISM AGAINST BLACKS, ANTI ROMA, ANTI SEMITISM. TONY JUDT SPOKE OF BRITISH ANTI SEMITISM, AS DID ROGER COHEN IN THE SLIMES. THE FRAUDIAN SAID TONY JUDT WAS NOT ALLOWED TO PUBLISH IN THE US. AFTER THEY SAID SO, TONY JUDT WROTE A WONDERFUL STORY OF HIS TRAVELS IN AMERICA. HE LOVED PEOPLE ASKING HIM “WHY ARE YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF A NOWHERE LIKE THIS?” (“AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM”, AS I’M SURE YOU KNOW, WAS A TERM USED BY THE USSR TO NAG AMERICAN COMMIES, ABOUT NOT BEING ARDENT ENOUGH ABOUT REVOLUTION. AT THE SAME TIME JUDT WAS IMPRESSED BY THE MANY LIBRARIES AND SMALL AND LARGE ART MUSEUMS. 3,OOO MILES ACROSS THE COUNTRY. WHEN HE RETURNED TO THE EAST COAST HE BECAME AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.

    I’VE BEEN READING THE RALEIGH, N.C., “NEWS AND OBSERVER” WHICH MY MOTHER CALLED “THE NUISANCE AND DISTURBER”. AS I USE “THE NEW YORK SLIMES”, “THE FRAUDIAN.” AND “THE LURB”. NO VIOLENCE DOWN THERE. PEOPLE ARE THINKING OF DEMONSTRATING IN SOLIDARITY. IN NUEVA YORK, ROMA LIVE REGULAR LIVES WORKING IN INSTRUMENT DESIGN AND REPAIR: VIOLINS, CELLOS AND PROBABLY OTHER JOBS ACROSS THE USA. IN SPAIN I WAS STRUCK BY RACISM, ANTI ROMA AND ANTISEMITISM. OF COURSE YOU KNOW STOREFRONT IS OPERATING VIA SATELLITE TO REACH NEO NAZIS IN THE UK AND EUROPE. AS THE LATE GREAT GORE VIDAL SAID, “THE DARK NIGHT OF FASCISM IS ALWAYS LOOMING OVER AMERICA, BUT IT LANDS IN EUROPE.” HOW MANY AFRICAN MIGRANTS HAS THE UK TAKEN IN? VOTING AGAINST NIGEL WON’T HELP THEM.

    HAVE YOU COVERED JOANI SANCHEZ IN CUBA? GO TO HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: CUBA, THE WAY FORWARD, AT THE BOTTOM IS A LINK TO HER SITE. ALLEN GINSBERG WAS THROWN OUT ON HIS FIRST AND ONLY TRIP FOR SAYING “FREE SPEECH”. I TOLD A CUBAN LADY I’D DO THE SAME BUT WOULD BE HAPPY TO BUY CUBAN MANGOES. WE SMILED. LOVE IS GOOD.


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