Baltimore police officers tackled Freddie Gray and took him into custody on April 12. In the process, police crushed his voice box and nearly severed his spine breaking it in 8 places. Police then waited nearly 40 minutes before calling for medical attention. Gray died a week later from his injuries. This act must be seen rooted in the routine everyday practices of the status quo across the United States.
Local, state, and federal law enforcement units have consistently stolen the lives of innocent Black, Latin@, Indigenous, Asian, and other oppressed nationalities in the States. Amongst those that have stood out the most over the past few years leading to ongoing protests are Derek Williams and Dontre Hamilton killed in Milwaukee, Eric Garner in New York, Michael Brown in Missouri, Walter Lamer Scott in South Carolina, 12 year old Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Rekia Boyd in Chicago, and the homeless James Boyd in New Mexico. These are only a few names amongst many that have been caught in the spotlight of criticism and dissent. However, far less frequently reported are the deaths of women and trans women of color, such as Mya Hall, who hailed from Baltimore, who like Freddie Gray was also killed by police.
Racism and violent brutality doesn’t start or stop with the police; their racism is rooted in the racist institutions, structures and history of the United States. Racism which continues to segregate housing in cities across the United States. Racism which leaves our schools more segregated than before Brown v. Board of Education. Racism that saturates the courts and manifests itself in the ‘legal’ system in the form of mass incarceration, disproportionate sentencing for people of color, routine and systematic harassment, and the abuse of power like that seen at Homan Square in Chicago.
The media also fans the flames of racism by distorting and routinely overlooking and excusing the murders committed by police and vigilantes. This was transparent in the case of Walter Lamar Scott whose case was nearly overlooked as another “routine” killing of a “dangerous” suspect by police, reported by local news without much notice until a video surfaced documenting his being shot in the back as he fled from officers. More examples can be seen daily in the smear campaigns against the protesters demanding Justice for Freddie Gray. The media has constantly been shifting attention away from the damaged spine of Freddie Gray and instead has focused on the damaged private property of Baltimore. The media has refused to acknowledge the vast economic and social disparities in Baltimore, just 40 miles away from the heart of the United States Capitol but instead has branded protesters with veiled racism like “thugs.” The media has excused the police repression carried out by the Baltimore Police and other local law enforcement, reassuring the white middle class viewers that their opinion about the police and their brutality against people of color are just a “few bad eggs” and do not represent any kind of systemic injustice or oppression.
University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society stands with the people of Baltimore and oppressed people across the United States in their struggle for liberation and justice. UMN SDS condemns racism, police repression, brutality, and mass incarceration. People of color have the right be free from and to resist oppression, exploitation and white supremacy in all forms.