Baltimore: For Once No Business As Usual

The announcement by Marilyn Mobley, Baltimore State’s Attorney, that the medical examiner’s report showed that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide, came as a great surprise. Even more surprising was that six police officers were charged with his murder. Gray was chased down by three cops for no legal reason. He was then thrown in a police van and when he arrived at the police station his spinal chord was severed, he had three fractured vertebrae and a crushed voice box. He fell into a coma and died a week later.

What caused this surprising response by the Baltimore authorities? Certainly not the facts of this incident. It was the response of the people of the city, who went into the streets and refused to allow Gray’s murder to be covered up. They, like the people of Ferguson, were not going to be silenced. And people around the country were beginning to take to the streets in support.

What happened in Baltimore is a small victory. For once the truth is being told without months of delay. For once the cops have been exposed for their criminal, murderous behavior. But this is just a first step toward a possible conviction.

The politicians and media are trying to use this indictment as a proof that their system works. They want the people of Baltimore to go home now and leave Gray’s murder in the hands of the courts. But it is the activity in the streets that brought the indictments and it will only be continued activity that will keep the pressure on. There still have to be trials and cops are rarely convicted.

Even if these six cops are convicted what does it change for the victims of police brutality all over the country? How will it solve the problems of poverty, unemployment, homelessness and poor schools that plague Baltimore and other cities? Maybe the officials will be more careful about allowing the police to murder people so openly. But the fundamental role of the police remains the same – to enforce an oppressive and exploitative system that has turned Baltimore into a concentration camp for poor Black people, patrolled by the police.

This system has exposed itself again. And there is no reason we should continue to live under this oppression and degradation. We have the power to get rid of this system and build a society where we can all live like human beings.

Who Really Looted Baltimore?

Last week we heard much about the supposed lawlessness and looting in Baltimore. Around 20 buildings burned last week. Compare that to the 16,000 abandoned buildings in the city.

Much of Baltimore is in decay, another urban “sacrifice zone” to capitalism. The steel mills, shipyards and auto factories have been closed. Workplaces that employed tens of thousands of workers at a living wage were abandoned by the rich for more profitable investments. Now 39% of working-age residents are unemployed. And 90% of those who have jobs work in low-paid service jobs.

The rich used the people of Baltimore and the resources of the city to generate enormous profits. They looted Baltimore, taking what they wanted and leaving little behind. Under their system, they owe nothing to those who produced billions of dollars of profits and were discarded when they were no longer needed.

In 1960 Baltimore was the 6th largest city in the U.S. with a population of around 940,000. Today it’s the 26th largest city with a population of 622,000; a majority Black city (64%), with 23.8% of the people living below the official poverty level.

The politicians at all levels are aware of this reality. They have presided over the decimation of the city and the life of the people of Baltimore. They know what their police force does. They know that one out of three Maryland residents in state prison is from Baltimore. This year, they more than doubled the city’s budget, to $4.2 million, to settle more cases of police brutality. People don’t have to accept this planning for premeditated brutalization and murder.