TRNN speaks to American Friends Service Committee’s Dominique Stevenson, who crossed police barricades during protests over the death of Freddie Gray now in their fifth day
JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: Tensions between police and the community are fraught in Baltimore as the anger over the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody enters its fifth day on Thursday with protests planned city-wide, beginning at City Hall at 3:00 PM. State troopers were dispatched to the city and workers were encouraged to leave downtown prior to the protest starting. With no word from city officials on the status of the investigation into the details of the West Baltimore man whose spine was severed while in police custody, protesters say their efforts are just beginning. MAKAYLA GILLIAM-PRICE, PROTESTER: I go home and cry every night because of shit like this. Because of people like you who won’t cross the line for people like me. For people like yourself, for people like your daughter, for people–. NOOR: But as tensions mount, police appear to be beginning to push back. The video shows police detaining 17-year-old Makayla Price after she climbed a barricade outside of the city’s Western District headquarters yesterday evening. Dominique Stevenson, also at the protest, explains why she decided to join Price. DOMINIQUE STEVENSON, ACTIVIST: Well, the fact that I knew Makayla was a minor, and I was very concerned with how the police themselves would treat her based on the tensions between the police and the crowd. NOOR: What happened next? STEVENSON: Actually what happened next was I turned around and looked to see if other people were going to commit civil disobedience, and they didn’t. They basically took us in, in my case kind of roughly. We got inside and they didn’t, we didn’t receive a summons, we don’t go to court. They essentially gave us like a written warning. I don’t expect folks from that particular neighborhood to put themselves on the line, because then they’ll have to deal with the retaliation. But I think that there are those of us who one, don’t have warrants, who don’t have a criminal history, who should be putting more on the line of we say that we really stand in solidarity with these folks. And I also think that it’s a new day. Young people don’t want to hear what many of us have been hearing for the last 30 or 40 years. They really want significant change, and they do believe that that’s going to come by shutting these systems down. NOOR: Talked about police brutality, and so physical manifestations of oppression in these neighborhoods, but it runs much deeper than that. It runs into the very fabric of the priorities of what gets funded in these neighborhoods, and what programs get funded, whether it’s incarceration or basketball courts or schools. And so talk about that, because one of the, one of the factors, that’s part of this. STEVENSON: Sure. Even in talking to young men on the street from that community, the main thing they’re saying is like, look, there are no jobs here. There are no jobs, there’s no economic development, we worked for a year to be allowed to get a volunteer to redo a basketball court and have run into red tape there with the city housing authority. There’s very little recreation for young people. They talk about being harassed by the police simply walking out of their doors. It’s like–it’s a setup. It’s a setup, and there needs to be change. And also, we have to move beyond the demonstrations and the protests, we really have to work with the community and do the necessary organizing in that community, and it means being present. Folks run out of food stamps, they’re living in dire situations. We need to, you know, those of us that have resources, few that it may be, have to be willing to share those resources and work with people in the community to address those problems. NOOR: So there’s national, international media here for something that happens every day in Baltimore. What’s your take on how the media’s covered it? And you know, some would say that the only thing different about Freddie Gray was that it was caught–what happened to him was caught on tape, and that has galvanized people around the city. What are your thoughts on that? STEVENSON: I think that the way that some of the media are dealing with the community is very intrusive. It’s good that these folks are having their voices heard. That’s very important. But the way that, even with CNN, the way that they presented the arrest yesterday, they really didn’t present it. You see the crowd in a shot that looks like they’re raging at the police. And so I think that there’s still that bias on the part of the media. They’re here because of the fact that this is a nationwide issue. It’s blown up in the last year. They’re here, but the way that they’re in the community is very intrusive and it’s not–how can they walk around these communities and not see the poverty and not connect the issues to Freddie Gray’s death and policing and mass incarceration?