One year after the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore residents reflect on what’s changed and what impact Gray’s death could have on Tuesday’s election
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: Hundreds of protesters gathered in Baltimore on Sunday, April 24 to mark the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody a year ago. Organizers say the rally aimed to show solidarity with Gray’s family and remember the anniversary of the civil unrest that followed. On Tuesday, the city’s mayoral and city council races will likely determine who will win November’s general election in the heavily Democratic city, with many voters are hungry for new leadership to solve the issues facing the city of 620,000, most of whom are African-American. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has decided against seeking re-election, and fired her police chief. JAMAL BRYANT: If it were not for the uprising, I feel very confident that the mayor would’ve run again. If it weren’t for the uprising, we would have the same police chief, but because of the uprising, things that we’ve tried to in fact sweep under the rug are in full display and are going to have to be addressed. NOOR: Gray’s death, a week after breaking his neck in a police van, triggered protests and rioting that damaged 400 businesses, and helped stoke Black Lives Matter, a movement that has challenged police treatment of minorities. At Monday’s Stand Up Bmore Get Out the Vote Community Rally at City Hall, Dayvon Love of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle says he sees change in how issues like racism are discussed. DAYVON LOVE: What’s important, what the uprising brought was attention to those. Because those things have been issues for a long time, but a lot of people in positions of power are used to people not being able to check on them. And so the uprising kind of created a spotlight on these issues. NOOR: The city’s chronic economic problems persist, with unemployment at least two points above the national average, and 23 percent of residents living in poverty, 5 points above the national rate. ADAM JACKSON: Everything else has essentially remained the same, because you can’t dismantle structural racism and white supremacy in a calendar year. So you know, Sandtown looks the same, Gilmor Homes looks the same. Police brutality, it’s mostly the same. How we talk about it may be different, but most of those things remain intact. NOOR: Anti-police brutality activist Abdul Salaam says the climate in Baltimore has changed around conversations around police brutality. A Baltimore jury recently awarded Salaam $70,000 after he was beaten by police at a traffic stop in 2013. ABDUL SALAAM: My situation, my son’s situation, took place in 2013. Two weeks later, Tyrone West was killed by the same officers. We’ve been telling people, individuals, for almost three years that that situation was a microcosm of the lack of accountability and transparency in Baltimore City and throughout the state of Maryland. TERRELL TINSLEY: Well, any change is better than no change at all. So like, there’s a change, but not the change that it should be. We should be out here pushing more for change, because not all cops are bad. See, I don’t, I don’t look at it as forget the law, things like that, because there are people who put on their shoes and their badges and get out here and do justice for everybody. But those ones that are not, we ask you to stop. NOOR: Twenty three-year-old West Baltimore residents Terrell Tinsley and Jamal Tisdale say the issue of universal healthcare, college free tuition, and especially Sanders statements on policing earned him their support. TINSLEY: That’s why I vote for Bernie Sanders, because he’s looking into that issue. And he don’t like what he sees, so he’s willing to change it. NOOR: Last year six officers, three of them black, were charged in Gray’s death. The trial of the first officer ended in a hung jury. His retrial and trials of the others are due to start in May. But many reforms proposed by Black Lives Matter activists and legal advocates to change the state’s police bill of rights that activists say prevent police accountability again failed pass during the year’s legislative session in Annapolis. LOVE: Fortunately, we were able to pass some legislation in the general assembly. It didn’t do what we wanted it to do. We wanted it to mandate civilians on the trial boards to determine discipline for police officers. What they did is they allowed civilians to serve on those trial boards, where previously it was exclusively police officers. We’re going to try to work on something locally so that we can try to mandate that here in the local jurisdiction. NOOR: For full coverage of Tuesday’s election, go to theRealNews.com starting at 7:00 PM. With Cameron Granadino, this is Jaisal Noor.
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