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TRNN reports from protests against police brutality and impunity in the death of 25-year old African American Freddie Gray

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JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: In Baltimore on Saturday, April 15th, about 1,500 people took part in the largest demonstrations to date against the killing of 25-year-old West Baltimore resident Freddie Gray in police custody. The arrest was captured on video. Police say Gray was fine when he was placed in a van and transported, but his spine was severed 80% from his neck, and he died after being in a coma for a week. Twelve were arrested as frustration and anger over the lack of answers or accountability over Gray’s death erupted into what police characterized as isolated incidents of violence. PRENTICE, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: They need to lock them up, hold them, the same way they do us when we commit a murder or a crime. Hold them, then investigate. You don’t let them go on no paid vacation. NOOR: Top police and union officials traded jabs over the weekend after Commissioner Anthony Batts acknowledged that police made errors when they arrested Gray, including not buckling in his seatbelt or getting him immediate medical attention. His comments were criticized by the Fraternal order of Police for being politically driven and for jumping to conclusions before the completion of the internal investigation on May 1st. The march began at 3:00 PM at Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray lived and died, and headed into the heart of downtown Baltimore with the goal of shutting the city down. The march targeted the major thoroughfare of Pratt Street, along with Oriole Park and Camden Yards. By 5:00 PM the demonstrators rallied at City Hall. About an hour later they headed back towards Oriole Park to try to shut down the Orioles versus Red Sox game with a 7:05 start time. ZAKIA CUMMINGS, PROTESTER: And until we disrupt–and I’m not about violence. I’m talking about until we disrupt like this. Until we prevent them from going to the game and from staying, making the money because people can’t get there, they’re not going to listen to us. NOOR: The march was largely peaceful, but several incidents of violence were documented by media and bystanders. But Gray is just one in a number of controversial police custody deaths in Baltimore. Anthony Anderson died after he was thrown to the ground by police in 2013. Last summer surveillance cameras captured Officer Vincent Cosom brutalizing Kollin Truss. And Tyrone West was beaten to death in North Baltimore after a routine car stop. Since then his family including his sister Tawanda Jones have been leading voices for police reform, most of which was defeated in Annapolis earlier this year. TAWANDA JONES, SISTER OF TYRONE WEST: Working on the Officer’s Bill of Rights as well as many laws. Putting body cams on officers and everything. And all of our laws that we were fighting for got killed. They killed every bill. NOOR: All these incidents speak to the need for fundamental change in the way the city is policed. Protesters also pointed to politics. They say city officials have often ignored instances of police brutality in the past. The use of police violence against the city’s black population is systemic. As we’ve said on The Real News, police are enforcing laws, often with deadly force, to make people obey legislation that at its heart protects people that own property and perpetuates chronic poverty. The more you own, the more you are served and protected. With Megan Sherman, this is Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Jaisal is currently the Democracy Initiative Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network and is a former TRNN host, producer, and reporter. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent. Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @jaisalnoor.