Baltimore activists chart a path forward after the the not guilty verdict in the trial of Officer Edward Nero
JAISAL NOOR: In Baltimore, activists gathered near the site of Freddie Gray’s arrest to reflect on Monday’s not guilty verdict in the trial of officer Edward Nero and to demand justice for other victims of police brutality. DOMINQUE STEVENSON: I think a lot of people felt that verdict was going to go down that way anyway. But we know that, you know, we’re not going to get justice for Freddie Gray because justice for Freddie Gray would mean that there would be no more black and Latino folks being killed and beaten by the police, and that people would live safely in their communities. JC FAULK: We’ve become accustomed to the system doing nothing for the killing of black people. So it’s more of what we’ve always had. Same old stuff, just a new day to have the same old kind of verdict come out. And we, systemically here, black people are not valued in America. We’ve never been valued here. NOOR: For the past 3 years, Tawanda Jones has lead weekly vigils demanding justice for her brother Tyrone West who was killed in police custody in 2013. TAWANDA JONES: My thoughts has been just disappointment. The whole system is disappointing. Until we change this whole system, nothing is going to change. I’m very disappointed – Officer Nero, you killed a negro, and now you’re a hero. It’s disgusting. NOOR: Key to Judge Barry Williams not Guilty ruling on the charges of reckless endangerment, Williams said prosecutors were unable to prove that Nero “had a duty to seat-belt Mr. Gray, and that the defendant was aware of that duty.” This is retired Baltimore Police Sargent turned whistle blower, Michael Wood. MICHAEL WOOD: I was a Sargent in the Baltimore Police Department. Every single one of my officers knew to put a seat belt on. I wrote a guide on how to be a police in 2010. It says everyone is seat-belted. The Maryland Law says you’re seat-belted. You get GO’s at the academy. Your supervisor has to make sure you get those GO’s and sign for them. So the idea that he didn’t know or that anyone didn’t know is ridiculous. NOOR: In the wake of the verdict, some have argued charges should have never been brought against the 6 officers charged with Gray’s death. WOOD: What it proves is that we’re finally getting into a courtroom where we can have this information come out and we can say what are the facts in this case, what happened? And it can be argued and brought to light. Light is what washes it. It’s the keeping it underground that everybody should have a problem with. And like, the whole case itself, I don’t think personally that this is a big indictment on Nero himself. What these cases are showing is that this is an indictment on the system; it is an indictment on the police department. NOOR: Outside the Baltimore courthouse on Monday, mainstream media correspondents appearing to anticipate arrests, which never materialized, outnumbered protesters. SUN OF NUN: Cause they always come around when there’s something that they can smell- they feel like they can get paid, that there’s some sort of story. Like they can reinforce all the stereotypes of look at the wild black people tearing things up, right? As opposed to, look at what’s happening systematically, day in, day out, year in, year out. STEVENSON: On that very same day, we were down here planning stuff, working with folks in the community. And I think people have to realize that while yes, we never need to give up our right and our ability to protest and demonstrate, we have to do work in our communities. Ok? Because we need to strengthen these communities. We need to deal with the reality that poverty and white supremacy has created for a lot of folks in this country. NOOR: Part of the response activist say are community lead initiatives like Tubman House, named after the famed abolitionist who lead hundreds of enslaved people to their freedom during the 19th century. Tubman House aims to be a community lead and directed effort to address the needs of local residents. STEVENSON: We’re going to be doing art’s classes. We’ve been doing this stuff anyway. Food pantry, political education. Things that are needed in order to help stabilize the community and help folks get up on their feet so that- people, once they’re engaged, they feel like they have some power, that will change things too. NOOR: It’s also a response to Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s 700 million dollar plan to aid and green distressed neighborhoods like this one in West Baltimore, where Freddie Gray was arrested. LARRY HOGAN: So today, we are announcing a historic multi-year partnership between the state and the city to immediately begin the process of demolishing thousands of empty, decaying buildings throughout Baltimore City. STEVENSON: I’m left thinking, that you demolish this, you leave it sit for a little while and suddenly you sell it cheap to developers. And the people who were in this community are no longer welcome. They’re gradually pushed out. You know, you could- not all of these houses are salvageable but a good number of them are- to create training, employment, training programs – you could create work for the residents of these communities because the bottom line is if people have work, if people have access to the things that privileged folk have access to, their lives change. Noor: Jaisal Noor with The Real News, Baltimore.
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