Activist Tawanda Jones and TRNN’s Eddie Conway say protests will continue until police are held accountable and economic inequality is addressed.
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. We’re here at the courthouse where the first pre-trial hearing was held earlier today for the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. The judge dismissed both of the defense’s motions to throw out the trial and to recuse prosecutor Marilyn Mosby. Today’s also a Wednesday, which means it’s a West Wednesday. Every Wednesday since July 18, 2013 the family of Tyrone West has been in the streets of Baltimore demanding justice. Right now I’m with Tawanda Jones, Tyrone West’s sister. Tyrone West was killed more than two years ago in another incident with Baltimore police officers. In this case, the officers were not indicted and the family has been fighting tirelessly to get charges pressed against those officers. Tawanda, thanks so much for talking to us. TAWANDA JONES: Thank you. NOOR: Tell us a little bit about why you’re out here today. JONES: We’re out here today because I’m just totally disgusted at the fact that we even had to have hearings in place for something that should be just going smoothly. These officers brutally murdered somebody, or was accused of murdering somebody. Let the trial take its course. You know, why should it–it’s like everything our state’s attorney is doing, they’re trying to [rebut] it and that’s disgusting. It’s horrible. NOOR: And for a lot of people that aren’t from Baltimore, aren’t familiar with the movement for police accountability, more and more people are hearing your name. You’ve been out here for two years, but you’ve become a leader in the city. A lot of people credit you with being one of the reasons why Marilyn Mosby was even elected, because you put so much pressure on the old state’s attorney for not prosecuting cops like the cops that killed your brother. JONES: Yes, absolutely. Gregg Bernstein, we basically put him out of office by getting people not to vote for him, and we were handing out Marilyn Mosby fliers, telling them what happened to my brother. And Anthony Anderson, and all the cases that he failed us. He failed us big time. And now we have somebody that’s standing up, trying to be transparent, holding people accountable, and this is what happens. This is sick, to me. I’m really disgusted. So I can’t be like, oh, I’m so happy. I’m tired of being happy for things that are supposed to go the way they’re supposed to go. You know, like, that’s crazy. NOOR: So obviously this is just the first pre-trial hearing. What do you think is in store for the city, and will the protests keep continuing? JONES: Yes, the protesters are going to keep continuing. But I don’t know what’s in store because I feel like it started trying to make peaceful things happen. They’re equipping the officers with all these weapons and all this extra stuff. They’re doubling up on police officers when the last time nobody got hurt from a riot. Like, nobody hurt no one. And for them to respond like this is scary. I don’t know what they have planned. That’s the scary part. They would rather put all the money in for all these tasers and all this stuff, but it’s starting to change the corrupt system, that’s scary. NOOR: And since the Baltimore uprising we know councilmen have called on Marilyn Mosby to reopen the case against the men that killed your brother. Is there any updates on that? JONES: No, I’m still just waiting to hear something. But I know at the end of the day I respect her, because I know she has a lot [on]. That’s why I’m not turning up the pressure, because this Freddie Gray stuff is serious. And I commend her, and I give her all kudos for bringing it this far and stuff like that. At the end of the day I understand, and so I’m just letting her do her job. NOOR: Tawanda Jones, thanks so much for speaking with us. JONES: Thank you. NOOR: So we’re here at the West Wednesday. We’re going to show you a little bit of the protests and the crowds that have gathered here. I’m joined here by TRNN producer, former Black Panther, Eddie Conway. Eddie, you’ve been following developments in this whole case since the beginning. What are your thoughts today? The judge threw out the two motions put forward by the defense for the six officers. CONWAY: I think that was a good move on the part of the judge, because the city is like, on edge. And they want justice. And they want to see this process go through, and they want to see it go through fairly, and they want to see it go through in the city. So I think all the powers that be should be encouraging a fair and open and transparent kind of process in this whole ordeal. NOOR: We’ve seen unprecedented protests since Freddie Gray was killed, we haven’t seen anything like that in Baltimore in years. Do you think that’s playing a role in this going forward? CONWAY: Yes. I mean, they always say that violence is the language, is the voice of the people that aren’t heard. And unfortunately for too long, for at least 111 other murder cases in the state of Maryland, nobody’s voice was heard. And so at some point people raised their voice because they needed to be heard. And so it’s unprecedented, and hopefully this will be resolved in a peaceful, fair manner, and the people that have committed crimes will go to jail just like everybody else that commits crimes go to jail, and some people that don’t commit crimes go to jail. NOOR: And so this trial is for the six officers. People are still calling for a much bigger change. And one of those changes is accountability of police. Talk about what kind of changes you think Baltimore needs to see to truly have justice here. CONWAY: Well, the kind of change that would actually be permanent and effective is to first organize community patrols, have community control of the police, have community control of hiring and firing the police commissioner, have subpoena power in which people could be forced to testify, and have the ability to fire or terminate or punish or penalize anybody that violates another human being’s rights. And for us people to live in the communities, not necessarily in the communities they’re patrolling, but in the communities within the boundaries of Baltimore City, if they’re going to work for Baltimore City, and they’re going to police and protect and serve the people in the city. And if people in the city are paying their salaries. They should live here. NOOR: And a broader change would also have–there has to be some economic justice as well, many people would say. Talk about how that fits into this picture. Because in places like Gilmor Homes, you have very high unemployment rates. The city spends, the state spends tons of money on incarceration, and there’s very few jobs. How is that all connected? CONWAY: Well, if you have massive unemployment like you have among segments of the African-American population, and even segments of the poor white community, you’re going to have conflicts and you’re going to have people have to try to figure out how to live, how to eat, how to pay their rent, how to take care of their children. And so you’re going to have conflicts. So certainly a jobs program needs to be put in place to restore people to a healthy economic condition. The city itself should spend some of that money to rehab some of these buildings. There shouldn’t be any homeless people out here, shouldn’t be any people out here looking for jobs and needing jobs when a tremendous amount of money is pouring in the Inner Harbor and Downtown areas. The money is going down there and is going to a small percentage of the population, and the overwhelming large percentage of the population is suffering economically. That’s got to change in order for all the rest of this stuff to change. NOOR: And lastly, Eddie, you’ve been in this fight for a long time. You’re a former Black Panther. You did 44 years in jail as a political prisoner. Do you see things changing in a positive direction? And do you have hope in–what gives you hope? CONWAY: I see that there’s a new drive among young people, among immigrants, among gay people, among people that’s just fighting for the environment, fighting against the security state, big brother. I see on the ground a lot of people are starting to ask questions. They’re starting to engage, and they’re starting to organize. And I think change is coming, but it’s not going to be immediate, and it’s going to require a whole lot more, and more people getting involved. But there’s pushback against the economic oppression that people have been facing for years, and there’s pushback against the big brother security state, and there’s pushback against just not treating people as human beings. And so I think as the younger generation gets more and more active, the pushback will grow, and change will happen. NOOR: Eddie Conway, thanks so much for joining us. CONWAY: Thanks for having me. NOOR: And that wraps it up for our coverage today. Thank you so much for joining us. And go to TheRealNews.com for continuing coverage of the Freddie Gray trial.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.