Protesters mobilize in response to the death of 25 year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray
JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: It’s another death in police custody that has prompted protests across the city and beyond. Hundreds turned out over the weekend to express rage over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American resident of West Baltimore. The arrest, captured on video, has raised more questions about police tactics. Police say Gray was fine when he was placed in a van and transported. But his family says his spine was severed 80 percent from his neck. The question: what happened, and when. Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has promised transparency and a full investigation, but the Gray family attorney said in a statement they believed the police are keeping the circumstances of Freddie’s death secret until they develop a version of events that will absolve them of all responsibility. Gray’s death comes three days after hundreds attended the Department of Justice first town hall meeting to discuss police brutality. Participants shared stories of routine police abuse and lack of accountability. The city invited the Fed’s Office of Community Oriented Policing to examine police practices in the wake of several high-profile cases of misconduct and a Sun expose revealing the city had paid out more than $6 million to alleged victims of police brutality since 2011. Among those speaking out was Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West is another unarmed black man who died after a violent arrest. Jones notes that unlike a full civil rights investigation, the Office of Community Oriented Policing in Baltimore can’t compel changes. TAWANDA JONES, SISTER OF TYRONE WEST: I just feel like, and I’ll say it again. There’s no transparency or nothing. I’m just praying, like I say, while they’re here they need to bring the civil rights review board in, not–you know, we don’t need a bandage. We’re in a state of emergency. We need killer cops in cell blocks. NOOR: Despite an unprecedented wave of activism around the country, the recently concluded 2015 Maryland legislative session failed to pass changes to laws blamed by local officials for hampering their ability to hold abusive police accountable. Also part of that wave on Saturday, members of the March 2 Justice arrived from New York in Baltimore on their journey to Washington to demand three criminal justice reforms called the Justice Package. TAMIKA MALLORY, CO-CHAIR, MARCH 2 JUSTICE: We want to invest in our youth before they get in the system. We take the community centers out, the schools are broken, the health care system is broken. Everything is broken and we expect them to thrive. NOOR: But retired veteran Maryland police officer and ACLU board member Garlan Nixon says independent review and civilian oversight of police are necessary if killings and brutality are to be stopped. GARLAND NIXON, FORMER LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: I was a police officer. I watched people who went through the academy together, who drank beer together, who named their children after each other, investigate each other. Do an internal–now, how am I going to do an internal investigation against a guy on my bowling league and it’s going to be an unbiased internal investigation? It’s a joke. Everybody knows it right now. NOOR: The Real News will continue to report on the protest over the death of Freddie Gray. From Baltimore, this is Jaisal Noor.