Michelle Alexander: Baltimore Must Organize to Stop Police Brutality

Renowned author of ‘The New Jim Crow’ says the death of Freddie Gray points to the need for concerted community action to halt excessive force targeted at African Americans

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Story Transcript

STEPHEN JANIS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, TRNN: As national attention converges on Baltimore after the death of another city resident, Freddie Gray, while in police custody, one of the foremost authorities on systemic issues at the root of police brutality says residents here need to organize to bring about change.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER, AUTHOR: And so when we’re working for reform I think we have got to be arguing publicly and saying publicly that the reform we’re demanding is necessary because black lives matter.

JANIS: Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, a wide-ranging indictment of the U.S. prison-industrial complex, was asked about the lack of progress with police reform in light of Gray’s death in her appearance at The Real News Network town hall in Baltimore. She told the gathering of community activists the use of force in minority communities continues unabated because opposition is fragmented.

ALEXANDER: We have got to be speaking our truth courageously and boldly, telling unpopular, difficult truths, and organizing with a long-term view towards movement building.

JANIS: Alexander also believes heavy-handed police tactics and lack of accountability have created perilous conditions for minority populations in cities like Baltimore.

ALEXANDER: Poor people of color matter, because poor people of all colors matter. And because we have created a penal system that functions more like a caste system than a system of crime prevention and control.

JANIS: The comments were made during a conversation with Alexander and Real News host Tea Graham to discuss her book, and how the criminal justice system ensnares minorities. Gray died seven days after he was arrested by police in West Baltimore. Cell phone video captured Gray screaming in pain, but a police report did not note any injuries. Neither Police Commissioner Anthony Batts or Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake say they know how he died. However, on Monday, six officers involved in the case were suspended.

ALEXANDER: Challenging legislation, seeking to overturn the police officers’ bill of rights, and help to challenge police unions that refuse to snitch on each other while they insist everyone else snitch on their brother or cousin, neighbor, and friend, right? If we don’t then we have no hope of changing the mentality that brought us to this place. We’ve actually got to have that big fight.

JANIS: Reporting from Baltimore, Stephen Janis for The Real News Network.

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