Activist Kwame Rose Arrested Outside Freddie Gray Pre-Trial Hearings
Kwame Rose and Morgan State professor Lawrence Brown spoke to the Real News before Rose’s arrest about why people are protesting outside the courthouse
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: We are in the protest. There’s arrest and civil disobedience happening right now. This is Jaisal Noor. We’re on Pratt and Calvert Street in Downtown Baltimore.
PROTESTER: That’s some fucked up shit.
NOOR: Police are violently clearing the street.
DAVID DOUGHERTY: You see how they pushed me?
NOOR: They just pushed our cameraman, David Dougherty. There’s a violent arrest happening in front of us. Police are shaking their pepper spray, they’re getting it ready. The police have blocked off Calvert Street right here at Pratt. They are dragging away a protester. There’s about five officers dragging him away.
I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. We’re here right in front of the courthouse on this first pre-trial hearing for the six officers charged with killing Freddie Gray. It’s been four months since the indictments against the six officers. Today the court will hear two motions. We’re going to be out here in front of the courthouse talking to protesters. We have a reporter inside the courthouse who’s going to be coming back and giving us live updates as that’s happening throughout the day.
Right now I’m joined by two guests. I’m joined by Lawrence Brown. He’s a professor at Morgan State University, and Kwame Rose, he’s an activist, and we’ll talk about some of your work and your activism. Lawrence, Dr. Brown, I’ll start with you. What is the significance of today, and why have people gathered? And what is the message that people have? We’ve also heard some of the protesters saying that the police have cut off the streets. They’re trying to prevent people from joining this protest.
DR. LAWRENCE BROWN, MORGAN STATE: Right. Well, I think the significance of today is that of course it’s the beginning of the trial for the officers that killed Freddie Gray. And the concern is what we see right now, I mean, the helicopters overhead, the sheriffs closing in. It’s the militarization of the police here in this city that’s stifling people’s First Amendment rights to protest.
I think, you know, we’re concerned about how this hearing is going to go. We’re concerned about whether or not they’re going to recuse Marilyn Mosby, whether or not they’re going to move this case out of the hands of citizens of Baltimore to decide the fate of these officers.
NOOR: And that is significant, because Baltimore’s only one of two counties in the state that’s predominantly African-American.
BROWN: Right, and this is where it happened. So I mean, if Freddie Gray is going to have justice, he needs to have the highest chance of having a jury of his peers. That’s not going to happen in Montgomery County, that’s not going to happen in Howard County.
NOOR: Kwame, what are your thoughts today as the pre-trial motions begin? It’s four months after the uprising here. The international media is back, and there’s protest again.
KWAME ROSE, ACTIVIST: I’ve talked to a lot of people who are here today, and everybody that’s here today expects that the charges, none of the charges will be dropped. Everybody expects that the trial will be heard here in Baltimore, and everybody expects that Marilyn Mosby will be the prosecutor of the trial. I think that’s the reason that everybody’s gathered, and those are our expectations. Those are the demands that we’re presenting. And if it’s not met then we will go beyond other measures to get the justice for Freddie Gray that he deserves.
And I think you can tell by the police presence today. Everything that we’re protesting against is what’s being displayed by the sheriffs and by Baltimore City police officers today, with the blocking of traffic and preventing us from protesting to the full measure.
NOOR: And so this is the first protest marking the trial. You talk about the importance of the protest of even having a trial. Because there was unprecedented protests here leading up to that indictment that Marilyn Mosby made just a few blocks from here.
ROSE: Had it not been for the protesters during the Baltimore uprisings we would not have charges against the six murderers that killed Freddie Gray.
NOOR: I want to get back to you, Dr. Brown. For the international media, a lot of what I saw is they witnessed poverty in Baltimore for the first time. They did a lot of stories about poverty in Baltimore. They interviewed people experiencing poverty in Baltimore. But as usual, they never asked the question why. Why it exists, and what can be done about it. Can you talk–because a lot of people don’t know about segregation. About block busting. Give us a little perspective and history in that in Baltimore.
BROWN: Well, sure. Poverty in Baltimore is a product of 105 years of segregation policies. And when we talk about segregation we’re talking about racial zoning, racially restrictive covenants, redlining, segregated public housing. We’re talking about a plethora of policies [inaud.]
NOOR: And you’re talking about official laws that were instituted for segregation.
BROWN: Absolutely intentional, institutionalized. This is social engineering. So these were policies passed by federal, state, local officials to make redlined disinvested black communities be havens the of poverty that we are today. And we haven’t done anything about that to undo the damage that was done to those communities.
NOOR: And Kwame, you kind of captured international headlines and the spotlight when you challenged a Fox News host, Geraldo Rivera, and you told him, you basically told him, you’re not welcome here because you only come for the riots. But you’re not here for the peaceful protests, when people are demanding change peacefully. You’re only here for the violence, to glorify that. Talk about the movements that have existed here in Baltimore, especially come to the front since the Freddie Gray uprising.
ROSE: I think here in Baltimore in particular we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of young people, young black people, pouring into the streets, continuing to protest. Continuing to build, to use their voices to create change, and to apply pressure onto our city leaders, onto our police department to do something about the ongoing genocide of black people in this city.
NOOR: And Dr. Brown, we had this conversation just last week. But four months after the uprising there’s lots of promises of change and reform, there was hope the city would start coming to terms with this history of segregation. That space was created, some would say. Has any of that opportunity, that political capital been used?
BROWN: Well, absolutely not. I think we have a group of political leaders in this city that don’t acknowledge this history of 105 years, that Baltimore is ground zero for segregation in the whole United States. And so they don’t–they haven’t acknowledged that so therefore they can’t go and fix it.
But it’s young people like Kwame here and slightly older people like myself who are trying to say look, this history is the reason why we have the deaths of Tyrone West, the deaths of Anthony Anderson, the deaths of Freddie Gray. We even have a case where police officers, 89.8 percent of police officers, commute to Baltimore City. So they don’t live here. They don’t build relationships with people here. And they can’t make sure that they have relationships with people so that there’s better community interaction with the police.
NOOR: So if you talk to people in the city they’ll tell you that this about more than just Freddie Gray, his killing. It’s about, like you said, it’s about institutional problems with the police department and a whole lot more. Talk about what some of the demands are of the people that are gathered here, and the people that want change in Baltimore. What do people in the grassroots, what kind of change do they want to see?
ROSE: Well, the mayor and the interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, they’ve been holding these public safety forums, and they continue to promote this propaganda about community policing. But we want it to be more than just talk. We want to see an actual community oversight board where community members that aren’t relatives to police officers have control of all hiring. They have control and the ability to receive and investigate all civilian claims. And they have the authority to fire and discipline officers if misconduct is found. We want real police reform. We want real change.
You know, the headlines keep talking about the 200-plus murders in Baltimore City, but it’s not talking about the 36 percent homicide clearance rate by the Baltimore City Police Department. So it’s not as if the police department doesn’t have the opportunity to do their job, they just simply are not doing their job.
NOOR: And a lot of people would say they’ve lost the trust of the community they’re supposed to serve. So people don’t want to cooperate with them. I want to end on a question about one of the protesters that was arrested, put up with a bail of $500,000. Now, a lot of people have praised Marilyn Mosby for indicting the officers. But she’s also gone after a lot of the protesters as well. Can you talk a little bit about Allen Bullock?
BROWN: Right. Well you know, Allen Bullock I think is symptomatic of a broken criminal justice system. It’s not just Allen Bullock, it’s Larry Lomax. It’s other protesters who were held two and three days in the height of the protest we had in April and May.
So I think the broken criminal justice system is what also needs to be addressed. It’s not even just policing. It’s the unfair bonds. It’s the fact that people are held in unjust conditions. We just had to close a jail because it was so grimy, so ugly, and so dehumanizing. So I think we have to address change on a broader level, on a systemic level here in Baltimore.
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