BILL FLETCHER: Today on The Global African, we’ll have an in-depth conversation on Freddie Gray, the city of Baltimore, and a second field report from another week of the protests. That’s today on The Global African. I’m your host, Bill Fletcher. Thanks for joining us again.
DAVID TIGABU, PRODUCER, TGA: On April 19th, Baltimore resident Freddie Gray died seven days after being subject to police violence in what would later be ruled homicide by a medical examiner. Gray’s death sparked community outrage in Baltimore, as folks voiced their anger.
PROTESTERS: If we don’t get no justice, then you don’t get no peace.
PROTESTER: If they’re killing us and they’re getting paid vacation, who’s to say they won’t get more paid vacation for killing another black man?
MARYLAND STATE’S ATTORNEY MARILYN MOSBY: I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Gray’s family to discuss some of the details of the case, and procedural steps going forward. I assured his family that no one is above the law, and that I would pursue justice on their behalf.
TIGABU: On May 1st, State Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six Baltimore City officers with a series of crimes, including manslaughter, misconduct, and murder.
MOSBY: To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for no justice, no peace. Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.
TIGABU: Immediately after news broke out, demonstrations took place all over the city.
The Global African is here in Baltimore, Maryland on May 2nd, a day after Marilyn Mosby announced six charges against police officers for the killing of Freddie Gray.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) 7TH DISTRICT, MARYLAND: I was surprised at the extent of the charges. And the problem is that I was surprised. We are so used to our young people dying while in the hands of police and no charges being filed, it really–you know, to see this happening is absolutely phenomenal.
TIGABU: We talked to some protesters to get their thoughts on news of the indictment.
KWAME ROSE, BALTIMORE ACTIVIST: I was right there on the steps when she made the announcement. I want to be one of the first citizens and one of the loudest citizens when I say, we commend State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby for bringing charges to six murderers.
PROTESTER: Well, I think she made the right decision and I think she did it in a timely manner. If it was somebody regular on the streets, they would have been charged for murder or [vandalism], whatever it is. I think she did the right thing.
SHAQUNIA BROWN, BALTIMORE RESIDENT: I thought they were very fair. I think a lot of people had their expectations extremely low, and I think that a lot of people didn’t think that we were going to get what we got. And I think that they were very fair, at the least, to start the charging process.
TIGABU: These charges came four days after protests and uprisings took place in West Baltimore, drawing intense media attention. Some have even suggested that the uprisings were effective in bringing pressure to bear.
PROTESTER: The only reason they brought charges against these killer cops was because that people came out in the streets and refused to accept it. Not just here in Baltimore but around the whole country.
ROSE: Whether or not you see it, without Monday night, there would be no charges brought yesterday morning. And I keep saying that. The world needed to see how angry–and what youth, what black youth will actually do. How far we’ll actually go to get justice. And I think the Mayor inside knew, and I think the Governor knew that that was just the beginning.
TIGABU: Bobby Johnson, uncle to Oakland police brutality victim Oscar Grant, spoke about the systemic issues underlying public anger.
CEPHUS “UNCLE BOBBY” JOHNSON, FOUNDER, OSCAR GRANT FOUNDATION: Well, we know, being that we’ve been involved in this fight for the past six years, we’re seeing other officers charged. But it’s one thing to charge an officer, it’s another to convict. Oscar Grant case, the officer was charged, arrested, convicted, and sent to jail. The minimum he was supposed to do was 12, but the judged reduced his time down to 11 months. He’d only spend 11 months in jail. And so what we have is a system that protects at all costs police officers when they commit the harms and the murders in our community.
ERICA MINES, PHILADELPHIA-BASED ACTIVIST: We’ve been quiet for too long. We’ve been quiet for too long. And every time we’re quiet and our voices are silent, nothing gets done. Take on those businesses that gentrify the neighborhoods, because they’re raising taxes in our communities. They’re the ones that are putting our grandparents out. They’re the ones taking the originators out and bringing the white flight recipients back into the city. And we need to fight that, as well. Because they’re not doing anything for our communities. How do we have $300,000 homes sitting next to $45,000 homes?
RAY LEWIS, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE CAPTAIN: People put up with Ferguson. And people are not going to put up with another sham. But also keep in mind that the District Attorney out there was an old white man. Bob McCulloch. The District Attorney here was a young black female. All of media is owned by filthy rich white men. They control the message that all of America sees. They wanted the message to be that blacks are dangerous. That they loot, they burn, and they steal.
TIGABU: While there is an air of optimism here in Baltimore with the charges levied against the six officers, folks are still very, very hungry for systemic change that goes beyond indictment. Will city officials deliver?
For The Global African, with my cameraman Oscar Leon, I’m David Tigabu.
BILL FLETCHER: We’re now joined for a discussion about the Baltimore uprising and crisis with Edie Conway. Eddie Conway is an executive producer of The Real News Network. He is a former minister of defense of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party who was locked up for 44 years for a false conviction of killing, allegedly killing, an officer. He’s the author of the book Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther. Welcome to the program.
EDDIE CONWAY, TRNN PRODUCER/FMR. BLACK PANTHER: Okay, thanks for having me.
FLETCHER: Absolutely. There has been discussion that the the uprising was actually provoked by the police. And I was wondering if you could comment about that in terms of rumors being circulated about an alleged plan to kill police by gangs, and things along those lines.
CONWAY: I was in the church for the funeral. And around 12:00 or a little after, the social media starts circulating rumors that there would be a purge, which is something based on a movie where the law don’t exist for X amount of time, by high school students in Mondawmin mall. And at the end of the funeral around 1:00, we got reports that the mall had been shut down. Then we got reports around 2:00 that the public transportation system had been shut down. That’s the Metro system that sits adjacent to Mondawmin which everybody in that area uses to travel throughout the city. That had been shut down. And then around 3:00, we got reports that a huge number of police had been put in place up in that area around Mondawmin and around the mall. And then around 3:30 or somewhere close, they let the students out of Douglass, Douglass High School, and it was several hundred students out there. And then they weren’t allowed to go and use the transportation system, which they had been doing all year to go home, because Douglass is a citywide school. So people from East Baltimore might be in there, people from North Baltimore, West Baltimore, South Baltimore, et cetera. But they had no way of going home.
And then that huge [phalanx] of police that marched on the children forced them down half a mile away, down to Pennsylvania and North. Which is unknown territory to most of the students there, because you don’t go down in that area. That’s a different hood altogether. And they forced those students down there with actual physical force, marching across the line. Then when they got to Pennsylvania and North they backed off and they left them there.
And they left them there in that area with no way of getting home, in a hostile environment, and they acted out. And of course they were acting out the whole time they were being forced down there. But once they got down there, then they were just in the center of, the heart of a black community. And they responded, and people in the community joined them to respond.
That was the initial incident. That incident was put on social media and it went out to other areas, and that sparked other reactions throughout the community. But initially those children were used to create that. And they were allowed, they were allowed in that area, then, to attack the CVS. Because that’s exactly what’s on that corner. But they didn’t attack the library, they didn’t attack the other things on that corner. They didn’t attack the social service buildings on that corner. Only the CVS. And so it’s questionable, exactly, what happened there.
No firemen responded. The police, obviously–I mean, the hundreds of police in riot gear were there in that area because that’s why the children were contained there. I mean, it almost is if they let them attack that area so they could have a national, international publicity around what was going on to distract attention away from the fact that Freddie Gray was dead, had been buried, and there had been no resolution.
The dialog changed from what was wrong, what situation was created with him that caused him to die, to how young children from high school all of a sudden became thugs. Now they’re, they’re no longer the high schoolers. This had been in a white community, this had been in an upscale community, buses would have been there. Since everybody knew this was going on from 12:00. Buses would have been there. Children would have been put on buses. They would have been bused out of the area and allowed to go home or proceed. They certainly would have been protected and shepherded instead of corralled and forced into another hostile area.
FLETCHER: So who would be responsible for this?
CONWAY: There’s probably going to be a number–and it really needs to be investigated. Somebody decided to close the mall. So that’s probably the ownership of the mall. Somebody decided to close the subway, the transportation system, knowing that those children needed it to get out of the area. That’s probably somebody in City Hall. Somebody decided to put a large number of police in riot gear in place there. That could be the police commissioner or somebody also in City Hall. Somebody decided to push those children to Pennsylvania and North, the six blocks away, it’s–I don’t know who.
But that needs to be looked into. Because that–it might have been negligent, it might have been mismanagement, or it might have been deliberate. But it changed the narrative that was going on. You had in the city at the time people from all over the world. You had in the city at the time people from the highest levels of government, in the city, the state, and the national government, was here for that funeral. So in the space of two hours, the narrative changed to thugs.
FLETCHER: Now, during the disturbances in Baltimore, there were groups like the Nation of Islam and various clergy and gangs that came together, that were trying to talk with some of the young rebels, as I call them. What–there wasn’t a whole lot of press attention on that, though. What was your sense of those kind of activities?
CONWAY: Yeah, I think that it was a lot of that. But because this–to me this was, this was not the general design of the population. This was a reaction and a response to the earlier situation with the young people, kind of like it just exploded there and spread for a little while.
But then it–this wasn’t, the city wasn’t in rebellion. I mean, this was like a, an outbreak, an outcry.
CONWAY: So I mean, to come out and talk to people–which is, everybody did, wasn’t really a hard job. Because people weren’t there anyway. They really weren’t trying to do that. But it was, and I think Dr. King said it, a riot is the voice of the unheard. And young people didn’t feel like they were being heard.
And one of the reasons that is is that Freddie Gray is the 111th death at the hands of the police in the last three years in the state of Maryland. And nobody has been indicted or charged, or–no indictment, no charge, certainly no convictions. And young people are seeing this over and over again, nationally and here. But it’s, for the young people it wasn’t even just the deaths. But it’s the constant harassment, the constant being stopped. The constant being forced off of their own front steps. No loitering on your own front steps in some communities. Or feeling under observation when you pass through an upscale neighborhood that’s not yours.
So it was a litany of things that they had beyond the deaths.
FLETCHER: Where was the mayor during all of this?
CONWAY: We don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, there was–and that was part of the problem. If there had been some statements in the beginning about what was going to happen–.
FLETCHER: From the very beginning.
CONWAY: Yeah. There could have probably been a different outcome. If there had been supervision the whole time, at certainly the time of the incident at Mondawmin, that should have been supervised. Those young children, 14 years old to 17 years old. They are children. They’re in school. You’ve got them in school. You’ve got them locked in school. Take them home. It’s that simple.
Why wasn’t that super–it kind of reminds me of Katrina in New Orleans. People in New Orleans trying to leave New Orleans, and they were accosted on their highways to leave by armed vigilantes and forced back into New Orleans, and suffered for about a week. And people died as a result of that. This thing that happened up at Mondawmin is similar. These students wanted to go home. And they were accosted by an armed group of vigilantes and forced to go somewhere they didn’t want to go. And consequently, got in trouble for it.
FLETCHER: Eddie Conway, thank you very, very much.
CONWAY: Okay. Thanks for having me.
FLETCHER: And thank you for joining us for this segment of The Global African. I’m your host, Bill Fletcher. Stay tuned and we’ll be right back.
FLETCHER: We’re here with activist and actor Danny Glover, talking with us about Baltimore and the crisis here, and national, and perhaps even global implications.
Danny, welcome to the program.
DANNY GLOVER, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: Thanks a lot, Bill.
FLETCHER: So what did you feel, when you heard the announcement by Mosby? State Attorney Mosby, about the charges?
GLOVER: So I, I think what’s still critical in the sense despite all of that, we have to continue to mobilize and continue to build. And really ultimately what w have to build is the movement that’s necessary. And certainly in various ways we, we see aspects of that not necessarily, I think–in part the rebellion, yes. Because there’s different forces have come together. Different alliances that happened.
I was listening to, um, Democracy Now! And they were, they had groups that were cleaning up the CVS that had been burned and everything else, and those things. So the different relationships there. Um, certainly they’re, that, that the parents are–have now realized that it is important for them to now act, act in the role of citizens. Not in respect to their own young, as well. I mean it’s not something that, a new realization, that, but there has to be in some sense a building, a building the bridge around movement.
You know, we see–for instance, for instance, we just had the march that came through here. The youth march that came through here, where youth marched from New York to Washington, D.C. to present legislators with initiatives. Legislators, with different other things in terms of policy, of different things they wanted enacted and things to work on. Whether it was pro–racial profiling, as the case, or in this case where they, it was providing resources for youth, as well. And opportunities for youth.
So I think–on the one hand in that, in that sense, there is a presentation of demands, a presentation there. But it still doesn’t deal with the, the major problems that have happened in this–in a city like Baltimore. I was here last Mother’s Day in Baltimore and a rally was sponsored by SEIU in support of workers at Johns Hopkins who were receiving just abysmal pay and benefits there. So you see, historically Johns Hopkins, one of the leading hospitals in the world, you know, research hospital, and it’s paying these abysmal salaries to workers, you know. Whether they, they’re, they’re knowledgeable about that because they often contract out to–the services. The employers, employment services that happen to some other entity, and so, so they often remove themself from full responsibility of what happens to the workers there.
Whether that’s the case, and I’m not so sure. But the fact that we have that here, and in Baltimore, at this particular place–and it, it symbolizes a pattern that has gone on with the whole de-industrialization of inner cities and cities. The loss of jobs. You know, the loss of, also of employment. I mean, living wage employment. You know, those are the things that you’re going to have to deal with. Those things–and turning the corner on there is the next thing that we have to talk about. I mean–.
FLETCHER: The, uh, you know, the–one of the issues that emerged after the uprising as another guest raised was a shift in the narrative. That after, you know, in the beginning it was, the attention was on what happened to Freddie Gray and just Freddie Gray. Then the uprising takes place, and all of a sudden there’s references to the young people being thugs and criminals, et cetera. And while there was certainly a criminal element that was there, that was not what was driving this uprising. What do you say about that? How do you respond to that?
GLOVER: Well the first, the first thing is that there’s always an attempt to criminalize even the uprising itself. To seek out all the kind of things that, all the agendas that their power wants to embellish. Embellish the whole idea that they were thugs and everything else. And that was like, simply not the, the–there were elements within this–it’s expected. There were elements in this who had another agenda, as well, within that, you know. And they used the opportunities somewhere else. I’m–and certainly on the one hand, the rebellion happened. The rebellion is the reaction and responsibility to what is happening, and responsible to what is happening over decades in this city. The rebellion is a combination of historic pain, historic neglect–and that’s what the rebellion’s a response of. It has been, and as it was a generation ago, two generations ago. The rebellion is a response of that.
So the question–the question becomes, is that if we look at the rebellion, it simply has to look at the rebellion and turn it inward to look what’s happening that was–that made the rebellion, allowed the rebellion to be responsible. Yeah, the police killing was one aspect of it. That was one aspect. But there’s so many other layers on that. So once–when we cannot debate and talk about a narrative that addresses the layers that are under this, the historic layers that are under this, then we’re not getting anywhere in building the movement that we’re talking about.
So yes, yes, that’s the, that’s certainly an easy out for that, you know. But we have to believe that we are the ones at this particular moment, we can create and re-imagine or redirect the narrative, or create our own narrative, in a sense.
Right here at The Real News is a, is a group of young debaters. Their basically objective is to, to promote debate over public policy. That’s what they do here. Young people [incompr.] to public policy. They stopped the building of a youth jail, a new youth jail just a couple of years ago.
So the narrative is, it’s certainly a narrative that shifts in the same way that we use terrorism as a narrative. You know, we use the same thing as this rebellion as a narrative. To even diminish those people who are the ones who are most affected, and the ones who are most affected by policies, unseen–unseen. When you drive here from the suburbs through Baltimore going to your job, you don’t pay attention to what’s happening and the undercurrent of what’s happening that area you drive through. In fact you may, you may in some sense be pissed off because you had to pay taxes to fix the roads that you drive–have to drive to get to your job.
You know, on the sense–so, so in instance–we don’t see this. And that’s the, that’s the–that’s the tragedy of this country. We, we have–because all the, all the–except for The Real News and a few others, all the news agencies provide us, the corporate news, they provide us with the narrative that, that instills fear, a lack of understanding, a lack of compassion, a lack of any–directing where the real issue is and what—who are the real perpetrators of what’s happening.
FLETCHER: Danny Glover, thank you very much, as always.
GLOVER: All right.
FLETCHER: And thank you for joining us for this episode of The Global African. I’m your host, Bill Fletcher. And we’ll see you next time.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.