The people of Baltimore are not thugs!
It’s a thuggish SYSTEM – from Baltimore to Baghdad!
May 6, 2015
The people of Baltimore — and the entire country — are justifiably angry at the racist cruelty of those in power and their armed occupying force — the Baltimore police. It is outrageous that Freddie Gray died in police custody, arrested for the “crime” of running away from the cops. The public still does not know how he died. Murder charges against the six police involved in Gray’s death are a welcome first step, but they are hardly a resolution to the crisis.
People’s anger did not begin with Gray’s murder. It is a normal response to a system that favors the super-rich, at the immense expense of the poor, and that uses racism to divide us. The fuel of poverty, urban decay, inadequately funded schools, and joblessness was already set. Freddie Gray’s murder was the spark.
President Obama and Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake called the young protesters “thugs.” Yet their capitalist system rewards the real thugs — corporations who rule our lives, dictators they install all over the world, the Pentagon war criminals with their half-trillion dollar annual budget, and the police.
Are Palestinian youth who throw rocks at racist Israeli troops “thugs”? Then neither are the young people of Baltimore. All are fighting for a decent life against a system they know is aimed against them. But make no mistake about what really upsets the politicians and the large corporations they serve. They are seeing young people who have no fear of the police, no fear of the armed bodies that daily suppress them, harass them, imprison them, and deny them their rights and a decent future.
Obama’s new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch also condemned the violence of the protesters, but not the far greater violence of those in power. She said the rioting was “counter-productive.” But the capitalist courts she endorses have repeatedly let the police who murder Black and Brown people off the hook, from Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd and Antonio Zambrano Montes, to Eric Garner. We have yet to see justice in these cases.
The Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women stand with the Black community of Baltimore. We stand for a united working-class response to Freddie Gray’s murder!
We call on Baltimore city officials to enact community control of the police based on an elected civilian review board, independent of the police, the city attorney, and the politicians, with the power to investigate complaints, subpoena witnesses, and order remedial action, including retraining or firing those found guilty of abuse.
We call on President Obama and Congress to immediately fund a public works job program to repair and build new public housing; provide free health care, reproductive care, and drug rehabilitation; and reduce class sizes and massively upgrade the public school system.
Now is the time for working people of all races to come together to replace the bigoted U.S. capitalist system with a humane socialist system based on workers’ power and sharing the country’s enormous wealth.
To download or print a PDF of this statement, click here.
Voices from the Streets of Baltimore
There were lots of blue uniforms stationed beneath the blue sky on May 2nd. Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore is the main thoroughfare in Freddie Gray’s neighborhood. The police were keeping watch. Groups of four, with their patrol cars parked in front of the small businesses which lined the busy Saturday street. It seemed that each block was patrolled. The people were out shopping and engaging in small talk with their friends and neighbors. But the place felt occupied.
Our Freedom Socialist Party contingent of three started the two-mile hike to the rally at City Hall in this Sandtown-Winchester community, one of Baltimore’s poorest, where Freddie Gray was arrested, and where unemployment tops fifty percent. Our sign defiantly read "It’s a thuggish system from Baltimore to Baghdad." We had our leaflets and Freedom Socialist newspapers.
We walked up to people and they walked up to us. Drivers slowed their cars and honked with smiling approval of our sign. Some stopped and asked for literature. Bike-riders changed course to see what we had. So many people wanted to tell us their opinions about the cops and about Freddie’s murder.
Ernest Rogers, a local resident, told us: "When Joey kills Timmy, Joey goes to prison. And when a police kills Timmy the police goes on paid vacation." An unjust double standard was a sentiment expressed repeatedly.
So was the sense of solidarity. "If we can come together for this, we can come together for everything," added Ernest.
Annie, a middle-aged Black woman, expressed the anger felt by so many. Looking one of the officers straight in the face, she boldly declared: "I hate them. They are irrational and illogical."
Tony had this to say: "When you apprehend a person and you hit him, that’s an assault. That’s a crime. Apprehending Black people like they’re criminals!"
Others connected the Freddie Gray murder to social issues. "We should be protesting everything. They’re shutting people’s water," declared Mr. Gee, referring to a water stoppage affecting 25,000 local residents who couldn’t pay the recently raised fees. "They’re destroying the community with the curfew," he added.
We continued along Pennsylvania Avenue, passing one vacant lot after another. From Martin Luther King Blvd. on, the cops were well-armed. And they were taking pictures of those headed towards City Hall.
We turned north on Charles Street. More cops. National Guard troops. Snapping pictures.
The crowd at City Hall filled the plaza. Several thousand for sure. Mostly Black, a true representation of Baltimore, which is two-thirds African American. But the crowd was Black, white, and everyone in between. Young and old, men and women.
Speaker after speaker demanded justice for Freddie Gray. The crowd roared with approval when asked from the podium if they agreed with the charges against the six cops involved in his murder.
There was little praise for President Obama or Mayor Rawlings-Blake. There was little condemnation of the rioting that these politicians called "thuggish" and "criminal." Instead, there was the clear message that something needs to be done about the poverty and unacceptable social conditions of poor and Black America.
Fighting for that would also be justice for Freddie Gray.
Story and photos by Steve Strauss, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.