BALTIMORE, MD Mayor STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE was in church when she heard that FREDDIE GRAY was dead!!!
She says she knew “immediately” that this was something more than the depressingly common passing of another young man in a troubled Black men dying at the hands of police had become “a slow-rolling crisis” in America, as President Obama would put it nine days after Gray’s death. And Freddie Gray was a black man who entered a police van handcuffed and conscious on April 12 and came out less than an hour later comatose, with his spinal cord nearly severed.
The what, the how and the why of Gray’s fatal encounter with Baltimore police remains a mystery more than two weeks after the event. But the mayor could hear that slow-rolling train pulling into her town.
And when rioting broke out after Gray’s funeral on April 27–a night of arson, looting and brick throwing that led the mayor to declare a 10 p.m. citywide curfew as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan called out the National Guard–it became
clear the train was pulling a lot of baggage cars behind it.
The city that lures visitors with crab cakes and the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe paid out nearly $6 million in settlements to more than 100 victims of police brutality in the four years from 2011 through 2014, according to the Baltimore Sun. Those victims ranged from young teens to a 26-year-old pregnant woman to an 87-year-old grandmother.
FREDDIE GRAY was not the first person to suffer a disastrous spinal injury in the confines of a Baltimore police van. Jeffrey Alston successfully sued the city in 2004 after a van ride left him paralyzed from the neck down.
The family of Dondi Johnson Sr., who died two weeks after sustaining a spinal injury in custody, won a similar suit in 2010.
In Baltimore slang, it’s called going for “a rough ride.”
When police violence is so common it has its own patois, a city has a problem. But Baltimore’s problems have been carefully and colorfully documented for years. While tourists enjoy the Baltimore of the Inner Harbor–a growing, high-end, pedestrian-friendly magnet for rising millennials–television viewers are more familiar with the Baltimore of The Wire. That’s a city where the population crested in 1950 and the receding
tide of humanity left behind entire neighborhoods of dilapidated row houses and shuttered factories. Here, opportunities are few outside the drug trade, and the police are more feared than trusted. The neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester, where Gray was arrested, is part of this Baltimore. So is Mondawmin, where the riots began after a confrontation between city police and schoolkids who had gathered in the area. And so is Broadway East, where a $16 million residence under construction for low-income seniors burned down in what the mayor is calling a riot-related case of arson.
BALTIMORE City Council President JACK YOUNG said;
“We never really recovered from the riots of 1968. Our infrastructure was destroyed: butcher shops, clothing stores, supermarkets, all destroyed for one reason or another.”TIME Journalist DAVID Von DREHLE investigates The ROOTS Of The 2015 BALTIMORE RIOTS: AMERICA - WHAT Has CHANGED And WHAT HASN'T.