President Obama said yesterday, in response to the Baltimore Uprising, that there was “no excuse” for the kind of violence we saw. I understand that as the President of The United States, you can’t condone looting and the burning of public property. But still, something about the phrase “no excuse” rubbed me the wrong way. If the unwarranted death of a man, in the hands of those paid to protect doesn’t produce anger and even irrationality, I don’t know what does. And at the end of the day, those buildings are insured and they will be rebuilt.
Freddie Gray, on the other hand, is gone forever.
And like in so many predominately Black neighborhoods around the country, the death of Freddie Gray is not the first, he’s simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Last year, the Baltimore Sun published an investigative piece which discovered that the city had paid out $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming police officers used excessive force or brazenly beat up alleged suspects.
The statutory limit the state of Maryland can pay in order to settle a lawsuit against law enforcement is $200,000. In 2014, at the time the piece was published, more than 100 people had won court settlements related to brutality or civil rights violations.
In most of the cases, most of the victims were African Americans. And in almost every cases, prosecutors dismissed the charges that had been filed against the victims, if any charges had been filed at all.
$5.7 million dollars is a lot of money and the article states that this money could have been used to build a new, state-of-the-art recreation center or renovate more than 30 playgrounds.
And the $5.7 million doesn’t account for the additional $5.8 million the state pays in legal fees to represent the officers in court.
Facts and figures are one thing but nothing resonates more than a personal story. Two victims, among the many profiled in the piece, of police brutality, Barbara Floyd and Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz recounted their very violent encounters with Baltimore police.
You can watch their stories in the video below.
It didn’t start with Freddie Gray. And while we can argue that uprising might not be the answer, when it keeps happening, we can understand the expression of that rage.