Baltimore Vs. Cleveland: The Tale Of Two Protests
Last week, Marilyn Mosby announced that she would be bringing charges against the six officers implicated in the death of Freddie Gray. During the announcement, she took a few moments to acknowledge the role Baltimore protesters played in bringing about these charges. To quote her accurately, she said the following:
“To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your calls for ‘no justice, no peace.’ Your ‘peace’ is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man. To those who are angry, hurt or have their own experiences of injustice at the hands of the police officers, I urge you to channel the anger peacefully as we prosecute this case. I have heard your calls for ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ however, your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of Freddie Gray.”
Mosby has been getting lots of play in the media as of late for bringing those charges against the police officers. She has been called everything from the people’s prosecutor to the next Mayor of Baltimore.
And for what reason exactly?
No doubt she is quite sharp and likely brave, but in all frankness, Mosby is getting lots of shine for doing what is essentially her job. After all, she is a prosecutor. And as a prosecutor, Mosby is supposed to prosecute those who violate the law. That includes police officers who defy the same laws that they are supposed to uphold.
And the mere fact that the charges in the Freddie Gray case, which were a pretty obvious outcome to most, are considered exceptional or the result of some great and miraculous undertaking by some ambitious attorney general is a huge problem. It is a huge problem that Mosby’s face has been plastered on the cover of just about every major magazine and blog as the ‘Great Black Hope’ rather than honest conversations about how she and her colleagues in Baltimore, in Maryland, and around the country have long been negligent in their duties to prosecute rogue police officers.
The nationwide rejoicing we are seeing over filed charges against killer police officers says something about how low the bar has been set for justice in our legal system, which has established a two-tier system of justice: one that places a higher burden of proof and protectionism to police; and a second tier, which continuously denies due process to citizens of this country, mainly based on the color of their skin and their socioeconomic status.
More importantly, it says something about the effectiveness of those who took to the street and refused to stay both quiet and peaceful. In spite of what most believe, it was their rebellion (and the fear of more rebellions), which put the fire under our system and forced the hands of Mosby. No longer could the system ignore or turn a blind eye to justice when its citizens were threatening to dismantle it with a single lit match.
After all, peacefully protesting, petitioning, marching and basically following the rules of law has not helped bring justice to those who found themselves victims of police brutality and even been murdered by authorities. Victims like the more than 100 Baltimore residents, who in the last five years, were awarded a total of $5.7 million in civil suit cases against abusive police, although most of the officers in the cases never saw the inside of a criminal courtroom, let alone a jail, for their actions.
The same could be said nationally, where there has been a well-documented pattern of payout over prosecution in our nation’s law enforcement agencies. As reported last year by the Washington Post:
The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this year that the city has payed out nearly half a billion dollars in settlements over the past decade, and spent $84.6 million in fees, settlements, and awards last year. The Chicago Police Department is about three times the size of the Baltimore PD. Chicago the city has about four times as many people as Baltimore. Crunch those numbers as you wish. Bloomberg News reported that in 2011, Los Angeles paid out $54 million, while New York paid out a whopping $735 million, although those figures include negligence and other claims unrelated to police abuse. Oakland Police Beat reported in April that the city had paid out $74 million to settle 417 lawsuits since 1990. That’s a little more than $3 million per year. The Denver Post reported in August that the Mile High City paid $13 million over 10 years. The Dallas Morning News reported in May that the city has forked over $6 million since 2011. And last month, Minneapolis Public Radio put that city’s payout at $21 million since 2003.
Sounds more like officials are buying our peace with hush money instead of actual justice.
Yet we the people continue to trust in due process. And we the people continue to fall for the same self-serving rhetoric of our failed political class, who want us to remain peaceful. They tell us to march and to protest. They tell us to wait and see. They remind us that we are a nation of laws. And that being peaceful is the best way to get them to listen. The best thing, they tell us, is to “let the system work” on our behalf.
Yet our peaceful protesting has offered little in the way of actual solutions to the problem of police brutality and misconduct. Our peaceful protesting has not gotten one rogue cop locked up nor has it changed one single law on the books. And at the worst, our peacefulness has actually demobilized any real efforts to bring about justice. Just ask Samaria Rice, the mother of the late Tamir Rice.
In late November 2014, 12-year-old Tamir was fatally shot by Cleveland police after they had negligently and criminally mistaken his toy gun for the real thing. The entire incident was caught on video, which clearly shows Tamir being shot by officer Timothy Loehmann a mere two seconds after arriving on the scene. It should have been an open and shut case as far as filing charges. Yet in the five months since the incident, there have been no charges brought forth by either the city or state prosecuting offices.
However, there have been plenty of peaceful protests, some of which have been led by Al Sharpton who is now a Washington-insider and political chum to President Obama. There have been promises for full investigations, including by the Department of Justice. And a civil suit has been filed, which has been strategically delayed by a city attorney, who has argued in court that the answers provided by officers Loehmann and officer Frank Garmback (who drove the police car on that day) may incriminate them in the ongoing criminal investigations, which so far have led nowhere.
The greater Cleveland community has remained relatively quiet and calm in its protests as this travesty of injustice continues to drag along. And as a result of all of this peaceful protesting, Samaria has not only been denied justice, but has also incurred significant debt to the point that she has been forced to moved from her home into a homeless shelter. She also has not been able to bury her son. As reported by Cleveland.com, the family of Tamir is basically begging the courts to help move this case along. More specifically the paper reports:
“Plaintiffs are incurring expense daily and are unsure if they can finally rest Tamir Rice due to the pending investigation,” the motion says. “A stay would exacerbate this expense and emotional distress.”
This is what staying peaceful has brought the family of Tamir Rice. I am in no way saying that folks need to go out and riot, but the truth of the matter is had not the people of Baltimore forgone their strategy of peaceful protesting and marching on behalf of Freddie Gray and all of the victims of police violence and instead of taking to the street, where they rioted, looted and threatened to burn Baltimore down, the family of Freddie Gray would have more than likely still been waiting for some semblance of the due process we are all entitled to.