WWP candidates react to recent DOJ Baltimore report

baltimore_0505The Department of Justice released a 164-page report on the city of Baltimore Police Department that is a scathing condemnation of  widespread racism and civil rights violations over several decades, including discrimination against women.

Like the earlier national report on the Ferguson, Mo., police department, this Aug. 10 report has become national news.

The report comes about 16 months after the death of Freddie Gray, a Black youth who suffered fatal injuries while being transported by Baltimore police in a van. Since then, and after the “not guilty” decisions that cleared the police involved in his arrest and transport of any misdoings, there have been continued protest demonstrations and some confrontations between the police and the Black community.

Workers World newspaper interviewed revolutionary socialist candidates Andre Powell, who is running for mayor of Baltimore, and Sharon Black, who is running for City Council president.  Both are local organizers for Workers World Party and the People’s Power Assembly. Both candidates are active in the local struggle against police terror.

WW:  What is your reaction to the DOJ report?

Powell:  First, we should take note of the timing of this report.  It came out after the charges were dropped against the police in the Freddie Gray trial.  The timing is disappointing if not actually suspect.

Black:  I would like to add that we have been pointing out the exact same points this report makes, but for several decades. And we were not quiet about it. There have been countless protests, marches and some of us have even gone to jail protesting these abuses.

So it’s not new to us and certainly not to the community. The report is all fine and good, but the lack of any substantial solutions or conclusions is glaring.

You should know that on the ground nothing has really transpired other than lots of talk of so-called reform.  Life for those in the community remains miserable in terms of police terror.  There hasn’t even been one firing of the police who have actually been exposed in this report.  This is incredible when you think about it.

Powell:  I and my running mate, Sharon Black, are calling for the disarming, divestment and disbanding of racist police.  These are immediate steps.

Black:  Police are an occupying army in the poor and Black community of Baltimore.  They need to get out.  There is a tremendous amount of propaganda that says we need the cops and repression but genuine facts do not support this.

Baltimore city rates as one of the top five cities in the United States that have the highest percentage of police per person and yet violence and crime are still prevalent.  Our campaign has insisted that the only way to improve the quality of life for the people in our communities is to provide jobs and education. The people must have power to end the severe alienation and powerlessness that turns people’s anger inward and at each other.

Powell:  Yes, the police are basically a tool of capitalist rule.  Ultimately, they need to be abolished along with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and the Pentagon.

To continue the day-to-day struggle against police brutality, the People’s Power Assembly, which we work in, the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Ujima Peoples Progress Party are building for a major march and rally for justice for Korryn Gaines, a 23-year-old mother who was shot to death by Baltimore County police on Aug. 2.