Outraged members of Baltimore’s African-American community and their supporters protested on Jan. 26 against the announcement by state’s attorney for Baltimore City, Gregg L. Bernstein, that the three Baltimore Police Department officers responsible for the death of Anthony Anderson Sr. would face no charges or penalty of any sort.
The shocking news came when Bernstein met with Anderson family members, Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly leaders Sharon Black and the Rev. C. D. Witherspoon, and the family’s attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon. Rev. Witherspoon is also president of the Baltimore Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Protesters gathered at the site of the brutal killing, which occurred on Sept. 21. They chanted and carried signs calling for the arrest and prosecution of the officers involved — Todd A. Strohman, Gregg Boyd and Michael Vodarick.
Individuals spoke out against Anthony Anderson’s killers and told about other incidents of police brutality they had undergone. The death toll for people who have died at the hands of the BPD over the last 13 months stands at 16 — more than a person a month!
In an investigation conducted by the Baltimore Peoples Assembly, witnesses described how “knockers” — a term used by the community to identify undercover narcotics police — ran up behind Anderson, grabbed him around the knees, hoisted him in the air and brutally slammed him to the ground in front of his mother, his children, and his 2- and 9-year-old grandchildren. Anderson was unarmed and posed no threat to anyone.
The police initially claimed that Anderson choked and died after trying to swallow a bag of drugs. Community witnesses agreed that this was a lie.
The lies were exposed on Oct. 2 by the release of an official autopsy conducted by the medical examiner which showed that Anderson died from a ruptured spleen caused by “blunt force trauma” that broke as many as eight ribs. The death was ruled a homicide.
On Jan. 24, the prosecutor tried once again to explain away the actions of the police, using the same old canard about drugs. But members of Anderson’s family and their community supporters are not buying it.
Activists say Bernstein’s decision to absolve the officers should be questioned because of his relationship with one of them. Strohman has been publicly praised by Bernstein and on at least one occasion accompanied him on a lobbying expedition to the state Legislature. Witherspoon said Bernstein should have recused himself because of this relationship and noted that not one of the 16 deaths at the hands of the Baltimore police over the past year has been prosecuted.
Gordon, a lawyer for Anderson’s family, said the federal government may revisit Bernstein’s decision to absolve the cops by charging them with violating Anthony Anderson Sr.’s civil rights. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has started its own investigation. (Baltimore Sun, Jan. 24)