On May 16, hundreds of protesters gathered at downtown Baltimore’s McKeldin Square in a show of solidarity with more than 500 mainly African-American protesters who were arrested and jailed locally over the last three weeks. While some arrestees have posted bail, many are still catching hell behind the walls of the Baltimore City Detention Center.
Organized by the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly, concerned community members spoke out and marched for three miles through Baltimore’s downtown and oppressed community, including Latrobe Homes. Community members of all nationalities were there to call for justice in the torture death of 25-year-old Freddie Grey by six Baltimore Police Department officers last month. It took more than a week — which included the rebellion and a five-day curfew — for these officers to be charged with Grey’s death.
In addition to honoring Brother Grey, others shared personal stories involving friends and loved ones who have also experienced negative encounters with Baltimore police – from racial profiling to beatings, to outright murder. It was obvious through the people’s testimonies that the city of Baltimore does indeed have a very serious problem with police terror.
A rally led by Sharon Black and Rev. C.D. Witherspoon of the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly had protesters continuously chanting: “What do we want? AMNESTY! When do we want it? NOW!” Rev. Witherspoon reminded the local media and attendees, “This is an uprising, not a riot. Our resistance is justified.” His inspiring comments were right on time as the local police attempted to derail the route by way of an armed barricade.
Their intention was to cut off the route from entering the Black community in order to disconnect the oppressed community from their supporters and allies. In a spontaneous show of sheer bravery, marchers refused to be moved and simply went around the cops. This small but heroic stand was important because the route was specifically mapped to cover the Black community, as well as two stops, one at the Baltimore Juvenile Justice Center and one at the city’s Central Booking and Intake Center.
At both facilities community members spoke out against the state of Maryland’s recent approval to construct a new $30 million youth jail, which is only an insult to the recent rebellion. Speakers and protesters were careful to highlight the connections among police terror, militarization, the perpetuation of the prison-industrial complex through private prisons and the school-to-prison pipeline. It’s unfortunate how the city of Baltimore can find money for more jails and prisons, but not money for better schools and recreation centers.
Protest attendees were very conscious of the fact that most of the inmates incarcerated in Baltimore are actually victims of racist, systematic disenfranchisement, poverty and police terror — all ills of the capitalist crisis. Protesters were very aware that prisons and jails are merely tools that aid the process of continued oppression and state-sponsored violence. That is exactly the reason the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly is calling for full amnesty for all rebellion-related arrestees.
Capitalism has run its course, and the system has now failed — both workers and youth alike. Those incarcerated for speaking truth to power must be defended. Those detained for standing up for justice must be released. We say jail the “real thugs” — the judges and corrupt politicians. Free the people and jail killer cops! Revolutionary socialism for the poor and oppressed!
Come stand in solidarity with the first session of the Baltimore Tribunal & People’s Assembly on “Police Terror and Structural Racism,” Sat., June 6, 2-7 p.m. For details and additional information, contact the PPA at 443-221-3775.