AFRICANGLOBE – In a West Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray was murdered by police, Black residents on Wednesday aimed the brunt of their outrage at the six officers involved in the incident.
But they also expressed anger toward the city’s mayor and police commissioner, whom they accuse of withholding key facts about the case.
That Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts also are Black is of no apparent reassurance to an African American community that for generations has viewed the police with unceasing mistrust.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in the top positions — white, Black, Asian,” said Earl Williams, 52, an African American, sitting on his front steps around the corner from where police took custody of Freddie Gray on April 12 before he was hospitalized and died. Police said a preliminary autopsy shows that Gray suffered a severe injury to his spine.
“Why should I feel different that a black woman is mayor and a black man is chief when they’re not doing anything?” he asked. “We’re tired of seeing our young black men getting beaten.”
Four days after Gray’s death, Baltimore officials strained to manage a crisis that has spurred four days of demonstrations and thrust the city into the vortex of a national debate over police conduct in minority neighborhoods.
As police probed the circumstances surrounding Gray’s arrest and death, Gene Ryan, head of the city’s police union, said the six officers who were suspended with pay “are upset because they feel they did their job.”
Police have not identified the race of the officers, but a video of the arrest that was widely distributed shows that three of them are white.
Ryan defended the officers’ actions when they first stopped Gray, saying they had reasonable suspicion because he was in a high-crime area, had a knife and ran from them. “If he didn’t have that knife on him, they would have questioned him and let him go,” Ryan said. “I’m upset with the protesters right now. Before any criminal charges have been filed, they want to put these cops in prison.”
Over the past year, the alleged police misconduct cases that have drawn national attention in Ferguson, Mo., New York and North Charleston, S.C., have involved local leaders who are white and victims who are African American, infusing the incidents with a raw racial undertone.
In Baltimore, a preponderance of the city’s leadership and population is black. But that has come as little comfort to African Americans who long ago surrendered any confidence in the police department.
Rawlings-Blake (D), 45, a Baltimore native who served on the City Council before becoming mayor in 2010, has expressed sadness over Gray’s death and frustration at the pace with which investigators have released details over what transpired.
By: Paul Schwartzman