Baltimore officials continue their response in wake of Freddie Gray's death

Indictments, apologies result in Baltimore

By Ron Wynn

 

One officer's indictment for murder and lesser charges for five others were announced Friday for the six police officers adjudged responsible in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore. The city has been in a powder keg situation for several days following his death while in the hands of police.

 

The indictments came following a medical examiner's report that stated Gray's death was a homicide.  Meanwhile, both  the Mayor of Baltimore and police officials made statements Wednesday in the wake of Monday's rioting and a series of tense days that have followed the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

 

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat and lifelong Baltimore resident, backtracked from some controversial statements she made Monday in which the word "thug" was used during a statement in which she attempted to distinguish between protesters and those engaged in looting and rioting. 

 

 "What we see tonight ... is very disturbing," Rawlings-Blake said Monday evening, the same day a funeral was held for Scott. "It is very clear that there's a difference between what we saw last week between the peaceful protests ... and the thugs, who only want to incite violence and destroy our city. I'm a life-long resident of Baltimore. Too many generations have spent their lives building up this city to have it destroyed by thugs, who in a very senseless way are trying to tear down what so many have fought for."

 

That "thug" comment was promptly picked up and embraced by several members of the national media, including CNN's Erin Burnett. But there were many, both inside and outside the city of Baltimore, who found that comment insensitive and insulting. Two days later, the mayor was issuing an apology and a clarification. 

 

"I wanted to clarify my comments on 'thugs' Rawlings-Blake said on Twitter. "When you speak out of frustration and anger, one can say things in a way that you don't mean.". "That night we saw misguided young people who need to be held accountable, but who also need support. And my comments then didn't convey that."

Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes was one of those offended by Rawlings-Blake's comments. He said on CNN Tuesday night that instead of calling the protesters "thugs," she may as well have used the n-word.

 

Meanwhile the police issued a statement that they would NOT be releasing a report on Gray's death Friday. Instead they are going to turn it over the department's findings to prosecutors. "There is not a report that is going to be issued," Captain Eric Kowalczyk of the Baltimore Police Department said, adding that he was attempting to clear up confusion in the media over that process.

 

Baltimore did enjoy a degree of calm on Tuesday, in contrast to Monday's scenes of burning buildings and destroyed stores. Schools reopened and business resumed, but by no means were things back to "normal."

 

For one, there is widespread distrust being expressed by Black citizens over the national media coverage. A scene in which young Black men were telling Fox News' Geraldo Rivera to get out of their community went viral.

 

In addition, a series of stories in "The Baltimore Sun" revealed that over 100 instances of police misconduct and/or brutality had been settled over the past five years, costing the city millions of dollars. The cases were wildly diverse, ranging from an 80-year-old grandmother to pregnant women, young men, disabled, senior citizens, immigrants, but predominantly young Black men.

 

The Baltimore Orioles were playing home games again, but in an empty stadium. 

Baltimore's Symphony Orchestra staged an impromptu concert Wednesday for a gathering of several hundred people.

New U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called Baltimore's riots "senseless acts of violence" that are counterproductive to the ultimate goal of "developing a respectful conversation within the Baltimore community and across the nation about the way our law enforcement officers interact" with residents.

But folks now wonder if she or the Department of Justice will become further involved in the situation. They also wonder whether the indictments will ultimately lead to any convictions. 

 

In addition, the Baltimore situation showed that the issue of police misconduct is still very much unresolved and a major problem in American cities. Despite the recent Presidential commission hearings and subsequent report and recommendations, the issue has not been addressed by those in power, either in cities or the government as a whole.

 

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