Baltimore UpRising: The Struggle Continues

Part I: What’s Going On?!?

This article is Part I of a planned three-part series discussing the ongoing Baltimore UpRising. Look for Part II: How Did We Get Here? and Part III: What's Really Going On in Upcoming Posts on this page.

What’s Going On

Mother, mother

There’s too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There’s far too many of you dying

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh

Father, father

We don’t need to escalate

You see, war is not the answer

For only love can conquer hate

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me, so you can see

Oh, what’s going on

What’s going on

Yeah, what’s going on

Ah, what’s going on

In the mean time

Right on, baby

Right on brother

Right on babe

Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong

Oh, but who are they to judge us

Simply ’cause our hair is long

Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some understanding here today

Oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

C’mon talk to me

So you can see

What’s going on

Yeah, what’s going on

Tell me what’s going on

I’ll tell you what’s going on, ooh ooo ooo ooo

Right on baby

Right on baby

—Songwriters

Benson, Renaldo / Cleveland, Alfred W / Gaye, Marvin P

1971


It has been a little over a month since the Baltimore UpRising began over the April 19, 2015 death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained a week earlier, on April 12, 2015, while he was in the custody of 6 Baltimore City Police Department officers. Peaceful demonstrations turned violent and riots erupted, damaging or destroying hundreds of businesses—some in areas far outside the “epicenter” of the principal events in West Baltimore. Indeed, two businesses (that I am aware of) in my community in Northeast Baltimore, and many more in nearly every corner of the city, were affected. Damage assessments to these businesses are still being tallied and reported, and the costs of disruptions to the City’s normal affairs—losses of revenue from special events, sporting events, and the like that had to be postponed or canceled—are likewise still being added up; not to mention the loss of “reputation” the City has endured since its long-festering wounds were ripped open for the world to see.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby acted swiftly, investigating, charging, and ultimately leading a Grand Jury to indict the 6 officers for homicide in Mr. Gray’s death. Simultaneously, many charges against people arrested during the protests and violence were ultimately dropped, raising questions of unequal “justice” in many people’s minds.

I found this to be curious, but not “unequal,” justice. To me, it was just a further demonstration that “justice” is not a set-in-stone, black-and-white measure but, rather, a more ephemeral quality; Like “Beauty,” “Justice” is in the eye of the beholder.

In addition, the lawyers for the 6 police officers requested a change of venue for the trial. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) demanded that the State’s Attorney recuse herself from the case due to conflicts of interest—because her husband, a City Councilman, represents the district in which Freddie Gray was killed, and because the Gray family attorney, Billy Murphy, contributed to Mosby’s campaign to become State’s Attorney.

As to the change-of-venue request, I am grateful to the several writers of letters to the editor of our daily newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, who pointed out that this was insulting to the intelligence of the jury pool of Baltimore City, which routinely decides all types of cases in our Court system.

Mrs. Mosby’s response to the ridiculous conflict of interest charge was, as usual, straight and to the point (http://www.mediaite.com/tv/marilyn-mosby-on); she stated, in part, that (1) although her husband does represent the late Freddie Gray’s district and although she and her husband live in that district, she, as State’s Attorney is accountable to all the districts of Baltimore City; and (2) not only did Mr. Murphy contribute to her campaign, but the FOP did too! As of this date, I have not seen any more information on these defensive moves.

But most disturbing to me, in the aftermath of these events, have been the recent newspaper and TV reports concerning a purported “slow-down” by police in doing their jobs. In one TV interview, an anonymous officer spoke in a distorted voice about the slow-down being in retaliation for the arrests of his fellow officers. Soon after, the local newspaper reported complaints from officers that they needed double the personnel to handle their normal workload because of “harassment” by standers-by who took pictures with cameras and hurled epithets every time they went out on a routine call.

All of this could have been seen as mere squawking or finger-pointing—until the end of May, when a significant spike in shootings and murders began to be reported: The City’s murder rate in May suddenly made it “Baltimore’s deadliest month since 1972. Shootings this month have more than doubled compared to May 2014. Meanwhile, arrests have plummeted since April’s unrest in Baltimore, with only 1,177 people arrested so far in May compared to 3,801 in the same month last year,” according to the Baltimore Sun’s May 31st edition.

This begs the question: What’s going on? 

The Baltimore City Police Department insists that there has been no retaliatory slow-down by its officers. And Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake insists that the City will rebound.

 At this moment, I feel like I just stepped into The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in the middle of the song, “Time Warp”:

 

Let’s do the time warp, again!

Let’s do the time warp, again!

It’s just a jump to the left.

And then a step to the right.”

And in this case, we have time-warped back to 1971—when Marvin Gaye’s song, “What’s Going On” first came out—and 1972—the “last” time Baltimore was in such a seemingly lawless state!

It is no coincidence that the mood of my hometown today mirror’s Gaye’s 40+-year-old song, or that my beautiful City of Baltimore—among the oldest and grandest of the original 13 Colonies—appears to be in such dire straits, just as it was 40 years ago.

But as always, there is more to this story.

And you will find it in Parts II and III of this series.


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