Monday, May 4, 2015

(Day Before) Yesterday

I've tried to watch as much as I could of the unfolding events in Baltimore on WBAL's livestream (which was sometimes superb) and wherever else I could.

Day before yesterday, I saw some really remarkable and memorable things.

There was a rally at City Hall Plaza sponsored by Black Lawyers for Justice, a sometimes marginalized outfit due to its militancy -- and its blackness. There were thousands of people gathered on the Plaza and many more scattered around the area. I saw the culmination of the rally during which members of the "gangs" of Baltimore, the Crips, the Bloods, and the Black Guerrilla Family, came together as one, and said essentially, "Look, this is our community, it's our city, and we are all one family. We aren't going to fight one another. We are going to protect our communities, protect one another, and protect our city. We love Baltimore,"

They were talking about non-violent self-policing, something many of us have advocated as an alternative to the heavy-handed violent policing that takes place today in too many communities suffering under occupation by armies of police who do things like killing Freddie Gray. And so many others.

It was a very moving moment in the program of the rally, one that moved the on air reporters nearly to rapture. They never thought they would see the day... and here it was, as they watched, the community coming together, bringing peace and dignity and -- perhaps -- justice of a kind that Baltimore had been yearning for but which had always been so elusive, just out of reach. Here it was, finally, the sign Baltimoreans had been waiting for. The time had come.

Baltimore would heal. The rally was followed by a march from City Hall to the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North where so much of the action of the previous weeks since Freddie Gray was killed had taken place (it's the site of the burned and looted CVS drugstore as well.) The march and the gathering at the intersection in West Baltimore were like a huge party according to those who were there. The spirit of the rally at City Hall and the sense of accomplishment that the officers involved in Freddie Gray's death had been so promptly held to answer was infectious.

Baltimore would heal.

I don't know that I would go quite that far, not yet. But I was struck by what I was witnessing vicariously through the live broadcast, and I believed the participants were sincere. Baltimore has a long and deep reservoir of racism and worse, so I'm not convinced -- yet -- that the Powers That Are in that city are quite ready to let go of it, not yet. Not yet. But the unexpected is always possible...

Later that night, I happened to be watching RebelutionaryZ's livestream as curfew violators at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North were rounded up one by one. A woman had been apprehended, and Reb said he'd met her, liked her, she was a good person, he said, who was being roughed up by police for no good reason. Another woman asked him what she was being arrested for, and he said all he knew was that she was out after curfew. She hadn't done anything.

The woman became irate, and she asked, "When are they going to leave us the fuck alone?" She said this sort of thing happened every day, and she was tired of it.


[Scroll to approximately 1:08:30 in the video]

Yes. "Leave us the fuck ALONE."  It is really that simple. Will it happen? I don't know. But the signs are a lot more encouraging this year than last.

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