Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What really happened to Freddy Gray?


An encounter on April 12th – a fatal encounter - between Freddie Gray and Baltimore City Police officers left Gray comatose with devastating spinal injuries.  Initial reports indicate that 80 percent of his spinal cord was severed leaving Gray with essentially a broken spinal vertebrae, and a crushed voice box.  Gray died from those injuries a week later on April 19th.  In the two months since Gray died from horrific spinal injuries occurring while in police custody, questions remain unanswered; what exactly happened to Freddy Gray and how did he die?  

A narrative quickly began to develop that Gray was somehow responsible for his own death. The original reports of Gray's death that determined that Gray died of a head wound from a bolt sticking out within the van. Then there were reports about another prisoner in the police van with Gray who disputed initial reports that he said Gray was “banging against the wall” and “intentionally trying to hurt himself”.  The public were fed a story line that framed Gray’s injuries occurring during what’s called a “nickel ride” – reminiscent of the cheap and rocky rides at the local amusement park. The prisoner is handcuffed but not secured with a seatbelt – so they will bounce around inside the van as the police van drives through traffic, making turns and sudden stops.

There was a “leaked” autopsy report that Gray suffered from what the report described as a “high energy” injury while making a comparison to injuries suffered from shallow-water diving accidents. The report states: The type of fracture/dislocation documented in imaging studies on admission is a high energy injury most often caused by abrupt deceleration of a rotated head on a hyperflexed neck, such as seen in shallow water diving incidents.”  

The autopsy report also revealed toxicology results where cannaboids and opiates were found while pointing out Gray’s apparent aggressive behavior as “yelling, banging and causing the van to rock”.  See this excerpt from the autopsy report: “…After the inner and outer doors were closed, it is reported that Mr. Gray could be heard yelling and banging, causing the van to rock.  No injuries that would suggest the use of a neck hold, Taser deployment or physical restraint, other than wrist and ankle cuffs, were identified…” 

As daily protests began to take hold, Baltimore quickly became the latest flashpoint in the national resistance to police violence as uprisings quickly followed suit across the country.  Protesters were routinely dismissed and characterized as “outside agitators” and a “lynch mob”.  The scent of a police coverup began to carry a heavy stench as community tensions escalate while critical questions were left unanswered. 

The winds of resistance blew stronger and stronger in Baltimore where within hours of laying Gray to rest, a rebellious confrontation with the police emerged. The world witnessed an open rebellion on the streets of America as images splashed across the television screen of Baltimore students hurling rocks, stones and metal pipes at a battalion of Baltimore police officers clad in military and riot gear.  These young people took matters into their own hands apparently disgusted by their own daily experience of police harassment and violence – they decided to fight back the only way they knew how. The images were so foreign to the typical American – they were more reminiscent of the battles in the Middle East of young Palestinians pummeling the Israeli military. While the rebellious actions in Baltimore were immediately and widely condemned as "thugs" by the president and yes, the mayor. 

In the two months since the Baltimore Rebellion in Baltimore, there are reported plans to build a $30 million youth jail, divert nearly $12 million allocated for Baltimore City schools towards pensions, thousands are fighting turnoff notices for delinquent water bills, while FEMA rejected Baltimore’s request for disaster aid to cover the millions lost in property damage.

The pressing question should be where will the next uprising take place and how will the people respond to the next case of police violence.  Over the last year or so, more and more people are realizing this is a real human rights issue that has become a national crisis. You have seen the many nationwide protests and acts of civil disobedience, and fierce uprisings attracting international support over this issue of police violence.  For years now, black and brown communities all across the nation recognized the police as an intruding force who have clearly abused their power thus shattering this notion of public trust.  But the recent rash of escalating police violence not only shows the apparent lack of accountability afforded to police officers but really provides some insight to the extent of the political support police departments across the country have. 

 


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