Thursday Reads: Corporate Media Enables Victim Blaming in Death of Freddie Gray
Posted: April 30, 2015 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: abandoned row houses, Baltimore police, Baltimore protests, corporate media, East Baltimore, Freddie Gray, lies, Martin Luther King jr., media propaganda, Racism, rioting, rumors
The victim-blaming flew thick and fast last night after The Washington Post published a self-serving leak from an anonymous Baltimore
murderer policeman. According to the Post report, Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord, crushed his own voice box and gave himself severe brain injuries in order to get back at the cops who beat him, dragged him to a police van as he screamed in agony and left him unbelted during a long “rough ride” to the police station.
From the WaPo story:
BALTIMORE — A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.
The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.
The document, written by a Baltimore police investigator, offers the first glimpse of what might have happened inside the van. It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of a much larger probe.
Gray was found unconscious in the wagon when it arrived at a police station on April 12. The 25-year-old had suffered a spinal injury and died a week later, touching off waves of protests across Baltimore, capped by a riot Monday in which hundreds of angry residents torched buildings, looted stores and pelted police officers with rocks.
Abandoned row houses, Perlman Place, Baltimore
That solves that mystery then, right?
Um . . . . no. That tall tale is just likely to inflame more anger and protests.
Watch this CNN video of the Freddie Gray arrest posted at Slate if you can handle it. It shows police lifting and pushing Gray into the van because he can’t move at least one of his legs. Several times Gray screams in agony as police lift him into the van and leave him unbelted despite his injuries.
A second bystander-filmed video of Freddie Gray’s April 12 arrest in Baltimore—after which he was hospitalized and died—appears to show Gray in substantial pain before being put into a police vehicle.
Initial video of Gray’s arrest also appeared to depict him in pain as an onlooker shouted that Gray’s leg was broken….both videos—and witness reports that Gray was struck and “bent up” by the officers who arrested him—seem to suggest the possibility that he was injured before being put into the van.
Have I told you lately how much I despise the Washington Post? At least they did publish this piece by Michael E. Miller this morning:
Those stories that Freddie Gray had a pre-existing spinal injury are totally bogus.
One thing is certain…Freddie Gray did not have a pre-existing spinal injury.
Yet, that was the story circulating on a handful of conservative Web sites Tuesday. In an “exclusive” quoting anonymous sources, the Web site The Fourth Estate reported that “Freddie Gray’s life-ending injuries to his spine may have possibly been the result of spinal and neck surgery that he allegedly received a week before he was arrested, not from rough [sic] excessively rough treatment or abuse from police.” The site claimed his injury was from a car accident….
“If this is true, then it is possible that Gray’s spinal injury resulting from his encounter with the Baltimore Police was not the result of rough-handling or abuse, but rather a freak accident that occurred when Gray should have been at home resting, not selling drugs,” the site reported right above images of documents pertaining to a civil lawsuit involving Gray by his vehicle accident lawyer.
“The police didn’t mistreat him at all; he mistreated himself,” the report concluded.
Abandoned row houses in Baltimore
But the images on the Fourth Estate actually relate to Gray’s lead paint lawsuit, the Baltimore Sun revealed. An attorney representing the Gray family confirmed that the case concerned lead paint, not a spinal cord injury a week before Freddie Gray’s arrest.
“We have no information or evidence at this point to indicate that there is a prior pre-existing spinal injury,” said Jason Downs, an attorney representing one of Gray’s relatives, told the Sun. “It’s a rumor.”
And yet that rumor might have caused real damage in a country already polarized on the subject of race and the police. The story quickly spread to several other Web sites, such as Free Republic and the Conservative Tree House, which called Gray’s supposedly pre-existing injury “a potential game changing discovery. A site called New York City Guns ran the headline “Dead Baltimore Drug Dealer Had Spinal Surgery DAYS Before He Collapsed in Police Van (Rioters Say ‘OOPS’).”
F**king a$$holes! I’m so sick of this garbage from so-called “conservatives.”
From this morning’s Baltimore Sun: The truth about Freddie Gray’s ‘pre-existing injury from car accident.’
Paperwork was filed in December allowing Gray and his sister, Fredericka to each collect an $18,000 payment from Peachtree Settlement Funding, records show. In exchange, Peachtree would have received a $108,439 annuity that was scheduled to be paid in $602 monthly installments between 2024 and 2039.
In her documents, Fredericka Gray checked “other” when asked to describe the type of accident. She also said that the date of the accident was “94/99” and that she was a minor when the case was settled.
In his documents, Freddie Gray checked “work injury, medical malpractice and auto accident” as the type of accident. When asked to explain, he also wrote something that is unreadable. He also wrote something unreadable when asked if he was a minor when the case was settled.
Baltimore, Md — 12/2/11 — The rear of a vacant house, marked with “X” on the left, where a 13-year-old girl was raped in October. The house at 825 N. Caroline was owned by the city for years and last year the city transferred it through a swap with a developer. Kim Hairston [The Baltimore Sun ]
Experts such as Baizer Kolar P.C.
as well as Gray’s attorney says there is no evidence he had any kind of preexisting injury and there was no car accident.
As children, Gray and his two sisters were found to have damaging lead levels in their blood, which led to educational, behavioral and medical problems, according to a lawsuit they filed in 2008 against the owner of a Sandtown-Winchester home the family rented for four years.
While the property owner countered in the suit that other factors could have contributed to the children’s deficits — including poverty and their mother’s drug use — the case was settled before going to trial in 2010. The terms of the settlement are not public.
Even the Free Republic has now withdrawn their story on the rumors, according to the Sun article. But that won’t stop Fox News and other right wing sources from spreading the lies.
Now two important articles about the real roots of the riots that broke out in Baltimore on Monday.
The Role The Police Played In Sparking The Baltimore Violence, by Lawrence Brown.
The mainstream media is getting the story wrong with regards to the Baltimore Uprising….Journalists are lazily positing a direct connection between the Freddie Gray protests and the riot that broke out after Freddie Gray’s funeral….
Most of the media are ignoring the fact that the Baltimore Police Department escalated the situation by releasing a press release during Freddie Gray’s funeral that claimed that Baltimore’s most notorious gangs—the Bloods, Crips, and Black Guerrilla Family—were forming a dark alliance to “take out” police….
Gang members went on television to dispute this press release, saying they “did not make that truce to harm cops.” …. two misleading narratives collided to produce a potent recipe for violence. The police assumed that black youth in local gangs were targeting them and that some sort of violent purge was imminent, so they began painting a picture of imminent threat. Convinced that they were under attack and having sufficiently defined the enemy (i.e. black youth) to the press, the police decided to strike first.
Therefore, police deployed cops in riot gear to Mondawmin Mall to cut off the buses that the children from local schools use to take home before the children got out of school. From there, things descended into violence as frustrated children, trapped on city streets by armored police and cut off from their mode of transportation home, began hurling rocks and bricks at the police.
The police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas, turning West Baltimore into the scene of a revolt.
Please go read the whole thing at the link.
East Baltimore row houses, by Jeff Buster
From Mother Jones:
Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore Riots Didn’t Start the Way You Think, by Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin.
After Baltimore police and a crowd of teens clashed near the Mondawmin Mall in northwest Baltimore on Monday afternoon, news reports described the violence as a riot triggered by kids who had been itching for a fight all day. But in interviews with Mother Jones and other media outlets, teachers and parents maintain that police actions inflamed a tense-but-stable situation.
The funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody this month, had ended hours earlier at a nearby church. According to the Baltimore Sun, a call to “purge”—a reference to the 2013 dystopian film in which all crime is made legal for one night—circulated on social media among school-aged Baltimoreans that morning. The rumored plan—which was not traced to any specific person or group—was to assemble at the Mondawmin Mall at 3 p.m. and proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue toward downtown Baltimore. The Baltimore Police Department, which was aware of the “purge” call, prepared for the worst. Shortly before noon, the department issued a statement saying it had “received credible information that members of various gangs…have entered into a partnership to ‘take-out’ law enforcement officers.”
When school let out that afternoon, police were in the area equipped with full riot gear. According to eyewitnesses in the Mondawmin neighborhood, the police were stopping busses and forcing riders, including many students who were trying to get home, to disembark. Cops shut down the local subway stop. They also blockaded roads near the Mondawmin Mall and Frederick Douglass High School, which is across the street from the mall, and essentially corralled young people in the area. That is, they did not allow the after-school crowd to disperse.
Close-up of East Baltimore stoops, by Jeff Buster
Baltimore schoolteachers and parents told MJ that the police triggered the violence. Here’s one account from a teacher named Meghann Harris posted on Facebook:
Police were forcing busses [sic] to stop and unload all their passengers. Then, [Frederick Douglass High School] students, in huge herds, were trying to leave on various busses [sic] but couldn’t catch any because they were all shut down. No kids were yet around except about 20, who looked like they were waiting for police to do something. The cops, on the other hand, were in full riot gear, marching toward any small social clique of students…It looked as if there were hundreds of cops.
And another from a parent:
A parent who picked up his children from a nearby elementary school, says via Twitter, “The kids stood across from the police and looked like they were asking them ‘why can’t we get on the buses’ but the police were just gazing…Majority of those kids aren’t from around that neighborhood. They NEED those buses and trains in order to get home.” He continued: “If they would’ve let them children go home, yesterday wouldn’t have even turned out like that.”
Again, please go read the rest at the MJ link.
One more important article at The Nation: Toward a New ‘Broken Windows’ Theory, by Michal Denzel Smith
Whenever there is an uprising in an American city, as we’ve seen in Baltimore over the past few days in response to the police-involved death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, there always emerges a chorus of elected officials, pundits, and other public figures that forcefully condemn “violent protests.” They offer their unconditional support for “legitimate” or “peaceful” protests, but describe those who break windows and set fires as thugs, criminals, or animals. And eventually someone invokes the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil-rights movement, reminding us that nonviolence brought down Jim Crow segregation and won voting rights.
There’s something that needs to be cleared up: the civil-rights movement was not successful because the quiet dignity of nonviolent protests appealed to the morality of the white public. Nonviolent direct action, a staple employed by many organizations during the civil-rights movement, was and is a much more sophisticated tactic. Organizers found success when nonviolent protests were able to provoke white violence, either by ordinary citizens or police, and images of that brutality were transmitted across the country and the rest of the world. The pictures of bloodied bodies standing in nonviolent defiance of the law horrified people at home and proved embarrassing for the country in a global context.
So anyone who calls for protestors to remain “peaceful,” like the civil-rights activists of old, must answer this question: What actions should be taken when America refuses to be ashamed? Images of black death are proliferating beyond our capacity to tell each story, yet there remains no tipping point in sight—no moment when white people in America will say, “Enough.” And no amount of international outrage diminishes the US’s reputation to the point of challenging its status as a hegemonic superpower….
It’s not only ahistorical to suggest that “riots” have never been useful in the quest for social justice, it is impractical to believe that the exact same tactics of movements past can be applied today. The politics of our time are different, so must be our social justice movements.
Does that mean “riots” are the answer? No one knows. If the anger of a people denied humanity and democracy is continually dismissed as lawlessness, perhaps these uprisings will prove only destructive. But if the people with the ability to change the system that produced this anger will only listen to the sound of shattering glass, then maybe this is the solution.
To quote Dr. Martin Luther King: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
Last house standing. Abandoned row house in Baltimore (Daily Mail)
I’ve illustrated this post with photos of East Baltimore. Here are some links where you can see more photos and learn more about Baltimore’s neglected neighborhoods.
The Daily Mail, Last houses standing: The beautiful row houses once part of sprawling tenements that illustrate Baltimore’s urban decay (2013).
The Atlantic, Could Baltimore’s 16,000 Vacant Houses Shelter the City’s Homeless (2014)?
Dave Troy, From the Train, Baltimore Looks Like Hell (2009).
Jeff Buster, Observations from Baltimore – Stoops – 1st in a series.
So . . . what else is happening? As always, this is an open thread. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy your day.