The Fight Against Police Brutality Feels More Hopeless Than Ever

On the same day the Mothers of the Movement appeared on the DNC stage, Freddie Gray's case was closed with no charges against Baltimore officers.

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Complex Original

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On the same day that nine black mothers appeared on the stage of the Democratic National Convention to bring attention to the racist violence that took their children's lives, another high-profile case of racialized police brutality was brought to a close with no charges against the officers involved.

Freddie Gray, 25, died last year after sustaining severe neck injuries while shackled and handcuffed—but not secured with a seatbelt—in the back of a Baltimore Police van. Wednesday was supposed to begin the trial of Officer Garrett Miller, but prosecutors dropped charges against him, Officer William Porter, and Sgt. Alicia White. This came after three other officers involved in the Gray incident were acquitted of similar, more serious charges. 

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, who was prosecuting the case, told The Baltimore Sun that she stood by her decision to drop the charges and added that the medical examiner's office ruled Gray's death a homicide. After the more serious charges were acquitted, Mosby says the odds were stacked against them. She expressed a continued dedication to changing police practices in Baltimore, and Gray's parents said they support her decision.

This is a story we've come to know all too well in America, one that is felt more deeply in our country's black communities than those that don't experience the same systematic racism. 

Many of the "Mothers of the Movement" lost their children at the hands of police. Among them was Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, who died in police custody; Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by police; Gwenn Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed when a police officer held him in an illegal choke hold; Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre Hamilton, who was killed by a former Milwaukee police officer; Wanda Johnson, whose son Oscar Grant was killed by a BART Transit Officer on New Years’ Eve 2009; and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

As political commentator and writer Melissa Harris-Perry said, “Together, their losses represent more than the private agony of individual grief; they are living representations of our intergenerational bereavement. Theirs are the empty arms of black mothers that America has produced for centuries.”

Expressing the frustration of many, Geneva Reed-Veal stood on stage and addressed the Democratic National Convention: “Sandy, my fourth of five daughters, was gone. No, not on administrative leave, but on permanent leave from this earth, found hanging in a jail cell after an unlawful traffic stop and an unlawful arrest.” Conversely, officers involved in these fatal incidents are often given paid administrative leave and never indicted. Or in the case of Freddie Gray, even officers who are indicted aren't charged, and these wrongs are left un-righted.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said, "As the trials end and this chapter in Baltimore's history closes, it is important that we collectively resolve to direct our emotions in a constructive way to reduce violence and strengthen citizen partnerships. Any motives that fall short of that are counterproductive and inconsistent with the values of Baltimoreans."

While Davis may feel that this chapter is closed, many will still remember and repeat the names of those lost to both gun and police violence in America. "So many of our children gone but not forgotten," Reed-Veal said. "When a young black life is cut short, it's not just a personal loss. It is a national loss. It is a loss that diminishes all of us."

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