The death of Freddie Gray was something that I don’t think a lot of people paid attention to. And I want to take time to unravel what actually happened in between his arrest on April 12, 2015 and the day he succumbed to his injuries at the hands of police and died on April 19, 2015.
According to police, Freddie Carlos Gray, a Baltimore resident, fled upon sight of 3 Baltimore police officers patrolling on bicycle. After his apprehension, police found his very legal pocket knife and used it as grounds for charging Mr. Gray. His arrest, although reported by police to have been “without the use of force or incident,” was captured on video by a recording bystander. This video is completely inconsistent with police testimony, as it shows Mr. Gray being knelt on, cursed at, and abused before finally being dragged, limp-legged and screaming, into a police van.
Before proceeding to the police station, the van made a series of stops, also captured on video. One of which was to put an “irate” Gray into leg shackles. Do we have to wonder why he would be irate in that situation? How many times have we heard a black man screaming for his life? From George Floyd to Eric Garner and Daunte Wright calling for his mother? You’ve got a knee on your neck, your legs are being torn out from under you, and you’re not going to be in a state of extreme emotional stress?
At some point in this van ride, Mr. Gray, riding with no seatbelt, sustained a serious neck injury that would eventually contribute to his death one week later. A Baltimore assistant medical examiner is quoted as saying, “Gray’s fatal neck injuries, resembling those suffered in a diving accident, were caused by abrupt force to his neck during his transport.” Another black man dead in handcuffs.
What gets me with this story is that it was an arrest that never should have happened. A blade that wasn’t even illegal was the reason given by arresting officers. Excessive force in this arrest, captured clearly on video, was reported inaccurately by police as “without the use of force.” And then, of course, the all-too-inevitable exemption from justice…
“On September 12, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not bring federal charges against the six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest and death in custody of Freddie Gray.”
I’m hoping that people can see the continued trajectory of our policing in the United States. This was 7 years ago and we’re still seeing it. This is 100’s of protests ago and we’re still seeing it. Freddie Gray shouldn’t have even been arrested in the first place. That makes me wonder how many other young Black men is this happening to. Maybe you don’t know Freddie Gray. Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of him. But I want you to hear this story and imagine how you would feel if this happened to you or your child. And then I’d like you to pay attention when this unfortunately happens again.
Policing in our country has to change. And we need to keep holding them accountable. We need to keep recording. And we need to keep fighting back. I don’t believe that all police are bad, but I do think that there is an historical and systematic culture in our justice system that is not healthy, specifically for black and brown individuals..