Message from the Baltimore Grassroots
WE DEMAND JUSTICE FOR FREDDIE GRAY AND POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY
Baltimore United for Change (BUC) is a coalition of organizations and activists with a long track record of working for social justice in Baltimore. Though newly formalized, coalition members have worked strategically for years to gain concrete wins for justice in our community.
For example, we successfully halted the construction of a multi-million dollar youth jail in East Baltimore, partnered with State Delegate Jill. P. Carter to pass legislation requiring cultural sensitivity training for police officers, and defeated a measure in the General Assembly that would have permitted city school police officers to carry firearms inside school buildings.
In the 2015 Maryland General Assembly, members of Baltimore United for Change were instrumental in building a racially, religiously, and politically diverse statewide coalition to push legislation demanding greater police accountability and transparency. Bills were submitted dealing with body cameras, police reporting, and amending the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights. Of the seventeen bills submitted in the Democrat-led House and Senate, no meaningful legislation was allowed to pass – in fact, most of the bills didn’t even make it to a vote in committee.
The Maryland General Assembly came to an end on April 13, 2015 with no legislative progress on police accountability and less than one week later, Freddie Gray died after being brutally arrested by police officers in West Baltimore.
BUC continues to meet with youth, residents, lawmakers, and other community leaders to pursue legislative and policy transformation. In addition, in the aftermath of the uprising, our coalition is actively providing for the material needs of our neighbors in affected communities by offering legal support to protesters (including a Jail Hotline, lawyers and bail money), rapid response teams in the face of police aggression, and a budding alternative food system founded on food sovereignty and food justice – not charity.
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Baltimore is saturated with non-profit institutions and controlled by the Democratic Party. These institutions engage in the practice of lifting up examples of the success of individual Black people as a sign of the collective empowerment of Black people.
This has led to a divestment in the development of independent Black led grassroots organizations. This has devastated our ability to effectively address these kinds of problems. Many of our elected officials are products of this system and have no real accountability to the masses of people in Baltimore.
We must use this opportunity to talk about building the institutional capacity, political and economic power to make our government respect our humanity. American civil society has demonstrated its lack of interest the humanity of our people, so we must build the institutions the protect our interest ourselves.
Even though we have come together to address the issue of police brutality, this is one element of a larger system of racism/white supremacy. Civil society is structured in such a way that undermines the humanity of Black people and other people of color. We need to begin to ground our words and action into sustainable mechanism for true empowerment.
We need to build the economic and political infrastructure in our communities so that we can have the capacity to build the power necessary to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.