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Protesters Plan to ‘Shut Down’ Baltimore as Questions Remain

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Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts speaks about the investigation into Freddie Gray's death at a news conference, Friday, April 24, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts speaks about the investigation into Freddie Gray’s death at a news conference, Friday, April 24, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Amanda Lee Myers and Tom Foreman Jr., ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

BALTIMORE (AP) — Protesters who’ve been holding near-daily demonstrations this week over the death of Freddie Gray are promising their biggest march yet a day after the Baltimore Police Department acknowledged that it failed to get him the medical attention he needed after his arrest.

Protesters vowed to “shut down” the city by marching through the streets and snarling traffic. The president of a black lawyers’ group predicted thousands of people would turn out for the demonstration, when good weather is forecast and the Baltimore Orioles host the Boston Red Sox.

“Things will change on Saturday, and the struggle will be amplified,” said Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice. “It cannot be business as usual with that man’s spine broken, with his back broken, with no justice on the scene.”

Shabazz has demanded the arrest of six officers involved in the arrest of Gray, who died Sunday a week after suffering a spinal injury while in police custody.

The officers are suspended with pay and under criminal investigation by their own department. The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the case for any civil rights violations, and Gray’s family is conducting their own probe.

Late Friday, Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said Gray, 25, should have received medical attention at the spot where he was arrested — before he was put inside a police transport van handcuffed and without a seat belt, a violation of the Police Department’s policy.

Gray, who is black, was arrested April 12 after he made eye contact with officers and ran away, police said. Officers held him down, handcuffed him and loaded him into the van. While inside, he became irate and leg cuffs were put on him, police have said.

Gray asked for medical help several times, beginning before he was placed in the van. After a 30-minute ride that included three stops, paramedics were called.

Authorities have not explained how or when Gray’s spine was injured.

Commissioner Anthony Batts said it was possible Gray was hurt before the van ride or during a “rough ride” — where officers hit the brakes and take sharp turns to injure suspects in the back of vans.

“We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been. There’s no excuse for that, period,” Batts said. “We know our police employees failed to give him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.”

Earlier Friday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she has many questions.

“I still want to know why the policies and procedures for transport were not followed,” she said. “I still want to know why none of the officers called for immediate medical assistance despite Mr. Gray’s apparent pleas.

“The one thing we all know is because of this incident a mother has to bury their child and she doesn’t even know exactly how or why this tragedy occurs — only that this occurs while her child was in police custody,” the mayor said. “This is absolutely not acceptable, and I want answers.”

Rawlings-Blake expects the results of the Police Department’s investigation to be turned over to prosecutors in a week, and they will decide whether any criminal charges will be filed or whether to put the case before a grand jury. There is no timetable for when that will happen.

The leader of a group of local ministers called on Batts to resign immediately.

“It seems that no one in the Police Department can explain what happened,” said the Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr., president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore.

He said the Police Department is “in disarray” and Batts has shown a “lack of viable leadership capabilities.”

The mayor appeared to back the police commissioner at her own news conference, and Batts defended his record, saying he was brought on in 2012 to reform the department. Since then, he said he has fired 50 employees and reduced the number of officer-involved shootings and excessive force complaints.

The Rev. Frank Reid of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, who met with Rawlings-Blake on Friday, said he wants to believe the Police Department’s investigation will be transparent.

“I want to take them at their word, but the purpose of being here today is to not only to let the city know but the Police Department know that we’re going to hold them accountable,” Reid said. “This is not going to go away. … Business as usual is no longer acceptable. This is all too frequent. It’s a historic issue, and we want to stop it now.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Events

Ella Baker Center Turns 25

Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

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Michelle Alexander/Photo via pbs.org

Alicia Garza

Co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Alicia Garza and Michelle Alexander, acclaimed author of “The New Jim Crow,” will join youth justice leader Xochtil Larios to discuss a collective vision for liberation at the Ella Baker Center’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27.

After 25 years of working to empower Black and Brown communities and fighting for a world without prisons and policing, the event will seek to inspire organizers, community members and changemakers to reflect on past victories in the movement for social justice and imagine how to continue moving toward a world based on justice.

The event will include entertainment by musicians, poets as well as comments by founders of the Ella Baker Center, Dianna Frappier and Van Jones. Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

The in-person event will be held outdoors and available to vaccinated guests only. 

To RSVP for the virtual event, please email ashley@ellabakercenter.org by Oct. 14 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Black History

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis Pioneered Diversity in Foreign Service

UC Berkeley Grad Continues to Bring International Economic Empowerment for Women

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Ambassador Ruth A. Davis (left) is meeting with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis was recently named as a distinguished alumna by the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. 

She also has been honored by the U.S. State Department when a conference room at the Foreign Service Institute in Virginia was named in honor of her service as director of the Institute. She was the first African American to serve in that position.

Davis, a graduate of Spelman College received a master’s degree from UC Berkeley in 1968.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, also a graduate of the School of Social Welfare, now chairs the House Appropriations Committee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. She praised Ambassador Davis as “a trailblazing leader and one of the great American diplomats of our time. Over her 40-year career, she had so many ‘firsts’ on her resume: the first Black director of the Foreign Service Institute, the first Black woman Director General of the Foreign Service, and the first Black woman to be named a Career Ambassador, to name just a few.

“She served all over the world, from Kinshasa to Tokyo to Barcelona, where she was consul general, and to Benin, where she served as ambassador,” Lee continued. “ I am so proud of her many accomplishments. She has represented the best of America around the world, and our world is a better place because of her service.”

During Davis’ 40-year career in the Foreign Service, she also served as chief of staff in the Africa Bureau, and as distinguished advisor for international affairs at Howard University. She retired in 2009 as a Career Ambassador, the highest-level rank in Foreign Service.

Since her retirement, Ambassador Davis has served as the chair (and a founding member) of the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC), an organization devoted to promoting women’s economic empowerment by creating an international network of businesswomen.

She also chairs the selection committee for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship at Howard University’s Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center, where she helps to oversee the annual selection process. Finally, as vice president of the Association of Black American Ambassadors, she participates in activities involving the recruitment, preparation, hiring, retention, mentoring and promotion of minority Foreign Service employees.

Gay Plair Cobb, former Regional Administrator of the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor in the Atlanta, and San Francisco offices, was Ambassador Davis’ roommate at UC Berkeley. Cobb said, “Ruth always exhibited outstanding leadership and a determined commitment to fairness, equal opportunity and activism, which we engaged in on a regular basis.”

Davis has received the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award, Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award and Equal Employment Opportunity Award; the Secretary of State’s Achievement Award (including from Gen. Colin Powell); the Director General’s Foreign Service Cup; two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards; and Honorary Doctor of Laws from Middlebury and Spelman Colleges.

A native of Atlanta, Davis was recently named to the Economist’s 2015 Global Diversity List as one of the Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life and is the recipient of the American Foreign Service Association’s Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Local Governments Can Lead in Public Safety Movement

Negotiations on a federal police reform bill have collapsed because Congressional Republicans are willing to stand in the way of lifesaving changes to policing.

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Police Car/iStock

Negotiations on a have collapsed because Congressional Republicans are willing to stand in the way of lifesaving changes to policing. It is time for state and local governments to take the lead in reimagining public safety. And it is time for all of us to support local leaders who are willing to show leadership and take risks to make it happen.

Change is not going to come from Congress, at least for now. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act earlier this year. It would have been a good first step. Like other good legislation, though, the bill was stopped by Republican obstruction in the Senate.

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker has spent months negotiating with Republican Sen. Tim Scott on a reform bill. As recently as August, Scott said they were getting close to an agreement. But talks fell apart in September, and Scott dishonestly blamed Democrats for the failure to reach agreement, accusing them of wanting to “defund the police.”

Scott’s claim is shameful. New York Magazine recently noted that just last year Scott himself proposed that police departments lose some federal funding if they do not ban deadly practices like choke holds or no-knock warrants. But now he is telling the media that requiring police departments to meet such federal standards in order to receive federal money is the same as “defunding the police.”

You can’t make this stuff up. Well, if you’re Sen. Scott, I guess you can. Even two major police groups rejected Scott’s claims, saying in a statement that “at no point did any legislative draft propose ‘defunding the police.’”

I don’t know what political calculations led to Sen. Scott’s change of heart or his dishonest spin. And I don’t really care. What I do care about is saving lives by making policing safer and more accountable.

Fortunately, there are local leaders who are willing to think creatively and work collaboratively to reimagine public safety.

In Ithaca, New York, Mayor Svante Myrick worked with Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino on a plan designed to deliver accountability, transparency, and excellence in public safety. They came up with a plan that would replace the current police department with a new department of public safety.

The new department would be civilian-led, and it would employ both armed officers and unarmed community solution workers trained to respond to situations that do not require an armed response. The proposal won unanimous approval from the Ithaca City Council, which created a task force to develop a plan for implementing it.

Ithaca’s plan is meeting resistance from some state Republican leaders. They’re trying to convince the public that you can’t have accountability and safety. That’s a false tradeoff. Making policing more just and accountable will make communities safer for everyone.

I believe there is a critical mass of elected officials who are ready and willing to begin the process of transforming policing in this country from the bottom up. Last year, 100 young progressive candidates ran for office as part of a slate committed to ending police killings of unarmed civilians. There are mayors and city council members around the country looking at Ithaca’s plan and making their own.

Reimagining public safety has become a movement. Congress can’t stop us.

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