By Askia Muhammad, Nisa Islam Muhammad, Charles Robinson and Shawn Massie
BALTIMORE (FinalCall.com) – From Staten Island, to Ferguson, to Cleveland, to North Charleston, S.C., now to the city by the Bay, death after death of unarmed Black men by police has stunned the country—but one death is so gruesome and seemingly unjustified, it has left the nation breathless.
Cries for justice for West Baltimore’s Freddie Gray grew louder each day for a week with larger and larger demonstrations and protests that overlapped with a 250-mile, nine-day “March 2 Justice” from Staten Island, N.Y. to the U.S. Capitol grounds. Organized by the Justice League NYC, the marchers arrived in the nation’s capital, April 21, after doubling back to nearby Baltimore, and ending with a march back to Washington on the west lawn of the Capitol for a rally.
The detour for the March 2 Justice came as news and eyewitness accounts of Mr. Gray’s arrest and takedown poured out after his death April 19, one week after his arrest. Mr. Gray’s voice box was crushed and his spine was “80 percent severed at his neck.” Video shot by a bystander shows him screaming in apparent agony as police drag him to a van.
“His leg looks broke! Look at his f—ing leg! Look at his f—ing leg! That boy’s leg looks broke! His leg’s broken! Y’all dragging him like that!” one bystander said in the video.
Just one day after Mr. Gray’s death, six police officers were immediately suspended with pay. Police said an autopsy confirmed Mr. Gray died of spinal cord injuries. He may have been injured while inside a police van, but that cause is disputed by witnesses.
Mr. Gray was allegedly arrested after he ran away when a police lieutenant “made eye contact” with him. He was charged with carrying a knife. Authorities admitted neither possessing a knife nor running away are prima facie criminal acts. Officials confirmed Mr. Gray asked for an asthma inhaler, but a medic wasn’t called to assist him until 40 minutes later.
Just two days after his passing the Justice Department announced it had launched a federal investigation into the death.
Police released the names of the suspended officers—all but one of whom came forward voluntarily to make a statement to local investigators. According to The Guardian, Lieutenant Brian Rice has a history of domestic violence accusations. Billy Martin, an attorney for Mr. Gray’s family, questioned Lt. Rice’s decision to chase Mr. Gray in the first place, saying: “Running while Black is not probable cause. Felony running doesn’t exist, and you can’t arrest someone for looking you in the eye.”
An eyewitness said police “bent (Mr. Gray) like a pretzel,” with a knee in the back of his neck. Police confirmed Mr. Gray was not wearing a seat belt in the police transport van where he was handcuffed and his legs shackled. That was a violation of policy and Mr. Gray should have received medical attention at the arrest scene and when he asked for it in custody, said top police officials.
“I live 1628 Mountmor Court. My kitchen faces Mount Street,” Jacqueline Jackson told Marshall Eddie Conway, reporting for The Real News Network. Mr. Conway is the former Minister of Defense for the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party.
He was released from maximum security in the Maryland State Penitentiary in March 2014 after 44-years confinement for a crime he insists he did not commit, the murder of a Baltimore police officer. The Supreme Court overturned Mr. Conway’s conviction which led to his release.
“The paddy wagon was right there,” Ms. Jackson continued in the interview with Mr. Conway. “They took the young man out, beat him some more. The man wasn’t responding. They took him by his pants, and he was dragged. And I asked them to call an ambulance. They told me to mind my business. I told them it is my business. And they just threw him up in there. The boy wasn’t hollering or nothing. How can you holler if you ain’t saying nothing? They killed that young man. They killed him,” she said.