Workers Vanguard No. 1067

1 May 2015


Black Baltimore’s Justified Rage

APRIL 28—Following yesterday’s funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose spinal cord was almost completely severed when he was arrested, inner-city Baltimore exploded, with black youth battling phalanxes of riot cops and state troopers. Maryland’s Republican governor declared a state of emergency, deploying over a thousand National Guard troops, while Baltimore’s black Democratic Party mayor imposed a nighttime curfew. As of this morning over 200 people have been arrested. The bourgeois media rant against “thugs” and “criminals,” providing a pretext for the cops to spill more blood. National Guard out now! Down with the cops’ state of siege! Free all those arrested and drop all charges!

Baltimore has long been notorious for the racist cop terror that is the norm across the U.S. In this majority black city, conditions of life in its destitute inner city are a microcosm of the brutal reality that defines life for the black masses across America: segregation, police terror, wrenching poverty and decaying houses and schools. The life and death of Freddie Gray stands as bitter testimony. Poisoned as a child by lead paint in the decrepit housing his family lived in, Gray grew up on the mean streets of West Baltimore. He was treated as a criminal by the racist cops who repeatedly arrested him on petty charges like having “gaming cards, dice.” What led to Gray’s fatal arrest was the “crime” of making eye contact with a cop and then fleeing.

Thrown violently to the ground and pinned down with a cop’s knee on his neck, Gray screamed for his life. Cops dragged him to a van as bystanders demanded that they call an ambulance. The cop van drove around for over 30 minutes before he got medical attention. According to medical experts, Gray’s neck could only have been broken by “powerful blunt force.” Freddie Gray is not the first person to die after what the cops call a “rough ride” in one of their vans—in 2005, 43-year-old Dondi Johnson Sr. was subjected to similar torture. From 87-year-old grandmothers to pregnant women, church deacons and young boys on dirt bikes, few blacks and Latinos are safe from violent attack by the marauding Baltimore cops.

Black preachers and Democrats are trying to douse the justified anger of the ghetto masses. The loud refrain from Obama on down is how these “criminals” have damaged the message of “legitimate” protesters, i.e., the preachers and others pleading for police reform. A comment on social media captured the hypocrisy: “I do not mourn broken windows. I mourn broken necks.” The NAACP and Urban League are talking of a “national crisis” because they are clearly worried that their empty reform schemes cannot keep the lid on the seething discontent.

Black people are being pushed beyond the limit—terrorized by cops and the courts, deprived of any kind of job, denied decent education and housing. U.S. capitalism has no use for a whole generation of black youth. All that awaits them is death—a slow death from disease, malnutrition, drugs and prison, or a fast one in the execution chambers or gunned down on the streets.

The true criminals are the thugs in blue who rampage with impunity, maiming and killing those whose crime is to be poor and black. Above them stand their bosses: the criminal U.S. rulers who have long been in the business of looting and pillaging at home and abroad. Riots are an expression of despair that can go in many directions. The outbreak of this elemental, spontaneous upheaval, while understandable, cannot end the hellish conditions of life of the black population. The rage of the dispossessed in the ghettos must be linked up with the millions of black, white and immigrant working people around the country whose jobs, wages and living conditions are under constant assault. The situation cries out for revolutionary leadership—a workers party—to organize the power of labor and unite behind it all the oppressed in a struggle to get rid of the whole rotten, racist capitalist system.