[ Rival Baltimore gangs, the Bloods and the Crips came to a truce in order to confront police brutality in the wake of the police murder of Freddie Gray. ]
by Simón Sedillo
I was just in Baltimore by chance. I was headed to DC to go to the School of the America’s Watch (SOAW.ORG) week of action in Washington DC. I landed at National Airport on sunday April 19th, 2015. The day Freddie Gray died. As I landed, I googled “Police Brutality Washington DC April, 2015 because you know, that shit is happening everyday everywhere you go.
There were of course some stories, but then I remembered Baltimore. Baltimore has always been on my top ten places in the USA most likely to pop the fuck off. Baltimore, like Detroit, like Philly, like Oakland, like Providence, like Newark, like Willimantic, like Kansas City, like Ferguson like so many places in the USA are ticking time bombs. These are the places that expose the lie of the melting pot for what it is, an unattended pressure cooker waiting to well, pop the fuck off.
I read the News about Freddie Gray and chills ran over my whole body. Fuck…. Another black man murdered by the police, but this time the pressure cooker was a big ass city that has been unattended and cooking on HI for way to long. At this point it was just a matter of time. Baltimore was about to pop. I almost started crying on the plane right way, tears of pain, tears of struggle, and tears of just a little fuckin hope. I held them back. How the fuck am I going to explain these tears to the white DC business politicos around me. Suck it up.
Fortunately my first stop was in the state of Maryland with some friends who I can only say were already on my Zombie Apocalypse Survivor list. Like soldiers the homies set me up to do what I had to do at the SOAW week of action, but also so that I could get close to Baltimore, on the brink of making history.
Monday morning my friend Tomas and I made it to downtown Baltimore to join up with folks who were rallying at city hall to protest the the murder of Freddie Gray. I imagined Baltimore was going to pop that same day. Maybe folks didn’t catch the news. Maybe Baltimore doesn’t run full speed on monday mornings, There were about 50 people at the morning rally and I met the City News reporter who had been covering this story and other Baltimore police brutality cases. He gave me his card and asked me to stay in touch. He said he really hoped more people would rally around this case. I agreed. Tomas and I went on our way a little disappointed.
For the next couple days leading up to the weekend, Baltimore woke up and roared louder and louder each day. Rumor was that saturday the 25th was going to be the climax. There were 3 different calls to action multiple marches, and a call for legal observers and medics. In my world this started to sound a lot like shit was about to pop the fuck off, so I organized myself to be there with the help of my Maryland comrades.
The march on Saturday was beautiful. This was one of the most beautiful marches I have ever been on in my life. I don’t really even like marches, but this march was special. This march felt a whole lot like the beginning of history being made. This march felt like anything could happen. There wasn’t a single cop in sight the whole march until we got to the Camden Yards Oriole’s Baseball park in downtown Baltimore. There is something about riot cops protecting predominantly white baseball fans from black protestors that made me feel like, “Of course this is what is being protected, white supremacy, and capitalism at its finest.”
It is no surprise that the first break out of violence began with the racist remarks of white Orioles fans to black protesters marching near the baseball park. This quickly escalated into confrontations with police, which then almost immediately resulted in several young black men smashing the fuck out of several police cars, which the police parked and left unattended on the wrong side of the confrontation. Maybe this was a police provocation to turn the otherwise peaceful protest “violent”. Maybe the cops were just stupid and parked their cars in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either way, there is something about young black men smashing the shit out of police cars that made almost everybody smile. Baltimore was losing its fear. No fucks were given on this day.
There were several ongoing stand offs that lasted into the night and then descended into some chaos. I ended up with a group of teenagers (there was also a little girl about nine years old) who decided to break off from the rest of the protest and march into downtown to smash things. Trash cans were overturned, windows were smashed out of businesses we all now are pretty much pure evil, like the local pharmacy and the McDonalds, and several 7 elevens were looted for snacks and smokes. On three occasions the local police rolled up in unmarked cars and attempted to jump out and snatch some of the youth and all three times the youth ran three blocks and smashed some more.
I am not an advocate of senseless violence, but this was not senseless at all. This was young people expressing outrage at a system, a society, a country and a city who has consistently given no fucks about them. I fell in love with the little smash crew. At one point I couldn’t help but chant along with them, “Whose Streets? Our Streets! Whose Streets? Our Streets. Tonight the streets of downtown Baltimore were theirs.
I later found out that the City News reporter I had met on the first day was brutally beaten by police at another confrontation that night. I also heard that some international reporters had been detained. Baltimore had begun to turn into a police state with the loss of constitutional rights.
I had to get back to DC for a meeting on sunday. I had a flight out of town for tuesday at 5pm and on the morning of monday the 27th when several people asked if I would be going back to Baltimore, I said no. What kind of idiot would go back into Baltimore in full blown riot mode on monday knowing I had to fly out on tuesday? This kind of idiot would. After spending the whole day talking about how I couldn’t go, Tomas called me at 9pm to say he was trying to be back out on the streets that night because the riots had escalated. Baltimore was beginning to burn. I said, “Come pick me up homie.” Him and his wife and my good friend Jenn, rolled up and we were on our way back to Baltimore by around 10pm. We heard the highway was blockaded and we would not be able to get to Baltimore at all. We heard the cops had the conflict zone cordoned off and we would not be able to get in. We heard that the protestors were attacking people not from their neighborhoods. We went anyway.
We drove right into west Baltimore. We drove right up to a police line with an armored vehicle. There were cars and buildings burnt and ablaze by that point. We started following a police helicopter’s spotlight to get to where things were popping off. We found a conflict zone, and Jenn dropped me and Tomas off on the street a half a block away, and we walked right up to an ongoing battle between protestors and police.
This is what one protestor had to share with us:
VIDEO- Freddie Gray Rebellion – Night of April 27th, 2015 – Baltimore Maryland USA
These few simple words said everything that had to be said about what was actually going on in Baltimore, and it was an honor and a privilege to be there, at that moment, to get that real life in the street perspective. A lot of people all over the country have an opinion about what is going on in Baltimore. Few of these opinions are based upon the experience of being a young black human being living in one of Baltimore’s black neighborhoods. It was like medicine to hear these words, to video tape them and to be able to share them with you now.
This is what it looks like when people begin to allow all of their memories to replace all of their fears. This is what it looks like to confront white supremacy and government violence in the USA today. This is what it looks like to fight for justice. A lot of these people with their unexperienced opinions keep bringing up Martin Luther King Jr.as if the brother would be rolling over in his grave in the wake of the Freddie Gray Rebellion. All I have to say about that is, “How dare you bring up Martin Luther King Jr. at a time like this, when this country killed him too?”
On April 28th, 2015 the Maryland National Guard arrived, in Baltimore with fully loaded assault rifles. In some ways and for some people this can be considered a victory, only in that it is an absolute total embarrassment for Baltimore authorities at all levels. The arrival of the National Guard is directly a result of the total loss of control by Baltimore authorities. The city of Baltimore showed the world that US cities like Baltimore are entering a state of ungovernability. The nation may be on the verge of a full blown revolution.
Photos of National Guard by Tomás Alejo.
Another truth is that the presence of the Maryland National Guard also represents precisely how mass civil unrest will be received by state and federal authorities. If you don’t understand that what is happening in Baltimore is about 239 years of white supremacy and greed in the USA, and not about a couple of days of rioting, smashing, looting, and burning then you have absolutely no understanding of US history and this country’s current affairs. It may be time to pick up a book.
Thank you to the SOAW.org for fighting US militarism and for bringing me out at the perfect moment. Thank you to Jenn and Tomas for getting me to Baltimore twice. Thank you to Baltimore for treating me so well and giving me some hope that the American Nightmare is coming to an end. Thank you to all the black youth that shared their rage and pain with me, that told me a story, that let me film and take pictures, that hugged me in the middle of the street. Thank you for giving me one the most beautiful moments in my life.
VIDEO- Freddie Gray Rebellion – Protest March – April 25th, 2015 – Baltimore Maryland USA
VIDEO- WeCopwatch Baltimore
This post is also available in: Spanish