While all six of the police officers responsible for severing the spine of the wrongfully detained and killed Baltimore resident Freddie Gray have been released on bail without having to spend any time behind bars, the same cannot be said of the many impoverished Baltimore citizens who rose up in rebellion against the oppressive system that has made their lives a living hell. In a truly unprecedented move (and one that has enraged the Fraternal Order of Pigs), the six police officers who allegedly contributed to Gray’s murder have actually been charged with committing a crime. One officer, Caesar Goodson Jr., who drove the van which took Freddie Gray away after other officers beat and dragged him, was charged with second-degree murder. The other five cops, Alicia D. White, William G. Porter, Brian Rice, Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller have been charged with either involuntary manslaughter or other lesser charges. All of them have the benefit of being backed by the morally corrupt Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) which will back a police officer up regardless of how heinous his or her actions might be. Meanwhile, the nearly 300 protesters whose rebellion – make no mistake about it – is what made these charges possible, are being detained unless they are able to pay the city ransom of up to half-a-million dollars!
The most obvious case of this extraordinary double standard is the ridiculous treatment by the courts of 18 year old activist Allen Bullock. Bullock, rightly incensed by the state and corporate oppression of his community that has been occurring for generations, took his anger and frustration out on a completely legitimate target – a Baltimore police vehicle. Bullock, who according to his mother felt that “police were hunting and killing, not serving and protecting”, smashed the window of a police car with a traffic cone, an incident which was caught on camera and quickly became one of the most iconic images from the Baltimore Uprising. Upon seeing the image, Allen Bullock’s stepfather Maurice Hawkins felt that it was imperative for Allen to voluntarily turn himself over to the city police. Hawkins told his stepson that if he didn’t go immediately to the so-called Juvenile “Justice” Centre, the police were eventually going to “find him, knock down our door and beat him” (as if being detained in a notoriously abusive juvenile detention facility is going to rectify that). Any hopes that the Judge hearing his case would be more lenient due to the fact that Bullock voluntarily turned himself over was quickly dashed when his bail was outrageously set at $500,000, and he was quickly charged with eight counts of criminal misconduct. The charge of rioting in particular carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, which is far worse a penalty than any of Freddie Gray’s murderers could potentially face (Goodson, the one officer charged with second degree murder, faces 30 years at most). Allen Bullock’s mother is incredibly worried about the condition of her son, whose ADHD requires him to take 3 different types of medication. She worries that the authorities at the juvenile “correction” facility may not be administering it to him correctly if at all. But paying the half-a-million dollars for his release is out of the question, as the majority of Americans would never be able to pay such a ransom, let alone some of the country’s most impoverished residents. “If they let him go,” says Mrs. Bullock, “he could at least save some money and pay them back for the damage he did.” Of course, it should go without saying that neither the window of the police car nor the car itself is worth half-a-million dollars! Besides, Allen Bullock takes home approximately $15,600 annually from his job, just 3% of the sky-high ransom on which he is being held.
Bullock is far from the only dissenter subject to such extreme abuse at the hands of the judiciary. The city authorities are determined to either make a killing off bail money or lock up the entire community in mass numbers. According to The Guardian, “At one late afternoon hearing in courtroom four around a dozen cases were heard in little over an hour.” The extremely sadistic Judge Flynn Marcus Owens heard appeals from jailed protesters and their overworked public defenders via video camera and, when asked to consider lowering the ransom (or “bail”) from an incredibly harsh $50,000, Owens responded by upping the already-ludicrous amount to $100,000! This was done in one case to a warehouse laborer and father who was arrested and accused of having stolen tennis shoes all because the shoes still had the price tag on them, though he was not even arrested at the scene of the alleged crime. A 43 year-old grandmother named Roselyn Roberts, who suffers from manic depression and earns only $60 a week, saw her bail risen by Judge Owens from $50,000 to $100K as well. Another 21 year-old Black woman was jailed because she could not come up with $150,000. Photojournalist Shawn Carrie, who was shot by police with a rubber bullet, was detained for 49 hours with no charge. Dozens upon dozens of low-level “offenders”, including many minors, are “being held unless they could pay an entire $10,000 in cash – practicably unheard of in a city where defendants pay deposits upfront and use loans from bondsmen.”
Most of the hundreds of detained were not accused of destroying property at all. As The Guardian reports, “The vast majority of arrests on Monday night had not been accompanied by police reports meaning no charges had been placed, further complicating the processing of the hundreds of people detained…” Many, many peace activists have been swept up as well. Probably the most notorious of these cases is that of 21 year-old Morgan State University student Joseph Kent whose disappearance occurred live on CNN when he was kidnapped by police. Kent was seen walking with his hands in the air and making a peaceful gesture in order to prevent violence, that is until a militarized armored police vehicle pulled up in front of him in order to block the view of the news camera. When the armored vehicle drove off, Kent was nowhere to be found. After alarm was raised over his whereabouts on Black Twitter, a local attorney spent many hours trying to track him down, only to find he was being “held in a large bullpen with other inmates on the second floor of Baltimore central booking.”
The fact that such extraordinary punishments are being reserved for low-level offenders who dare to rebel against the status-quo is all the more proof that their cause is just and that economic inequality, if not the capitalist system itself, must be abolished. Make no mistake about it. Martial law has by all means been declared in Baltimore, whether authorities choose to call it that or not. How could it not be when the state’s Governor declares that it is within the state’s authority to pick up and detain people for well over 24 hours without even having to charge them with being in violation of the law? The United States’ fascistic underbelly is coming full surface, while the majority of its citizens sit back and demonize those with the dignity to rebel.