Column: The Baltimore protests are what the US needs

The peaceful protests against police brutality in Baltimore are what this country needs

The rioting and protests in Baltimore have garnered international attention this past week, and, surprisingly, this may be exactly what the U.S. needs right now. The rioting has been centralized around the death of Freddie Gray on April 19 while in police custody. On May 1, state prosecutors ruled that they had a probable cause for bringing charges against the six police officers who arrested Gray. The state’s attorney Marilyn J. Mosby led the case and described how the officers took Gray on an intentional “rough ride,” an aggressive technique used to enforce bodily harm without actually touching the suspect, according to The New York Times. It was found that Gray was not buckled, which is against department policies, and he repeatedly asked for a medic, which was ignored. Gray was rushed to the hospital after they arrived at the police station, but he died from spinal injuries a week later.

The most serious charges were brought against Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who drove the car. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder. The bail for four of the officers was $350,000, and $250,000 for the other two. Records show that all six were released later that night.

Citizens started protesting soon after Gray was arrested and the police and state department started to investigate his cause of death. Most of the protests have been quite peaceful. However, there has been some violence, most notably April 27, when police in riot gear were present at a protest organized by high school students. The crowd started to get violent after police prevented them from leaving the area. Soon after, the National Guard was deployed to Baltimore, and a curfew was set for 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. while Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency. The curfew has since been lifted, and the National Guard has begun to evacuate, but Hogan has said the state of emergency will still be in effect until the last soldier leaves the state.

The protests in Baltimore, and elsewhere in the U.S. these past months, have received a lot of press coverage, some good and some bad. This is just what our country needs right now. Police brutality and systematic discrimination have been rampant throughout the U.S. for a very long time. Yet it has never been addressed thoroughly because it wasn’t considered a pressing enough problem for the government. The deaths of civilians like Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, though very tragic and heartbreaking, have produced necessary modifications in the police and governmental systems. People, especially higher ranking individuals in the government, are finally realizing the seriousness of this problem.

Now it’s Maryland’s turn to enact some much-needed change in their law enforcement system. Despite a quite diversified police force, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland addressed some serious concerns in a report on police activities from 2010 to 2014 released in March. They found that 69 percent of people who died in police encounters were black, and 41 percent of people who died were unarmed. Those who were unarmed and black died in police encounters at ten times the rate of those who were unarmed and white. Furthermore, Maryland has no centralized system to report and track these deaths by police.

The government in Maryland needs to take action regarding these eye-opening statistics. Hogan was going to sign numerous bills into effect that improved accountability of the police force, but he put them on hold to deal with the riots. Hogan needs to pick up where he left off. This would be the best way to solve situations like this from happening in the future. He also needs to review, and possibly modify, bills that did not pass the first time through the government, such as a bill that improved the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights that would allow greater freedom in questioning and disciplining officers relating to deaths of civilians.

The situation in Baltimore is not a happy one. It’s frightening and not at all ideal. But it’s doing something beneficial for the nation. Civilians are putting their lives on the line to draw vital attention toward a systematic error in our government. The U.S. is finally starting to solve our race issue in a productive manner. All that’s left is for the government to realize how they need to change.

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