Baltimore is Burning: Who Defines ‘Violence’?

120
439

If an individual is considered to be a danger to ‘self or others,’ the law readily claims them for incarceration by jail or hospital. However, when the roles are reversed … when the environment presents the danger to the self … then one is most often either rendered invisible or criminalized for their attempts to survive.

The person living on the streets with whom no one will make eye contact, or who the police hassle for requesting spare change from passersby. The individual who has learned to cut themselves to manage emotional pain, and so is punished by emergency room staff who sew them up without anesthetic (both physical and emotional pain disregarded), or confuse their efforts for suicide and contain them against their will. The person of color who some might cross the street to avoid, or who is arrested for lashing out when another is murdered at the hands of those employed to ‘serve and protect.’ Each is only looking for a way to survive, but instead finds themselves ignored or blamed.

So, then, who is truly more dangerous? The community that fails to provide enough housing to go around (or a living wage with which to afford it), or the person without a home? The person who has learned to manage emotional pain by causing themselves physical pain so that they can fathom remaining on this earth even a little bit longer, or the person who would rip that manner of surviving away from them in favor of involuntary confinement? The person who causes property damage or throws a rock because they’re so enraged at all the people dying, or the person whose hands are bloody with actual loss of life?

Freddie Gray died on April 19. He was arrested on April 12 after making ‘eye contact’ with a police officer and then fleeing. This sent said officer into an apparently uncontrollable fit of pursuit. (So far, there does not appear to be any reason that the officer chased him, other than that he ran.) Some time during the arrest and subsequent transport, Freddie’s spinal cord was severely damaged. This is why he died.

And so the protests began, calling for justice in yet another instance of a black man (or child) dying at the hands of the police. The riots followed. Images of buildings burning, charred remnants of vehicles, and citizens facing off with police and military forces decked out in riot gear flooded the news.

Of course, this also hastened yet another influx of hate on social media such as Facebook. Protesters were referred to as “animals” with increasing frequency. Words drenched in violence plastered across my screen.

“We open up hunting season on animals that run wild … time to open fire on stupid … really why are they allowed to breathe.”

Yet, the person who wrote that very statement seemed shocked when I challenged their aggression. Not so unusual, really. As these waves of hate have risen, I’ve repeatedly challenged the violent statements people have made. (“Run over those losers blocking traffic!” “Pile the bodies high!”) However, what’s more disturbing than the statements themselves is that – on more than one occasion – others involved in the same thread have retorted, “I don’t see anyone saying anything violent!”

Violence is invisible when it’s carried out by the hands of those in (or on the side of) power.

When our cultural emphasis is on keeping things ‘status quo,’ then the people who are threatening or inconveniencing that way of life become ‘the violent ones.’ Everyone else is simply engaged in righteous efforts to control ‘the threat’ or expressing justifiable outrage at the world’s failure to do so.

Worse yet, the whole mess is self re-enforcing. Society is set up with the decks stacked so high against certain groups of people that they are – at times – quite literally set up to do the very things society claims not to want them to do. Our societal structures are boxing people in (through poverty, discrimination, lack of choice, etc.) to untenable ways of life. Once boxed in, society then proceeds to keep an extra close watch on those ‘high risk’ types (i.e., people whose basic needs are not being met by that society), just waiting for them to step somehow out of bounds in order to make do in a world not necessarily set up with their survival in mind. Society then uses that as the proof they needed to be boxed in in the first place. And, voila: “See, we told you ‘those people’ are bad!”

Never mind that people are angry and desperate because they want to survive. Never mind that they are even angrier and more desperate because they aren’t surviving. That all was well in Baltimore before the riots befell its peaceful streets is little more than an illusion palatable only to those who have distance from the harsh realities thanks to race, geography and/or some other source of privilege. The violence has been there all along.

Strangely, when I say these sorts of things, people seem to hear them as being ‘pro-riot.’  I’m not ‘pro-riot.’  But, nor am I willing to see only one side of the violence while remaining blind to the other.  In fact, it’s the institutional violence that has the much more longstanding and far reaching impact.  CVS will be rebuilt.  Lives will not.  One needn’t go so far as being “happy” about the riots to understand that simple truth.

I continue to worry (as expressed in my earlier blog, “Michael Brown and the Peer Movement“) that those of us who post on ‘Mad in America’ and/or see ourselves as part of some sort of movement related to psychiatric labeling don’t see these issues as connected.  In reality, this bears much comparison to the violence experienced within the mental health system and that goes unchecked and even unlabeled as violence. So many times we’ve heard that one has been deemed to “need” the psych drugs forced upon them; one would have been a “danger” had we not restrained them; one would have been unable to “care” for themselves had we not contained them.  In some ways, yes, these are different movements, but in some ways they are the same.  People within both are experiencing discrimination and oppression.  Both are being sold a multitude of paths to disenfranchisement as if they represent any real choice at all.

Honestly, I’m far from fully informed about what is happening in Baltimore, or in related efforts. I find myself overwhelmed by the hopelessness of it all, and often paralyzed about what the ‘right thing’ to do could ever be or just how much of it I can bear to take in. But, it’s clear to me that we’re not doing ourselves any favors by acting like ‘business as usual’ over here in Mad in America land, while a whole city burns. We’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle if we don’t see that this is about us, too.

If you don’t already get that… If you’re not already afraid or seeing the connection… Try reading this article published just yesterday: Police officer in Freddie Gray arrest once hospitalized over mental health.

Yes, that’s right, folks.  If you finally stop being able to stand your ground by blaming one oppressed group, blame another one!  Just, whatever you do, don’t blame yourself.  Especially not if you’re the one currently in power.  That could lead to actual change, and we wouldn’t want that.

120 COMMENTS

  1. “Violence is invisible when it’s carried out by the hands of those in (or on the side of) power. ”
    Well observed.

    “It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. ” MLK

    Report comment

  2. Yeah, I sure agree that our critical/anti-psychiatry movement should pay more attention to what happens to other disrespected groups in our society. As I go back a long way, I came to this movement from being a supporter of the civil rights movement in the 60’s and early 70’s.

    As a child, I already understood that what was being done to black people was the same as what was done to us, the inmates of the crazy house.

    I hope that this new rebellion, people refusing to be abused like this, will lead to OUR movement waking up and starting to fight back. The civil rights movement of the 60’s inspired everyone, and I hope it inspires us again.

    Report comment

    • Ted,
      I just wanted to suggest that you review the way the State Prosecutor intervened, or rather jumped on this case with the brilliant move of initiating an independent investigation. A tactic that was honed from repeated failures to counter the *Police Bill of Rights* that protects Maryland police from even receiving disciplinary action for their role in a sentinel event. Unheard of anywhere else. ??

      Fighting back with the criminal justice system is a tactic waiting to be employed … In her closing remarks, after publicly reading the charging document, State’s Atty. Mosby addressed the youth of her city– saying “Our time is now”–

      Food for thought 😉
      In solidarity,
      Katie

      Report comment

  3. The GREAT news is that real Justice is currently happening in the United States! I, for one, am SO happy and very thankful. I see this as a great big win for the entire country.

    Six officers charged in death of Freddie Gray
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-freddie-gray-mosby-presser-0502-20150501-story.html#page=1

    Of course, the Baltimore Police are asking Marilyn to recuse herself.

    Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3
    https://twitter.com/FOP3/status/594147983731490820

    The United States has been descending into a very real Hell for a long time now. The ONLY thing that can make a difference is achieving actual, real JUSTICE. The more Justice, the better.

    We need actual Social Justice, we need reparations (http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/12/reparations-it-is-conceivable/), we need the eradication of penury (my new favorite word).

    No Justice, No Peace.

    Know Justice, Know Peace.

    By the way, today is Basic Income Day. http://basicincomeday.org/

    Report comment

      • At this point, I think the only so-called mental illness anybody should be concerned with is the war-like response in police officers these days. This isn’t the only time a police officer reacted in a combative way during an incident.

        Almost a couple of years ago there was a teenager who was killed by police officers. The teenager was less than a hundred pounds and had a screwdriver. I remember one of the officers said “we don’t have time for this” and they ended up killing him. I immediately saw that as a combat reaction.

        Here it is, “Stepfather Mark Wilsey told WECT that Vidal had been tased and was pinned when one of the officers said, “We don’t have time for this” and fired his gun. ”

        http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/08/justice/north-carolina-teen-killed/

        Yes, officer, you sure did have time but I would very much like to know what was going on inside of his head that would make him say such a thing.

        The point I’m making is that police officers are behaving in a seriously disturbed and disturbing way. This phenomenon in this country is not a matter of bad citizens vs. burnt out cops. No, I don’t think so. There seems to be something emotionally, mentally and behaviorally not right with law enforcement of the United States. of America.

        I think it’s its own sort of mental illness but I don’t think it’s any sort of brain disease or chemical imbalance.

        Report comment

        • So Sera, glad to see that at least one regular blogger saw fit to bring up this week’s elephant in the corner. More MIA readers ought to recognize that the psychiatric system is one branch of the U.S. “law enforcement” monolith, along with the prison system; both exist to maintain control over the populace.

          Report comment

          • Thanks, oldhead! As much as I also like talking about chemical imbalance myths (and I really do!) and all the rest, it feels increasingly important to draw these connections. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂 Sera

            Report comment

        • At this point, I think the only so-called mental illness anybody should be concerned with is the war-like response in police officers these days

          Behavior is not illness, whether you’re talking about a “survivor” or an authority figure. It’s a slippery slope.

          Report comment

          • Police brutality and corruption are horrific behaviors. Certainly, something is very wrong.

            You might like to revisit my comment and see where I wrote,

            “I think it’s its own sort of mental illness but I don’t think it’s any sort of brain disease or chemical imbalance.”

            Report comment

          • I didn’t misunderstand your comment. You equated horrific behavior with “mental illness.” The only thing that will end such behavior is those involved starting to take responsibility, not blaming it on an imaginary disease, whether we put it in quotes or not.

            Report comment

          • oldhead, I definitely hear (and mostly agree with) your argument, although I did (facetiously) draw that comparison in this blog: http://www.madinamerica.com/2015/01/cant-breathe/

            I do think there’s value, however, in seeing how the environment does push people into such dysfunctional roles sometimes, though… The important distinction being that it is the set-up of the environment (rather than the set-up of our brains) that pushes us there, in spite of the fact that we then sometimes get illness labels as a result.

            -Sera

            Report comment

          • oldhead,

            If you cannot see the problem of the mind, and behavior, maybe it is because you’re blinded by the term mental illness. It’s clear as day:

            ” …when one of the officers said, “We don’t have time for this” and fired his gun. ”

            Something is wrong with police officers, oldhead. Too many of them go into some form of combat mindedness and combat behavior. They’re police officers, not soldiers.

            I say it is its own form of mental illness but it isn’t a brain disease or chemical imbalance. Their behavior is disturbing, their mentality is disturbing.

            People are being mindlessly, ruthlessly killed.

            They’re murderers.

            It is its own form of mental illness and if that bothers you, I suppose I’m very glad that it does.

            Report comment

          • People are being mindlessly, ruthlessly killed.
            They’re murderers. It is its own form of mental illness

            So murder is a form of “mental illness”? So murderers should be “treated” rather than held responsible for criminal behavior?

            Report comment

          • Murder, blamed on “mental illness?”

            What about *arson* ?

            Just askin’…
            Because there’s a bunch of arson taking place in Baltimore, without much thought about the *death* fires can cause! And the people who are doing the torching don’t seem to give a crap about the firefighters who are risking their lives putting them out, those who might be inside the structures!

            Oh, that’s right, no “mental illness” excuse needed… There are other ones at hand that make it okay to torch a church, a senior center!

            Duane

            Report comment

        • 9, I do agree with oldhead that it’s not the best trend to start referring to this as ‘mental illness,’ but I also get your point and I do think the underlying phenomenon is a critical part of the puzzle. In the blog I referenced to oldhead below (http://www.madinamerica.com/2015/01/cant-breathe/) I talked about the Stanford Prison experiment (where they divided students into prisoners and prison guards, but had to shut it down early because people [on both sides] got too into their role) and I really wish what happened there was better understood – or more in people’s consciousness today – as it seems absolutely key to me… Not the whole answer, but a substantial part of it.

          -Sera

          Report comment

    • Don’t think this is justice, it is merely the assimilation of justice meant to appease the people in the streets, as the powers-that-be are currently having the crap scared out of them by the growing unity between oppressed populations across the nation.

      I’m not, of course, saying that murderous cops shouldn’t be prosecuted, or that the D.A. isn’t being pretty courageous; still I’m sure she had to ask permission from, someonebefore bringing the charges.

      Report comment

  4. Sera, Another great article! I really like your perspectves. I see this as a huge multilevel problem. I think there are layers of oppression and that even the police are caught in the terrible web that so many are victimized by. In the past police were not automatically called for help with those with altered mental states. Many families had a high tolerance for d difference and stayed away from services. Now the police are called for anything.
    I think we are all traumatized in someway shape and form and it gets replayed over and over and over ad nausuam.
    Since 1968 things have only gotten worse in so many ways. If you have been lucky, if you find the right people to know, if you have some family money things are not bad. But for those of us who have fallen into the system our lives like so many urban folks have been destroyed and it is so hard to get back or get into the idea of American life.
    I know young people in urban areas who had nothing to look forward to in life. They all thought they would be dead by 25. Not right, not just, and certainly not fair.
    I am hoping this death will be a clarion call for the American people to see how much things need to change. Let’s hope we can all of us that the powers that be don’t want to see will be heard seen and listened to!

    Report comment

    • CatNight,

      Although it’s tricky to say, I would tend to agree with you about police being caught up in the same web… I’ve said similar things about people in provider roles in the mental health system, as well. It’s rare (in my opinion) that each of these people starts out as (or even ends up as) some sort of evil or poorly intended person, but the role they take on is caught in a system that is not just broken but never set up right (or with what I would consider to be the right intent, anyway) in the first place.

      It’s tough to survive unscathed on both sides. However, what ‘unscathed’ or traumatized means for those on the police/provider end has very different implications than what that means for those who are so oppressed, and I don’t want to lost sight of that, either.

      -Sera

      Report comment

  5. Sera – Please take into account that I owe a read to your earlier piece on Michael Brown, and my age doesn’t permit me to claim to have done anything but homework during the civil rights era. So, anyway, what Cat Night offers up, is very palatable and welcome to me as the relevant enhancement of the dialogue you opened the space for. My feeling about the struggle is that we have to notice lots of details if we build comparisons for injustice from psychiatric to the more widely social–I know you’d see what I mean, since it’s not disagreement in principle or with any of your illustrations of the purpose itself. My thought is just for how to advance any given conversation along those lines. We have to say, you know how you can’t trust that anyone has ever had anyone learn what they’re distressed about…? and then they…? And then we have to bridge the gap to the race issue or other obvious social injustice problem and do the same thing in terms of it. So the recognizable comparisons lead in the one sense to very general commonalities of cults of authorities for this or that, equally appalling disfranchisement of various groups, the rampant colonization and welfare-ish co-optation efforts churned out by the establishment, the opportunistic drivel of pundits, yadayada. Just endless bad faith rescue missions fully in step with the abandonment of the virtually forever insecure “targets”. It’s all ugly, but we have each other, most cops included, interested in realizing the better possibilities. Thomas Szasz once really bravely wrapped up some awful social analysis related to his profession, by saying in his own way, “We need to make the changes to our institutions that allow for new conversation about what the good life means.” Thank you for your carefully stated reflections, yet another time.

    Report comment

    • Thanks travailler-vous, for reading and commenting as always. Yes, this is a complex and multi-layered issue, and the connections I drew are broad and worth further exploration. In general, I’ve been fascinated with all the different ‘movements’ out there and how they mirror one another, and have wanted for some time to do a project drawing all of that out… but I haven’t gotten there obviously. I just hope that sort of conversation continues to build.

      -Sera

      Report comment

  6. Who defines anything ? Who defines hypocrite ? Who draws the line ?

    Did the fundamentalist muslims that carried out the 9/11 attack have a legitimate gripe… and so what they did was ok ? Was it ok… as long as you weren’t in the tower when it happened ? As long as a family member, or someone you knew wasn’t killed ?

    Should you be mad at the terrorist/freedom fighter ? Or the government ? Both ?

    Maybe it’s ok to say you understand why the riots happened, but it’s not ok to offer any kind of excuse for them in my opinion. There is no excuse, it’s just stupid, and if you’re cheering them on or think they’re achieving anything other than worse conditions longer term you are also stupid.

    Report comment

    • Why barrab, I think you just called me stupid! Or at least, that feels like the intent of your post…

      That’s quite a leap there… destruction of property in riots to destroying *people* in the 9/11 attacks. They feel very different to me for a vast number of reasons, the most prominent one already stated.

      I realize there’s a great deal of complexity in these issues, and as I was clear to say above, I’m not ‘pro-riot,’ as in I’m not exactly cheering rioters on and thinking they are doing great and well thought out things that will necessarily have the impact they seek. And yet, on the other hand, there is something important about going beyond the usual peaceful protests, demonstrating outrage, and an unwillingness to protest only within the bounds of the same law that is killing you that is important, too.

      If I could wish for one thing right now, it would be that people were more widely willing to look at all the complexities. (Well, okay, I’d wish for other things first, but this wish seems a little more attainable without magic, anyway.) There’s such a vast world of important points between cheering on rioters and flatly denouncing what they are doing. Such a world between saying riots are the best way and that they’re ‘stupid.’

      It’s also important to note – critical, really – how quick people are to denounce those involved in the riots … how quick they are to become disgusted with those who have contained outrage for so long until it exploded… while not having much to say at all about why they are outraged (and I don’t just mean what happened to Freddie Gray)… Why does the riot piece bring up such immediate and strong emotion in so many people, while the more pervasive, institutional violence fail to get much of a reaction at all from such a wide number? Why are people so quick to look for reason to justify the institutional violence (was he a criminal, did he have a record, did he resist his arrest at all?) but so reluctant to do the same on the other side?

      That is an important part of this puzzle.

      -Sera

      Report comment

      • That’s quite a leap there… destruction of property in riots to destroying *people* in the 9/11 attacks.

        Whether it’s lives being destroyed or property it’s the same concept. Taking out frustrations on innocent people is stupid.

        When people wonder why there isn’t a pharmacy in the neighborhood anymore for example, what will people say ? “oh yeah because we trashed the one that was there… why did we do that again ? Oh yeah uhm because we had a problem with the police… so we trashed the pharmacy”

        And yet, on the other hand, there is something important about going beyond the usual peaceful protests, demonstrating outrage, and an unwillingness to protest only within the bounds of the same law that is killing you that is important, too.

        I don’t think you are stupid, but I don’t think you are being honest. I ask myself, would this person take a bag of cash to provocateur and race bait ?

        Report comment

        • Did you come to your conclusions after spending a great deal of time reflecting on the most effective ways to fight racist police violence, or is this just an opportunity to trash people who have been backed up against the wall for years with no way to express their frustration?

          Report comment

        • I don’t think it’s accurate, or appropriate, to call it “race baiting” when people talk about racism and violence against people of color. Used in that way, the term is an attempt to deny the reality of racism and shut down conversations about it.

          Similarly, expressions of outrage about property destruction/riots often amount to denials of the legitimate reasons the unrest is occurring, or they mask the sentiment that inanimate objects somehow matter more than the lives of black people. http://phillynow.com/2015/04/28/why-your-friends-criticizing-the-baltimore-riots-are-either-ignorant-or-racist/

          These are all expressions of racism, conscious or otherwise. I want to be clear that racist views are not welcome on this site — they contribute to the harm and oppression of people, and that’s the opposite of what we’re about.

          My request for everyone taking part in these difficult but important conversations: if the issues of racism or racist police violence don’t impact you personally, if they’re invisible to you (much as psychiatric violence is often invisible to people who haven’t experienced it), I ask that you make an effort not to disrespect or minimize the struggle of people whose lives are impacted, every day, sometimes in deadly ways.

          Report comment

  7. Sera, I so much love to read your blogs, even the very “hard” ones, as this one is. In the sense that you raise a question which involves all of us, more or less of course. Iagree, most of what happens is part of a larger societal context and has to be seen like that. Right now I wish English would have been my first language since sometimes it is tricky to express things in another language. Issues about power, status, taking a personal stance and to make some essential decisions is crucial.
    Anyway, thank you and I so much hope to see you not too long in future and to keep in touch.

    Report comment

    • Hi Carina,

      I’m envious that you hold multiple languages when I’ve got just the one, but can definitely appreciate that a conversation like this gets tougher when the language you’re speaking in is not your first. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, though, and I hope our paths cross again soon, too! 🙂

      -Sera

      Report comment

  8. Sera

    This is one of your best and most important blogs at MIA. You have led the way at MIA in addressing these vitally necessary and controversial topics. Your analysis of the links between the struggles against racial oppression and psychiatric abuse are spot on, and point to a future where it will be important and necessary to link up these struggles for broader revolutionary change throughout society.

    As usual Oldhead has made some insightful and uncompromising political critiques of this situation.

    Sera, your response to Barrab and others who might want to trash this struggle because of some of the destruction of property was good.

    I still quibble and strongly disagree with any use of the term “riots” to describe these rebellious actions. These are rebellions of the oppressed, plain and simple, and must be defended as that.

    In any historical uprising of the oppressed there are always a minority of specific acts that are misdirected toward the wrong targets or are out of character with the overall goals of the struggle. This will inevitably happen no matter how organized and disciplined these activities may be. The anger and outrage of the broad masses cannot always be contained nor will everyone adhere to the same strategy. These kind of mistakes should NOT therefore change how we characterize these historical moments or somehow diminish their significance.

    If someone promotes indiscriminate violence as a strategic goal in a particular struggle, of course they should be criticized and even condemned if they want to advocate this kind of leadership. But in this struggle in Baltimore there is no evidence that this is the case. It is most likely the anger and outrage of few people not thinking in a strategic way about how to build a broader struggle.

    Suppose people in those communities in Baltimore took over a certain section of the city and refused to allow any police to have access. This would have been a form of civil disobedience by definition (breaking the law). Because laws are being violated is this somehow transformed into a “riot” instead of being characterized primarily as a rebellion of the oppressed masses?

    And now suppose in that same area seized (for a short period before the Nat’l guard came in to take it back, or Marshall Law was declared and enforced by the military) the masses targeted a police station (and ONLY a police station) as both a symbol and an instrument of oppression in their community, and then they burned it to the ground – how then would people react to those who want to condemn any or all forms of violence, and at the same time declare all rebellious youth as “rioters” and “thugs?” Are some people here willing to admit how their inner most feelings would have reacted to those particular set of hypothesized events?

    In another different (but related) situation for the oppressed – suppose the inmates in a locked psychiatric ward, where forced drugging was an everyday occurrence, rebelled and seized control of the entire facility – and suppose they had a set of righteous demands calling for the end of multiple forms of psychiatric abuse – and suppose in the course of this struggle some property in the hospital was destroyed by a few people or even some hospital staff member got bruised up by one inmate who lost control of his/her emotions – how then would we characterize this uprising? Would it suddenly become a “riot” due to the inclusion of some forms violence by a minority of the participants?

    I know where I stand on these historical uprisings, both those that have happened in the real world and those that are hypothesized as imaginary possibilities for our future. These struggles bring me great joy and I refuse to stand on the side lines and criticize them because they were not perfect, as if any significant historical form of struggle ever was or ever will be perfect.

    Richard

    Report comment

  9. Hi Sera,

    another piece that has me thinking about the issue of when violence is justified. I wonder about the line bolded.

    “Violence is invisible when it’s carried out by the hands of those in (or on the side of) power.”

    Is this true of the people who have the power when rioting? Are the results of their rioting invisible to them too? Because that is what the police are trying to take back, and the media are trying to convince ‘us’ that we have no power at all. Simply not the case for me, I chose not to exercise my power in this manner. The angry man can again be happy, but the dead can not be brought back to life’ (paraphrasing Sun Tzu)

    I think it was Wole Soyinka who spoke of “silent violence”, the type of institutional violence done by the State. Are there not times when so resistance is required? Just a reminder that power is not the sole property of the elites?

    Thanks for some great articles pointing out the connections with other oppressed groups.

    Regards
    Boans

    Report comment

    • Boans,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. I guess one point I’d offer is that when I speak about ‘power’ I’m not speaking so much about power in the moment, but systemic power.

      I still don’t see the people involved in these protests as the ones ‘in power’ systemically, even if they’re making those who are in power nervous about losing control. It’s like the term ‘reverse racism,’ which I’ve always found to be pretty silly and misguided.

      Any one person can prejudge another or treat them badly for superficial reasons. Any one person can have misconceptions of another based on how they look. But racism is a societal construct, and it’s about the fact that one whole race holds most of the power and wealth in the society at the expense of another and constructs society around that fact.

      So, there’s all sorts of ways to use the word power… I believe each person has personal power – often more than they realize – and choices to make about how to use that and have their voice heard. But I don’t think the personal power can shift where societal power sits so easily…

      -Sera

      Report comment

      • Sera – So the language convention for that distinction, that I’ve seen in analytical texts is Power, as opposed to power. Taking Boans’s message in that way, although it’s not intended, is really interesting, because it still adds up but shows a definite shift in its implications. The cops have the Power with them most ways in executing their reponsibilities, but the risk facing them involves their individual powers and their power in unity versus ours. That’s the stalemate to defuse by deconcretizing the oversimplistic perceptions. (Who was it who wrote on MIA about the cops or sheriffs hearing her out about protecting the violent distressed person? Think of the Power versus power dialectic as it operated on so many levels there, apparent enough to her for the complexity and the potential benefits of understanding it to take your breath away.) How different cops and groups of cops answer to Power, or how they neglect their responsibility to us in order to manipulate their ties to Power is something you can know not about without deciding lots more than which names to use for something. For social happenings, likewise, once you have them picked out and considered as basic subjects of investigation, the semantic considerations still needed to get clear about what you are examining reach to fantastic depths. The mainstream liberal press will play this semantics out helpfully to some degree, but not so much all told. But that is not their strong suit, anyway. If you had some particular sources to look to I think you should share them, or come back to follow-ups for us here. (One obvious alternative site is truthout. org, and that MIA person–who led me to keep up with those journalistic efforts somewhat, I actually know the name of: the leading proponent of ECT and strategic partner, if you will, with Robert Whitaker in keeping MIA important, David Healy. He cites truthout. org whenever he gets the chance, or I should say he use to often enough for me to have seen that this was a favorite website of his.) So what else seems right to you beyond truthout in non-academic journals, Sera–for the language and symbolism issues or the political ones? That would be good to know for keeping up with you.

        I think as far as the political angles, we can all usually guess better which types of source suits the purpose that interests us. Of course, reading varieties of viewpoints is important, all the time. However, my concern is just with the Freddie Gray issue particular to your thread and how it relates to your ongoing reaction to systemic oppression.

        Report comment

      • Another way to frame the difference is power vs authority: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0Rj4mMMSYI

        What’s the difference between power and authority? The workers who perform the labor have power; the bosses who tell them what to do have authority. The tenants who maintain the building have power; the landlord whose name is on the deed has authority. A river has power; a permit to build a dam grants authority.
        There’s nothing oppressive about power per se. Many kinds of power can be liberating: the power to care for those you love, to defend yourself and resolve disputes, to perform acupuncture and steer a sailboat and swing on a trapeze. There are ways to develop your capabilities that increase others’ freedom as well. Every person who acts to achieve her full potential offers a gift to all.
        Authority over others, on the other hand, usurps their power. And what you take from them, others will take from you. Authority is always derived from above.
        In this society, power and authority are so interlinked that we can barely distinguish them: we can only obtain power in return for obedience. And yet without freedom, power is worthless.

        Report comment

        • Yes, this is great!! Watched the vid and I love what you extracted. We can only be authority over ourselves, then the power is balanced. Each of us is responsible for our own existence. We all have the power to discover or re-discover our freedom, and not give others authority over us. That will be truly revolutionary, to become free of dependence from anyone.

          As psychiatric survivors, we tell our own stories, and that is what defines our self-authority and personal power.

          Report comment

        • Excellent Emmeline,

          exercise the power and then manufacture the authority to justify it was the way our Chief Psychiatrist managed to conceal the assault I was subjected to.

          Assault the patient, and then claim authority under the Act. When asked where this authority is designated in the Act, ignore the question.

          It’s a critical distinction.

          Report comment

        • Thanks for this distinction, Emmeline. It’s definitely a valuable reframe. Although I’m not entirely prepared to give up the use of the word ‘power’ in reference to ‘power imbalances’ and all, what you’ve offered is likely something I’ll integrate in some way! 🙂 Sera

          Report comment

        • Yes, agreed, and a little bit further. You more appropriately deal with semantics like you are saying than I was in my tinkerings with Boans’s straightforwardly apt remarks. You definitely have aroused my interest for the youtube link, too. Between reading Cat Night’s spontaneous take on the bad news as the living image for a time of need (my feel for her expressions) and finding my heart open, Boans speaking like the voice of practical reason, and you drawing most all of the represented trains of thought together in close proximity to Sera’s stated purposes, I could experience compassion and serenity and feel content before yesterday ended. I couldn’t contrive another thought but that was fine. Since I’ve relied on growing up in Ferguson and my many stays in Baltimore for getting the sense of the little that happened to come my way over the transom about these uprisings and conflagrations, so far, now looking intentionally at Reason, Slate, Mother Jones, National Review, and so on should pay off in catching me up. You handled the ins and outs of the language conception really well.

          Report comment

  10. I think its funny when the government says please protest our violence peacefully.

    The problem is “zero tolerance”, policing for revenue, the war on people who like doing drugs and basically turning America into a police state.

    I watching the news and now they are turning the problem of abusive government into a racial black and white and a rich and poor problem …

    Divide and Conquer:

    When faced on the battlefield with a numerically superior enemy, one must to divide his enemy into smaller, more easily dispatched opponents – or even more ideally, divide them against one another, and have them defeat each other.

    It’s the most effective way for tyrants to rule over large groups of people who, should they ever learn to cooperate, would easily throw off such tyranny.

    And that ‘riot’ looked phony to me anyway. They park older police vehicles and leave them unattended in the path of the marchers on purpose so they get smashed for the TV cameras and all I saw on the news was every channel showing that little trash fire they made in that one intersection.

    This whole thing is turning stupid and I am kind of getting sick of it.

    It is kind of funny watching them try to figure out how to make a kinder softer police state.

    Report comment

  11. I am watching the rally at the Baltimore city hall on CNN. This one teen was complaining there are no recreation programs. No this and no that and we need we need…

    Why don’t people in inner cities just move ? In America we do still have the right to travel.

    No one is really forced to live anywhere. Everyone in Baltimore could just pack up and leave and move to ‘greener pastures’ if their current location has all kinds of problems.

    I know someone is going to come at me calling this an ignorant comment but no its not. If you community really sucks make a plan then pack up your family and move.

    Report comment

      • Have you ever lived off grid? It ain’t cheap. Where does the water come from-will you have the money to drill a well or develop a spring if you are so lucky to have on on ‘your’ land? The above link to the ‘cheap land’ most assuredly does not.

        Where will your food come from? Have you ever developed a working garden before? What is the climate like where this ‘cheap’ land exists? What crops can be grown there-can they be grown year round? Where will the amendments come from? Animals require fencing-are you strong enough for the labor involved or do you have the capital to pay for the infrastructure needed?

        Where is your nearest town-you are going to need gasoline, groceries, a modicum of health care…vehicles are expensive to buy and maintain…a crappy vehicle that breaks down is of no use to you ‘off the grid’…

        I have lived that lifestyle. It was a pleasure, but damn hard work…and very expensive. And not many people out in the woods want to live in complete solitude without access to some sort of society.

        All of that blathering about living ‘off the grid’ isn’t based on any realistic alternative, and sounds like an excuse not to fix the inequities that exist in Baltimore’s communities (or any other urban blighted under-served infrastructure collapsing city).

        Something systemically is deeply wrong and moving to the woods isn’t going to change it.

        It takes bucks to move. Most folks are living paycheck to paycheck. Not at all that simple.

        Report comment

        • “There is no come back to caves. We are too many.”
          Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

          It’s nice but there are billions of people on the planet and we are not shrinking the population. Cities are a necessity.

          Report comment

    • Copy_cat, I suspect some people could reasonably move who don’t take the initiative to do so for whatever reason… But, on the other hand, it’s not so easy. Moving itself can be fairly costly. Most apartments require at least 2 x the rent (first and last) and often 3 (security). It’s not necessarily easy to find a new job in the new spot while still working in the old. Some people are taking care of family members or have extended family members who are helping with their kids, and so breaking apart a family unit can be daunting. Some people have subsidized housing vouchers that aren’t mobile. It can be really hard to find places that qualify for mobile vouchers. Some people aren’t at all equipped to move somewhere that doesn’t have a public transit system that will adequately serve to get them to and from work, etc. Some people could only afford to move somewhere equally as awful… Some people have pride in their home community and feel they should be a part of improving it rather than running from it. Some people are afraid to take the jump. So, maybe yes in some situations, but often it’s not so easy.

      -Sera

      Report comment

  12. There’s a lot I disagree with in this blog. But my main problem is that I really don’t believe this topic belongs in Mad In America. I read this site because I’m interested in mental illness, research on mental illness, criticisms of psychiatry (of which I have plenty), drug misuse, drug company fraud, things like that. I’m not interested in reading about the problems in Baltimore, police misconduct, or riots, not on this site anyway. Some people may see a connection between a man who may have been so mistreated by police that he died and individuals diagnosed as schizophrenic who are trying to survive incompetent or even corrupt psychiatrists. I don’t. I think if Mad In America wants to make an impact it should narrow its focus. That focus is broad enough without branching out to include the supposed oppression of rioters who loot and burn their own community.

    Report comment

    • That is all good but then you simply don’t have to read this post. I think the title makes it pretty clear regarding the topic – if you don’t find it relevant, why not just skip it?

      I and as one can see from the comment section many other people do find it relevant in terms of systemic oppression.

      Report comment

      • Systemic oppression could include throwing journalists in jail in China, forbidding women to drive in Saudi Arabia, beating a man because he is gay, and so on. Systemic oppression is too broad a topic. True, I could have skipped the article. The next time something like this is posted, I will. But I still think there’s more of a chance for MIA to make a social, medical and political impact if it stays focused.

        Report comment

    • Marie,

      I wonder why you read the blog then? I think the connections between the two topics are critical, and as you can see from the comment section, so do many others. I actually think it’s problematic that the connections aren’t drawn *more* on Mad in America. There are any number of blogs, new stories and personal stories each week to choose from. I certainly don’t read them all. But I’m glad there is a choice.

      -Sera

      Report comment

      • Maybe some people are trying to change the world. I’m not, I don’t think it’s possible. It’s going to be hard enough to change psychiatric practices, drug company fraud, and government compliance with this misconduct. If you try to change other kinds of oppression, you dilute resources and muddy your message. I can only repeat what I have said before, if MIA wants to be effective it should stay more focused

        Report comment

        • I think addressing systemic violence and the system as such is a prerequisite for doing anything against psychiatry, which is just one cog in the machine. How do you think you’re going to achieve change in a system which protects the rich corporations (that includes pharma) above all other things and seeks ways to suppress dissent in the most disenfranchised masses (psychiatric oppression is a good way to do that), while making people stay passive by creating a twisted version of “personal responsibility” narrative (for which “your broken brain is at fault not your circumstances” story is a vital part)? Do you think that your activism is going to achieve anything in a system that can kill people with impunity, spy on everyone, break their own laws, legalize corruption etc.?

          Report comment

          • I think if you try to change everything you will change nothing. Maybe you’re thinking revolution? I hope not. From what I’ve observed throughout history most revolutions turn out badly, with one corrupt power group supplanted by another that is different but just as bad. I think we have to accept a lot of unpleasant realities and hope to make some changes within a very imperfect system.

            Report comment

          • I don’t want a violent revolution for the exact reason that you state but I’m afraid that if we do not improve the situation dramatically it may happen. At some point people can’t take it anymore and it’s not getting better – it’s getting worse. I wish the elites were a bit smarter to realize it’s not good for them either.

            Report comment

  13. Sera,

    I find all of this distressing. My first thought when I heard of the young man who died of a broken spine was overwhelming sadness, followed closely by outrage with the thought that the fatal injury was at the hands of police. These feelings remain.

    However, I’m deeply troubled that nothing seems to have been learned by Ferguson, where an innocent police officer protected his own life, and was left to be pick up the piece of his life after being no-billed by a grand jury, and exonerated after a full federal investigation.

    This case has all the appearance of negligent manslaughter or possibly homicide, but we don’t know the facts yet.

    The young man is dead. It’s tragic. But equally tragic would be to hang the officers out to dry without a fair trial. They deserve their day in court. We don’t know the facts. There may have been one officer of the six who put everything on the line to stop the other five, but was outnumbered. He/she would deserve a voice, whether one of the black officers or one who is white.

    Duane

    Report comment

    • You asked what is violence?

      Burning a Koran, a bible, or a flag is free speech. Burning a building is violence.

      The first is disgusting, but protected. The latter endangers innocent life, and is a felony.

      First protectors were injured in all of this – both police officers and firefighters. Cement blocks were thrown, hospitalizing some of these folks.

      Our youngest son is beginning to look into joining a local fire department, so this hits close to home.

      Richard, if you truly believe a so-called “protester” has a right to torch a structure… I say “your home first.” When it comes to entering the flaming house to make sure nobody is in the structure…. He is the kid who would run to make sure you were out.

      No further comment.

      Duane

      Report comment

      • Lastly, the “power” in this case was held by six police officers – three black, three white (one female).

        The “authority” is held by a black police chief, mayor, state prosecutor, U.S. Atrorney General and president.

        This may be about youth who justifiably feel disenfranchised, but it is not about whites having all the power or authority.

        Sadly, the trillions of dollars spent on welfare programs have led to a breakdown of the family. To qualify, men started leaving the home. Where are the dads?

        Kids need good dads.

        Duane

        Report comment

        • You may want to read this – from a former Baltimore police journalist and later the creator of “the Wire”:

          https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/04/29/david-simon-on-baltimore-s-anguish

          and this:

          http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/08/david-simon-capitalism-marx-two-americas-wire

          It is hardly too much welfare that’s causing the problems. Problems are systemic and one or two black people in authority won’t change anything because they have to function in a framework of a dysfunctional system.

          Much like one or two good psychiatrists can’t do much working within a broken psychiatric system. At some point it’s not about individual being good or bad – it’s about the machine.

          Btw, if you’ve not watched the Wire I highly recommend – it’s a perfect example of systemic dysfunction on a real life example (but the mechanisms are hardly limited to Baltimore). It’s also good entertainment if you manage to forget it’s so close to reality.

          Report comment

        • “Where are the dads?”

          In prison or dead because of the “war on drugs” and “broken windows” policy? Or never at home because they’re working 3 jobs trying to support them?

          Report comment

          • He wants to look for money where there is none. If you want to help the budget and save money maybe one should cut the defence budget and tax the rich. When 80 guys have more money than 50% of us clearly we are not the problem:

            http://article.wn.com/view/2015/01/20/Eighty_billionaires_have_more_wealth_than_50_people_of_world/

            Welfare actually boosts economy by redistributing the money to people who spend it rather than hoard it thus creating more demand for production. I happen to have lived in a few countries which in US are regarded “socialist” and I can tell you that I’d not exchange that for the “trickle down” economics (the name itself makes you wonder what is that thing that “trickles” down on you).

            Making claims about cutting welfare to make people pull themselves by tehir bootstraps is actually a different way of saying “poor people are lazy”. I did live of unemployment money for several months and if I didn’t have that I’d be dead now or locked up in a psych ward with a brain damage. Welfare saved my life and yes, I am employed now.

            Report comment

          • Btw, the idea that people don’t want to work because of poverty trap is perverse. If working makes you get less money than the benefits that just keep you from starving to death then there is something wrong with the wages. In fact the biggest “welfare queens” are corporations because because of welfare to working people (food stamps) they don’t have to pay tehir workers a living wage. What they want is to have a class which is economically below slaves because if you own slaves you have to at least feed them yourself and not ask the taxpayer to do that. The otehr thing is that there are people who are looking for jobs and can’t find them because they have Chinese and Vietnamise people working in XIXth century conditions, slave labour etc. which is cheaper than even the cheapest US worker. When corporations have to pay almost no taxes to get their products from abroad or to bring in the profits then there’s zero incentive for them to invest in national industry. With the advent of TPP and TTIP it’s likely to get even worse.

            I wish people stopped blaming the poor , who have no political power, for their situation and looked at those who really create the problem. It’s like in this “joke”: 3 men – the rich, the middle class and the poor sit at a table on which there are 10 pieces of a pie. The rich guy takes 9 pieces and turns to the middle class guy – “watch out, the poor is after your cake”. There is another name for it and it’s called class warfare.

            Report comment

          • B,

            I’ve said numerous times on this site that I think a safety net is needed to have a civil and compassionate society.

            What I’m trying to say is that there must be more creative ways to help temporarily help support people in the middle cities (and other areas as well) in ways that money is not wasted.

            The article from Forbes points out that a trillion dollars per year is spent on welfare in the US. Very little of that money is getting to the people who need it. Federal programs are ridden with waste, fraud and abuse. They are also ridden with federal bureaucrats who make much higher earnings than the private sector; complete with opting out of Social Security; pensions than can easily reach a million dollars per employee.

            The other problem is that the ‘War on Poverty’ has been a failure, because it created a *system* that encourages the family to dissolve in order to receive benefits. It created a generational condition of young children giving birth to young children.

            Building families between a married couple became the task of a single mother. Young males are the ones who are harmed the most by this. Raised without a male role model. Again, this is not the fault of these young men. They are caught in a *system* that is broken.

            IMO, welfare programs should be block-granted to the States, where innovative ideas can be put in place. Where there is less bureaucracy. Gaining the education/training needed to compete in the labor market would go a long way to help, as would making welfare benefits temporary, not lifelong.

            In psychiatry, NAMI mothers are their sons are victims; they need lifelong support with drugs… They cannot make it without drugs. In the inner city, the federal government sends a similar message.

            This is not about telling people to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” It’s mot about abolishing any/all support systems (public and private). It’s about admitting we have failed and looking for ways to address these issues. NEW ways!

            In the 1960’s the chant was “We shall overcome.” Where is that chant today? The social programs put in place to help have made things worse. In psychiatry, when the drug fails, the dose is raised. We do not need more of the same in the inner city!

            Lastly, neither of us have the space to debate economic theories. But I would like to say that a strong economy needs many different kinds of people with many different skills, talents. One of these is wealth creators.

            Economies are not pies to be divided. They are pie shops to be created. Economies grow, not only because of production and distribution; but because of risk taking, entrepeneurship, dreams of people who have ideas on how to make a better product, a better service… making the world a better place.

            And there needs to be *plenty* of space for people in the inner city to take part in all of this. Unfortunately, the one-size fits all, dehumanizing welfare system is not the place to find these things. Short term relief, sure. A way of life, no.

            Duane

            Report comment

    • Duane, I agree that everyone deserves their day in court, but that won’t answer to the broader issue of a system that is still very designed around white people, regardless of a black president, and so on. There’s so much evidence pointing in that direction, I don’t know how it could be ignored… from the make up of those who are imprisoned to the way court cases tend to go with white vs. black defendants… to the frequency by which people of color are diagnosed as ‘schizophrenic,’ as compared to people who are white… and so on.

      That Derron Wilson was exonerated seems questionable to many. That Daniel Pantaleo was not charged for Eric Garner’s death is even more so. That the police tend to come out on top in these cases pretty clearly does not always seem to be related to them actually being in the right… that’ seems particularly true in situations that involve people of color or people with psychiatric labels (have you seen Alien Boy?)….

      This also isn’t about the racial make up of the particular police officers involved in this situation… Racism is a societal construct that everyone ultimately gets caught up in….

      For me – as I indicated in the blog itself – this isn’t about being pro *any* violence… it’s not about arguing that burning down a building represents no violence… It’s about questioning why that’s the only thing being called violent, when police (and so many other) actions are deemed defensible even when caught on film doing terrible things… And about the conditions that people are living in (that are also based in violence and neglect unnamed) that lead them down these paths… honestly, the first commenter – for me – said it best when sharing an MLK quote:

      “It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. ” MLK

      Report comment

      • Sera,

        It seems to me, from what I’ve seen read, that there are many things at play here:

        1) Some real grief from what took place with this specific incident, which is understandable

        2) An angry community, especially enraged, disenfranchised youth

        3) Generational poverty

        4) A call for justice in this specific case

        5) A call for equal treatment, dignity

        I get all of that.
        But I also have a different view on part of what caused some of this, and about what it will take to make things better. It is a different view than yours and the vast majority of MIA readers. That’s okay.

        Duane

        Report comment

        • Also, I don’t think the *arson* can be ignored, covered up, made squeaky-clean. There have been 159 buildings torched to date. Each of these structures requires the fire department to respond – to assume there might be people inside these buildings – to risk their lives to put it out.

          Interesting, some of the charges against the officers are “negligent manslaughter”…. while the rioters express their pre-trial rage by committing arson…. a felony, a negligent act, an often *deadly* crime.

          IMO, there can be no honest dialogue without mention of *arson*! A senior center and church were burned to the ground already… How many more are in stock?

          Duane

          Report comment

    • Hi Duane,
      Are you surprised that there was no *police crisis* transpiring during the events that began with the arrest of Freddie Gray and ended with the police call for emergency medical care? Did you note the matter of fact way both Freddie Gray and Donte Allen were picked up? Police had not been called into a crisis– no threat of violence anywhere around the police. Why were these two (repeat offenders) arrested and taken into custody under such superficial, contrived circumstances? The residents of this [and other] West Baltimore communities would tell you that this is partly the way their communities are *policed*– young black males with long rap sheets for mostly drug charges become police assistants– via harassment, coercion. Many also become targets of violent reprisal from those who believe they have been *outed* by this method of policing these *high crime* neighborhoods. The complaints about the way Freddie Gray was pursued and *mistreated* were coming in before the police van meandered its way to the police station. What anyone outside of West Baltimore did not already know, would still be unknown if the independent investigation into his arrest and the events that led to his death had not been initiated the day after his arrest– 6 days before he died.

      There is a video of Freddie Gray being loaded *back*into the police van in hand cuffs and leg shackles– on his stomach- prone, head first. this was done at the very first stop after his [now known to have been:illegal arrest]. Three other stops were either recorded or witnessed. Each officer is named with regard for their level of responsibility, their actual actions the requisite accountability regarding the death of Freddie Gray.

      Actually we do know the facts of this case. The independent investigation launched by the prosecutor on the day after the arrest, assured that the *facts* would be known; facts already known by the community members who made complaints- starting immediately after Freddie Gray’s arrest and Before any of the documentation could be altered. What we don’t know is whether the charges cited by State Prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby on May 1st will stand– or if convictions and punishment will reflect the facts of this case.

      The most amazing part of this story is the explanation for the immediate and thorough action taken by the State Prosecutor, 35 year old, Marilyn Mosby. She is well aware of the how *these incidents* usually play out and why it is next to impossible to hold police accountable. Note there was no gun violence either– no high adrenalin rushing moments to justify use of lethal force, and hardly a second thought about the possibility of a fatal spinal cord injury from the way Freddie Gray was loaded into the van. It is actually the casual dismissal of ALL aspects of police responsibility for law and order coupled with rather abject neglect for their prisoners safety that makes this case so outrageous– though, excepting the brutal killing of a suspect in their custody, the scenario is *police business as usual* in communities throughout this country that share the same demographic as West Baltimore. State Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby believes this is unacceptable– and her actions are exemplary of simply doing her job.

      This tragedy has deeply affected me on many levels. I lived in Baltimore and 1992-95, still have many friends there have many positive memories of the culture and the climate of the West Baltimore communities– from encounters as a nurse and resident of Baltimore. I was heartbroken and extremely angry.

      WE have the original careless police reports that contain things like “Mr. Gray suffered a medical emergency and was transported to the hospital”. When in fact “not breathing and no pulse” indicates Mr. Gray was dead on arrival to the police station– while STILL in the van where police were driving him around shackled and hand cuffed– etc.– The officer cited for *failing to assess Mr. Gray’s condition or summon medical assistance * had been informed of the complaints about both his arrest and concerns about his medical condition. Officer Alicia White (stop #3) called the suspects name– addressing the back of his head. He did not respond– SHE DID NOTHING. Forgot her CPR training? Did not check for pulse and respirations? OR summon a medic to do so. I cannot put my reactions to the *facts* into words. It sickens me to contemplate the attitudes of these officers with regard to this young man who had committed no crime, did not resist arrest or pose a threat to any of them– or anyone else. Was he not deemed valuable to those officers– even in the sense of his *assisting them to arrest dangerous criminals*?

      I am writing this comment to illustrate how difficult it is for the facts to be considered– even when ALL pertinent ones, pertaining to the guilt of all 6 officers are as well known as the evidence the public saw way ahead of the trial for the younger, surviving Boston Marathon Bomber. Guilty? YES. But that is not the same as charged to the full extent of the law– or convicted for these crimes– much less sentenced in accordance with them. Or, I should say– not the SAME for all criminals thusly exposed and dealt with by our judicial system. (BTW I oppose the death penalty).

      I believe there should be public accountability from each of these officers for what each of them did and did not do that resulted in a senseless, brutal death. I also hope there will be appropriate acknowledgement for the expediency of action taken by some leaders in public office in Baltimore to quell violence that they understood the roots of– meaning those are the only FACTS that have not been made public– yet.

      ~Katie

      Report comment

      • Katie,

        This will now move from the “court of public opinion” into the justice system, where hopefully, the state prosecutor will be able to present her case on the part of Maryland, and each of the six charged will be given adequate defense.

        The state prosecutor has an oath to uphold:

        “I do solemnly (swear) (affirm) that I will at all times demean myself fairly and honorably as an attorney and practitioner at law; that I will bear true allegiance to the State of Maryland, and support the laws and Constitution thereof, and that I will bear true allegiance to the United States, and that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution, laws and government thereof as the supreme law of the land; any law, or ordinance of this or any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

        Yes, the facts.
        If the state proves its burden, and any/all of the six are found guilty, then they need to go to prison.

        Justice.

        Duane

        Report comment

        • Duane,

          With regards to your statement about the “court of public opinion” , I wonder if you watched the televised statement made by State Prosecutor Mosby? She states that there was nothing the police investigation turned over the day before, that she did not already have– AND that the detailed accounting of the events that supported the charges were all a matter of public record– meaning, that these are facts continued in the combined efforts of an independent investigation team.

          The proverbial court of pubic opinion is, as I referenced, a matter of discussion and debate regarding how these facts are death with by the court. — Big difference.

          As for defense of the 6 officers charges, one can only hope they are capable of accepting responsibility.

          ~Katie

          Report comment

      • Katie,

        We are a *long* way to having a jury look at the *facts* of this case:

        “Any prosecutor interested in the truth and in justice would have used all the tools at her disposal to find them. Ms. Mosby ignored them. She has one of the most experienced homicide prosecutors in the state of Maryland as chief of her homicide unit, but did not ask him to investigate. She had the police report all of one day before filing charges, her mind already made up. And she failed to make use of the grand jury to gather, probe and test the evidence before a group of average citizens.”

        “In fact, Ms. Mosby was so hasty it appears she locked up two completely innocent officers. She charged Freddie Gray’s arresting officers with “false imprisonment” because she said the knife that Gray had on him was legal. In fact, as The Sun reported, the Police Task Force found it to be illegal after all. It was Ms. Mosby who had no probable cause to lock the arresting officers up, an injustice she could have easily avoided by taking her time….”

        More here:

        http://touch.baltimoresun.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-83464082/

        This is really getting to be too much, and I’m worn out. I’ve certainly made more than my share of comments on Sera’s piece. My apologies, if I made too many.

        Duane

        Report comment

        • Here is link to detailed statement from Prosecutor Mosby:

          https://youtu.be/w5EIjwn1g6k

          Standing alongside and behind Mosby of independent investigation team.

          You will note that she admonished police releasing if from investigation — which they had already done– giving falsified statements to Washington Post about the *witness statements* from Donte Allen, the 22 year old arrested and put in the van at the next to last stop. Jayne Miller – corrected this 🙂 BTW- Allen was released without charges.

          Police officers were arrested and released on bail– NOT locked up.

          Preliminary hearing is May 27th- . Yes, there are aspects of the process that may influence the disposition of the case.

          Police union is busy — in this case, the corruption there will be exposed.

          Lessons available here– for those interested in studying a broken system.

          Report comment

  14. I found something very interesting the other afternoon on Mad in America. It was a video of an African American woman named Dr. Joy de Gruy. She talks about something she calls Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. It was very informative and very eye opening. I watch all of what’s going on in this country and our society as a First Nations person, what white people call Native Americans. Go to Youtube and search her name and watch the one and a half hour presentation that she does. It helps to explain a lot of what is happening today.

    I also agree that there is definitely a connection between our movement and the fight for civil rights, which has never been fulfilled in this country, no matter how many Civil Rights Acts have been signed into law. Oppression is oppression, no matter who it happens to or how it’s dressed up. We all have something in common when we are oppressed.

    Report comment

  15. Sera,
    Thank you for writing from the perspective of seeking connection with this very emotionally charged, recent news story. I am not always able to delve into a media generated exposure of suffering on par with the death of Freddie Gray. It just so happens I have a strong connection to many of the people who were deeply hurt by this tragedy. If you do want to follow the story, MSNBC and WBAL in Baltimore are the most trustworthy sources. Jayne Miller is the “on-the scene-reporter” with the best track record for getting it right.

    I already knew of the young leaders in public office in Baltimore who were committed to changing the culture of oppression and brutality that is well documented as at least 2 decades of BPD history. I already knew how some BPD practices fueled distrust and fostered a sense of worthlessness amongst young black males especially in the West Baltimore communities. I shared my friends’ sense of doubt that much could be done to change these destructive forces, especially when the financial power of the police union lobby flexed its muscle just last year.(Reform legislation to the Police bill of Rights, introduced by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was shot down) What happened with respect to the criminal charges announced by the State Prosecutor , Marilyn Mosby, last Friday is a ground breaking news. This young woman demonstrates what is possible when an elected public official understands the roots of a problem and has spent some time working out possible ways of solving even those problems that *power* mongers do to want exposed. much less solved. There is a strong investment in maintaining the narrative of *danger in poor black communities*- due to the inherent nature of the black residents. Sound familiar?

    I know it is hardly a secret that psychiatry has created its own business, investing in narratives that support the need for their having power and authority to use another type of deadly force against those they alone can identify –*diagnose*. Psychiatry operates with no significant oversight- zero regulation outside of its own ranks. Regardless of instances where it might be deemed as having gone well, there is no means for rebuttal , much less protest when those harmed by psychiatry challenge the ultimate authority/power of psychiatrists. Of late, a few psychiatrists have suggested that this is a recipe for violent reprisal from — you know who. Nothing could be worse than that— I think it would invite a much worse reaction , a much more * see what we’re dealing with* attitude than those expressed in the wake of the violent destruction of property and the rock throwing that occurred recently in Baltimore. I do not doubt the commitment to peaceful protest and nonviolence from *our movement*, but I also acknowledge the historical relevance of the formulas that produce violent reactions from *the people*.

    I was sickened by the media portrayal of the *out of control protests* in Baltimore. They were rendered out of context of the background specific to this arrest and this death of a young black male in police custody–important background well known to the Mayor of Baltimore who stands her ground despite media incited criticism. AND, I am sickened by the narrative that was used as context– “the animal nature inherent in these residents of Baltimore”- which, of course conveniently supports the practices of policing these neighborhoods -; long standing practices that actually have a great deal to do with the violence that erupted. I hate the way the complexity that is in the voices of *the people* effected most by this tragedy is ignored. And I mean the people whose neighborhoods were effected by the *out of control protests*, too. . Also missing are the actual responses of those who rolled up their sleeves and stood alongside the youthful clean-up crews and initiating some astounding peace making actions- including addressing the needs of people most effected by the loss of their neighborhood CVS.

    I intend to continue to closely follow the progress underway in Baltimore– . For anyone who believes the States Attorney was applying a band aid to appease the *angry mob*, I say , “Wrong”! The application of the law and the initiation of our very own judicial system was the result of a tremendous amount of timely effort. Brilliant work accomplished by a young elected public servant, who knows that justice is the place to start. I believe this carries a message of both hope and direction for * our movement*– filled with many voices who are a chorus of pessimism resounding just as loudly as the voices of dedicated civil rights advocates I know in Baltimore– before May 1, 2015
    Best,
    Katie

    Report comment

    • Katie,

      Thank you for speaking up, especially as someone who is closer to the reality of this particular situation than most of us. I particularly appreciate your highlighting the way the news is portraying and particularly focusing in on particular parts of the protests and community responses so as to distort the true picture of what is happening.

      It is hard not to assume that the decision to prosecute the police is still somewhat in the nature of a ‘band aid’ or appeasement… many of us who are not so close to this are, right or wrong, looking at this more as representative of a national issue than for what is specifically happening there … but It’s reassuring to hear your take based on what you know and I’ll hold out some faith that it does represent something much more positive. 🙂

      -Sera

      Report comment

  16. Thank you, the amount of invisible violence has become over-whelming for many. Propaganda and scapegoating has become so common in our society that many have just accepted it as truth. Going beyond our community and reaching out to address larger problems may be necessary to achieve greater success. Among the things which would benefit all of society – and useful to police, social workers, rioters, psychiatrists, family members, teachers and students is Non-violent communications – An excerpt from the course: Respect for Authority involves three ingredients. We get respect for our authority when:
    1. We know some things or can do some things the people we are working with or living with do not have.
    2. The people see these things as valuable. They see how these things will enrich their lives.
    3. They see us as offering these things; not imposing them.
    Fear of authority is something different. It is when it is built into the structure… which gives us the right to impose things on people – reward or punish people to have people to do what we want.
    Respect for authority needs to be earned… People can see the value in what we are offering. Another difference is to know the difference between obedience and willing cooperation. Obedience is maintained when people submit because we have the power to reward or punish. Willing cooperation can only be received when people feel free from this kind of coercion and they trust that their needs as human beings are valued. When they feel that they are open to whatever authority we have that might be valuable.
    For more info on the Non-Violent Communication Training Course go to: http://www.cnvc.org.

    Report comment

    • Mhadvocate, Thanks for responding and offering this frame. I appreciate and resonate with it as a way in which we often talk about (not in those exact terms) the way we work together and support one another in the community where I spend much of my time (Recovery Learning Community). I’m very aware of Non-Violent Communication training, but admittedly have not been through it. Thanks for raising it up for consideration again. 🙂 Sera

      Report comment

  17. It is rumored that in some police forces in certain cities that when an African American person is killed the police on the radio refer to the situation as an “NHI” case. Guess what these letters stand for? They stand for “No Human Involved”. If this is true, then it’s no wonder that people of color can and will be treated as we’ve witnessed in the news for many months now. And these are the very people who are sworn to “serve and protect” us. This is not just a problem belonging to the police across our country.

    I would venture to say that the days of Jim Crow are still around, they just play themselves out in much more subtle ways now. African American men were hung from trees like bitter fruit and African American women were raped with impunity and this happened long after the days of slavery. This happened even in my own lifetime. There are photos in newspapers and magazines showing White men, women, and small children standing around these trees with the dead body hanging, and in one case people were dressed in their Sunday best as they surged forward to be included in the photo of the body of an African American man who’d been tied up and then burned to death. The flames were still burning when the photo was taken. People were smiling, even the children. People took charred pieces of his body and organs home to place on their mantles. This really wasn’t that long ago.

    I work with an African American woman in her thirties whose uncle was murdered by the three white men who he thought were his friends. All four of them went into the woods to hunt and they murdered him there and then cut off his sexual organs and threw them on his mother’s front porch. The only way that something like this can happen is if you do not see the person you’re doing such things to as a human being. This incident did not happen that long ago!

    This is not just a problem with the police but a problem with our society and most of us do not want to look at or deal with any of it. There are some posts here that say that these things have no place being discussed here on MIA. I strongly disagree because much of the same attitude that’s directed against African Americans is also directed against people labeled as “mentally ill”. In the 1930’s in Germany, before the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, German psychiatrists with the permission of the government, were sending people labeled as the “mentally ill”, the developmentally disabled, and people with dementia etc. to gas chambers and the ovens. German psychiatry created the gas chambers and the ovens. The people sent into the chambers to be murdered were referred to as “useless eaters”. German psychiatry taught the Nazis how to use the gas chambers and the ovens so that they could be used for Hitler’s “Final Solution” of the “Jewish problem”.

    Now, I know that there are people out there reading this right now who are thinking and saying, “Can’t he just let this Nazi thing rest!!!!” My point is that at the 1941 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association the doctor who gave the keynote address stated very plainly, in black and white so that his point could not be mistaken, that the same thing that was going on in Germany with the “euthanasia” of the poor “mentally ill” should also be done with the “mentally ill” right here smack dab in America! You can find this in the Library of Congress, it’s on record. And guess how many psychiatrists stood up to oppose such a view????? Two. Two psychiatrists actually spoke out against it and then only because they wondered who we’d get to pick up our garbage and trash and do menial labor if we killed these people! And then, in 1942 in the American Journal of Psychiatry (I think this was the name) there was an anonymous editorial by two people again supporting the idea of “euthanasia” for the “mentally ill”. I consider this to be very problematical, especially when I hear so many politicians these days calling for “more treatment for the poor mentally ill”. The murder of all the people in Germany labeled as “mentally ill” was listed as “problems with treatment” on the death certificates given out to the family members.

    I appreciate Sera speaking out about this here on MIA and I believe the discussion to be of vital importance.

    Report comment

      • I have a great deal in common with the African American community in the United States since I’m First Nations. We are commonly called Native Americans by White people but everyone born on this soil is a native American so we’ve chosen to call ourselves by other names and First Nations is one of those.

        During the European colonization of this continent and that of Mexico, Central America, and South America, entire tribes and communities of First Nations peoples were enslaved and worked to death, either in the gold and silver mines, or on the huge ranches established by the Spanish. And the tribes who weren’t destroyed by slavery and disease were then hunted down and murdered by the westward expansion of the United States. Entire communities of my people were slaughtered like animals in an attempt to destroy us so that the land would be free for occupation by Whites. And when they couldn’t destroy us by attempted genocide they put us on reservations and attempted to make us assimilate and dissolve into White culture. In the boarding schools run by Christian denominations and the BIA, children were beaten for speaking their native language or for wearing any of their native clothing. These students were often used as a work force by the schools. And you don’t want to know about the infamous asylums where we were kept when we finally went mad and lost our minds.

        We have a great deal in common with the African American community. In the states where there are reservations my people are treated in the same ways that African Americans have been and continue to be treated. The reservations are the poorest lands in all of the United States with the rate of disease, alcoholism, and suicide higher than for any other race or community in the country. Yes, we have a lot in common with African Americans. This kind of bigotry and racism plays out on many levels. It didn’t mysteriously disappear just because the Civil Rights Acts were signed in the 1960’s. I was born in New Mexico where, until just recently, you never saw a Hispanic or First Nations name in politics. All the names were of European origin and White people ruled, first over and Spanish speaking people and then over the First Nations peoples. We were always on the bottom rung of the ladder for Hispanic people are also classified as Caucasian, or they used to be until states wanted to track the race and ethnology of people living within their borders.

        So, I carried this legacy and history with me as I entered the “mental health” system and received “treatment”. Although the bigotry springs from another foundation there are great similarities.

        This country has yet to deal with its issues of racism and bigotry. I don’t mean to sound harsh but this is the reality as experienced by many of us to this day. First Nations people were not considered to be citizens of this country until the 1940’s. We were dealt with as Treaty Nations even though none of the 300 and some treaties that were contracted between us and the United States government have ever been fulfilled.

        Yes, I have a lot in common with the African American community and until we begin a real dialogue about racism and bigotry with all of us sitting equally at the table nothing will ever be any better.

        Again, thank you for your willingness to surface these issues in an attempt to create some dialogue about the reality of what is.

        Report comment

          • B

            IMHO, the truly important thing is for all of us in our society to find healing and we can’t do this until everyone can look at these things honestly, admit that these things still affect the relationships between races and cultures, and then decide what we can do about it all. Feeling remorse is the beginning but it has to go farther than this. The problem is that the groups that have perpetrated a lot of the bad stuff are so full of cognitive dissonance that they can’t allow themselves some forgiveness so that they can move forward once again. When a group demeans or dehumanizes another group, or groups, they destroy their own humanity in the process but they seldom realize and see this. I can never be truly free until everyone else is truly free.

            Thanks for reading and thinking about things and responding.

            Report comment

          • “When a group demeans or dehumanizes another group, or groups, they destroy their own humanity in the process but they seldom realize and see this.”

            I agree wholeheartedly with this, and would add ‘sabotage’ to the list–when we even attempt to sabotage others, we only succeed in sabotaging ourselves.

            I think you’re right that those that demean and sabotage would more than likely be in denial of this, and would merely justify or rationalize their behavior in a way that would appease their consciousness (and perhaps their enabling support), but I still think they feel it, on some level.

            These days, with all this truth coming to light, I think that those whom have made it a habit to sustain themselves by dehumanizing and sabotaging others will feel it more than ever. I count on that, because it is the only way things will change, when they feel the burn of their own flames. That would be the best deterrent I can think of.

            Report comment

LEAVE A REPLY