The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Freddie Gray’s Death:
Who is Responsible?

Jul 18, 2016

As we write this article, a fourth officer has gone before the judge.

A young man lay dead a year ago in a Baltimore hospital, one week after his confrontation with Baltimore City police officers. Freddie Gray’s neck was 80% severed from his spine. Doctors said it was equivalent to the trauma of a car crash at high speeds.

By the time Gray and the police van into which he was dragged had reached the local police station, six officers had been involved in his arrest. At no time was Gray restrained by a seat belt. At no time did any of the six officers call for medical help. Yet after a ride of half a mile to the police station, Gray lay unconscious. A week later he was dead.

The trial of the first officer accused ended in a mistrial because the jury was not unanimous on any of the charges – involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct.

The second and third officers chose to go on trial before a judge. The judge declared the state did not prove its case of criminal intent. The last three officers are also scheduled for trial this year.

How could a man who had done nothing die in police custody and yet no one has yet been held responsible for his death? Six officers were involved, all supposedly trained in methods to arrest people without killing them, yet no one is accountable, and the first three to go on trial weren’t convicted on any count so far.

It happens too often in this society, a society in which most young black men are considered criminals almost from the moment they are born, whether or not they ever commit the slightest wrong-doing. This society imprisons the largest number of humans of any country throughout the world. It is a society that condemns part of its population to a life of poverty. It condemns part of its population to a life without education, without skills or job training to make possible a better life. And it is a society that cannot provide decent-paying jobs for all who want to work, even though enormous amounts of work need to be done throughout the country.

In the end, a Baltimore lawyer long known for his civil rights efforts may have put it best. He said Freddie Gray was a victim of “walking, driving, breathing and living while black.”

And for that “crime,” Gray was condemned to die by six murderous so-called “officers of the law.”