Opinion

Freddie Gray’s spotlight for inequality

Following days of civil unrest and riots in Baltimore, the criminal charges for Freddie Gray’s death have been filed against six policemen. The death has been ruled as a homicide. It is important for us to keep up to date on what happened and how it impacts society today and tomorrow.

On April 12th 2015 at 8.45am, Freddie Gray was arrested by the Baltimore Police Department because of his possession of an illegal switchblade knife. The officers soon discovered that Gray’s spring-assisted pocket knife was legal to carry, according to state law. Gray was seen screaming while being dragged into the police van during his arrest. Bystanders described him as being in a position in which the officers were “folding” him: one officer bending Gray’s legs backward while another held him down by pressing a knee into his neck, preventing him from being able to walk.

“His leg looks broken and you all dragging him like that”

Unidentified witness, Baltimore Sun.

The van’s journey was a ‘rough ride’: Gray was a handcuffed prisoner who was placed in the van without a seatbelt. The van made four confirmed stops, suggesting that the officers had five opportunities to put a seat-belt on the victim, but didn’t. Instead, ankle shackles were placed and he was moved to the back, belly down on the floor. Baltimore’s top prosecutor Marilyn Mosby stated that Gray had requested medical assistance twice but was ignored both times. He claimed “he couldn’t breathe” but was rejected “in a grossly negligent manner” by the police officers who had stopped to arrest another victim.

Forty-five minutes later, Gray was in a near-death state, suffering from massive spinal injuries. At 9.45am, he was taken to the University of Maryland R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Centre in a coma. The medical examiner had connected the lack of restraint to the spinal injuries that killed him. Gray suffered from cardiac arrest, lapsed into a coma with his spine 80% severed at his neck, three fractured vertebrae and injuries to his voice box. He died a week later because of his spinal injury.

Freddie Gray’s death was an inexcusable tragedy and what it really highlights is that his death was not a shock on the headlines. Freddie Gray was just another example of the American justice system which nurtures inequality, shatters the ideals of the American Dream and destroys the ethos: “All men are born equal.” The violent protests in Baltimore that occurred after his death recognised the need for equality and justice. Justice for Freddie Gray. Justice for Michael Brown. Justice for Eric Garner. Justice for all that have been neglicted of human rights because of inequality.

So what can we do?

Marilyn Mosby said, “As young people, our time is now.” Let’s not allow the jury to consider the justice of Freddie Gray for months on end, as they have with Tamir Rice. Thousands of colored people have been unjustly arrested into the criminal justice system without local prosecutors charging the violent and abusive police. You might be wondering how this could affect us Kiwis, but discrimination exists in the smallest of forms everywhere. All of us need to use our voices and our power to change the inequality that exists globally and to avoid the constant abuse and violence carried out by police against colored people. Let’s raise our voices, support Mosby’s prosecution and demand larger reforms to prevent future injustices. Let’s accept the differences within each individual and see beyond their physical appearance or cultural background. The smallest actions can make the largest differences, raising awareness of the situation in America and many other places. Equality is a right, not a privilege.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

– Nelson Mandela

Written by: Ananya Grover. Edited by: Saffron Huang

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