Multiracial Organizing, After Freddie Gray | WYPR

Multiracial Organizing, After Freddie Gray

May 5, 2015

A sign at Saturday's curfew protest in Hampden. Courtesy Casey McKeel.

Sheilah talks to Lawrence Brown, an assistant professor in community health and policy at Morgan State University, about the role of race in policing--and in protesting. 

 Dr. Brown was at Pennsylvania and North Avenues Saturday night when protesters not only broke the curfew, but turned the curfew to their advantage. As the world watched, protesters wanted to show that some parts of Baltimore are policed very differently than others. So several dozen mostly white protesters broke the curfew in the mostly white neighborhood of Hampden. Activist Deray McKesson posted a video of a police officer giving the Hampden protesters their last warning not long after the 10 p.m. curfew.

 

"Do me a favor guys," the officer said. "The last thing I want to do is put someone in handcuffs, alright, and I’m actually gonna ask you right now to please leave, ‘cuz the last thing I want to do is put someone in handcuffs. 

"Cuz you know why?" the officer continued. "Because we’re the community, including myself, and I want to work with you guys.” 

Another video from about the same time is set at the corner of Pennsylvania and North Avenue in a largely black neighborhood. A black man in a t-shirt reading “F*** the Police” stands stationary in the street. 

The police spray him directly in the face, and another officer pulls him to the ground by his long hair. Three officers then drag him to the sidewalk by his arms and legs, scraping his face along the way. 

Activists seized on the two incidents to highlight what they say is a pattern: that if you’re black or live in a black neighborhood, you get different and harsher policing.

The event also highlighted the role of race in activism. One of the white protesters in Hampden held a sign that said, “Media: We are not talking...Please reach out to black-led organizing for analysis on racism and white supremacy in Baltimore.” 

We reached out to one of those organizers, Casey McKeel, hoping to hear more about their approach to multiracial organizing. After deliberating with other organizers, McKeel declined late yesterday afternoon, sending the following statement: 

 

We appreciate the offer. Because we have made a commitment to center Black voices, we continue to encourage you to reach out to BmoreUnited, their member groups and other Black led grassroots organizing. This action also provided historical evidence that isn't just about lifting the emergency curfew, but racialized differential treatment by the police of Black and white neighborhoods and Black and white people. We also encourage you to reach out to Deray McKesson who had the narrative of the protest that was used on twitter.