Terrance Heath

Right Blames Everyone But Police for Baltimore Unrest

Filed By Terrance Heath | April 30, 2015 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Baltimore, Freddie Gray, nickel rides, police brutality, police violence, racist policing

stop-victim-blaming.jpgThe right-wing response to stories of police violence and brutality against blacks, and black deaths at the hands of police, is becoming as predictable as the stories themselves. Only the names and locations seem to change.

Here we are again: another unarmed black man has died in the custody of another city police department with a long record of brutality, under highly questionable circumstances. By now its de rigueur on the right to blame the victims and spout racist rhetoric.

A couple of weeks ago it was Walter Scott, shot in the back while fleeing a traffic stop in North Carolina and denied medical help while the officer in question joked about the "adrenaline rush" he got from the killing. This week it's Freddie Gray, who emerged from a ride in a police van with serious, unexplained injuries and died a week later. As in many other recent cases, some of what happened to Gray was caught on video.

While the media ignored the thousands of peaceful protestors across the country to focus on the protests that turned violent, right-wingers were quick to blame the protestors, their parents, and even the President -- everyone but the police -- for the conditions that fueled the unrest.

  • Billionaire real estate mogul and reality star Donald Trump fired off several angry tweets blaming President Obama for the unrest in Baltimore. One read: "Our great African American President hasn't exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore."
  • Fox News host Lou Dobbs and contributor Dr. Keith Ablow also blamed President Obama for the violence in Baltimore. On his show, Dobbs claimed that "there is a war on law enforcement" that is "corroborated if not condoned by this administration."
  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson called the protests "a threat to civilization itself" and asked, "Why wouldn't someone fire a shotgun in the air and say knock it off?" Because random gunfire from the police always calms things down.
  • Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blamed the unrest in Baltimore on "the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of sort of a moral code in our society." Paul's comments came just days after his son was arrested for driving under the influence in Lexington, Kentucky. This was 22-year-old William Hilton Paul's third alcohol-related arrest.
  • Rush Limbaugh asked why Democrats are suddenly calling on parents to control their kids.
  • A Baltimore protestor shamed Fox News host Sean Hannity. "We shouldn't be moralizing people's frustration and pain. What we should be moralizing is the systemic violence that has been put on people in Baltimore," Adam J. Jackson said, before Hannity ended the interview.
  • On Fox & Friends, Dr. Phil McGraw of Dr. Phil fame asked "Where are their parents?" in reference to the protesters.

Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested in West Baltimore on April 12 when he made eye contact with one police officer at about 8:30am and fled when several police officers on bicycles approached. After officers discovered a small pocket knife on him, Gray was arrested for weapon possession "without force or incident." Why Gray ran and why he was pursued are unknown, but a friend told the Baltimore Sun that Gray had a record of drug-related arrests and "had a history with that police beating."

freddie-gray.jpgBystander video shows Gray screaming in pain and being dragged to a police van. He also reportedly requested an inhaler because he suffered from asthma. At 8:46 a.m., the van stopped because police say Gray was "acting irate." Officers took him out of the van to put leg shackles on him. Again, though, video of the stop contradicts officers' claims.

When Gray was placed back in the van, police admit he was not placed in a seatbelt -- a direct violation of police policy. At 9:24 a.m., police requested paramedics to take Gray to an area hospital. A subsequent charging document said, "During transport to Western District via wagon transport the Defendant suffered a medical emergency and was immediately transported to Shock Trauma."

Gray's "medical emergency," suffered during those 45 minutes, resulted in three fractured neck vertebrae that left his spine 80 percent severed at his neck and a crushed voice box, which doctors said could result from "powerful blunt force" and "hyperextension of the neck." After spending a week in a coma, Gray died of his injuries on April 19.

The attorney representing the officers in the case said Gray was hurt while riding inside the police van. Police commission Anthony W. Batts also admitted that officers failed to get medical attention for Gray "in a timely manner" and should have called for an ambulance when he was initially arrested. Batts admitted that officers violated department procedure by not putting Gray in a seatbelt.

Baltimore's police department has paid out millions of dollars to people injured in police vans during "rough rides" or "nickel rides," in which a police van is driven recklessly while detainees in are the back wearing handcuffs and/or leg irons, but not seat belts.

  • The family of Donald Johnson, Sr. won a $7.4 million verdict against officers after a 2005 van ride left him a paraplegic.
  • Jeffrey Alston was awarded $39 million by a jury after he was paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride.
  • The city paid $100,000 to the family of Homer Long after he suffered a fatal heart attack in a police van in 2003.

Since 2011, Baltimore has settle or lost more than 100 police brutality cases, to the tune of nearly $6 million.

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