The Battle of Mondawmin

Caution: this post contains some graphic images & videos of organized police violence against black youth.

Most of the injuries, arrests, looting, arson, and property destruction occurring during the so-called Baltimore Riots took place (so far) on the night of Monday, April 27. They followed a confrontation between heavily armed police and school-age children which took place at Mondawmin Mall, starting at 3PM. This event should be considered a critical moment in the unfolding of the “Riots” because it marked the beginning of organized police action and was narratively linked to the wave of mayhem which moved, from 3PM to midnight, along North Avenue, and south-eastward down Pennsylvania Avenue. With blame still flowing freely in the commentary on this incident, it is crucial to understand how things began. Juvenile delinquency? Political rage? Police provocation? Where is the evidence? Who else played a role? We know that the citizens of Baltimore are justifiably angry, and that the police are often unduly provocative, but do we know how the Battle of Mondawmin in fact began? And what actually happened once it did?

News reports on this incident have been curiously scarce, with the Baltimore Sun devoting only a few sentences of its voluminous riot coverage to the confrontation at Mondawmin. The Sun‘s Scott Dance (with a dozen other regulars listed as contributors) reported:

The confrontation near Mondawmin escalated quickly Smoke filled the air as police responded with shields and a tactical vehicle. Demonstrators pelted officers with rocks, bricks and bottles and assaulted a photojournalist, and officers fired back with tear gas and pepper balls.

The Sun does not describe how this confrontation began—seemingly a key question if this incident sparked the “Riots”. National coverage was even more questionable, with Donna Leinwand Leger of USA Today asserting:

The Mondawmin Mall, where city redevelopment authorities had worked for years to bring Target, Ross Dress for Less, Payless Shoes and other chains, closed early to prepare for the anticipated riots. Still, looters broke into the shops. At Deals, a variety story [sic], looters had broken two windows and made off with merchandise before 30 police with armored cars and riot gear arrived. A police helicopter hovered overhead. By 8 p.m., police had established a presence and chased away the looters.

Al Jazeera did not do much better. The Washington Post published a story on Mondawmin which focused on the “purge” rumor circulating on the internet earlier in the day. Most stories followed the same pattern and based their reporting entirely on official sources.

The only detailed mainstream coverage of the Mondawmin events came from Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin of Mother Jones, who wrote:

According to eyewitnesses in the Mondawmin neighborhood, the police were stopping busses and forcing riders, including many students who were trying to get home, to disembark. Cops shut down the local subway stop. They also blockaded roads near the Mondawmin Mall and Frederick Douglass High School, which is across the street from the mall, and essentially corralled young people in the area. That is, they did not allow the after-school crowd to disperse.

This report, the only one to cite any sources other than police and city officials, corresponds with the evidence as scrutinized by the Eclipse since Monday. Plenty of Frederick Douglass students were picked up by parents earlier in the day, due to concerns about trouble at Mondawmin. Others tried to get home on their own, only to find their path to the buses blocked by a line of heavily armored storm troopers. Mondawmin is one of the biggest transit hubs in the city: a necessary stop in the homeward journies of thousands of students forced by “education reform” to attend schools dispersed across the city. Already this artificial situation requires high school students to congregate here—and where go groups of black high school students, so too go antagonistic police.

More bus routes stop at Mondawmin than at any other station on the West Side.

More bus routes stop at Mondawmin than at any other station on the West Side. (Eleven, plus the subway. Source: MTA transit maps.)

What follows is a preliminary investigation into the events at Mondawmin, based on limited witness testimony, photos, and videos.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Jim Crow Justice, Jim Crow Journalism: Shorty versus Dred Scott decision

Sun readers may remember Duane “Shorty” Davis as the man arrested for placing a “toilet bomb” outside of the Baltimore County Courthouse. The toilet, of course, was not a bomb, and Shorty was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. To their credit, the Sun reported on this verdict and even did a follow-up story with a cool photo gallery for the two-year anniversary.

Since then, another year has gone by, and Shorty returned to court on Monday for another trial. This time, he was the plaintiff. What transpired was truly amazing. For example, Shorty was able (for the first time) to cross-examine under oath Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger: the very man responsible for wrongfully jailing Shorty in 2011. You won’t read about it in the Sun or see it on cable, so we’ve brought you an Eclipse exclusive report.

You can also watch videos from outside the courthouse at Freeman Sullivan’s livestream channel. And here’s an interview with Freeman & Shorty, conducted on Sunday 23 Feb, to introduce the case:

Without further ado, our report:

Continue reading

Police shoot robbery suspect outside Baltimore homeless shelter

Police shoot robbery suspect outside Baltimore homeless shelter

(my summary)

A man was shot by Baltimore City Police because he fit the description of an “armed robber” given by a local homeless shelter. Witnesses state that he did have a gun that he aimed into the air. This is not confirmed. As the man lay “writhing” on the ground the police noted a firearm near him as they placed their crime scene tape around him. A woman, possibly a relative of the shot man, was arrested with no explanation offered.

The police have shot five people this year, four in this past month alone.

No additional details were forthcoming.

_______________________________

(my critical analysis)

Fenton’s narrative is deliberately misleading. While the title of the article states that it will discuss the police shooting of a man, the first two paragraphs deal with a separate, unrelated homicide. By setting the article up as he has, Fenton conjures the image of the brave police valiantly working a homicide, presumably protecting citizens. This helps take the heat off of the police who shot a man who fit the description of an armed robbery, thus, committing the fifth shooting of a citizen by the police this month. Fenton’s tone does not state this as a problematic fact, leaving the reader with the impression that the problem is with the victims rather than the police. Remember – he starts the article talking about an unrelated homicide the police had just come from – which makes it easier to underplay the idea of police actions as problematic.

Reading between the lines, in Fenton’s convoluted article, I know that a man (near a homeless shelter – information designed to cast further doubt on the victim) may have looked like a description of an armed robber. Police encountered him. He allegedly had a gun and allegedly pointed it in the air. A friend says the victim was recently robbed and may have had a gun for protection. He did not point at the police. The police allegedly ordered him to drop the gun and then fired six shots – injuring the victim.

Then Fenton mentions that a probably female relative of the victim who tried to help the man was taken away in handcuffs. Wait. What? They arrested someone who was a relative of the man who was now “writhing” on the sidewalk while they continued to place the crime scene tape around him.  For what? Why? It appears that her crime – witnessing the police action, aiding the victim, or simply getting in the way of dirty cops covering their tracks – required her arrest.

The need to control the narrative – to shape the way in which this story is told – is something Fenton does over and over again. The same theme of big brave police being forced to shoot and/or kill a suspect rather than arresting him/her is found throughout his body of work. He is paid by the Baltimore Sun – there is no money or job security in his telling the truth, turning the lens through which he writes into one of questioning police behavior or even one of neutrality.

Glaring omissions in this story beg to be told but will never be addressed by Fenton or the Baltimore Sun.

–        How does the homeless shelter play into this – I know they are inherently unsafe and so do the police.

–        Is this a homeless man? Because the article implies that he is, and if he is what can this tell us about the relationship that the BCPD have with this population.

–        How did the encounter actually go down? Did the police rush the man? Did they try to talk reasonably or did they shoot first? What procedures were and were not followed in this incident – this seems to me to be the crucial question in all police involved shootings – we need details

–        Who were the police involved? Do any of them have a history of shooting other citizens or other illegal police behavior?

–        Are victims of police shootings considered guilty and in need of serious harm or death because no-one will question the very machine built to protect the cops, the city government, the corporations and all of the powerful who have the ability to stop this genocide? This machinery is one that Fenton perpetuates.

–        RACE. How does Fenton leave this issue out of his articles? Because the police are disproportionately shooting black men in Baltimore. So this story, assuming the victim was black, fits the racial profiling long established by the police here in Baltimore. How do you leave this most important equation out of this story? Baltimore police are involved in a genocide, they are involved in race-based hate crimes.

New Baltimore City Police Program to Reduce Racial Profiling and Crime

According to Gigi Barnett at CBS Channel 13, the city police department is beginning a new effort to reduce racial profiling.  The program is initiative started by Police Commissioner Batts and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  Read the short article on the CBS 13 website.

Essentially the article is a short political write up and a press release by mayor’s office and nothing else.  There is no investigative reporting nor any analysis.  However, what the article’s title raise one very important question.  Is the city admitting that there is a police driven crime problem in Baltimore?  Or is the title merely written to bait readers?