Protesters cheered when they heard that the six police officers who arrested Freddie Gray in Baltimore are being charged over his death.
Campaigner Safi Edwards told Socialist Worker, “I live three blocks from Penn North where everything is taking place. I was excited when I heard about the charges. But now they’re all out on bail. And their bail was £231,000 while some of the youth that broke car windows had £331,000.”
Thousands of people had protested and rioted for nearly a week over Freddie’s death. When the charges were announced crowds celebrated on the streets, the curfew was lifted and the National Guard withdrawn.
The officers face a number of charges including “involuntary manslaughter”. But it is a long way from officers being charged to anyone getting convicted over the killing.
The brutal policing connects to a racist history of suppressing black people. Institutional racism is key to the case, though in this majority black city, three of the six cops are black.
"We are used to being underdogs," she said. "Even our football team are underdogs. We’re used to people viewing us in a certain way. This has been happening for our whole history and they’ve been getting away with it. They wonder why the kids are broken."
Safi said the solution isn’t about people in the poor areas changing themselves. She said, “First of all we need more money. They are building up certain parts of Baltimore.
“They just built a multi-million dollar casino, yet you have children in schools who have to share their text book with three other students.
“These kids don’t feel the community is theirs. That’s why they don’t mind burning it down.”
But she added that hope came out of the protests. “For the first time in my life I’ve seen the whole community come together,” she said. “There were gang members with their faces covered. We felt safe right next to them for the first time.
"I was talking to one of the little guys last night with his black hoodie on. He’s been through it. We just stood there and talked and hugged. I said, ‘What’s your name?’ He said, ‘I don’t tell nobody my real name', but he told me."