We just passed the five year anniversary of the death of Baltimore gang member Freddie Gray and the subsequent riots that threatened to burn Charm City to the ground. Most of us watched the debacle play out live on our television screens as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had most of her police force stand down while chaos engulfed the streets. Later, trials were held for the six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest and subsequent death. This led to the introduction of many supposed “reforms” that were intended to restore public trust in the police. But has anything really changed in the past five years? Reporters from CBS in Baltimore took to the streets this week and interviewed a number of residents near ground zero. The responses were almost entirely the same. It’s the same old Baltimore with the same old problems.
“Five years later after Freddie Gray? I feel as though nothing has changed,” Davon Fletcher said.
“I feel as though everything is still the same, ain’t nothing really change,” Chris Jones said.
“What everyone else watched on television we watched outside our door,” Ericka Alston Buck said. “We watched the National Guard standing with shields.”
Alston Buck operated the Kid Safe Zone in Sandtown-Winchester
“The mass chaos and confusions and fear, it was overwhelming,” she said. “It was overwhelming.”
I suppose, at least from the perspective of the people living in the gang-infested portions of East and West Baltimore, life might not look much different than it did five years ago. There’s still a massive gang violence problem and far too much urban decay. The schools are still failing. The drug trade owns many neighborhoods and the murder rate continues to rise every year. The median income and employment rates for Baltimore’s majority Black population remain far below national averages.