By : Crayton Gerst
On April 12, 2015 a 25-year-old African American man, Freddie Gray, was arrested by police for possessing what they alleged to be an illegal switchblade. After a rough ride with Baltimore police, Gray emerged the officer vehicle with an 80% torn spine. Ultimately, he was pronounced dead by the medical examiner as a result of brute force and trauma to the neck.
Many identify Gray’s death as a pivotal point in the movement towards police accountability. His death led to mobilization of protesters in such great magnitude that Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan, declared the city in a state of emergency soliciting support from the National Guard. In the following days nearly 500 protesters were arrested, hundreds of officers injured, and endless looting and vandalism.
A new HBO documentary created and directed by Sonja Sohn titled, Baltimore Is Rising follows the lives of several public servants, activists, community leaders, and ex gang members as they work to hold Baltimore together in the wake of the 2015 protests. The film documents the unrest in Baltimore amidst the trials of six officers facing numerous charges for their responsibility in the death of Freddie Gray. Subsequently, three of those officers were acquitted and the charges against the remaining officers were dropped by Baltimore City’s State Attorney, Marilyn Mosby.
The documentary is an important centerpiece in challenging historical and contemporary mainstream media tactics that work to criminalize black people. This is definitely a film that must be watched by anyone interested in organizing, community building, and all who are concerned with the well being of African American people nationwide.