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African-American history timeline: the last four decades in Baltimore

1972: Maryland was the first state to pass a Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights allowing officers extra protections when investigated. Attempts to end it have failed.

August 16, 1989: Freddie Gray and his twin sister, Fredericka, were born.

1991: The Baltimore City Police Department created an undercover Violent Crime Task Force. Six years later, after deciding that over half the victims and suspects were twenty-four or younger, they added a Youth Violence Task Force. In December 2012, in reaction to its acquired bad reputation, it was shut down and replaced with a Special Enforcement Section which was actually quite similar.

1992-1996: Tests on young Freddie Gray (born 1989) and his two sisters showed that the amount of lead in their blood was above the threshold for the kind of poisoning which causes permanent brain damage. In 2008 the Gray family filed a suit against their earlier landlord. In 2010, they accepted a settlement of an unknown amount of money. Gray also was born two months premature and had asthma, a common ailment for people in poor neighborhoods. He was always in Special Education classes and never graduated from high school.

2001-2006: The mayor of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley, implemented “zero-tolerance policing” and a statistics-based tracking system modeled on one used in New York City.

2003: A Baltimore police officer turned 55-year-old Albert Mosley into a quadriplegic by throwing him (handcuffed) head-first into the concrete wall of a holding cell during an arrest for a probation violation. A police investigation found no wrong-doing, but a jury awarded him $44 million. After the city appealed the verdict, they settled for $6 million to cover the expense of constant care.

2005: Dondi Johnson, 43, arrested for public urination, died from a broken spine after being given a “rough ride” without a seatbelt in a Baltimore police van. Five years later a jury awarded his family $7.4 million, but they received only $200,000.

2005-2009: A quarter of all ten-to-seventeen year olds in Freddie Gray’s neighborhood (Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park) were arrested at least once.

March 1-4, 2006: The BaltimoreAlgebra Project led a three-day strike of hundreds of high school students to oppose school closures and the consolidation of buildings that would lead to larger class sizes, in addition to other demands.

January 8, 2008: Mayor Sheila Dixon filed a federal suit against Wells Fargo for charging higher fees to black borrowers as part of their subprime lending program. By the end of 2009, there had been 10,032 foreclosures. The city wanted the bank to cover the costs of the many foreclosures, reduced city tax revenues, and increased costs because of crime around abandoned properties. The lawsuit was dismissed. The U S Department of Justice later sued them for false reporting to the Federal Housing Administration. In 2012, after it was revealed the bank—with the help of black churches and community groups—pushed “ghetto loans,” Wells Fargo settled, paying $17.5 million to the city and $2.5 million to the 1,000 area residents (an average of $2,500).

September 2009: Project Interchange sponsored a trip to Israel for members of the Baltimore P.D. so they could exchange ideas about “best practices” for security and counterterrorism. A similar trip was organized by the Jewish Institute for National Security.

2010: The Baltimore budgeting department pressured the City State’s Attorney’s office to close a community coordinators program through which liaisons in the seven police districts reached out to crime victims and witnesses, as well as criminal justice agencies. The State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy refused to do it, but she was replaced in the next election by Gregg L. Bernstein who made the cuts in 2011.

2010: Students in the Baltimore Algebra Project started a campaign to prevent the building of a $104 million detention center for 180 juveniles charged as adults. They succeeded for about five years.

2011: The life expectancy in Sandtown-Winchester (Freddie Gray’s neighborhood) was 6.5 years shorter than that in overall Baltimore.

2011: When Detective Joseph Crystal testified about a case of brutality by two of his colleagues, the two men were fired, but Crystal was harassed so much for being a “snitch” that he resigned in 2013 and then sued the department.

2012: Unemployment for those aged 16 to 64 in Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park was 52%. Over 70% of the Baltimore police officers lived outside of the city limits, 10% of them in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

Late 2012: Anthony W. Batts moved from Oakland to become the new Baltimore Police Commissioner and vowed to eliminate all misconduct by the 2,800 officers.

2013: 87% of black eighth graders in Baltimore read below grade level and 92% of black males. 11% of black men in Baltimore have college degrees, compared to 48% of white men. The number of recreation centers had decreased from 143 in 1993 to 31.

July 18, 2013: Officers Nicholas David Chapman and Jorge Bernardez-Ruiz, in an unmarked car, pulled Tyrone West over for an alleged traffic violation. They dragged him out of the car by his dreadlocks, then beat, maced, and tazered him until they realized he was dead. Neither of the officers was suspended or indicted. (Seventeen days earlier they severely beat Abdul Salaam in his driveway in front of his three-year-old son.) On December 19, 2014, State’s attorney Gregg Bernstein announced he would not prosecute Chapman or Bernardez-Ruiz. When the West family attempted to attend the press conference, they were threatened with arrest.

August 2014: A 20-year-old midnight curfew for minors was tightened to 9 pm for children under fourteen; 10 pm for fourteen-sixteen year olds on school nights, 11 pm on other nights. Parents are fined $50 for the first time a child is picked up for breaking curfew; after that they can be fined up to $300 or sentenced to sixty days in jail.

2011-2014: 349 lawsuits were filed against the city of Baltimore asking for restitution for police misconduct; the city paid $5.7 million to settle over 100 claims. Those who settled had to agree not to speak in public or to the media about the incidents. The victims included those who were “riding a dirt bike, witnessing a beating, selling church raffle tickets, rolling a cigarette, and aiding a wounded grandson.” Some had been injured by being tossed around during bumpy rides without seatbelts in the back of police vans.

October 2014: Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Batts introduced a police brutality reduction plan that included body cameras for police officers. In addition, the U. S. Justice Department agreed that a six-month study of the department’s policies and procedures would be carried out by the Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance, as was also being done in Philadelphia, Spokane, and Ferguson.

November 2014: Marilyn Mosby, an African American married to a City Council member, was elected the Baltimore City’s State’s Attorney on a platform of going after repeat offenders, overcoming community distrust for the judicial system, and implementing programs to help first time nonviolent felony offenders.

2015: The population of Baltimore is 63% black. Fourteen % live below the poverty line. In Sandtown, where 97% of the people are black and 30% live below the poverty line, there are only three bank branches but 18 loan-shark alternative providers such as payday lenders, cash checking services, refund anticipation loans, and car title loan outfits.

February 2015: A study was published reporting that more people from Sandtown-Winchester had been sent to state prison than in any other census tract in Maryland.

April 2015: After raising the water rates to pay for infrastructure improvements, the City of Baltimore gave 25,000 people ten days to pay their overdue bills or lose water service.

Sunday, April 12, 2015:Twenty-five year old Freddie Gray was stopped by police near the Gilmor Homes because he ran after “making eye-contact.” Claiming that he had an illegal switchblade (which turned out to be a legal pocket knife), they put him in the back of a van while shackled but not protected by a seat-belt, contrary to a policy established six days earlier. When he asked for an inhaler, they refused to give him one. A bystander’s video recorded Grey screaming in pain as he was put into the van. An hour later, he was taken to the hospital with three fractured vertebrae, a crushed voice box, and his spine 80% severed at the neck. After emergency surgery, he was in a coma until he died on April 19.

Saturday, April 18, 2015: Hundreds protested Gray’s injuries outside the Western District Police Station. Protests continued daily for at least three weeks.

Saturday, April 25, 2015: After a downtown march from Baltimore City Hall to the Inner Harbor, about a hundred people marched toward Camden Yards (the baseball stadium) where some drunk, white baseball fans shouted inflammatory remarks at them.

When they discovered riot police guarding Camden Yards, a few people damaged at least five police vehicles and threw rocks at police. At least thirty-four people were arrested and six police officers were injured.

Some media sources claimed gangs were planning trouble, but members of the Crips, Bloods, and Black Guerilla Family had declared a truce and ran basketball tournaments for kids in local parks.

While fifty police reacted to white protesters in the Hampden neighborhood by encouraging them to leave and not arresting anyone, protesters at Pennsylvania and North Avenue in Sandtown were pepper-sprayed, beaten, and jailed.

Monday, April 27, 2015: After a one-hour public viewing, the funeral service for Freddie Gray was held at the New Shiloh Baptist Church.

The police department announced a “credible threat” on social media of a student “purge.” That became their rationalization for blockading roads and closing the transportation hub with the buses used by 5000 students at Frederick Douglass High School. (Students said officers regularly harassed them at that bus stop.)

When students came out of school, they discovered that they had no access to any buses and police in riot gear were forcing people off the buses that had been ready to leave. Some educators walked special needs students to bus stops blocks away. Some students ran away; others protested; and a few threw bricks at the officers, who responded by shooting rubber bullets and arresting many, including some with cameras that showed officers throwing bricks at teenagers.

Some people started looting and attacking cars and buildings, including setting a fire at the local CVS store. There were 144 vehicle fires, 19 structural fires, and nearly 200 arrests. One person had serious injuries from a fire.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015: City schools and government offices were closed and a curfew was imposed from 10pm to 5am. Governor Hogan declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, 500 state troopers, and 5,000 police officers from other communities. Hundreds of volunteers cleaned up the streets, using trash bags and brooms donated by local hardware stores. Fourteen churches gave food to children who depend on schools for their daily meals. Teachers organized activities for students. When an armored police vehicle drove into a crowd, hundreds of protesters raised their hands and chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot!” as they walked the tank away.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015: The Baltimore Orioles played the White Sox with no spectators inside the stadium other than members of the press, while thousands walked the miles between Sandtown and City Hall, chanting and singing.

Friday, May 1: State Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced that she was charging the six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray with crimes ranging from illegal arrest to second-degree depraved-heart murder. The $500,000 bail required of a teenager charged with destroying a police vehicle exceeded the combined bail set for all six police officers. The Fraternal Order of Police said Mosby should recuse herself from the investigation, defended the officers, and started collecting donations for them.

Saturday, May 2, 2015: After the largest rally, which was totally peaceful, forty-six people were arrested during the curfew period, which was lifted on May 3.

May 8, 2015: Newly appointed U. S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the U S Department of Justice will, as requested by Mayor Rawlings-Blake, conduct a review of the current practices of Baltimore police because of a “serious erosion of public trust.”

May 14, 2015: Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, approved spending $30 million for a new sixty-bed jail for teens charged as adults for violent offenses, supposedly in reaction to the report of the U. S. Department of Justice in March that criticized the state for putting youth in more danger by housing them with adults.   Two days later, Governor Hogan removed $11.6 million from the budget of the Baltimore City Schools and gave it to the pension fund for state employees.

Timeline compiled by Cita Cook for Project South, May 2015. Full timeline can be found on in the “Our Work” section. Contact for more information and visit

Project South organizes with youth in Atlanta and acts as a facilitative anchor of the Southern Movement Assembly. Its primary mission is to cultivate social movement through political education, long-term strategy, and leadership development with communities directly affected by racism and economic injustice.


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