From small rallies on Harford Road to much larger much-larger youth-led marches that traveled from the Convention Center, past the city jail and on to City Hall, hundreds of Baltimore City residents have joined together to peacefully protest and mourn the violent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 as well as the countless other black lives taken by the hands of police brutality and misconduct.
This incident was all to reminiscent of events in 2015 when Baltimore was roiled by weeks of tense protests after the April 19 death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died of a spinal cord injury while being transported in a police van into custody.
The Baltimore City Police Department is just one major city police department that is said to currently be operating under a federal consent decree, which is an enforceable court agreement to resolve the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) findings that it believed the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) had engaged in a pattern and practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and certain provisions of federal statutory law.
This decree was enforced after the Department of Justice found that BCPD has used violent and discriminatory tactics in poor and predominantly black neighborhoods for years.
In efforts to further address these issues, over the past few weeks, hundreds of protestors
gathered across the city to protest police brutality all the while, carrying signs that urged Baltimore to defund its police force while proclaiming that Black Lives Matter.
Baltimore OUTloud caught up with Baltimore City College teacher & coach, Mark Miazga who used his voice to speak up about recent events.
Charles Smalls: How have recent events around George Floyd and Amahd Aubrey affected you or your community?
Mark Miazga: As a white person, I’m so, so tired of violence against Black bodies, and I cannot even begin to imagine how tired Black people are of it. Watching the George Floyd video — to hear him crying out for his life, calling for his mother in desperation — was one of the toughest things I’ve ever watched, and it is, of course, on top of almost a decade of videos that have surfaced showing Black people in peril, from Eric Garner to Ahmaud Armery to Tamir Rice and much more. I’m saddened to the point of debilitation nearly every time, partly as a result of being a teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools for 19 years. I can’t, and shouldn’t, separate my work as an educator from the plight that my students face, and I imagine my students as being in the same peril everyday as I see in these situations. I teach Trayvon Martins and Michael Browns and think about and grieve for the lost innocence of my students whenever a story like this comes up.
CS: What made you show up for the protests?
MM: I march for my students. Many of my students were involved in the Youth-led march, and I wanted to be there to support them, both in making the crowds and chants louder but also so they see me and other educators or other white people supporting Black lives and Black issues. I think it’s especially important for white people to attend: to hear the voices of Black people and to follow their lead.
CS: How would you describe the nature/mood of protests?
MM: The mood at the protests vacillated from anger to sadness to hopefulness to determination. By the end of both of them, I felt better: more empowered, less alone, more encouraged, primarily because of our smart and driven young people, eager for change.
CS: What do you think of the media coverage around recent protests?
MM: I think our local media has been largely very positive in its coverage of protests in Baltimore, but a lot of the coverage overall has been overly emphatic about the looting and fires rather than the spirit of togetherness that the rallies have brought.
CS: What impact do you hope to see as a result of the protesting?
MM: I hope that the rallies begin to make us think about, as a society, how we can protect Black people more. I’m the son of a retired police officer, so I’m not an anti-police person, but it is obvious that there needs to be a complete resetting of the culture and training of police in this country. As a teacher, I would never defend or ignore the actions of a bad teacher, and I’m not sure why police culture dictates such protection of each other, including those who make the profession look bad and the job harder for all. There are systemic issues that cause good police to be consistently outweighed and overwhelmed by a system that encourages racist policies and that needs to change. There need to be civilian review boards. Federal oversight over training for all. And it needs to be at the forefront of our conversations as we head into the 2020 Election, so we can not only dismiss the current occupant of the White House but change out our Senate and House members unwilling to fight for the protection and uplift of Black people.
CS: What would you like to voice to the public at this time?
MM: To my fellow white people, make sure you know that it’s not enough to not be racist, which is impossible in our white supremacist society anyway. You have to be working towards anti-racism. I’m trying to avoid being that white guy who quotes MLK, but he wrote in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that white moderates are “more ‘devoted’ to order than to justice” and that essay is something I think about a lot. For white people, replacing the lukewarm water of our bath might be uncomfortable, but we must. White people need to examine our passive role in the white supremacy of our society and work towards changing our own actions and biases because if you are not actively working to change policy, then you are just contributing to the racist status quo that kills the George Floyds and Breonna Taylors of our country.
- Charles Smalls is a technical writer, artist and content creator with a strong passion for multimedia and storytelling. If you would like to connect with him follow him on twitter (@OnwardThought).