Monday, July 2, 2012

Workers Fight For Jobs, Homes, Against Police Brutality In Baltimore

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The video presents a sickening example of police brutality and repression. Black worker Thomas Threatt lies on the street. Police officers kneel on his back and neck while other cops repeatedly spray Mace, point-blank, in his face. One cop grabs Threatt’s hair and yanks his head back just before the Mace is sprayed in his eyes.

Thomas Threatt had committed no crime. He was merely a part of a demonstration protesting a giant development company that kicked people out of their homes and then failed to keep its promises to provide jobs to the local community.

On March 29, Community Churches United called for a jobs march to a construction site near Johns Hopkins Hospital, in an area of Baltimore City slated for demolition and development. Other organizations, including the Baltimore Occupy 4 Jobs organization, supported the action.

Residents of this Eastside neighborhood have been fighting for fairness regarding the planned destruction of their homes, and they have been demanding jobs in the redevelopment of this area by East Baltimore Development Inc.

As part of the $1.8 billion EBDI project, whole city blocks around Hopkins Hospital have been leveled and more than 700 families “relocated.” One office building and several apartment buildings have been completed. In return for destroying their homes, EBDI promised displaced residents that the corporation would provide jobs in the local communities.

East Baltimore has been hit hard by joblessness and foreclosures, yet only 23 of over 1,000 jobs created by the EBDI (working hand in hand with Hopkins Hospital, which pays no taxes) have been filled by Black workers in a community that is predominantly Black and poor. Youth unemployment is at 56 percent.

Maryland District 45 state delegate, Talmadge Branch, cited an analysis of hiring for the state’s lab project that showed that “of the $57.5 million in contracts awarded so far, only $13.4 million went to businesses in Baltimore and only $4.4 million to local minority-owned businesses.” (Baltimore Brew, June 6)

In June, a coalition of state and city elected officials held a demonstration of their own outside the EBDI offices and called for a halt to the project until more local residents could be hired.

Police brutal with workers

The March demonstration took place outside a $170 million laboratory being built for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Police met the demonstrators with violence and brutality.

No police — who had violently violated the rights of the protesters — were charged. Instead, four protesters — William Simms; Richie Armstrong, an organizer for Community Churches United; and Earl King; along with Thomas Threatt, were singled out and arrested. They face a variety of charges, some with as many as six counts, including the famous catchall charges of disorderly conduct, failure to obey a peace officer and loitering.

“I’m not pleading guilty. I didn’t do nothing wrong,” Thomas Threatt said outside the courthouse, as supporters picketed, calling the police action against Threatt “abusive.” (Baltimore Brew, June 6)

Police brutality is not applied only to workers trying to get a job. As elsewhere in the U.S., youth, high school and college students, the unemployed, seniors, immigrants, LGBTQ community members, homeless people, Occupiers and just about everyone is subject to police abuse if they stand up for their rights — or often for simply being who they are!

On Saturday, June 30, a People’s Assembly will hold hearings in Baltimore to expose and oppose police violence and abuse. The hearings will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Sharp Memorial United Methodist Church at Dolphin and Ettings streets. The hearing has been organized by the Justice4Trayvon organization, which led a large demonstration on March 26 to demand justice for Trayvon Martin.

Sharon Black, an organizer for the Justice4Trayvon organization, told Workers World:

“Police violence is a crime against all working and poor people. If the police can silence protest through arrests and brutality, it is a blow against all of us, whether we are in the Occupy movement, with a union, fighting to stop racism, war, or injustice, no matter where we live or reside.”

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