The Post Gets Played

I don’t know Peter Hermann from a hole in the ground, but he hasn’t done a great job on the Freddie Gray story. First, he and other Post reporters missed the “lynch mob” story last week. Today, he gets made a fool of by the Baltimore Police Department with this story.

A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.

The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.

The document, written by a Baltimore police investigator, offers the first glimpse of what might have happened inside the van. It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of a much larger probe.

Gosh, maybe you ought to check for “additional evidence” before you run the damn story?

Jayne Miller of the Baltimore SunWBAL-TV, take it away. It’s two minutes long, and she absolutely eviscerates Peter Hermann. Watch it.

What’s going on? I give you the great Charles Pierce of Esquire Magazine. After first referring to Hermann’s article as a “sucker play,” Pierce concludes thusly:

. . . the Post story — a story that plainly is meant to drown out the cries of a community for justice, that is meant to allay the night terrors currently afflicting the folks in the suburbs, that is meant to tell a comforting story and, in the telling, take the heat off what pretty plainly is a police department gone renegade. For all the pushback against this latest report, and the pushback has been strong, the death of Freddie Gray is passing into anesthetic fiction now, the way these stories always seem to do so, when the truth is too grim to contemplate.

Let’s not let that happen here, OK? Read the Sun and ignore the Post on Freddie Gray. One publication clearly gets it, and one obviously does not.

It Didn’t Have to Happen

I’ve seen bits and pieces of this story, but Mother Jones writers Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin put it together very well. Highly questionable decisions by the police – to stop buses from running, to trap students who might otherwise have gone home in the area where the worst of the violence took place Monday – made the circumstances worse and escalated a tense situation beyond what it would otherwise have been.

When school let out that afternoon, police were in the area equipped with full riot gear. According to eyewitnesses in the Mondawmin neighborhood, the police were stopping busses and forcing riders, including many students who were trying to get home, to disembark. Cops shut down the local subway stop. They also blockaded roads near the Mondawmin Mall and Frederick Douglass High School, which is across the street from the mall, and essentially corralled young people in the area. That is, they did not allow the after-school crowd to disperse.

Meghann Harris, a teacher at a nearby school, described on Facebook what happened:

Police were forcing busses to stop and unload all their passengers. Then, [Frederick Douglass High School] students, in huge herds, were trying to leave on various busses but couldn’t catch any because they were all shut down. No kids were yet around except about 20, who looked like they were waiting for police to do something. The cops, on the other hand, were in full riot gear, marching toward any small social clique of students…It looked as if there were hundreds of cops.

The kids were “standing around in groups of 3-4,” Harris said in a Facebook message to Mother Jones. “They weren’t doing anything. No rock throwing, nothing…The cops started marching toward groups of kids who were just milling about.”

What were the police thinking? The best thing that could have happened was for the kids to go home. But even if they wanted to, they couldn’t – no buses, no subway, and everywhere they turned, they faced cops in full riot gear. That’s a poorly conceived plan – one that reeks of panic, honestly – that was inevitably going to lead to disaster.

I Won’t Get Back To You On That

Professional cave troll Delegate Pat McDonough (modern Know Nothing of the purest form) has a couple of suggestions for addressing recent unrest in Baltimore: take food stamp benefits away from parents of the protesters and commission a “scientific study” of the “thug nation” he sees in the black community. He decided to share his thoughts with radio listeners on right wing station WCBM.

“These young people, they’re violent, they’re brutal, their mindset is dysfunctional to a point of being dangerous,” he said, noting that he does not want to “put them in a test tube or cage.” But, McDonough added, “We have got to study, investigate, and really look at what this is all about,” calling it a problem “that prevails the nation from Los Angeles to Baltimore to Baltimore County.”

If there’s a more mean-spirited, dreadful and ineffective legislator in this country than McDonough, I hope they stay off the radio. 

Gimme A Break

Martin O’Malley offers up his opinions on the unrest in Baltimore on Huffington Post. Three separate times he says, with no apparent irony, that “this is not about policing.” What?

Governor, seriously, it’s ALL about policing. Specifically, YOUR policing. The policies you started as mayor of Baltimore. Your first year in office, in a city of 600,000 people, there were over 100,000 arrests. Think about that for a minute. 1 in 6 residents arrested – in one year. [CORRECTION: the actual number of arrests I was referring to is 108,447, and the year was 2005, not 2000. As the Washington Post noted this week, that was in fact more than one in six of the city’s population. My error.]

Crime was going to drop anyway, we know that now, but you rode the stats-driven, tyrannical police methods you adopted as Mayor, to become Governor and now presidential aspirant. YOUR policies got the city sued, a suit which resulted in a large settlement with the ACLU. YOUR policies helped create a legacy of distrust and suspicion between police and the largely black residents of Baltimore, one which led to a young black man being arrested for nothing more than making eye contact with a police officer and then running. And now, that man is dead.

So spare me the sanctimonious “pay no attention to the havoc I created and exacerbated” attitude. You ran as the law and order, stats driven wonk. Now that the stats aren’t so good and the whole system is threatening to bite you, you can’t just walk away and pretend you had nothing to do with it.

You had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support marriage equality. It took years for you to come around to the idea of death penalty abolition. You did the right thing, eventually, in both cases, and you deserve credit for that – not as much as you’re trying to take, but some. On policing issues, you deserve a share of the blame. Not all of it, but some. No matter how much you try to change the subject.

John Delaney Is Running . . .

I have been forwarded an email invitation from the Delaneys to “join John’s kickoff at a Backyard Barbeque Bash” (some quality alliteration right there).

The invite, however, never gets around to mentioning an important fact: what office is Delaney running for? A lot of people, including but definitely not limited to yours truly, would really like to know.

At this point, I think Delaney is having as much fun being coy as I’m having pointing it out. That rascal. The game continues. . . .

The Sun On The Ball

That guy John Fritze? He’s a really good reporter. Here’s his take on “what it all – Baltimore – means” to the presidential and Senate races.

The death of Gray, a black man who suffered a spinal-cord injury in police custody, and the subsequent protests and riots, gave Clinton an opportunity to speak on an issue that one of her potential challengers — former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley — has long had to himself: police strategy.

On the Senate race:

Racial tension in criminal justice and Gray’s case specifically have also become a factor in the contest to replace retiring Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

Go read, good stuff, etc.

Action Shots!!

At the Silver Spring Civic Center for a forum with seven leading MoCo legislators, including two congressional candidates, Jamie Raskin and Kumar Barve. I’m now going to show off my mediocre photography skills – one action shot for each participant. If they’re bad, blame me.  

Senator Rich Madaleno

Delegate Kathleen Dumais

Senator Jamie Raskin (his eyes were closed in every single shot I took)

Delegate Sheila Hixson

Delegate Shane Robinson

Senator Roger Manno

Delegate Anne Kaiser

Edwards on Black Moms

Donna Edwards has an opinion piece on the Post website on the role of black mothers and their voices in the ongoing discussion of race and the police:

The situation in Baltimore is a poignant reminder of the truths too many black mothers face every day. Our nation cannot move forward without a true national conversation that involves race, jobs, economic inequality and a respect for human dignity, especially in policing. Unfortunately, our attention is drawn to unacceptable police practices only when they’re captured on video or an incident is too sickening to ignore. Meanwhile, on our streets, young black men and women bear the psychological, emotional and economic scars created when the most ordinary activity is suspect. The voices of African American women belong at the decision-making table to fix the long-standing problems in our schools and communities that contribute to despair and hopelessness among our children. Our voices make the conversation real and our communities stronger.

D15 Caucus Straw Vote

The District 15 (Potomac-Bethesda-Upcounty) caucus in MoCo had a dinner last night. I hear that a straw vote was taken to see how much support Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards each have.

I’m not 100% sure exactly how many people voted – estimates related to me range from 30-40 – but the news is this: Chris Van Hollen got all the votes. Every single one.

A Politico Article Doesn’t Suck

That in and of itself is breaking news. Charles Pierce, my blog hero and role model, calls Politico “Tiger Beat on the Potomac.” Pretty much dead on.

But this article on the impact of Baltimore’s unrest on the fortunes of Larry Hogan, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Elijah Cummings is actually pretty good, addressing the politics in great detail. Don’t agree with all of it, but it’s way above their usual schlock. A taste:

The perils are clear for all three figures: Hogan, only the second Republican to win the governorship in nearly four decades, needs to cultivate an effective and bipartisan image if he has any chance of being reelected in deep-blue Maryland in three-and-a-half years. Rawlings-Blake, a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and an emerging regular on the Sunday show circuit, passed on Maryland’s 2016 Senate race but is likely seeking to build up positive statewide name recognition in preparation for a possible challenge to Hogan in 2018. Cummings is still considering the Senate race and occupies a key role in the House as Hillary Clinton’s main defender from ambitious GOP investigators.