Nearly 4,000 US communities have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint

By Jerry White
16 November 2017

In an updated study, Reuters news agency has identified 3,810 neighborhoods where recently recorded child lead poisoning rates are at least double those found in Flint, Michigan during the height of that city’s water crisis in 2014 and 2015. In some 1,300 of these “hotspot” communities, the percentage of children six and under with elevated lead levels was at least four times the percentage in Flint during the peak of the crisis.

In pockets of Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia, where lead poisoning has spanned generations, Reuters reported that the rate of elevated tests over the last decade was 50 percent or higher. An interactive map released with the study shows one census tract in Buffalo, New York—a former steel and auto center that, like Flint, has suffered decades of deindustrialization—where 68 percent of the children had high levels of lead.

Map of lead concentrations in the United States

The ingestion of any amount of the heavy metal, whether through tainted water, lead-based paint, contaminated soil or fumes and dust, can do irreparable harm to children. This includes impeding the development of the brain and nervous system, lowered IQ, memory loss, hearing and speech problems, and behavioral and attention-related problems. The toxin, which remains in the body and can be passed on for generations, is also responsible for a host of adult health problems, including decreased kidney function, high blood pressure, tremors and infertility.

In the year following the switchover of Flint to water from the polluted Flint River, which caused leaching from the city’s antiquated lead pipe system, five percent of the children who had their blood tested showed lead levels in excess of five micrograms per deciliter. This is the threshold requiring immediate public health intervention, according to the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which acknowledges that there is no safe level of exposure to lead.

Reuters used data collected by the CDC based on neighborhood-level blood testing results for 34 states and the District of Columbia. As devastating as the results are, they do not provide a full picture. The CDC funds 35 state and local health departments for lead surveillance. Reporting is voluntary in the remaining states, many of which do not have staff to collect data. Despite the well-known public health hazard, the US government does not require reporting and does not oversee the systematic collection and analysis of data on lead poisoning.

Dr. Kim Cecil of the Cincinnati Lead Study shows how the brain isdamaged by lead poisoning

Reuters says this is the first look at data broken down by census tracts, which are small county subdivisions averaging 4,000 citizens, or by zip codes, with average populations of 7,500. In December, Reuters noted that far from being the exception, Flint did not even rank among the most toxic cities in America. It pointed to Warren, Pennsylvania, a town on the Allegheny River, where 36 percent of the children tested had high lead levels, to a zip code on Goat Island, Texas, where a quarter of tests showed poisoning.

The newest map includes additional data collected this year by Reuters from Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Vermont, North Carolina, New York City and Washington, D.C. The newly identified areas with high levels of child lead poisoning include a historic district in Savannah, Georgia, areas in Rutland, Vermont near a popular skiing area, and a largely Hasidic Jewish area in Brooklyn, New York.

Like Flint, which has acres of land polluted by General Motors and other industrial firms, impoverished homes with peeling paint, and underground lead water mains and service lines, the areas throughout the US with the worst lead poisoning are invariably working class and poor.

There has been a sharp decline in poisoning since lead was removed from paint in 1976 and gasoline in 1995, the latter after more than a decade of resistance by the oil industry. The elimination of lead poisoning, however, is not possible due to lead pipes, residual lead paint in poor urban and rural areas, and former or current industrial sites polluted with lead.

he Flint River

“The dramatic decline in blood lead over the last several decades in the US is a public health triumph, resulting from control of lead in gasoline, paint, food, water, soil, consumer products and other sources,” said Marc Edwards, a professor of environmental and water resources engineering at Virginia Tech University, who was instrumental in exposing the lies of state and local officials who claimed that Flint’s water was safe.

He continued: “Before the increased use of lead in paint and gasoline, lead in water was once the dominant source of human lead exposure in the United States, and it was generally acknowledged to cause widespread lead poisoning, fatalities and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Flint is yet another reminder that we must remain vigilant to harm caused by all lead sources, especially lead pipes, which are out of sight and out of mind. It is also the only government-owned source of lead, which directly affects potable water, a product intended for human consumption. Flint is just the most recent example of how this inherent conflict has harmed people.”

The poisoning of Flint was brought into the national and international spotlight only due to the courageous efforts of the city’s working class residents and science professionals like Edwards and pediatrician and public health advocate Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. She was denounced by Governor Rick Snyder’s office for “slicing and dicing” the results of blood samples.

Flint became a symbol of everything that was wrong in America: corporate and political criminality and the indifference of both the Democrats and Republicans to the plight of working people. The media, celebrities and politicians from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders poured into the town and legal proceedings were initiated against several lesser figures involved in the crime and cover-up. More than three years since the switch to the Flint River, however, nothing has been done to make the residents whole.

The new report from Reuters has been largely ignored by the rest of the corporate-controlled media, which originally presented the Flint crisis as an anomaly, until it was unable to deny the massive and nationwide scale of the problem. Far from committing the necessary resources, including an estimated $500 billion to $1 trillion to replace the nation’s lead pipes, the Obama and Trump administrations have failed to provide any significant funding to address this public health care threat, even as they have squandered trillions on bank bailouts, military spending and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Trump’s 2018 budget request includes a $1.2 billion, or 17 percent, cut to the CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.


Pentagon deploying drone aircraft within the US


By Joseph Kishore
12 March 2016

A report released by the Department of Defense inspector general reveals that for nearly ten years, the US military has been coordinating the domestic use of drones with local officials and the National Guard. It has done so without any public accountability or reporting by the media.

The Pentagon report, prepared last month, was made public last week only after a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Federation of American Scientists.

The inspector general report provides only a glimpse into the extensive use of the military within the borders of the United States. It refers to “less than 20” instances since 2006 when drones were requested by US agencies for use outside of military bases. It does not include a complete list of cases where drones were used, but instead provides nine examples occurring between 2011 and 2016.

While the report is accompanied by the usual reference to “protecting the American public’s civil liberties and privacy rights,” the use of drones (or unmanned aircraft systems, UAS) within the country is a serious warning. It is part of a broader expansion of domestic military activity over the past fifteen years and complements the much more extensive deployment of drone aircraft by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Several of the examples listed include large-scale training exercises that involve a simulated natural disaster. Such exercises provide an opportunity for the military to practice the coordination of its assets with local, state and federal civilian agencies.

The cases listed include Exercise Guardian Shield 2015. In this exercise, carried out last summer in Ohio, the Ohio Air National Guard, the FBI and state and local agencies simulated incidents throughout the state. Exercise Ardent Sentry 2011, another example listed in the report, was a nationwide exercise simulating an earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which includes parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee. The exercise was overseen by the US Northern Command, set up in 2002 under the Bush administration as the first-ever command in charge of military activity within the United States.

Military drones were also reportedly deployed during several natural disasters, including flooding in the Mississippi River Valley at the beginning of this year and in South Carolina last October. Of the nine cases listed, six took place in the last 10 months, indicating a significant expansion of military drone use.

The use of drone aircraft is part of the integration of the military with domestic agencies (through a program known as Defense Support of Civil Authorities, or DSCA), under the authority of the US Northern Command. In 2006, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed an interim order that, according to the inspector general report, “encourages the use of DoD [Department of Defense] UAS to support appropriate domestic mission sets.”

The current DSCA policy guidelines (adopted in 2012 under the Obama administration) contain extremely broad language calling for the military to respond to requests “from civil authorities for domestic emergencies, law enforcement support, and other domestic activities, or from qualifying entities for ‘special events.’”

The ground is being laid for a much broader use of military drones. A 2012 Department of Defense report to Congress identified 110 potential drone bases within the US and called for expanded military access to domestic airspace, ostensibly for the purpose of training individuals to meet the vast growth in “operational demand” abroad, i.e., the assassination program of the Obama administration in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries.

The potential drone bases cited in the 2012 report were located in 39 different states throughout the country.

Since the US Northern Command was first established, the Pentagon, under the Bush and Obama administrations, has pushed for a reinterpretation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of the military for domestic purposes. In 2008, the Pentagon established an “anti-terror” unit within the framework of the Northern Command composed of 20,000 regular Army troops that could be used within the US.

A Department of Justice “white paper” on drone assassination, leaked to the press in February 2013, outlined the Obama administration’s position that the White House has the authority to kill anyone, including US citizens, anywhere in the world without judicial process. In the spring of that year, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to rule out the possibility that the president could, under “extraordinary circumstances…authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,” including by means of drone strikes.

Over the past several years, the Pentagon has carried out a series of domestic exercises simulating large-scale military operations. These include most significantly Operation Jade Helm, begun in July 2015 and involving drills in parts of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas.

The expanded use or simulated use of military forces within the country has coincided with the militarization of local police and the use of the National Guard to impose effective martial law in response to terrorist attacks or social protests, including the lockdown of Boston following the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and the states of emergency in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland during protests against police violence in 2014 and 2015.

Last June, FBI Director James Comey acknowledged that his agency had used drone surveillance aircraft to monitor the protests in both Ferguson and Baltimore. An Associated Press report prior to Comey’s testimony revealed that the FBI had conducted more than 100 flights in 11 states during a single month that year, employing shell companies to operate the aircraft.

The events in Ferguson and Baltimore revealed the essential purpose behind all of these measures. Utilizing the “war on terror” as a pretext, the White House and the Pentagon have worked systematically to expand the apparatus of surveillance and repression—military and police—to utilize the instruments of war ever more directly against social opposition within the United States.

FBI director admits use of spy planes over Ferguson and Baltimore


By Tom Hall
26 October 2015

FBI Director James Comey admitted in testimony last week before the House Judiciary Committee that the agency conducted surveillance flights over mass protests against police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland over the past year, at the request of local police departments. Comey’s remarks confirmed an earlier Associated Press report revealing the FBI’s extensive use of secret flyovers throughout the country.

The hearing itself, mislabeled as being dedicated to the “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” was a further indication of the ability of government agencies like the FBI to carry out illegal mass surveillance against the American population with impunity. Comey contradicted himself at key points through his testimony, which the members of the Committee allowed to pass without comment.

He absurdly claimed in his testimony that the FBI’s flyovers are not used for “mass surveillance,” but only to track specific individuals targeted by an investigation, despite the obvious fact that low-flying, camera-equipped aircraft are ideally suited to follow large numbers of people simultaneously over a wide area. As the ACLU noted recently on its website, new technologies that are now commercially available to police departments nationwide can monitor an area of 25 square miles from low-circling aircraft.

Comey subsequently contradicted this claim when he effectively admitted that the FBI’s spy planes were deployed to Ferguson and Baltimore to spy on the protests as a whole and not specific individuals. “If there is tremendous turbulence in a community, it’s useful to everybody, civilians and law enforcement, to have a view of what’s going on,” Comey told the Committee. “Where are the fires in this community? Where are people gathering ? Where do people need help? And sometimes the best view of that is above rather than trying to look from a car on the street (emphasis added).”

In fact, the federal government closely coordinated with state and local police from day one in both Ferguson and Baltimore in directing the military-style crackdown on largely peaceful protesters. Leading Washington officials, including Barack Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder, lent their voices to the demonization of protesters in order to legitimize the use of violence against them. There can be no doubt that the FBI, an organization with a long history of political repression against dissident groups, was intimately involved at the highest levels in the direction of the crackdown.

Comey then explained under direct questioning that the agency does not obtain warrants before carrying out flyovers, because, as he claimed, “We are not collecting the content of anybody’s communication or engaging anything besides following someone in that investigation … The law is pretty clear that you don’t need a warrant for that kind of observation.” However, Comey later admitted to the Committee that at least some FBI planes are also equipped with “Stingray” technology, which mimics cell phone towers in order to fool nearby phones into establishing connections with it, enabling police to monitor communications and track users’ whereabouts.

Although the Justice Department changed its internal policy last month to require the FBI and other agencies to obtain search warrants before using “Stingray” devices, state and local police are able to use their own devices, subsidized by the federal government, with complete secrecy and without even token oversight. Furthermore, while a recent Justice Department memo banned agencies from using drones “solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment,” this restriction does not apply to manned aircraft such as those operated by the FBI.

Comey’s claim of a limited scope for surveillance does not square with the extraordinary level of secrecy surrounding the program. The Associated Press story this June, which first revealed the FBI’s use of surveillance flights, traced over 50 aircraft to shell companies set up by the bureau throughout the country, and found that the agency had conducted more than 100 flights in 11 states during a one-month span this spring.

The AP found that some flights circled “large, enclosed buildings,” such as malls and airports, “where aerial photography would be less effective than electronic signals collection,” suggesting the use of “Stingray” technology.

Furthermore, numerous flyovers have been observed in Dearborn, Michigan, a Detroit suburb with the country’s largest Arab-American community and which has been subjected to routine harassment by local and federal police since the September 11th attacks.

Comey’s frank admission of the FBI’s use of aerial surveillance was met with hardly a word of protest from the members of the House Judiciary Committee, ostensibly tasked with overseeing the activities of the federal police. Neither Comey’s claim that the FBI planes were not conducting “mass surveillance” in Ferguson nor his argument that such flights did not require a warrant were challenged by the Committee. Instead, members of the Committee competed with one another in showering Comey and his organization with fawning praise.

The day following his testimony before Congress, Comey gave a speech at the University of Chicago Law School in which he attempted to pin the blame on a supposed rise in crime rates on the increased public scrutiny of police in the aftermath of the Michael Brown killing last year. Comey was in Chicago in advance of this week’s conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“I don’t know whether that explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year,” Comey said. “I’ve been told by a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video … Lives are saved when those potential killers are confronted by a police officer, a strong police presence and actual, honest-to-goodness, up-close ‘What are you guys doing on this corner at 1 o’clock in the morning’ policing. We need to be careful it doesn’t drift away from us in the age of viral videos, or there will be profound consequences.”

The theory that a spike in violent crime nationwide in US cities is due in part to fear on the part of police that their activities will be recorded by hostile bystanders and posted on Youtube, known as the “Ferguson Effect,” has no basis in fact.

In the first place, there is no evidence that, outside of a few municipalities, there has been a statistically meaningful spike in violent crime in the United States at all. Second, the claim that police are legitimately concerned that they could face punishment if videos of their activity were recorded does not hold water when even officers who have been filmed committing acts of murder have not been disciplined, let alone arrested and charged with a crime. Finally, the only significant slowdowns in arrest rates this year have been due to work slowdowns, such as those organized in New York City and Baltimore, directed against city administrations deemed to be insufficiently fervent in their defense of the police.

Instead, the Ferguson Effect “theory” is a politically-motivated slander against police brutality protesters designed to portray police as victims and shield their activities from scrutiny. It has been most heavily promoted by right-wing demagogues and officials of local police unions. Even the New York Times, which functions as a compliant mouthpiece for the American state, was compelled to admit in its reporting of Comey’s remarks that the existence of a “Ferguson Effect” was “far from settled.”

The decision by Comey to publically solidarize himself with the arguments of the far-right was allegedly a source of some embarrassment to the Obama administration (the Times cited unnamed officials who “privately fumed” at Comey’s remarks).

However, the administration itself has deliberately allowed killer police to operate with impunity, intervening against the plaintiffs in every police brutality case heard by the Supreme Court, and, through its massive expansion of government surveillance and funneling of military hardware to local police departments, has contributed significantly to erecting the scaffolding of police state forms of rule.

If Comey felt secure in scapegoating police brutality protesters the day after he confirmed that the FBI conducted surveillance against them, it is because he knows his agency is subjected to virtually no democratic restraints.

The Baltimore upheaval: On race and class in America


12 May 2015

In the aftermath of the eruption of anger in Baltimore, Maryland over the police killing of Freddie Gray, the media and political establishment are seeking to conceal the real social and political issues at stake.

The killing of 25-year-old Gray last month—only one of the latest in a wave of police murders around the country—triggered clashes with police, demonstrations that spread to other cities and a police-military occupation of the city that was only lifted last week. While Gray’s murder was the catalyst, the scope and magnitude of the social discontent was fueled by the destitute conditions confronting working-class youth in the city’s poorest, largely minority, neighborhoods.

Much of the political elite that runs Baltimore is African American, including the current mayor, police chief and the majority of the city council. Although this fact has seriously undermined the arguments of the proponents of identity politics, it has not stopped them from insisting once again that the essential division in American society is race, not class.

On Sunday, the New York Times published a lead editorial, “How Racism Doomed Baltimore.” The newspaper, which sets the tone for what is described as “liberal public opinion” in America, declared that conditions in the city could only be understood within the context of the city’s legacy of racism and segregation.

“Americans might think of Maryland as a Northern state, but it was distinctly Southern in its attitudes toward race,” the Times editorialists write before giving a potted history of the state, from efforts to disenfranchise black voters in 1905 to more contemporary examples of racial segregation in public housing.

The desperate condition of young low-income men, the newspaper says, cannot be understood outside of the context of the “century-long assault that Baltimore’s blacks have endured at the hands of local, state and federal policy makers, all of whom worked to quarantine black residents in ghettos, making it difficult even for people of means to move into integrated areas that offered better jobs, schools and lives for their children.”

The “tensions associated with segregation and concentrated poverty place many cities at risk of unrest. But the acute nature of segregation in Baltimore—and the tools that were developed to enforce it over such a long period of time—have left an indelible mark and given that city a singular place in the country’s racial history.”

That Baltimore, like many cities in the north and the south, had a history of racial segregation is of course true. However, if a reader of this column were not familiar with the politics of Baltimore, they might be excused for believing the city is run by the Ku Klux Klan and that its police force is made up of Night Riders covered in white sheets.

The Times does not mention that the political establishment in the city is predominantly African American, or that half of the Baltimore Police Department is black. Indeed, three of the six cops indicted for Gray’s killing, including the driver of the police van charged with murder, are African American.

The relentless police violence in Baltimore stems not from racism but from class oppression, which the black politicians defend no less than their white counterparts. Unable to contain her hatred and fear of the city’s youth after sporadic rioting erupted the day of Gray’s funeral, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared, “Too many people have spent generations building up the city for it to be destroyed by thugs who are trying to tear down what so many fought for. They are tearing down businesses, destroying property.”

Rawlings-Blake speaks for a whole layer of wealthy African Americans who have a stake in defending their property and wealth and overseeing a system that produces ever-greater poverty for black and white workers alike. This corrupt social layer includes countless academics, politicians, preachers, millionaire “civil rights” leaders and black entrepreneurs who have benefited from government funding for minority-owned businesses and African American university programs.

Alongside the Times are various pseudo-left organizations that have long promoted identity politics in order to subordinate the interests of workers and youth to the Democratic Party. They represent the strivings of a segment of the upper middle class that uses the politics of race, gender and sexual identity as part of efforts to gain more of a share of the wealth exploited from the working class.

With angry youth in the streets of Baltimore denouncing the mayor and other black officials, the International Socialist Organization (ISO)—which hailed Obama’s 2008 election as a “transformative event in US politics, as an African American takes the highest office in a country built on slavery”—has suddenly discovered a “black elite” whose interests are at odds with the majority of minority workers and youth.

The problem, however, is that these “black elected officials” defend the “racist system!”

The ISO’s Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor—an assistant professor in Princeton’s African American studies department—tells us, “Black elected officials have largely governed in the same way as their white counterparts, reflecting all of the racism, corruption and policies favoring the wealthy seen throughout mainstream politics.” This “powerful Black political class,” she continues, “helps to deflect a serious interrogation of structural inequality and institutional racism.”

In other words, the problem is, according to Taylor, that the black politicians are simply not aggressive enough in their promotion of identity politics. Never does she suggest that there is a fundamental unity of interests between black and white workers.

The New York Times, the ISO—which is essentially an auxiliary agent of the Democratic Party—and the political establishment as a whole are determined to prevent any real examination of the social and economic structure of America because they all defend the capitalist system, which is the source of poverty and police brutality.

It has been 50 years since the Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles, one of the first of a wave of urban uprisings across the United States in the 1960s. The call made in the 1968 Kerner Commission on Civil Disorders for massive government spending to stop the country’s drift towards racial and economic polarization was never realized. Instead, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” programs gave way to massive outlays for the Vietnam War, with politicians declaring that it was impossible to provide “guns and butter.”

The five decades that have elapsed have seen the deindustrialization of major manufacturing centers like Baltimore, combined with an unrelenting destruction of social programs. At the same time, sections of the African American upper-middle-class have been elevated into positions of privilege and power.

By the time of Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, the Democratic Party had completely repudiated its association with the reforms of the New Deal and Great Society periods. Clinton gutted welfare programs to provide an ample supply of cheap labor for the rich, including a growing layer of black capitalists, and passed the 1994 Federal Crime Bill, with its notorious “three strikes” provision that has helped create the largest prison population in the world.

Since taking office Obama has only escalated these reactionary policies. Today the American ruling class will not even provide “guns and water,” as tens of thousands of low-income residents in Baltimore and Detroit are seeing their water service shut off for unpaid bills. The only “urban policy” Obama and the ruling class have is to try to contain the explosive social tensions with police military repression.

Whatever role racism might play in any particular act of police violence, the events in Baltimore expose the fact that above all class is the determining factor. With nothing to offer masses of people, the political and media representatives of the ruling class, along with the upper-middle-class boosters, are determined to block the development of a politically conscious and united movement of black, white and immigrant workers and youth against the profit system.

Jerry White

David Harvey: reclaiming the city from Kobane to Baltimore

By Sardar Saadi On May 26, 2015

Post image for David Harvey: reclaiming the city from Kobane to Baltimore

In this interview with ROAR, the leading Marxist geographer reflects on Rojava, Baltimore and urban life as the terrain of contemporary class struggle.

David Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology & Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He was in Diyarbakir for a visit to the region and also to participate in a panel at the 1st Amed Book Fair on his latest book, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, translated in Turkish by Sel Publishing. ROAR contributor Sardar Saadi sat down with him for an interview.


Sardar Saadi: Professor Harvey, welcome to Kurdistan! Thank you so much for accepting our interview request for ROAR Magazine. It was very difficult to arrange a time for this interview. You have a very busy schedule. Would you tell our readers what brought you to Kurdistan? I heard you have been to Kobane as well?

David Harvey: Well, this is my third visit to this part of Turkey, and I have some strong personal connections with some of the people teaching at Mardin Atikulu University. Mardin is a very beautiful place to visit, so I found a way to combine pleasure and some work. But I’m also here because of the general situation in Turkey and particularly also in Rojava. The Syrian side is fascinating. At the same time, it is pretty horrific. So I have taken a bit of interest in that lately.

I was trying to get to Kobani, too, but the Turkish government has basically closed the border.

As you know, the governments of Turkey and the Kurdish region of Iraq have imposed an ongoing embargo on Rojava. How do you connect this to what is going on in Rojava?

I can only speculate that nobody wants whatever is happening in Rojava to be given any prominence internationally, and nobody wants whatever is happening there to succeed. That would be my guess. It is the most obvious one.

There are so many initiatives for rebuilding Kobane. The airstrikes and bombings have left the city almost entirely destroyed. What is your perspective on reconstructing Kobane, and on the possibilities of creating anti-capitalist alternatives in the area?

I saw this map with satellite data of the level of destruction, and clearly Kobane is about 80 percent destroyed. Reconstruction is essentially going to revolve around surface buildings and bringing the people back in. This offers a range of opportunities to think creatively about an alternative urbanization.

One of the big difficulties, I think, is going to be facing the existing property rights to a degree that the existing population can re-establish itself. They probably want to build their property rights in the way things were before, so they will get back to old-style urbanization, and that is maybe what will happen — in which case the question will be where the resources will come from.

Still I think the opportunity exists to explore anti-capitalist alternatives. Whether this opportunity has been taken, I don’t know. But to the extent that Kurdish thinking has been influenced by somebody like Murray Bookchin, I think there is a possibility for the population to explore something different. I was told there are assembly-based forms of governance in place in Rojava, but I haven’t seen anything yet. I worry a little bit, you know, the left sometime has this romanticism. The Zapatistas said “revolution” and everybody got romantic about what they were doing.

I actually made a comparison between the revolution in Rojava and the Zapatistas. I raised the question if Rojava is becoming like the Chiapas of the Middle East. Do you think there is a similarity between these two struggles?

Not so much of a similarity — in the sense that the Zapatistas were organized, took control of their territory and managed to protect it in a particular way and at a particular time. They were not devastated by war. They did not have many of the problems that the people of Rojava are facing. But they had a pre-existing communal structure in place, so there was a form of governance there already — they didn’t have to implement everything from scratch. So I think there are a lot of differences.

I think the similarity is the romance that some people on the left in Europe and North America may have that, ‘oh well, this is the place, finally!’ And I always say to them that the place we should be constructing revolutionary socialism is in the United States, not hoping that something in Chiapas or in Northern Syria will rescue us from capitalism [laughs]. It’s not going to happen.

How do you think the international solidarity movement can be productive in helping Rojava?

There are some basic things, I would say. No matter what happens there, I think the emancipation of the Kurdish people — to the extent that there is a level of self-government — is something worth supporting. I am happy to support it myself. To the extent that these communities are experimenting with new forms of governance and they want to experience new forms of urban development, I think I will be very interested in talking to them. I am glad that people are thinking about doing something different, and to the extent that I can help or help mobilize help, I would want to be able do it.

Of course, what we are seeing is that there are going to be barriers to that. We are going to have to find ways to circumvent those barriers. For instance, there is an alternative group of people from Europe and North America who are actually trying now to re-design urbanization in Gaza. I think that if they are actually able to do something there, they could mobilize to do something in Rojava as well.

There are some real possibilities here. But just speaking personally, I would want to be cautious about saying, ‘oh this is a great thing that happened, everything is great.’ I would want to say: ‘look, I think things are going in an interesting direction worthy of our support and discussions, and we should do our best to try to support whatever it is that the population itself is trying to come up with.’

You mentioned in an interview with Firat News Agency during a conference in Hamburg that the Middle East is a region that’s falling apart. Yet Rojava is flourishing as an alternative in this chaotic environment, don’t you think?

Well, what is going on in this region is a crucial part of the world geopolitically. The Middle East is in a real mess right now. Everybody’s got their finger in the pie: the Russians, the Chinese, the Americans, the Europeans. It is a zone of conflicts, and it has been for some time. I mean, look at what’s happening in Syria — and then there was the Lebanese civil war, the situation in Iraq, and now what is going on in Yemen, in Egypt, and so on. This is a very unstable geological zone and geopolitical configuration of the world, which is producing disaster for local populations.

But one of the things that often happens with disasters is that new things come out of them. These new things can be very, very significant. I think the reason why disaster produces something new is because the typical bourgeois power structure disappears, and the ruling classes are unable to govern. That creates a situation where people can start to govern themselves outside of those traditional power structures. So we are likely to see possibilities emerge, not only in Rojava but also elsewhere. Some of them, of course, will not be very nice — like ISIS. So I am not saying everything is going in the right direction at all. It is a zone of opportunities as well as disasters.

I would like to open another topic in this conversation, and it is about cities — something you have written a lot about. In the last decade or so, we have witnessed the rising importance of cities in Kurdish politics. In Diyarbakir where we are right now, the pro-Kurdish municipality is intervening in the socioeconomic and political life of the city as well as re-appropriating urban spaces according to their agenda. Also, for the first time, Kobane’s resistance is the resistance of a city — unlike previous uprisings in the history of the Kurdish movement that were traditionally more about a tribe, a traditional leader, or a nationalist political party leading the resistance.

I am wondering if we can connect the resistance in Kobane or the example of the municipalist movement in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish cities in Turkey to the larger global movement we have seen in the last few years in places like Tahrir Square in Cairo, the Occupy movement that started in New York, the Gezi protests in Istanbul, or most recently the riots in Baltimore. Do you see a connection between these emerging forms of urban street politics?

Well, yes, the world is increasingly urbanized and we increasingly see discontent emerging around the quality of urban life. So you can see this discontent producing uprisings in some instances, or mass protests like Gezi and what happened in Brazil shortly after Gezi. There is actually a long tradition of urban uprisings — the Paris Commune in 1871 and other instances well before that — but I think that the urban question is really becoming a central question today, and the qualities of urban life are moving to the forefront of what contemporary protests are about.

But at the same time, increasingly, we see political protest internalized within the cities. What we are starting to see, with the Israeli Defense Forces confronting Palestinians in Ramallah and places like that, is that this is no longer about state-versus-state — it is about the state trying to control the rest of the urban population. We have even seen that in the U.S., in a place like in Ferguson, where an armed force came out to confront the protest. And in Baltimore, too. So increasingly, I think, we are going to see this kind of low-level urban warfare going on between populations, and increasingly we are going to see the apparatuses of the state isolating themselves from the people they are supposed to serve, becoming part of the administrative apparatuses of capital that are repressing urban populations.

So we are seeing these sorts of emerging urban uprisings in a patchy way all around the world: in Buenos Aires, in Bolivia, in Brazil, etc. Latin America is full of this sort of stuff. But even in Europe we have seen major urban unrest: in London, Stockholm, Paris, and so on. What we have to do is to start thinking of a new form of politics, which is what anti-capitalism should fundamentally be about. Unfortunately, the traditional left still focuses narrowly on workers and the workplace, whereas now it’s the politics of everyday life that really matters.

The left is sometimes very conservative in terms of what it thinks is important. Marx and Engels had a vision of the proletariat of a certain kind. Well, that proletariat has disappeared in many parts of the world, even if it has reemerged in places like China and Mexico under different conditions. So as a general matter the left has to be much more flexible in its approach to the anti-capitalist movements emerging in and around the question of urban life that we have seen in the revolts in Baltimore and in Tahrir Square and so on. Which is not to say they are all the same — because they are not — but there is clearly a certain parallel between these movements.

What do you think of the possible outcomes of something that happened in a place like Baltimore for the global movement against capitalism? Are they just momentary protests in their specific spatio-temporal conditions, or can they be seen as indications of something fundamentally wrong with the system?

One of the biggest difficulties, politically speaking, is to get people to see the nature of the system in which they live. The system is very sophisticated in disguising what it does, and how it does it. One of the tasks of Marxists and critical theorists is to try to demystify, but you can see this happening intuitively sometimes. Take the indignados movement: something happens in Spain and then, next thing, suddenly it happens in Greece — and then suddenly it happens elsewhere. Take the Occupy movement: suddenly there are occupations going on all over the place. So there is connectivity here.

A specific event like Baltimore doesn’t do anything in itself. What it does do, when you add it to Ferguson and you add it to some of the other things that are going on, is to show that large populations have been treated as disposable human beings. This is going on in the United States as well as elsewhere. Then, people suddenly start to see this is a systemic issue. So one of the things we should be doing is to emphasize the systemic nature of these type of events, showing that the problem lies within the system.

I used to live in Baltimore for many years — and what is happening there now is really a re-run of what I encountered in 1969, one year after a lot of the place was burnt down. So we went from 1968 to 2015, and things are still the same! You kind of go, ‘hey, what is keeping it all the same?’ Despite of all the promises of those who claimed they were resolving the situation in the 1970s, or those who claim to be resolving it today, it doesn’t happen — it just doesn’t happen. In fact, a lot of it is getting worse.

Baltimore is interesting not only because of what happened in the poor areas. The rest of the city has actually become extremely affluent and gentrified — so it has really become two cities. There always were two cities, but now there are two cities with a much wider gap in between, and everybody sees the difference. I read an interview with somebody in Tahrir Square, and one of the things they said was that they always lived in not very affluent conditions, but what they noticed was that some people were getting filthy rich. They couldn’t understand why those people were getting filthy rich while the rest were going down or just staying the same. And it is the anger over this disparity that turned them against the system. This is true in Baltimore as well: ‘their part of town is fine, and my part of town is in a nose-dive.’

This is actually true for most cities. You look around and see it in Istanbul, and you see it everywhere. What is government doing about it? Well, it is clearing people out of their so-called slum areas because they are sitting on high value lands, and they could give them to developers who can then build shopping malls and office spaces — and people say ‘this is not right!’ That is how you get to the point where people begin exercising their right to the city, which is to use the city for their own purposes.

We want to exercise our right to the city in our particular way, which is radically different from that of capital. We want to make a different kind of city. How do we do that? Can we do it? These are difficult questions. When people raise this demand, a further question arises: can you do this within the existing structure of property rights? There is a belief in the United States that private property and land ownership are not a problem. Part of the solution, I suppose, lies in people starting to realize that it is part of the problem. Then you will begin to see that we have to come up with an alternative structure of property rights that are not private. They are collective. They are common. And at the same time they have to offer security and take away the fear of speculation for capital.

I want to end by asking what inspired you on your trip to Kurdistan. Is there anything that will bring you back here?

Well, as I said, this whole region is a rather critical region. I actually had fantasies not so long ago that I would relocate entirely to somewhere around. I thought I could base myself in Athens, and I would then spend my time working a bit in Turkey, a bit in Lebanon, a bit in Egypt, because it is that zone between Europe and the region. What is going on here seems to be fascinating, so I like to be in the region. I also have very good friends here, and I have a wonderful publisher, Sel Publishing. I must say they have done a wonderful job of both translating and generally inviting me here and getting me to see things. If I get into Kobane, it is because they have worked really hard on it.

I hope we soon see your books translated in Kurdish as well — and I am sure the people of Diyarbakir will be happy to host you if you ever wanted to relocate in the region. Thank you so much for your time, Professor Harvey. I hope you will get into Kobane soon.

Sardar Saadi is a Toronto-based activist and a PhD student in anthropology at the University of Toronto. Please contact Sardar first before translating this interview into Turkish: sardarsaadi[at]gmail[dot]com.

Baltimore: ‘we want justice, by any means necessary’

By Valentina Dallona On May 4, 2015

Post image for Baltimore: ‘we want justice, by any means necessary’
People had to resort to bricks and fire to be heard, but finally the authorities can no longer ignore the voices of the marginalized and oppressed.
It is not easy to sum up the history of oppression that is being expressed in these days of protests and riots in Baltimore. It becomes even more difficult when your hands are shaking with anxiety and helplessness, while right outside your window a couple of police officers are arresting a teen and the entire city is a frenzy of sirens.But let us start from the beginning. Or not quite, as the beginning of this story is not easy to spot. Let us start with Freddie Gray. On April 12, at 8.40am, at the intersection between Presbury and N-Mount Street (in the neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester, West Baltimore), Freddie made the fatal mistake of running away from a police officer (Brian Rice) on bicycle, who had just made eye-contact with him. After deciding that this was enough of a probable cause to arrest the 25-year-old, Rice called out for the support of five other officers (Garrett Miller, Alicia White, William Porter, Edward Nero, Caesar Goodson) with whose assistance he arrested Freddie (probably already injuring him at this point) and threw his limp body into a police van.

Despite several calls for medical assistance by Freddie Gray, none of the officers responded. Instead, they dragged the victim around for 40 minutes, picking up other suspects in the meantime, before arriving at the police station. By that time Freddie was lying unconscious on the vehicle’s floor. A week later, on April 19, Freddie died in the hospital as the result of a severe spinal injury.

The death of Freddie Gray is only the latest in a long series of which we remember but a few names, such as those of Trayvon Martin (killed in February 2012) and Eric Garner (July 2014). The issue of police brutality against the black community suddenly hit newspaper headlines after the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August. Mike Brown’s premature death triggered days of riots and months of protest in Ferguson and across the country, with thousands taking to the streets to declare that “black lives matter.”

The murder of Freddie Gray thus occurred in a context in which police actions are under close scrutiny of public opinion, on the one hand, and of the legislators on the other. Tensions in black-majority neighborhoods are running high. To this background we must add the fact that we are speaking about Baltimore: a city in which 65% of the population is black and where a large majority of the overall population lives in the “hoods” of East and West Baltimore, with only a very thin “safe strip” remaining in the predominantly white middle.

In sum, this is a tale of two cities, where the wealthy, white-majority neighborhoods of Guilford, Roland Park and Canton — with their perfectly mowed lawns — stand in stark contrast to the worn-down, crime-ridden neighborhoods that make up most of the city, where the rates of unemployment are — in the best cases — double those recorded in white neighborhoods. This is without taking into account those who have stopped actively seeking employment, which includes many young black men who are prevented from pursuing a job because they have criminal records.





Table extracted from the paper ‘Down to the Wire: Displacement and Disinvestment in Baltimore City’, by Lawrence Brown

In this context, many black youths in the hoods find that the only remaining job opportunities are in drug trafficking and the informal economy that revolves around it. The drug-dealing business is not only destroying the black community as a result of addiction, but is also producing the chain of violence that inevitably comes with the trade.

Thus, the umpteenth murder took place in a city where social tensions were already at fever-pitch, waiting to burst. In the days following Freddie’s death, Sandtown has taken to the streets every single day to protest, bringing along a growing crowd of supporters. Last Saturday, April 25, everybody was there: from Freddie’s friends to Johns Hopkins academics, from local unions to the angry mothers who have lost their husbands, their sons, their brothers at the hands of the police force: 1,500 people yelling “we want justice for Freddie!” — some at the police officials, some at the Mayor, some others at the sky.

After four hours of marching through the city, the crowd poured into the square in front of Baltimore City Hall, where the leadership of the New Black Panther Party made an attempt to keep the mass of people in place for a series of speeches. This attempt failed about half an hour afterwards, when Malik Shabbazz’s request to ‘calm down, we will let you march again in about an hour’ was met by a group of hundreds of people spontaneously “leaking” back into the streets and heading towards the stadium, where the baseball season recently started again.

Although the Baltimore police department had been almost invisible throughout the march, the stadium full of devoted Orioles fans could not go unprotected: rows of riot police equipped with horses and pepper-spray blocked the entrance. At the same time, however, it was clear that police officers received orders to stay calm, so much so that they remained relatively composed even as protesters attacked six police cars parked nearby the stadium and blocked the intersection between W-Pratt St and S-Howard St for four hours.







Image: protesters smash up a police car nearby the stadium on April 25.

It was only towards 8pm that the police helicopter, which never stopped circulating overhead, began to relay the usual message: “you must clear the intersection or you will be arrested.” Even in this case, however, the authorities showed a surprising degree of restraint, clearly ordered from above: the mayor, police authorities and everybody else knew how incendiary the situation was.

But the composure displayed by the police was not enough to sedate the deep-seated anger, rooted not only in the racism and abuse of the law enforcement apparatus, but also in the lack of alternatives available to black youth in the hoods. Hence, while only 50 miles away President Obama was letting loose in a stand-up show for the annual White House correspondents’ dinner, the protesters in Baltimore went back towards the Western District, where people engaged in a night of clashes with the police.

Following the night of clashes in Sandtown, the community called for peace in the streets until Freddie’s funeral, scheduled for Monday, April 27. Rallies were not to be resumed until the following Tuesday. But things soon got more complicated: April 25 saw the announcement of a truce between the three major gangs in the city: the Bloods, the Crips and the Black Guerrilla Family. While only a few days before they had still been killing each other, on April 25 the members of the different gangs were walking together in the same march, for the first time since the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, following the savage police beating of the African-American taxi driver Rodney King.

The truce is of such importance that it was invoked by the police later as a reason to abandon the low-key approach of April 25 and deploy the National Guard in the streets. On Monday morning, the Baltimore Police Department (BCPD) released a declaration stating that intelligence sources had issued a warning about a “credible threat” regarding a partnership between the city’s gangs aimed at “taking-out law enforcement officers.”

With this statement (whose validity has been questioned by the public declarations of some of the gang members involved), the authorities intended to send a clear message: we do not appreciate your unity, so be careful, as we are ready to act. The criminal economy, after all, constitutes the main relief valve of the marginalized urban underclasses, and the possibility of different criminal networks reaching common ground represents too big of a threat to law enforcement.

And so city authorities decided to first close down all public schools in the area and send the students home, and secondly to position 400 riot police nearby Mondawmin Mall, where riots were rumored to start. At this point, hundreds of school boys who had just been told to leave the nearby public school Douglass High found themselves facing off with hundreds of policemen dressed in riot gear and determined to not let anyone leave. This standoff was the immediate trigger for a long day (and night) of riots, which ended — according to estimates by the city authorities — with more than 200 arrests, 144 car fires and 15 structure fires.

In response, a state of emergency was declared across the city and the newly elected Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan called in the National Guard. Helicopters have been circling over the city 24/7 and on Tuesday, April 28, a week-long curfew was imposed, forcing everybody to stay indoors between 10pm to 5am. In the meantime, protests continue.

The riots of April 27 started around 2.30pm and went on throughout the night.

These are important days, not only for Baltimore, but for the entire country. People had to resort to bricks and fire in order to be heard, but finally the authorities (and the world) can no longer ignore the voices of the youth, the mothers, the fathers of Sandtown, who have much to talk about. They talk about the constant abuse of the police force and the everyday racism that consigns black people to a sub-human status. They talk about how the city authorities have completely divested from these neighborhoods, privatizing the little social housing that was left, closing down the recreation centers and cutting down water provisions to those households that cannot afford to pay the bills, while at the same time spending millions of dollars in TIFs and other subsidies to the big downtown developers.

They also talk about jobs, or more precisely the lack thereof, and the absence of perspectives for most of the black youth of Baltimore (and so many other cities in the United States). Because racism is the mask exploitation hides under. It constitutes yet another instrument to oppress marginalized communities and undermine social solidarity. Hence, in a city that has since the 1970s experienced a process of severe de-industrialization while companies fled abroad in the search for cheaper labor force, African-Americans have been consigned to poverty — either stuck in unemployment or hired for low-end jobs, predominantly in the service sector (the only sector that has expanded in the last few decades). As the first victims of the sub-prime mortgage bubble that trapped so many household into a spiral of debt, now they are also the first to be evicted from their residences to make space for the plans of the big private developers.

The protests of the past week talk about all of this — and, yes, they also talk about Freddie. We want justice, by any means necessary.

Valentina Dallona is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she studies social theory and labor. She is a member of the Clash City Workers collective in Italy.


UPDATE, 02/05/2015:

As many of you have probably heard by now, in the morning of May 1, the recently elected state attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that the six police officers involved in Freddie Gray’s arrest and transport to the police station have been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. The announcement was completely unexpected, especially after rumors had been circulating in the previous days about police authorities sticking to the version that Freddie actually deliberately broke his own spinal chord while locked up in the police van. These charges constitute an important victory, despite the police union effort to revert the verdict by pointing to an alleged “conflict of interest” between the state attorney, Gray’s family and the local media (see picture below for the official statement).

The struggle is not over, though. While people are now being arrested for defying a needless curfew (there have been no clashes, only peaceful rallies, since the National Guard entered town), concrete steps are needed to turn this victory into systemic change.

Baltimore rally against police brutality encourages illusions in Democrats

By Nick Barrickman and Jerry White
4 May 2015

On Saturday, over a thousand people protested in Baltimore, Maryland against police brutality and the continued presence of National Guard troops in the city. Protests also took place in Boston, Atlanta and other US cities over the weekend to oppose the wave of police killings across the US, including the murder of 25-year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray.

A group of protesters

The Baltimore protest occurred as Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan and Democratic Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake continued the police-military occupation of the city by 3,000 National Guardsmen, 578 state troopers and 432 cops from the city and surrounding areas.

Fifty people were arrested Saturday night, including two members of the National Lawyers Guild and individuals serving as medics, for violations of the 10 pm to 5 am curfew imposed after minor rioting broke out early last week in the city’s most impoverished areas. The mayor ordered police to essentially stand down on April 27 so isolated cases of looting could be used as the pretext to declare a state of emergency, deploy troops and impose the curfew.

Nearly 500 protesters have been arrested since April 23. Prisoners, including young teenagers, have been penned up for days and then dragged into court with their hands and ankles shackled. Among those arrested was Kevin Moore, who shot the video of Freddie Gray being arrested and loaded into the police van before his fatal “rough ride” on April 12.

National Guardsmen deployed throughout the city

After the deployment of troops was unable to suppress opposition, city officials, in close coordination with President Obama’s Justice Department, decided to file charges against six cops involved in the murder of Gray. Announcing the charges—which range from second-degree murder to manslaughter by vehicle and false imprisonment—State Attorney Marilyn Mosby last week said the charges were not an indictment of the entire police force. Insisting no further protests were necessary, Mosby said she had heard protesters in Baltimore and across the US say, “No Justice, No Peace,” and now “your peace is sincerely needed as I work to provide justice on behalf of this young man.”

Leading the protest on Saturday were groups tied to the Democratic Party, which sought to boost illusions in the city’s political establishment, which has long been dominated by an affluent layer of African American politicians, judges, prosecutors and other administrators.

Malik Z. Shabazz, president of the Washington, DC-based activist group Black Lawyers for Justice (BLJ) and the former leader of the so-called New Black Panther Party, praised Mosby. He claimed that the wave of police killings was due to racism, not the class division of society. Such claims fly in the face of reality under conditions in which the president, the city’s mayor, police chief, half of the Baltimore Police Department and three of the six cops indicted for the murder of Freddie Gray are African American.

This promotion of racial politics is aimed at shoring up the credibility of this deeply discredited social layer and protecting the wealth and power it has accumulated in one of the most unequal cities in America. A household in the top five percent of income earners in Baltimore receives $12.30 for each dollar earned by those in the bottom 20 percent.

Democratic State Senator Catherine Pugh—who only days before was peppered by angry crowds when she implored them to honor the curfew—told protesters they were “lucky” to have a state prosecutor such as Mosby, adding, “we know that police reform is on the way.” As regards the crushing poverty in cities across the US, she said the answer was to “equalize the wealth,” by setting up “public-private partnerships for investments not only in downtowns but in our neighborhoods.”

In an interview with WBAL-TV, Pugh made it clear exactly who she thought should get a bigger share of the wealth. While denouncing “looters,” Pugh insisted, “We have to bring back the jobs but we have to understand that the African American community is not monolithic. We are a microcosm of America—we have very poor and very rich. We have people who have the capacity to expand the businesses in our communities. We just need a fair playing ground so we all take part in it.”

Pugh said she had authored legislation for the state of Maryland to channel a larger portion of its pension investments into minority-owned businesses in order to “share the wealth.”

Ruling class spokespersons such as Pugh hate and fear the masses of working class people. They offer no program to ameliorate the poverty and inequality created by decades of deindustrialization and the systematic dismantling of public education and other essential services, carried out to channel more money into the hands of the corporate and financial elite.

The Obama administration and local Democratic Party in the big cities are seeking to cultivate a new layer of opportunists and careerists as “civil rights leaders” and “community activists” on the basis of seed money for minority start-ups and other lucrative projects.

While Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lifted the city’s curfew Sunday and Governor Larry Hogan announced a “draw down” of National Guard troops, these repressive forces remain on alert and could be redeployed if social anger erupts again. Whatever the legal outcome of the Freddie Gray case—and indictments are not the same as convictions—the police and the military are required to defend the property and wealth of the super-rich minority against the ever more impoverished majority.

The fascistic outlook that permeates a wide layer of the cops was revealed last week by a caller to a WBAL talk show. Saying there was widespread support in the police department to throw the mayor out for restraining them during the protests, he said, “The moment it started, we could have ended it. Trust you me. They would not let us. It’s on the mayor’s shoulders now for the people who were injured, the buildings that were burnt, and the officers that were hurt. The city may never recover from what she let happen.

“You had no idea what it did to us as police officers to sit there and let people, I’m gonna say it, thugs, hoodlums, little animals do what they did to us in the streets of Baltimore,” the caller added. He praised the police in New York City for immediately arresting 120 protesters last week.

Similarly, Teana Walsh, a member of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office in Detroit, was forced to resign Friday after saying the solution to such disturbances was to “Shoot ’em. Period. End of discussion.”

Many in attendance at Saturday’s march in Baltimore expressed doubts there would be any serious effort to provide jobs or decent public services. Trina, an out of work cook living in east Baltimore, told the World Socialist Web Site,“[Mayor] Rawlings-Blake has got to go. She’s closed all the city’s recreation centers and the kids have nowhere to go now. Drugs and everything else infests these neighborhoods, not to mention there are hundreds of vacant lots in the city.”

Tavon Miles

According to an article published in theWashington Post ’s Wonkblog section last week, there are dozens of neighborhoods located in the city of Baltimore that have standards of living equivalent to those of an undeveloped country. “Fifteen Baltimore neighborhoods have lower life expectancies than North Korea. Eight are doing worse than Syria,” the Post reported.

Tavon Miles, another protester, expressed doubts that Mosby’s announcement of charges against the officers would end in a conviction. “You want to know what the real injustice here is? It’s that the kid who broke the police car’s window [during the eruption of social anger after Freddie Gray’s funeral last week] is still being held on a $500,000 bail, when the cops, who are charged with committing a murder, got $350,000 bail. That’s the injustice here.” Tavon added, “I’ve never even seen someone able to get bail for a murder charge.”