The Soapbox: Justice Is No Longer An Option, It Is A Necessity

Prosecutors have found probable cause to rule Freddie Gray’s death a homicide, with the six officers involved in his death being hit with charges ranging from misconduct to manslaughter to 2nd degree depraved heart murder. The announcement was made this morning by Baltimore state attorney, Marilyn J. Mosby, who said the officers intentionally put the young man in handcuffs and leg restraints in the police van without securing him with a seatbelt, resulting in the injury that caused Gray’s untimely death. They ignored his cries for help and medical attention. So now, once again, the nation cannot breathe. As its citizens await the trial and then the verdicts of either “guilty” or “not guilty,” many are most certainly holding their breath in anticipation. In the months to come, those seeking justice will either sigh with relief when these officers are held responsible for their reprehensible behavior, or the country will erupt into frenzied civil unrest of frightening proportions. At this point, justice is no longer an option, it is a necessity.

Criminal Charges Filed In Death Of Freddie Gray
A first step towards justice has been taken.

The deaths of Black children, men and women, including Eric Garner, Ayiana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, John Crawford and Tamir Rice (to name a few), combined with the judicial system’s inability to successfully prosecute those responsible for their deaths and others simply because they are police officers, has displayed America’s utter disregard for Black safety and lives. Only a few days ago, all charges were dropped against the officer who shot and killed Rekia Boyd, despite having fired shots at an unarmed group of Black people, striking Boyd in the head. The judge ruled that there was no evidence of reckless conduct in the case. It seems that video footage, witness testimony and conclusive autopsies are not evidence — or that all evidence is rendered moot in the face of a discriminatory legal system. Either possibility points to a failed legal system. That failure will be further amplified if the legal system reaches another “not guilty” verdict.

This nation is already at its tipping point, its Black population is tired, frustrated and angry. People of every race are fed up with continued injustice. Many may not have the patience to deal with another failure of the justice system to find these uniformed perpetrators culpable of wrongdoing. Nor should they. Proof of that lies with the thousands of people marching the streets of every major city in the country since Trayvon Martin’s death and his killer’s acquittal. It’s seen in the closed bridges, tunnels and streets that have been taken back by the people who declare “no justice, no peace.” It’s alive in the riots that have left the cities of Ferguson and Baltimore engulfed in chaos and flames. When it becomes evident that there will be no justice for Black victims of police brutality, is it not the duty of the people to ensure there is no peace? Is it not a rallying call? Proof that more must be done beyond chants, sit-ins, marches or protests? That threats are empty without action? And that the mostly “non-violent” actions, thus far, have been ineffective? Even Mosby acknowledged that the uprising in Baltimore and the pressure activists put on lawmakers to seek justice for Gray deserved some credit, saying, “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace.’ To the youth of this city: I will seek justice on your behalf.”

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The American judicial system is pushing people to the point where they realize the fight for justice may not be very peaceful after all. And that realization will only be further cemented if the court system fails to find those responsible for Freddie Gray’s death guilty. Though history provides very little evidence to support the assertion that justice will be attained, we must hope and pray that it will.

For peace may very well depend on it.