Ben Jealous, former president of the NAACP and fellow at the Center for American Progress, speaks at a rally for the Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs on Oct. 16. (AFRO Photo/Roberto Alejandro)
A coalition of activists, including many youths, gathered Oct. 16 at Baltimore’s City Hall to make six demands for reforms they said would improve police-community relations in the city.
The group was supported by leaders including Missael Garcia of CASA de Maryland, Rev. Dr. Heber Brown of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and Orita’s Cross Freedom School, and former NAACP president and Center for American Progress fellow Ben Jealous. The six demands were detailed in a report written by Jealous and released the day of the rally.
Made under the banner of the Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs, the demands included the publishing of all Baltimore Police Department policies online, a step already taken by other cities including Chicago and Los Angeles, according to Jealous’ report, titled Toward Trust.
The youth also demanded that violent and corrupt officers be fired from the department, and that the city cease requiring police brutality victims who receive settlements to remain silent about their victimization.
One rally participant, Ashley Overbey, said she endured homelessness and joblessness during the two years she strove to reach a settlement with Baltimore police after being beaten by three male officers. Overbey lost half of her settlement award when she defended herself online against racially-charged and derogatory comments, violating the gag order that the city makes a condition of receiving a settlement in brutality cases.
“This is another way for them to take advantage of us, destroy our livelihoods, they beat me, they tased me, they charged me, they falsely imprisoned me, destroyed my life for two years, and then, when I thought I would get some type of reparations, they slapped the cherry on top and stole half of my money back,” said Overbey.
Pedro Ortega, a youth leader with CASA de Maryland, demanded that the department stop rewarding officers on the metrics of arrest or illicit drug seizures.
“We believe that rewards should go to those who contribute to the betterment of, and more importantly, who offer unconditional support to the community,” said Ortega in Spanish while speaking from the rally podium.