Lt. Brian Rice, officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller, the three White officers charged, but not convicted, in the death of Freddie Gray were given a rousing hero’s welcome at a gala awards ceremony in their honor last month in Washington, D.C.

Rice, Nero and Miller were greeted with thunderous applause by nearly a thousand in attendance when they stepped on the stage of the event hosted by the right-wing Media Research Center (MRC). The three Black officers charged in Gray’s death; officer Caesar Goodson, officer William Porter and Sergeant Alicia White did not attend the event. It is unclear whether or not they were invited.

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Sean Yoes

Trying to sift through the group’s website, which drips with bombast, blather and paranoia aimed at the so-called, “liberal media,” was a headache inducing exercise, however, I gleaned a bit of background information from a video of the event posted on the site.

In addition to honoring the Baltimore officers, the group gave out what they call the, “DisHonor Awards,” which took aim at MSNBC commentators like Joy Reid and Chris Matthews and former MSNBC commentator Melissa Harris-Perry.

A partial list of MRC judges include right-wing media bomb throwers like, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and MRC’s founder and president Brent Bozell.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis was unambiguous in his displeasure with his officers attending the right wing awards dinner in their honor.

“I was certainly disappointed by their appearance there, and any time a person in public safety appears for or with a group that society looks at as a fringe group, and the group is divisive and doesn’t speak to the values of Baltimore, I think that’s a problem,” Davis told WBAL-TV.

Conservative columnist, Deneen Borelli, a frequent Fox News contributor and darling of the Tea Party movement, greeted Rice, Nero and Miller on stage.

“Who will thank these officers? Who will thank all police officers — active, retired — at a time they are being so vilified,” Borelli asked prompting a standing ovation by those in attendance. “Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we will,” Borelli added.

So, in the case of Freddie Gray, what exactly were Borelli and her cohorts thanking Rice, Nero and Miller for?

Was it for arresting Gray who allegedly, “looked at them wrong,” sparking the brutal chain of events that ultimately led to the 25-year old’s horrific death and the subsequent uprising? What exactly were those in attendance that night cheering so rabidly for?

But, perhaps the most compelling question is why the hell did Rice, Nero and Miller feel so comfortable attending this gala event held by a group Commissioner Davis refers to as, “divisive” and “fringe?” Do they not know what the Media Research Center is all about or is it that they are down with what the MRC represents?

Why were these three officers okay with being celebrated for their actions connected to the death of another unarmed (unless you consider a pocket knife a weapon) Black man?

Why were Rice, Nero and Miller cool with being the toast of this right wing media group, when their three Black, brothers and sister in blue either were not invited to attend or uncomfortable being lauded for their actions in April of 2015?

The symbolism of the three White officers attending this gathering while their Black colleagues either stayed away or weren’t invited seems evident in the broader context of race within the Baltimore City Police Department.

There is a reason beyond the agency’s history, why the Vanguard Justice Society (the organization representing the interests of Black cops) is necessary in 2016.

Ultimately, only Rice, Nero and Miller receiving back slaps at a black tie dinner seems strangely, yet undeniably, connected to the images of them arresting, and then hauling Gray’s infirmed body into the back of that police van on that fateful day in April 2015, leaving White, Goodson and Porter to take it from there.

Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor