May 20th, 2015, written by Molly Amster, JUFJ Baltimore Director
I’m a Jewish community organizer on the ground in Baltimore with Jews United for Justice. I was raised on the legacy of the Jews in the civil rights movement, I’ve worked for years to organize the Jewish community to support our struggling neighbors across Baltimore, specifically standing in solidarity with Black leaders calling for justice, equality, and change.
So when Freddie Gray was killed, and my beloved allies and friends took to the streets to call for justice, I knew where I had to be. As a Baltimore Jew, Freddie Gray’s death and the activism that followed has been heartbreaking, challenging, and inspiring.
The police officers who arrested Freddie Gray have been indicted, and we hope justice will be done. But I’m afraid that once the cameras are gone – and they’re already leaving – the long-term change we all know is needed will never come. Now is the moment to begin repairing the deep underlying structural inequalities that face our society.
I've been working with a key Baltimore organizer, Dayvon Love, who’s asked me to see if I can help raise a national Jewish voice to call for reforming police rules that have prevented accountability in many other cases and investing in jobs and housing in Black neighborhoods in Baltimore. Can you answer the call?
Dayvon has been organizing in Baltimore to reverse years of police misconduct and economic decline. Here’s what he sent me:
Molly, we need help in Annapolis. The reason that we couldn’t get information from the police on Freddie’s death was that Maryland law was shielding the police from a real investigation, giving them extra time and resources to avoid fair public scrutiny. This has been going on for years. We’ve been fighting to change the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR), which gives special legal protections to police officers.
We need to change this law. We fought for reform in Annapolis this spring – but our bill was killed and the session ended with no change. We shouldn’t have to be in the streets for days on end and all over national TV for victims of police misconduct to get a fair and thorough investigation.
We also know that policing reform isn’t enough: Black people in Baltimore are crying out for real investments in our neighborhoods to create the good jobs, housing, schools, and playgrounds that can improve people’s lives. Like we’ve been saying in the streets, this state of emergency started a long time ago.
Can you help reach out to Governor Larry Hogan and Leadership of the Maryland General Assembly? The Governor can call a special session of the General Assembly to amend the LEOBR and invest in our city so we can make headway in the fight against poverty and police violence.
The legislature is adjourned and won’t meet again until January of 2016. But we can’t wait that long.
I believe in a Jewish community that steps up to the plate – whether it’s the civil rights movement of the 1960s or today’s civil rights movement playing out in real time.
I hope that when we remember Freddie Gray it will not be because he was another Black man killed senselessly – but that in his memory we will have started to turn the tide of institutional anti-black racism.
This is an important moment in Baltimore, and for the whole Jewish and national movement for racial justice. In the past few weeks, the local Jewish community has come together to begin this work. Local rabbis have joined with dozens of clergy calling for justice and over 100 Jews United for Justice members marched in a protest for justice for Freddie Gray and the structural changes that are needed to make Baltimore just and equitable for everyone.
Now we’re asking for Jews across the country to stand together in fighting racism and reversing systematic injustice here in Baltimore. Please stand with us now – and join us for the long haul.