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In the Media: Two Officers in Gray Case Sue Marilyn Mosby; City College Students Push for Change

The six Baltimore Police officers charged in Freddie Gray's homicide.
Baltimore City Police Department

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Two officers in Freddie Gray case sue Marilyn Mosby for defamation

"Two officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray are suing Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby for defamation and invasion of privacy.

"Sgt. Alicia White and Officer William Porter, who are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in the 25-year-old's death last April, filed the lawsuit against Mosby, Baltimore sheriff's office Maj. Sam Cogen and the state of Maryland on May 2, according to Baltimore Circuit Court records made public Wednesday.

"The officers claim that Mosby and Cogen knew the statement of charges filed against the officers and other statements made by Mosby at a May 1, 2015, news conference announcing the charges 'were false.'

"'These among other statements were made not for the purpose of prosecuting crimes that had allegedly been committed by White and Porter, but rather for purposes of quelling the riots in Baltimore,' the suit alleges.

"The officers had asked that the lawsuit be sealed to 'avoid any suggestion' that they were 'not complying with the spirit of" a gag order issued in their criminal cases by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, and to 'avoid any additional pretrial publicity in connection with their upcoming criminal trials.' They said they had to file the lawsuit at this time because of statute of limitations concerns.

"Judge Althea Handy on Wednesday denied the motion to seal the case, saying the officers had 'failed to provide a special and compelling reason to preclude or limit inspection of the case record sufficient to overcome the presumption of openness' under Maryland law.

"The lawsuit lists the officers' attorney as Michael E. Glass, who could not be reached for comment.

"A spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office declined to comment, citing a gag order on the criminal prosecution, and the sheriff's office also declined to comment.

"Legal experts expressed doubt that the lawsuit would be successful.

"A. Dwight Pettit, who litigates civil cases in Baltimore but is not involved in this case, said prosecutors enjoy immunity from being sued 'unless you can show some sort of malicious intent, which is a very steep burden.'

"'It's very unusual,' he said of the officers' lawsuit. 'The allegations would have to border on intentional conduct to cause them irreparable injury.'

"Pettit said the fact that Porter's case proceeded all the way to jury deliberations — with Williams denying motions to dismiss the charges outright or for a judgment of acquittal after the state rested its case — shows the charges had some merit in the eyes of the court. That will make it more difficult for White and Porter to successfully argue now that prosecutors knew the charges were unfounded, he said."

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From City Paper: City College High School students push for change

"On a cold and sunny Saturday in early February, a group of young people gathered in the basement community room at the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Patterson Park branch. They were busily arranging construction paper table tents with words drawn in colorful markers and adorned with stars, exclamation points, blocky hand-written fonts. They read: 'Know Your Rights,' 'CASA Hotline & Safe Spaces,' 'Being Proactive & Recognizing ICE,' and 'Real vs. Fake Warrants.'

"The teenagers greeted each person enthusiastically as they arrived, giving them an agenda for the two-hour event. This meeting, 'Youth Empowering the Community,' was convened by a group of students from Baltimore City College High School called Students Organizing a Multicultural Open Society (SOMOS). The majority of the SOMOS students were Latino—representing most of the Latino population at City College as a whole, in fact—and thus were all affected by a recent uptick in immigration enforcement in their community as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted a slew of raids across the country. That national crackdown, beginning in January, was SOMOS' catalyst to activism.

"The event was SOMOS' first interactive Know Your Rights discussion. The group worked with CASA de Maryland, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute's El Club de la Cultura Hispana, and City Bloc, a social justice group from City, to host the event which drew around 20 people, many of them students. 'Our goal is to create a coalition, to have one voice as youth,' Heymi Maldonado, a City College senior, said to the group. 'We'll create a list of demands for [then-Baltimore City Public Schools CEO], Dr. Thornton.'

"Participants broke into small groups to discuss how to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They brainstormed a list of demands centered around education for Latino students in Baltimore with SOMOS students leading each discussion as their teachers and club advisors, Connie Sanabria, Franca Muller Paz, and Edwin Perez, circulated the room.

"Demands ranged from increasing financial support for Latino and other cultural student organizations at city schools to transforming school curriculum to be more culturally diverse. While many items on the list came out of challenges Latino youth experience or see their peers struggle with on a day-to-day basis, they also encompassed concerns that any voiceless or minority group would have. Not only do they want a culturally aware curriculum to reflect their Latino culture and heritage, the students said, but also a curriculum that represents their peers from the African-American and Asian communities.

"This was only the beginning of their work. The teens hoped to engage their peers, not only in a discussion, but also to work toward change for immigrant communities in Baltimore and the state of Maryland."

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From the AFRO: Associated Black Charities: Agitator for Community Progress

"The Associated Black Charities (ABC) will pay tribute to several Maryland individuals and organizations who have taken steps towards increasing economic access and opportunity for all during its Black and White Gala on June 11 at Martin’s West. 

“'The gala is an opportunity to lift up our agenda—which is particularly important one year after the April 2015 unrest— and also the people and organizations that are making a difference in closing racial equity gaps,' said ABC CEO Diane Bell-McKoy. 

"ABC is a public foundation—a 'positive agitator,' Bell-McKoy said—that acts as a convener, advocate and grantmaker to address the health and economic disparities impacting Maryland communities. 

"The organization’s agenda is not so much a 'Black' one, the CEO said, but a 'green' one, as in money or economic empowerment. 

“'We’re clear that if we’re going to change wealth and health gaps for African Americans you must have a racial equity lens, that is, we must understand how systems and policies limit opportunities for African Americans,' Bell-McKoy said. 'Unless you change the economic framework you can’t really create equity.' 

"That message, the advocate said, has gone largely unheard. And, many look at the social ills that pervade many communities of color—crime, drugs, obesity, high secondary school dropout rates, etc.— as signs that something is inherently wrong with Black and Brown people. 

"But the unrest that erupted in Baltimore in April 2015 highlighted what many intellectuals and activists have long said—that Black and Brown people aren’t 'broken,' but the systems that govern U.S. society are. 

“'We have been saying this for a long time: Let’s change structural inequities and we can change outcomes…. People do need to have personal responsibility, but they need the tools to do it,' Bell-McKoy said. 

“'Since April of last year people are hearing us differently now. They are getting it,' she added. 'Even largely-White companies and organizations are beginning to realize that they have a role in this (closing equity gaps and increasing economic access within communities)…that this bottom line is part of their bottom line.'" 

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