(BALTIMORE) Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, Dereck Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Floyd’s death sparked record protest numbers nationwide and reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement. In Baltimore City, social justice organizations have been working to make sure the city not only lives up to the promise of the federal consent decree, but also that a more just society is achieved.
Baltimore has been under a federal consent decree since 2017 for the Baltimore City Police Department’s (BPD) history of wrongful racial policing among Black and Brown communities.
It was not until after the death of Floyd that Tré Murphy, co-founder and director of programs and strategies at Organizing Black, felt any real progress began to happen in Baltimore.
In the last year, Organizing Black, a social justice organization working for black liberation and a just, fair, equitable democracy, has had multiple legislative wins.
Last year they led a campaign where they demanded an immediate divestment from the BPD, that 50 percent of the BPD’s operating budget be invested in Black communities, the abolishment of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR), and that the City of Baltimore gain control of the BPD.
As a result of this campaign, the BPD budget was reduced by $22.5 million and in April 2021 Maryland became the first state in the nation to repeal LEOBR.
“For the first time we actually saw the racial justice movement in all of its complexities...go from protest to power,” Murphy said.
LEOBR guaranteed protection for law enforcement officers from investigation and prosecution, and provided them additional privileges not given to normal citizens. With its repeal the replacement bills will include measures that would limit no-knock warrants, and if an officer is convicted of hurting or killing someone while using excessive force, they would face 10 years in prison.
Organizing Black is committed to reimagining and redefining what public safety means and is inside of Black communities in Baltimore.
Murphy said before Floyd’s death, the political landscape for police reform looked very grim.
Legislature moved slowly with no real change and local and state officials did not want to touch substantive police reform. City officials were not living up to the promise that the BPD would not engage in racial profiling and unconstitutional policing.
Murphy feels the movement shifted the conversation around policing. Black political power was exercised in real authentic ways and people realized the importance of investing directly into improving black lives.
“We saw our community say for the first time that we keep each other safe. That we are going to step in and fulfill the role that [the] government should be fulfilling for us in making sure we have vibrant, healthy, safe communities,” he said.
The end goal for Murphy would be the abolishment of the current police department and systems across the board that harm Black communities, reparations for Black people, and a dramatic expansion of democracy.
Organizing Black currently has a new list of demands that they are working towards for this year.
“While we fight for reforms, we are also clear that reforms are not going to get us to what we call black liberation,” he said.
He encourages community members to find a political home and get involved with the participatory budgeting and governance work organizations like his are doing.
People can stay up to date on their work by texting “defundBPD” to 22999 to get updates of the campaign.
“Defunding BPD should not be thought of as a radical idea. It should be thought of as logical and common sense.”