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Friday, February 22 , 2019, 11:45 pm | Fair 43º

 
 
 
 

Diane Dimond: How to End Cycle of Civil Unrest? Stop Running, Stop Shooting

After watching the situation in Baltimore these past couple of weeks — yet another American city strangled by violence stemming from the death of yet another unarmed black man — it suddenly dawned on me. It all starts with one stupid action.

I want to yell advice at the top of my lungs.

Stop running away from police!

But that is only half of the problem.

Stop instinctively shooting or manhandling suspects!

It is clear that both sides in these deadly clashes are to blame for inviting and escalating their situations. President Barack Obama calls it a “slow-rolling crisis” and reminds us that, “We shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.”

I agree. Baltimore, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Nashville, Philadelphia — among the many American cities with a history of police brutality allegations.

More advice.

Stop assuming every cop is out to get you for something.

Stop assuming every young minority male is guilty of something.

Stop engaging in suspicious or criminal activity that you know will likely attract the police.

Stop giving handcuffed suspects with no seat belt protection retaliatory “rough rides” in the back of police transport vans.

Some young men of color do not respect or trust the police. They often don’t obey commands to stop, show identification or answer questions. These young men only make it worse for themselves.

At the same time, some officers lack respect as well. They see a young man of color and automatically go to extremes. They aggressively approach; they speak to them in a tone that goes against their status as a protector of all citizens. A few officers reach for their guns first and think later, in my opinion.

When these two forces converge, they can create a deadly encounter.

The senseless death of Freddie Gray, 25, of Baltimore, touched off this latest spasm of violence. On the morning of April 12, police on bicycles locked eyes with Gray (likely known to them as a man with a serious drug-dealing record dating back to 2007) on a Baltimore street corner. Gray suddenly began to run. Police followed, caught him and took him into custody on unknown charges. He was tossed into a police transport van for the ride to booking.

Gray’s family says he died after his neck was broken, his upper spine was smashed and his voice box crushed. They believe the injuries happened after he was arrested and given one of those “rough rides.” There is no official confirmation of this, but something happened in that van.

Less than an hour later, Gray was admitted to a hospital, where he went into a coma and died several days later.

Peaceful protests were organized in Baltimore, but they morphed into what can only be called bloody riots. Stores were looted; cars were set on fire; police officers were attacked and sent to the hospital. Dozens of protesters were arrested. Firefighters were outnumbered by rioters — their fire hoses cut by thugs. The governor declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard. The mayor decreed a week-long curfew. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts revealed much of the damage was done by rampaging high school kids.

“You had one mother who grabbed their child who had a hood on his head, and she started smacking him on the head because she was so embarrassed,”​ Batts said during a news conference. “I wish I had more parents that took charge of their kids out there tonight.”

That mother’s name was Toya Graham, and video of her pulling her son Michael, 16, away from a group of young thugs — smacking him all the way home — brought hope to my heart.

I am a friend to good police officers, and they are mortified by all the recent deaths of unarmed black citizens.

In Cleveland, Tamir Rice, just 12 years old, was shot dead on the sidewalk after he failed to drop his toy gun fast enough. Walter Scott, 50, of South Carolina, was shot in the back multiple times as he ran away from a traffic stop, apparently afraid his unpaid child support would catch up with him.

Other unarmed black men, like Eric Garner in New York and Ezell Ford, a mentally challenged unarmed black man in Los Angeles, also died at the hands of police.

So let me ask you this. How do we stop this awful cycle? Which side finds respect for the other first — or does neither?

How about starting with a call to all mothers of young men to do what Toya Graham did? Take responsibility for their own progeny and teach them to respect the law whether they are young minorities or police officers with a badge. Stop running. Stop shooting.

Diane Dimond is the author of Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case. Contact her at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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