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The first day of May seemed to mark a turning point in the story of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man who died of a severe spinal injury incurred while in police custody. His death set off a wave of protests that turned violent this past week. The State Attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby, announced on Friday that charges on multiple counts would be filed against six police officers related to Mr. Gray’s death.
“To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call,” Mosby said as part of her statement. “For no justice, no peace.”
She also delivered a specific message to the youth of the city and, by extension, young people across the country:
“Last but certainly not least, to the youth of this city,” Mosby said. “I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment. This is your moment. Let’s ensure that we have peaceful and productive rallies, develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause, and as young people our time is now.”
Youth Radio asked some of our partner organizations around country: Baltimore-based Wide Angle Youth Media and Alternate ROOTS; The Latin American Youth Centers’ Maryland Branch; Chicago’s Black Youth Project 100; and Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta, to help gather voices of youth from across the nation. We wanted to know what young people felt not only about Mosby’s actions and statements, but about the events leading up to today.
The photos and quotes in this post represent what Youth Radio’s own producers found, both within the city limits of Baltimore and beyond.
“It shows that young people do have a voice and we do have power. Even though some of the things that they did weren’t really good it shows that by them coming together they can actually have a huge impact.”
— Kirsten German, 19 West Baltimore, MD
The way I see it, the turning point already happened. Florida was the turning point with Trayvon Martin. That’s when people started noticing that police brutality shouldn’t be allowed. Since Florida, we’ve had Ferguson, New York, and several places all over the country. I think Baltimore is one of the places that took a really big step and said they are tired of it.
– Barry Tucker, 20, Montgomery County, MD
“When thousands march peacefully in protest of the systemic injustice, the national media doesn’t cover it. But if the city burns and a few people act violently, then they all flock to Baltimore.”
“A prosecutor is acknowledging that something is wrong. Having an adult voice on our side is really helpful. For her to acknowledge that youth are protesting and that we are not going to take no for answer and say I’m well aware that…it’s really good.”
— Elizabeth Matute, 19, San Francisco, CA
“When I saw on social media that they were doing an investigation [into the officers], it was like, ‘well at least somebody cares about the situation.’ That was pretty exciting. That’s a step toward the right direction.”
— Tylyn Hardamon, 20, Berkeley, CA
“I definitely think we’re in a bit of a transition point. I feel like in Baltimore there’s been a lot of chaos, and now with the charges announced, there is definitely a promise of justice.
In Atlanta, at my high school, my classmates who keep up with current events are getting tired of seeing similar situations with police every couple months. Baltimore was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
— Reilly Blum, 16, Atlanta, GA
“A lot of the reasons why the riots went violent was probably because people don’t feel that their legal system works for them. When someone in power addresses you and tells you that they understand, it cuts off the problem at its root.
When the government is addressing you and your issues, it makes you want to sign up to vote and make a change.”
— Max Rafferty, 16, Atlanta, GA
“It shouldn’t have to take a person to be killed to create change or movement. It’s long over due. Black people make up majority of Baltimore and black people should be at the forefront of policy changes. A lot of people have said they care about black people but they never have things to back it up.
Marilyn Mosby needs to back it up — and the people under her, police officers, etc need to be align with what she said.”
–Camesha Jones, 23, Chicago, IL