No doubt it was the most difficult performance of State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby's young career. Was it the historical moment that civil rights activists are hailing it as?
The answer is simple: the State's Attorney for Baltimore City, her official title, was just doing her job. Nonetheless, the 35-year-old, who has only held the office for four months, did that job pretty well.
The mood in Baltimore has been strained to the breaking point following the death of Freddy Gray and the riots that ensued, even if the last three nights have remained quiet. Mistrust of the police and the judiciary run deep in a city in which almost every black resident can give accounts of police violence visited upon themselves, family, or friends.
Marilyn Mosby delivered a clear message when she stepped in front of the cameras to announce charges against six Baltimore police officers at a surprisingly early stage in the investigation. Speaking in a resolute tone and using very clear language, Mosby accused the officers of second-degree murder, and manslaughter, along with several other charges. The fact that she read out every charge filed against each officer in a loud, clear voice lent her performance on the steps of Baltimore's war memorial an air of archaic drama.
Mosby deftly framed the serious charges leveled against the officers in a seemingly political context. On one hand, she promised Freddie Gray's family that she would fight ceaselessly to bring about justice in the case. At the same time, she made it clear that she is not the avenging angel of the African-American community. As in every constitutional democracy, one is considered innocent until proven guilty in the USA.
Freddy Gray's death has escalated the level of frustration and anger not only among Baltimore's residents, but throughout the country. After the dramatic recurrences of unarmed black men being killed in altercations with the police over the last few months, people are asking: When will things finally change?
The swamp of racial prejudice
Everyone from President Obama down to the last protester wants this cycle of violence to end. Demands for better schools, equal employment opportunities and more funding for underprivileged - mostly black - communities have been repeated like a mantra for decades. The same goes for demands for better police departments, which are often overwhelmed and garner little trust. The details that have now been made public in the Gray case are shocking, and much like in Ferguson, New York, and most recently North Charleston, they point to a swamp of racial prejudice and moral degeneracy.
With her determined behavior, State's Attorney Mosby has demonstrated that the US justice system works. That this fact is cheered and celebrated throughout the USA shows just how serious the crisis has become for the police and the judiciary.
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