I wanted to pass along this powerful action alert from our friends Bend the Arc and the DC and Baltimore-based Jews United for Justice.
As a Rabbi affiliated with Groundswell, I thought you might want to take a look and consider taking action.
Answer the call from Baltimore organizers for a Jewish response to Freddie Gray's death.
ADD YOUR NAME
Hi, my name’s Molly and I’m an organizer in Baltimore. I can tell you that as a Baltimore Jew, Freddie Gray’s death and the activism that followed has been heartbreaking, challenging, and inspiring.
I was raised on the legacy of our community’s involvement in the civil rights movement, I’ve worked for years to organize the Jewish community to support our struggling neighbors across Baltimore, specifically standing in solidarity with Black leaders calling for justice, equality, and change.
So when Freddie Gray was killed, and my beloved allies and friends took to the streets to call for justice, I knew where I had to be.
The police officers who arrested Freddie Gray have been indicted, and we hope justice will be done.
But it’s not enough. We can and must call for longer-term change. Now is the moment to begin repairing the deep underlying structural inequalities that face our society.
I just received an urgent message from a key Baltimore organizer, Dayvon Love, asking for Jewish support to call a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to reform police rules that have prevented accountability in many other cases and invest in jobs and housing in Black neighborhoods in Baltimore.
Dayvon Love has been organizing in Baltimore to reverse years of police misconduct and economic decline. Check out his message to me below.
From: Dayvon Love
To: Molly Amster
Molly, we need help in Annapolis. The reason that we couldn’t get information from the police on Freddie’s death was that Maryland law was shielding the police from a real investigation, giving them extra time and resources to avoid fair public scrutiny. This has been going on for years. We’ve been fighting to change the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR), which gives special legal protections to police officers.1
We need to change this law. We fought for reform in Annapolis this spring – alongside Delegate Jill P. Carter and the ACLU but our bill was killed and the session ended with no change. We shouldn’t have to be in the streets for days on end and all over national TV for victims of police misconduct to get a fair and thorough investigation.
We also know that policing reform isn’t enough: Black people in Baltimore are crying out for real investments in our neighborhoods to create the good jobs, housing, schools, and playgrounds that can improve people’s lives. Like we’ve been saying in the streets, this state of emergency started a long time ago.2So we need a commitment from the Governor that once the cameras are gone he’ll be with us in the months and years to come, rebuilding not just a CVS but a community that’s been neglected for too long.
Can you help reach out to Governor Larry Hogan and Leadership of the Maryland General Assembly? The Governor can call a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to amend the LEOBR and invest in our city so we can make headway in the fight against poverty and police violence.
The legislature is adjourned and won’t meet again until January of 2016. But we can’t wait that long for change.
Thanks Molly for all you do – and for bringing this message to your people. I hope they can help raise up this fight.
I believe in a Jewish community that steps up to the plate – whether it’s the civil rights movement of the 1960s or today’s civil rights movement playing out in real time.
I hope that when we remember Freddie Gray it will not be because he was another Black man killed senselessly – but that in his memory we will have started to turn the tide of institutional anti-black racism.3
Join me in calling on Governor Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly leadership to convene a special session of the Assembly to increase police accountability and invest in Black communities in Baltimore to address critical inequalities in housing, education, and employment.
This is an important moment in Baltimore, and for the whole country. That’s why vsGoliath is teaming up with my organization, Jews United for Justice, and with Groundswell, to answer the call from Baltimore’s grassroots organizers.
In the past few weeks, a diverse community of Jews have come together in Baltimore to begin this work. Local rabbis have joined with dozens of clergy calling for justice and over 100 Jews United for Justice members marched in a protest for justice for Freddie Gray and the structural changes that are needed to make Baltimore just and equitable for everyone.
Now we’re asking for Jews across the country to stand together in fighting racism and reversing systemic injustice here in Baltimore. I hope you’ll answer this call – and join us for the long haul!
For peace and justice,
Baltimore Director, Jews United for Justice
1. New York Times, "Complaints in Baltimore About Law Offering Protections for Officers"
2. New York Times, "Baltimore Riots Are Another Scar on a City Long Battered by Neglect"
3. Baltimore Sun, "Undue Force"
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