These are a series of buttons that have been issued or pertain specifically to recent events involving African-Americans that have garnered national interest. The “Freddie Gray” incident occurred in Baltimore, Maryland. It should be noted that these are only very brief descriptions of legally complicated, controversial and ongoing situations:
Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr., a twenty-five year-old African-American from Baltimore was arrested on April 12, 2015 by Baltimore City police officers. He had made eye contact with an officer and started to run. He was charged with possession of an illegal knife. Upon being captured he was placed in a police van for transport. Gray was not secured in the van and at some point during the transport he suffered injuries to his spinal cord and was taken to a hospital shock trauma center. Gray died on April 19th. The three "Freddie Gray" related buttons depicted on this page portray several of the events related to this still ongoing situation:
Beginning on April 18th a series of protests, demonstrations, civil disorders (some violent) and/or rallies took place throughout the city. Some of these resulted in numerous arrests as well as injuries to police officers. Following Gray's funeral on April 27th (button #1) the looting of stores and fires broke out resulting in State of Emergency being announced by the Governor and the deployment of the National Guard. The State Police and law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions were also brought in during this period. It was also on April 27th that a Baltimore mother, Toya Graham, made national news when she was shown physically removing her high school age son from the rioting (button #2). She was quoted afterwards as saying, "That's my only son and at the end of the day I don't want him to be a Freddie Gray." On May 1st the Baltimore State's Attorney filed criminal charges against six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray who died of injuries while in police custody (button #3). The State's Attorney said the knife was of legal size, that no probable cause had been established for the arrest and Gray had not committed any crime.
On May 3rd the city curfew was lifted and the gradual withdrawal of the National Guard began. The State of Emergency was lifted on May 6th. As of this writing, May 8, 2015, a series of investigations are underway by the City of Baltimore as well as the United States Department of Justice.
Trayvon Benjamin Martin (1995-2012) was a seventeen year old African-American youth. On the night of February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida he was involved in an altercation with a Neighborhood Watch Commander for a gated community where Martin was temporarily staying. A physical confrontation ensued and Martin was fatally shot. The watch commander, George Zimmerman (who has an Hispanic mother and white father), was subsequently tried on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. In accordance with Florida State Law, a jury found that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense and was justified in using deadly force. He was acquitted on July 13, 2013. Widespread protests and rallies had preceded the trial, and it remains a focal point of controversy regarding racial profiling. In February 2015, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it would also not be bringing federal charges against Zimmerman, in that the standard for a federal hate-crime prosecution was not met.
The "I Remember Trayvon Martin" button was issued by the Trayvon Martin Foundation. This foundation was established by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin (Trayvon's parents) in March, 2012. The Foundation’s purpose was to create awareness of how violent crime impacts the families of the victims, to provide support and advocacy for those families, and educate youth on conflict resolution techniques in order to reduce the incidences where confrontations between strangers turn deadly. The "Fight Racism" button portraying Martin was distributed at the August 24, 2013 50th Anniversary rally and march commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The button was issued by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), which describes itself as "a newly formed working class party of leaders and activists from many different struggles, founded to promote the movement for revolutionary change."
Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year-old African-American, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. The shooting took place on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. The events leading up to the shooting are disputed. Brown and a friend were walking down the middle of a street when Officer Wilson drove up and ordered them to move onto the sidewalk. A struggle, the severity of which is still unclear, then ensued between Brown and Wilson. Michael Brown began to flee with Officer Wilson in pursuit, with Wilson shooting Brown and killing him. Reports vary, with some saying Brown had turned and began to move toward the officer, while other witnesses say Brown had his hands raised. Shortly before the incident Michael Brown had strong-armed an employee at a local convenience store who tried to stop him from taking a box of cigars. Various groups have undertaken fundraising drives on behalf of both the Michael Brown family, and a defense fund for Darren Wilson. Three buttons on this page portray these efforts. The "Hands Up - Don't Shoot" button depicts the rallying cry at protests and demonstrations across the country that occurred in the wake of the shooting. On November 24, 2014 a grand jury found no probable cause that a crime was committed and decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Protests and demonstrations, some violent, immediately followed.
In March 2015 the U.S. Justice Department cleared former Ferguson police officer Wilson of using unreasonable force. The report noted that there were no reliable witnesses to prove Brown had his hands up when he was shot, nor was there any evidence to disprove Wilson's testimony he feared for his safety. The Justice Department report also noted law enforcement practices of the Ferguson Police Department have been shown to be discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The National March for Justice(referred to as the National March Against Police Violence) was held in Washington D.C. on December 13, 2014. Speakers included family members of African-Americans who had died in confrontations with the police. The event, which was attended by about 25,000 people, was organized by the National Action Network (NAN), a civil rights organization founded in 1991 by the Reverend Al Sharpton. NAN's motto is, "No Justice, No Peace".
The National Urban League has its beginnings going back to 1910 with the founding of "The Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes". It then became known as The National Urban League in 1920. The Urban League, along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was one of the cosponsors of the National March for Justice held in Washington on December 13, 2014. The button depicted here was distributed by the Urban League at the March. The names of African-Americans who the sponsors feel were the victims of police violence are identified on the curl. These are very briefly highlighted below:
Michael Brown was unarmed 18 year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer. The shooting took place on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. The events leading up to the shooting, as described elsewhere on this website, are disputed.
Eric Garner died on July 17, 2014 in Staten Island, New York after a police officer placed him in what some called a choke-hold, which is illegal, while others state it was a headlock. Garner was in the process of being arrested for illegally selling cigarettes.
Akai Gurley was shot by a police officer on November 20, 2014 during a patrol of a public housing complex. Gurley who was innocent of any wrong doing later died from his wound. The officer (along with his partner) had been in a darkened stairwell with no lights, and were startled by Gurley's entrance. One shot was fired. Though felt to be an accident, an investigation is underway at this writing (January 2015).
Tamir Rice was a 12 year old boy who on November 22, 2014 died from a shot fired by police in a Cleveland city park. Police arrived after receiving a call that a juvenile was randomly pointing a pistol at people in the park, and that the gun was probably fake. Officers arrived, and fired when Rice reached for the gun in his waistband. The gun was fake, but was missing the orange features noting that it was not real. The shooting was ruled a homicide by the county medical examiner. An investigation is underway at this writing (January 2015).
Jonathan Crawford III was shot by police on August 5, 2014 inside a Beavercreek, Ohio Wal-Mart. Police arrived after receiving a call from dispatch of "a subject with a gun" in the store. Upon arriving, officers state that Crawford was ordered to drop the gun and lie on the ground, but instead made a move as if to run. Others state no warning was given and Crawford was fired upon immediately. The gun, which the officers did feel to be real, turned out to be an air-rifle (a BB gun basically) that Crawford had picked up in the sporting goods section. Though a grand jury decided not to indict the officers, an investigation is under review by the Justice Department at this writing (January 2015).
Marlene Pinnock is a 51 year-old California woman who on July 1, 2014 was repeatedly punched in the face by a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer. According to reports Pinnock had been walking barefoot along the freeway when a CHP officer, in response to numerous 911 calls, arrived and told here to move away from the freeway or accept a ride from the area. She ignored the officer and began to move partially into the road and oncoming traffic. The officer grabbed her arm in order to prevent her from being struck. She resisted the officer whereupon the officer straddled her on the ground where Pinnock continued to struggle, with the officer striking her several times in the body and head. In September 2014 Pinnock reached a $1.5 million dollar settlement and the CHP officer agreed to resign. Pinnock had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been off her medication for over two months prior to the incident.
The John Crawford III button was worn at the "One Baltimore Faith Rally" held at City Hall Plaza on May 3, 2015. This was among the several rallies held in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray death. The events surrounding Jonathan Crawford of Ohio are described elsewhere on this page. The button was provided for this website by a Reverend from Ohio who attended the rally and is active in an effort to stop the "mass incarceration" of black males.
The Police Accountability Now button was given out at an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) social justice happy hour that was held at Red Emma’s Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Baltimore, Maryland on June 11, 2015. As stated by Red Emma’s, one of its missions is to support efforts and movements for social justice in Baltimore.
All Lives Matter is a button sponsored by "Sea of Blue", an organization founded in Ohio in January 2015. Its goal is "to support Law Enforcement and their families by creating awareness for the services they provide while building positive relationships within the communities they serve." Sea of Blue held its first event in Cleveland on December 27, 2014. Numerous Sea of Blue sponsored or supported events have been held since then across the country. A march held in Washington, D.C. on January 17th and a rally held in Annapolis on April 26th (planned several months prior to the "Freddie Gray" events) organized by "United for Blue" both featured "Blue Lives Matter" Sea of Blue posters. Another Maryland based police support group named "Stand Up For The Baltimore City Police" has held rallies at the Baltimore City Hall on May 30th and July 11th, 2015.
The “Police Accountability Now” button was provided for use on this website by Larry Fogelson.
Allegany County, Maryland
African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008