In response to the murder of Freddie Gray by the Baltimore police, thousands of people protested, righteously demanding justice. Gregory Butler, one of the many protesters, is facing outrageous chargers totaling 25 years of imprisonment without parole for his role in the demonstrations. Above: students from local campuses demonstrate at City Hall, April 29, 2015. (AP photo)
PACK THE COURTROOM - FREE GREG BUTLER! Friday, April 22, meet in front of Federal Courthouse,
101 Lombard Street, at 8:30 for rally, then at 9 am, go into court together in support of Greg.
January 18, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
In December, a farce of a trial was going on in a Baltimore courthouse for one of the cops responsible for the murder of Freddie Gray, eventually leading to a mistrial (see “Mistrial in Baltimore: The Whole System Is Guilty in the Murder of Freddie Gray”). In the very same courthouse, 23-year-old Greg Butler was on trial for charges originating from his arrest in April during the uprising of the people in outrage at the murder of Freddie Gray. He is one of the people who the state has been targeting for persecution off of the uprising.
Greg Butler was facing charges of carrying a pen knife, attempted theft of cigarettes at a store abandoned during the rebellion, and “second degree” escape for briefly getting free from police clutches. After this trial ended and Greg Butler was leaving the courtroom, federal agents handcuffed him and took him away, without benefit of a lawyer, for the weekend. The Monday after that weekend, he was brought to federal court and now faces charges of “aiding and abetting arson” and “attempting to obstruct, impede, and interfere with firemen,” carrying mandatory minimum sentences totaling 25 years in jail and no possibility of parole.
What is now unfolding here is outrageous! And it says volumes about the true nature of “criminal justice” under the capitalist-imperialist system, as well as how this system offers NO FUTURE for Black and Latino youth, the enormous importance of uprisings of the people and the need for revolution to change all this.
Let’s be clear on some things:
1. The police MURDERED Freddie Gray. They chased him, beat him down, and hog-tied him, with his back bent—as is shown in widely seen videos and described by a witness who said that his back was being bent “like a pretzel.” They dragged his limp body to a police van and left him on the seat, handcuffed but not strapped in. Then Freddie Gray was taken on one those notorious “rough rides.” The police callously ignored his cries for help and then his silence as he lay paralyzed and suffocating. And somewhere between the brutal arrest of Freddie Gray and whatever happened in the police van itself, the pigs murdered the young man.
2. The rebellion was justified. Thousands poured into the streets for days of protest, resistance, and then righteous rebellion. This rebellion terrified the forces of the system—they attacked it with mass arrests, with insults and lies (like Barack Obama calling the people who rose up “thugs”), and more. But the attacks didn’t cool things down—and broader sections of people, particularly thousands of college students, came out to SUPPORT the rebellion. Police across the U.S. have been killing over 1,000 people every year—including many unarmed Black and Latino youths—and these murdering police hardly ever face charges. But on May 1, Baltimore’s chief prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, brought a range of charges against six cops for their role in the arrest, injury, and death of Freddie Gray. This was because of the uprising. In the words of the Baltimore Sun, “By charging six police officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby restored order to Baltimore ‘before the entire city became an armed camp or was burned to the ground,’ her office argues in a new court filing.”
3. Property—in this case, the CVS pharmacy that burned down during the rebellion—means more to this system than the broken neck of a young Black man. The cops who murdered Freddie Gray have not spent one day in jail. And even the most serious charge facing any of the cops carries a maximum sentence of 20 years with the possibility of parole after five to 10 years—compared to how Greg Butler, accused of cutting two holes in a fire hose as the CVS store burned, resulting in no injuries to anyone, was denied bail for 28 days and sat in jail with hundreds of others arrested in the uprising and now faces enormous charges. This system has always valued property rights over the rights of Black people—going back to the founding of the country—and so it is now in Baltimore.
To those who argue that “interfering” with firemen is the issue here—let’s contrast what happened in Baltimore with the bombing of the MOVE house in Philadelphia in 1985. The police laid siege to the MOVE house in an effort to evict the radical “back to nature” Black group from their home. Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode ordered a bomb dropped on their house, setting it on fire. He prohibited firefighters from putting out the fire, as he openly admitted that he ordered: “let the fire burn.” And five children and six adults at the MOVE house were killed—and the spreading fire burned down 60 houses in the neighborhood. No police or government officials involved ever faced criminal charges for arson or murder for what they did.
The “fire” that the system wanted and wants to put out in Baltimore with such heavy charges against Greg Butler is what James Baldwin called the “fire next time.” As Greg Butler toldRevolution: “America runs on fear. They want to instill fear in anyone who even thinks of rising up in the future. They want to bury me under the jail.”
4. After the uprising, Revolution newspaper raised a call: “Defend those arrested in the rebellion—Fighting Oppression Is Not a Crime, Amnesty for All Protesters Against Police Terror.” In that spirit, now a vigorous defense needs to mobilize to defend Greg Butler against the outrageous charges against him. Check at www.revcom.us for further information and ways people can join this battle.
5. An uprising is not a revolution—and we need an actual revolution to actually end this nightmare of brutality and suffering. As we uphold and defend the righteous uprising and those attacked for being a part of it, people need to learn that there is a revolutionary solution, a way to get to an actual revolution, and in Bob Avakian (BA) there is the necessary leadership and vision to make that real.