Maryland Police Reform: More Than Prosecuting Freddie Gray’s Killers

In the aftermath of the April protests, the Maryland General Assembly created the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup. The work group has been meeting since June, and the theme seems to be disconnect between government and people — whether it’s cops and citizens or delegates and constituents.

The MGA’s take place in Annapolis, MD – over 30 miles from Sandtown-Winchester. It’s a 40 minute drive or 2-3 hours on the extremely limited public transit that connect the two regions. During the first meeting, I heard some lip service about having meetings in different regions of the state, but the published schedule has always shown the meetings will all be in Annapolis.

The General Assembly’s reform group is composed entirely of lawmakers — a decision that, in my opinion, severely limits their capability of understanding of what’s going on. Senator Catherine Pugh responded to criticism that the group is made up entirely of lawmakers by saying, “this is not a commission. This is legislators looking at potential legislation we can put in place.” If a commission is what it takes for more citizen involvement, then maybe that’s exactly what the group should have been. 

During the course of the MGA’s dog and pony show, I have attended town hall meetings in Baltimore — for the death of Tyrone West, for the investigation the DOJ is conducting in the city. The faces I see at these meetings are not the same faces I see at the General Assembly. Where are these lawmakers who have been tasked with police reform? For reasons that cannot be explained, Delegate Jill Carter was left off the roster — yet she is the most active on the topic of reform. Delegate Carter has spent weekends running meetings that introduce citizens to the DOJ members tasked with auditing Baltimore. She is respected and recognized among those that most need to get their stories heard…yet she was not offered a spot in the group. Without her presence, it is hard for me take the work group seriously. 

Maryland is home to one of the most extreme Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights; it has a lot of provisions that protect cops when perhaps they shouldn’t be protected. For instance, the hearing board that determines if action should be taken against an officer is composed of fellow officers. One police representative informed us that police work is highly specialized and cops are highly trained. Because of this, the LEOBOR provision that police should be the ones to judge other police is acceptable. “Who should judge us? Plumbers? Electricians?” I guess his highly specialized training didn’t cover what a jury is.

During another police Q&A session, police from all over the state explained their hiring practices and requirements. In all jurisdictions, using marijuana more than five times over the age of 21 permanently disqualifies someone for police service. One delegate asked a young representative from the Maryland State Police if this was practical; the police say they would prefer to have college graduates on the force, and marijuana has been decriminalized in Maryland. The officer replied that “these disqualifying factors are disqualifying factors for good reason….they need to understand their actions do have consequences.” There you have it – the mindset is so strong in the police force that the public electing to decriminalize an activity cannot make the cops change their minds.

I saw a lot of people express confusion about the protests that happened last week in front of the courthouse as we waited to see what if Judge Williams would dismiss the charges against the officers who killed Freddie Gray. “Aren’t they getting what they want?” people asked. Well, yes and no. We have a very long way to go before we’re getting what we want — this is bigger than one case. As we move toward Thursday, understand we are worried about more than a change of venue. We’re worried about the system that has been put in place to “fix” the problems.

I guess as long as the MD State Troopers are giving out recruitment brochures when you're pulled over, we have problems.
I guess as long as the MD State Troopers are giving out recruitment brochures when you’re pulled over, we have problems.

I’d Rather be Dead Than Pregnant….

…and there are legitimate candidates for President who’d rather I be dead than aborting!

Gosh, nothing puts me in a better mood than watching 10 guys on a stage try to out-brag each other about how  much they hate women’s rights. What a blast the GOP debate was, with each contestant trying to demonstrate his regime had done more to harm Planned Parenthood. What a thrill ride!

There are so many problems I barely even know where to start.

First, we have the conservative idea that government should play a minimal role in our lives — and as a libertarian, I completely agree! That being said, this isn’t the way to do it. The funding that Planned Parenthood receives is more or less minuscule in the grand scheme of things. I can’t speak for all of us, but a large part of what made me begin to identify as libertarian was the stance that once we cut back on taxes and overbearing government red tape, people who can help out will help out.  Cutting something that receives such a tiny amount of the budget (whether at the state or local level) doesn’t translate to people seeing the benefit in their pocketbooks and take home pay; in turn, that doesn’t translate to people having extra money to donate.

I’m not saying the idea to take federal funding out of social welfare programs is wrong; I’m saying the order in which programs are being de-funded is reprehensible. $528 million to subsidize Planned Parenthood in their 2013-2014 fiscal year isn’t so bad when you consider $146 million went to building fucking sports stadiums (which doesn’t help the economy, sorry) or that $3 billion went to testing golf clubs and conducting elementary school experiments in space. So why are we really crying about women’s health services?

Then there’s the whole abortion debacle. The fact that abortion is still a political issue completely blows my mind, yet there stood crazy ass Huckabee, telling us that a fetus needs the same rights as US citizens –I thought you had to be born or naturalized to be a US citizen, but what the fuck do I know? I’m just a woman who was actually born in the US, no need for me to have rights.  

Of course, Trump was there to add his meaningful opinion on abortion. He said knew someone who almost got aborted but is now “a superstar.” What the fuck are you even talking about? Not only does that sound suspiciously like the nonsense Christian rhetoric of “what if Jesus [Christ, Superstar] was aborted?” it also isn’t relevant. Does everyone who knew Jeffrey Dahmer now have an ace in the hole argument for mandatory abortions?!

I’ve written before about how I don’t want kids, but I want to be pretty clear: that isn’t a passive feeling that will be overcome by the grace . I mean if I get knocked up, the parasitic clump of cells WILL be disposed of. Just will it be under the eye of a doctor or on the steps of congress as I stab my uterus until I die?

I can afford to go to another state or fly to Canada, and the idea of bullshit waiting period laws keeping me from being able to immediately get an abortion terrifies me. No, I don’t want to be forced to see the fetus on the screen — not because it’ll make me emotional and change my mind, but because the idea of something growing in me makes me feel physically ill if I think about it too long.

If I have the resources for a round trip international flight and private doctor visit to terminate a pregnancy and I’m still stressed out, I can’t imagine making barely enough to put food in my mouth and needing to drive 13 hours each direction for an abortion with a waiting period.

What disappoints me with the anti-choice crowd is that I go out of my way to talk about the steps I would personally take to abort a child. I would 100% kill myself, and I am not suicidal. Tokophobia and depression are *real* — fucking acknowledge it. I first started talking about sterilization at 18! There are people who DO NOT want kids, who will go through any length to not have them, but it seems like the candidates on stage last night want to keep on pretending only irresponsible teenagers and hookers get abortions. They want to hear “rah rah every kid gets a chance, life is precious.” They don’t want to hear about the expectant mothers of unwanted children are depressed and miserable, about the expectant parents of unwanted children who face financial destruction. So fuck them all. 

The Right to an Attorney? NOT in Immigration Court / Proceedings

I wrote this last year for my friend, Miguel Palmeiro. He is a lawyer in the DC area who does work with Kids in Need of Defense. Given the talk about immigration going on, I’d like to republish it here.

Imagine being 11 years old, speaking little or no English, and walking into a court room for the first time in your life. Now imagine you’re representing yourself: unsure of what to say or when to say it; unsure of where to stand or sit, likely untrusting of most adults. Yet, the court room waits and expects for you to tell your story to strangers in a way that allows you to stay in your new home. Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? Yet for the unaccompanied minors who are apprehended while trying to enter America, it’s a very real possibility. In the American justice system, immigration proceedings do not warrant an appointed attorney. Instead, these children are expected to pay for their own lawyer, find an attorney willing to work pro bono, or represent themselves in court.

This is where Kids In Need Of Defense (KIND) steps in. KIND is a non-profit organization that works to partner these kids with lawyers and law firms, providing them with legal guidance and representation. The lawyers that work alongside KIND help the children navigate the system and clarify everything in a way the children can understand.  This is a dramatic change from asking children to fill out form blanks themselves. KIND matches children with lawyers to help these children understand their rights and the complex process they are going through it. We are proud to announce that we will be working with KIND to help improve the future for children seeking refuge in America.

Several members of the law firm attended KIND’s most recent training in DC, and everyone found the information invaluable. Christie Turner Herbas and Laura Nally, the KIND attorneys that led the training, not only provided valuable background information on why so many children are coming to the US, but also taught us how to handle working with the children. KIND attorneys stressed the need to explain things that would easily be overlooked, or that we might incorrectly assume the children know. For example, a child might spend months thinking that the first time she talks to a judge, she risks being deported straight from the court room (not true!). Children too young to understand borders may not grasp why moving from mom’s house in Guatemala to Grandma’s house in Maryland warrants months of legal proceedings.

The past three years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the United States. Children from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras make up a large chunk of this number. KIND told us that, in an effort to understand the increase, the UN Refugee Agency asked 404 unaccompanied children detained by US authorities to explain why they left. The answer can largely be summed up as fear: fear of the gangs taking over their cities, fear of forced recruitment into human smuggling, fear of being killed after witnessing a crime, or fear of sexual assault. In some cases the children were victims of violent or sexual crime at the time they left; other times, they knew it was a very likely possibility and considered it safer to risk coming to America. (For more details, you can see the full study here.)

The journey of an unaccompanied child from their homeland to another country is hardly an easy one. It’s difficult to imagine many children would take the risk if they did not truly believe that very real danger awaited them should they stay at home. Everything they are struggling with must outweigh their fear of being caught, getting lost, and being kidnapped on the way to the US.

As we work with KIND to ease the stress of navigating the court system for the children that decided the risk of the journey was worthwhile, we will also work to help public understanding of the legal process and the dangers children are facing in their home countries. We will work to help immigrants, documented or not, learn their rights. Not having a green card or visa doesn’t mean you aren’t human, yet there are immigrants who are too afraid of deportation to speak up when they are victims of crime.

Originally published here

Take Flight

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but it’s only because there has been a ton of work to do. I’ve been going to committee meetings for police accountability in Annapolis, Baltimore, Fairfax County; I’ve been reading and researching and planning out what the next step is. One really awesome thing I’ve done during my writing absence was go with my friends to film their music video in Baltimore. My friend Cory has been protesting with me (and even came and stood by thecamera during my CNN interview to support me!), and he was inspired to create this video. My shirt is from Bmore Love, and all proceeds from their shirts go to Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore. Video by Dexter Jason Delfin Visuals.

I am the Activist who took the “Heartwarming” Picture of the Soldier and Little Girl in Baltimore

I’m the girl that took the picture of the soldier and child in Baltimore that went viral. I meant to capture a sad moment, one of wasted resources and failure. Who knew that so many people think all of our race and economic problems could be solved if someone would just think to smile at a child?

The accusations of being a pot stirrer, a know-nothing liberal, and race-baiter have been coming at me almost faster than I can read them. Good. Keep it coming. You wouldn’t hate me if I didn’t make you uncomfortable. Keep telling me to forget the misery and to just see the happiness; keep criticizing me for bringing it up. Keep talking about it, because that is the first step. But let’s keep it real when we talk about it.

How can you look at a picture from Baltimore that could easily be from Afghanistan and think it shows a promising future? The problems leading up to this picture continue to be swept under the rug while people mindlessly smile over a picture of a child. How about we focus on the fact that 86% of public school students in Baltimore get free/reduced lunch? How about we focus on the predatory payday loan and checks cashed establishments that people in this neighborhood are subjected to, continuing the cycle of poverty they are in? How about we focus on the fact that I took this picture on Fulton Ave about a month ago, and it’s pretty average for much of Baltimore:


I don’t find my picture to be tragic because I hate the military or because I hate guns. It seems to me that 30 seconds of critical thinking would clarify that. I find it to be tragic because we don’t give a damn about these communities until the destruction threatens the rest of us. If this was a picture of a child on a field trip to the Pentagon, I’d see how it’s cute. Adorable, even. But that isn’t what this is. This is a community being told they are too vile and worthless for anyone to give a damn about them until they start to burn things down — and even then, people only care long enough to be keyboard activists with uninformed opinions.

Baltimore has a lot of problems, but being a city full of people that want to loot and riot isn’t one of them. I think it’s pretty clear why there was a riot — what did the police expect when they loaded up with riot gear, turned off public transit, didn’t allow children to leave, and instigated pissed off kids whose frontal lobes aren’t fully developed? Yet here we are, painting Baltimore as a city of lawlessness. If we’re going to talk about lawlessness in Baltimore, let’s talk about the millions of dollars used to settle and hide cases of police brutality.

I have watched news anchors and the internet in general wonder why people felt the need to burn the businesses in the community, consequently limiting their own options of where to shop. Over my week in Baltimore, I listened to and talked to a lot of people, from those who were pro-riot to those who were pro-peace. The impression that I got wasn’t that all people necessarily hate all businesses that aren’t black owned — it’s that they hate that the businesses won’t pay living wages or promote people of color. Without the ability to build capital (or even pay rent) and without the experience of being more than entry level employees, how are people supposed to start their own businesses? How will there ever be more black-owned businesses in primarily black communities?

In my opinion, the onus is now on wealthy business owners of all races in Baltimore and the surrounding area to do their part in making the city a more livable place. It’s on the middle and upper middle class residents of Maryland to change the way things are run. I saw an incredible amount of unity build up in one week of Baltimore protests; a level of unity that is rare for any kind of movement. The revolution is here, and “us vs. them” is not going to be black vs white. It’s going to the people who have hopped on board vs. those who haven’t. Do not stand on the wrong side. Support the organizations that are on the ground making a difference. Support the organizations working to feed the hungry children of Baltimore and working to make the streets safe. Do not shop at places that do not allow their entry level employees to grow. Nothing will change over night, but it’s time we start working to provide education and opportunities instead of casting judgement when most of us can’t even imagine what it would be like to live in West Baltimore.

Follow my Facebook and Twitter. You can subscribe to my blog here.  A version of this post also appeared on my Huffington Post blog.


As I’m sure many of you are aware, I was on CNN earlier today. The response has been a little overwhelming, but I’m working on writing about it. If you’ve reached out to me, I promise I will respond — just give me some time. I’ve seen some backlash because I don’t talk about cops who die in the line of duty. Here’s the thing….everyone has their focus. My focus is checks and balances for the police. This encompasses police brutality, police terror, the war on drugs, etc. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for accountability of government employees. To get to the root of the problem we need to look at places like West Baltimore and see how people are living and what is making them vulnerable to abuses by those who are paid to protect and serve. If your focus is on protecting police lives, that’s okay too. Maybe your focus is your career. Maybe it’s tax reform. At the end of the day, you can’t expect people to fight every battle.  You have to pick the ones that speak to you, and I picked mine a long time ago.

I’m a strong believer in Libertarian ideals, but the only way we can get the Libertarian philosophy to work is by being active. And so I’m here, and I’ll keep fighting.

Please check out the 300 Men March — they’re Baltimore’s anti-violence group that I refer to in my interview.

Videos From Baltimore

On April 30th, Joseph Kent talked to the crowd about his first arrest — the one that was live on TV.

Remember Kwame Rose, the protestor that got into an argument with Geraldo on the 28th? On Thursday he had round 2 with Geraldo’s security. I watched Geraldo see him, instigate a fight, and then vanish.

After Mosby announced the officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray would be charged, the area around the Penn North Station was a celebration for the rest of the day. This ranges from 2:30 to 9:45…and the chanting at the end quickly became “we young, we strong, we marching all night long.”

This is Baltimore

Today at Penn North is a lot different than Tuesday.

** Since I originally posted this, I was (very briefly) interviewed on CNN to discuss how I feel about the first picture  and I have composed my thoughts in a blog entry— basically, not happy. Obviously I’d love if you read my thoughts, but let me sum up the problem by saying I’m a white girl from DC who is invited to go on national news programs to discuss life in West Balto. **







Follow my Facebook and Twitter. You can subscribe to my blog here

Baltimore, Joseph Kent, and Peaceful Protests


Baltimoreans love Baltimore like Texans love Texas. Maybe more. And everyone loves the birds — Canton, Sandtown, Fed Hill, it doesn’t matter…tourists, if you walk around in a Ravens or Orioles hat, at least one person will stop you to tell you how we’re gonna win it all this year. They’ll assume you’re at least semi-local, even if you stick out in whatever district you’re in. If watching the news has made you doubt the love people feel for Baltimore, just stop. There are a lot of problems in Baltimore, and I’ll write about them later. But this post is about my experiences walking around Balto yesterday.

When you come into Baltimore from the 295, the first thing you really see are the Ravens and Orioles stadiums. After you pass the stadiums you can make a right hand turn and go to the Inner Harbor, or go straight and left and end up in West Baltimore. I went right, and this is what I saw:

The parking lots for the stadiums are being used as camps, complete with medic tents. Restaurants and stores were closed indefinitely (though it appears many things opened today). Did anyone else notice how last night the news anchors asked where the National Guard was when it was after curfew? Now you know – they were busy protecting the wealthy and touristy areas.


Then we backtracked over to Penn-North. We got caught up in a peaceful march before we hit the now famous intersection, so we left the car and joined them. The intersection was packed – it honestly reminded me of a festival. People were holding hands and praying, others were singing, some were playing drums. There were some arguments but none of them turned violent (even the ones condoning the rioting), and people would hug each other after talking it out. It was everything a peaceful protest should be, and it was very much a celebration of shared love and pride in the city, and it was beautiful.

Especially interesting to watch was an argument with one person saying rioting was okay, since the businesses weren’t black owned and there should be a focus on using business that are black owned or that pay black employees well (my favorite quote: “No one WANTS to work at CVS and make $8. They HAVE to. And that’s all we have.”). While I don’t support physically destroying other businesses, I agree with his point. Why patronize the places that pay you and your friends absolute shit just because they can? He kept explaining himself, but kept condoning the riots instead of community boycott. While his argument was with one woman, other people kept stepping in. One girl pointed out she lived here, but worked in a bar across town. Now she’s making $0, because the bars are closed. Another pointed out that now people can’t eat because they can’t find places that are selling food. Perhaps the pro-riot guy just wanted to end the conversation, but I watched him be tripped up their points. He seemed to relent, and the once heated argument ended in a hug with both parties agreeing they just want to improve their neighborhood.


The other side of the blockade was at North and Carey, and it was definitely a different vibe. The police were lined up, and over here they had bearcats in between the riot police. Other than me, my friend, and a couple members of foreign media it was relatively empty. The only other people were those who lived in the neighborhood doing their daily business like walking their dogs or trying to find somewhere open to buy food. This end of the blockade was definitely more tense — at one point during the day, some people threw some bottles and tried to throw a trash can at police. Certainly nothing crazy or rioting, but I was still thankful when it was quickly shut down by other people.


I stayed at North and Carey until about 9 pm. For almost the entire time I was there, an activist named Joseph Kent was standing in front of the cops. He moved cones and helped their food delivery trucks back in, he acted as a liaison with angry community members. We talked to him a bit, and he told us about his experiences in Ferguson and how it’s different now that it’s in his own hometown. I personally guarantee you every single officer knew who he was. There wasn’t much going on at our end, and the cops were asking to pet people’s dogs and talking baseball with civilians. They were bored. They had nothing to focus on. Joseph Kent was not a blip on their radar as they anxiously did important things. No, they mostly stared slack jawed straight ahead, and he was there. So tell me why at 6:39 they were sharing their water bottles with him, and at 10:39 they weren’t just arresting him, but blocking the media from filming it as they threw him in the vehicle. Yes, I understand he was violating curfew — but was that necessary? No. He has since obtained a lawyer who will be giving a press conference tonight.

Other than the Kent arrest (which obviously happened after I was gone), I didn’t see much that alarmed me. If you live nearby, please go. Go have a crabcake at Faidley’s (because Lexington Market was a ghost town when I got lunch), go buy some groceries in the city and drop off some food for those who can’t get groceries, go eat lunch out and leave a big tip since so many folks who work in restaurants will be losing money this week.

Purvi Patel, A Modern Witch Hunt

I waited until today to write about the horrifying case of Purvi Patel, who has been sentenced to 20 years for a miscarriage. I guess I hoped that it was all a big April Fool’s Day prank, and not something that actually happened in the United States of America. Patel bought abortion inducing drugs online (which is illegal) and sent text messages to a friend indicating she had taken them. While her toxicology report came back clean, it turns out there isn’t a test for these specific drugs so that’s up in the air. She says when the fetus was born it was already dead, and she panicked and threw it in a dumpster and went to the ER.

Feticide, the crime that Purvi was charged with, was apparently originally put on the books as a way to protect pregnant women. Since lawmakers apparently aren’t allowed to be critical thinkers, no one ever suspected that it might end up being used against pregnant women. 

    Sec. 6. A person who knowingly or intentionally terminates a human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus commits feticide, a Level 3 felony.

The prosecution used 17th century technology called a “lung test” to see if the fetus had taken a breath (making it a baby). Their cutting edge test “proved” that the fetus wasn’t stillborn, but was actually a baby — of course, this test was proved to be unreliable and complete bull shit about 100 years ago, but who needs science or facts when we’re discussing a fetus? Personally, I’m not one to let reality stand in my way of criminalizing women who don’t want their uterus to be occupied.

Also a float test

Patel isn’t the first woman to be charged with feticide (though she is the first to be convicted). Bei Bei Shuai tried to kill herself with rat poison soon after her boyfriend left her and their unborn child. 33 weeks after conception, her attempted suicide resulted in a miscarriage — and she was charged with feticide. When Bei Bei’s case went to court, people were concerned that it could result in the government going after women who had miscarriages. I find it shocking that so many people act like women’s rights activists are exaggerating the danger at hand, even when they’re spoon fed evidence like this case.

At what point does a woman lose the right to have legal control over her own body? I’d like to think it isn’t at 25 weeks, or even 33. We live in a society that both disallows sterilization of young women, and takes away your rights once you become pregnant. We discourage drug addicts from getting abortions, and then we punish them for not being magically cured of their addiction while pregnant. We expect that being a mother will cheer up depressed women, and then we penalize them when they tried to end their lives. We picket Planned Parenthood and shame women for taking control of themselves, and we don’t do a goddamn thing about the unwanted babies that are born — except, apparently, lock up their moms.

In my brief career waiting tables, I was told that we had to serve alcohol to pregnant women, and that it was illegal discrimination if we didn’t. Our managers told us that they would take the drinks out for us if we were uncomfortable doing so, and it was stressed so much that I felt like there must have recently been some kind of incident. So on one hand, we recognize it’s discrimination to treat pregnant women differently, and  bartenders have to give a visibly pregnant lady a shot of Everclear or potentially face a lawsuit; on the other, consumption of said Everclear could result in 20 years in prison for the pregnant woman. What the fuck kind of logic is this? 

People wonder why I want to be sterilized, and it doesn’t even cross their minds that I don’t want to accidentally become state property.

A blog about things that irritate me


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