Long known for their deep animosity towards each other, the opposing Bloods and Crips gangs joined forces in Baltimore Saturday to take on what many would say is a common foe to all black people: police brutality.
The rival gangs agreed to call a truce and march together in response to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody. He suffered deadly injuries (including a severed spine) during his April 12 arrest and died as a result of them a week later.
“I can say with honesty those brothers demonstrated they can be united for a common good,” Carlos Muhammad, a minister at Nation of Islam’s Mosque No. 6, told The Daily Beast. “At the rally, they made the call that they must be united on that day. It should be commended.”
DeRay McKesson, an organizer who has been especially visible in Ferguson, Mo., where Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old-year Michael Brown, was also in Baltimore to see the two gangs join forces.
“The fight against police brutality has united people in many ways that we have not seen regularly, and that’s really powerful,” McKesson told The Daily Beast. “The reality is, police have been terrorizing black people as far back as we can remember. It will take all of us coming together to change a corrupt system.”
Baltimore, at least for the moment, is the most potent Ground Zero city in the U.S. for activists fighting police brutality. More than 1,200 people filled the streets of downtown Baltimore Saturday and protested peacefully until the things turned more contentious and the day ended with 31 arrests, according to the Baltimore Sun. Friday, officials admitted that Gray should have received medical attention after his arrest. His funeral is today.
What makes this story so incredible is that it was the people who are closest to the issue of police brutality who empowered themselves to solve their own issues. The call for unity, even among rival gangs, was a moment in which one could really appreciate the power of community-based conflict resolution.
The Black Lives Matter Movement is teaching America is that black Americans are forming partnerships with anyone who is ready to fight police brutality--that includes the Crips and the Bloods.