Politics

Rep. Elijah Cummings: Improving Police-Community Relations 'Is The Civil Rights Cause Of This Generation'

| by Ethan Brown

Democratic U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland discussed the ongoing turmoil in his home city of Baltimore in a news appearance on CBS’s Sunday morning news program “Face the Nation” on April 26.

"This whole police-community relations situation, Bob, is the civil rights cause of this generation, no doubt about it," Cummings said to host Bob Schieffer.

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Citizens protesting the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American who died while in police custody, have been increasing in violence over the last week. At the Baltimore Orioles baseball game against the Boston Red Sox on April 25, protestors outside the stadium became so violent that law enforcement told fans to stay inside the stadium until the crowd could be subdued, Politico reported.

Cummings noticed that a small group of protestors were the ones responsible for the chaos, but the majority of citizens were protesting peacefully.

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“I’ve gotta give it to the citizens of Baltimore. I was there all day, and it was very peaceful all day,” Cummings said.

“At the end, there were a few people that said, ‘We’re gonna turn this city down, we’re gonna close it down.’ And the next thing you know we had a few people — mainly from out of town — to come and to start beating up on police cars and throwing all kinds of projectiles,” he continued.

When asked about the effectiveness of the police force containing these outbursts, Cummings credited offices and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for doing all they could.

“I think they are doing the best they can under the circumstances,” the congressman said.

Cummings also advocated for a “top to bottom” review of the city police department.

“We have got to take this department apart and try to figure out what is wrong and what is right. This is a significant moment … If we don’t correct this, it will only get worse,” he warned.

On April 12, during a routine check on a neighborhood known for drug and crime offenses, Gray began to run from law enforcement after seeing a police car drive around the area. Officers later caught Gray and arrested him, finding a knife in his pocket in the process.

While facts remain unclear at this time, reports state that an ambulance was later called for Gray while he was being transported to the police station. He later fell into a coma and died a week later, The Guardian reported.

One major fact currently being investigated is why the victim’s spinal cord was nearly destroyed, why he had fractured vertebrae and why his larynx was injured. Reports say Gray suffered from asthma and was asking for his inhaler, while testimony from those in the neighborhood said they witnessed police beating Gray with nightsticks.

Sources: The Baltimore Sun, Politico, The Guardian, The Hill

Photo Credit: sneakerdog, Flickr Creative Commons