Baltimore to keep statue of Star-Spangled Banner composer defaced with ‘Racist Anthem’

On Wednesday before dawn, a monument depicting Francis Scott Key, the composer of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, was vandalized with the words “Racist Anthem” spray-painted on it. Red paint also appeared to have been splashed on the monument.

The third verse penned by Key is what presumably attracted the vandals’ attention. It has been the focus of Salon columnist Jefferson Morley’s attack on the US national anthem, which went as far as calling it a ‘neo-Confederate’ symbol.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh says she does not have plans to remove the statue of Key, after a slew of Confederate-era statues were removed earlier this year due to public outcry.

“We can’t ensure it’s not going to happen again,” Pugh’s spokesman Anthony McCarthy said, as cited by the Baltimore Sun.

He continued by mentioning that the mayor would like to see the statue restored.

“We understand the freedom of expression, but there certainly has to be a more constructive and productive way to have a conversation about history,” McCarthy said.

Wednesday marked exactly 203 years since the official state song was written by the Maryland native.

The third stanza of Key’s poem, which is not included in the song that Americans regularly sing today, makes mention of Key’s disdain for African American soldiers who went to fight for the British during the aftermath of the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. The verse refers to them as “hirelings and slaves.”

While Key has a history of prosecuting abolitionists and owning slaves, he also helped several African-Americans, fighting for their freedom under a law which prohibited slaveholders from other states to bring slaves to Maryland, by providing legal advice.

City and state officials in Baltimore have for many years seen the anthem as a source of pride and held a bicentennial in 2014 to commemorate the battle and the anthem.

Earlier, a statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney was removed in Maryland’s capital, Annapolis, following an incident of vandalism. Taney presided over the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dredd Scott decision, which ruled that descendants of slaves brought from Africa were not US citizens.

The governor of Maryland ultimately decided that taking the statue down was the right thing to do in response to Taney’s history in the Supreme Court.

The removal of Taney’s statue came after three Confederate monuments of Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument, and a Confederate Women’s monument were taken down in an overnight operation.

The decision followed a far-right rally protesting against the planned removal of a Confederate General Robert E. Lee, held in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. The protest took a violent turn, when far-right activists clashed with hundreds of counter protesters who turned up at the event. A car struck a crowd of the counter protesters at high speed, killing one person and injuring 19.

READ MORE: Baltimore removes 4 Confederate statues overnight amid fears of violence

President Donald Trump, however, saw the mass removals of Confederate monuments as “foolish,” ruminating whether the founding fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, would become the next targets. 

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it.”

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Third Time in Charm City: Another Sketchy Body Cam Video Surfaces in Baltimore

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office said that an officer “self-reported” an incident of  footage that was presented as a “reenactment of the seizure of evidence,” prompting prosecutors to reexamine cases involving that officer’s testimony.

The office said 43 cases are already slated to be dropped.

“The body-worn-camera program was established to fight crime, better protect officers, and foster public trust,” Mosby said in a statement cited by the Baltimore Sun. “Whether planting evidence, re-enacting the seizure of evidence or prematurely turning off the department-issued body-worn camera, those actions misrepresent the truth and undermine public trust.”

The latest video is under review, according to police spokesman T.J. Smith, who did not describe what was shown in the footage.

Pointing out that the officer self-reported the video, Smith said, “This is not an allegation of planting evidence. This is a self-reported situation where the officer felt that it deserved more scrutiny based on the things that have been in the news. We are aware of it and it is something that we are looking into.”

He added, “Officers who mainly work with the utmost credibility, don’t want their credibility challenged because of a misunderstanding … So this is a good problem to have, when you are self-reporting.”

Smith didn’t specify how the officer self-reported, but predicted that the practice will become more common as time goes on, “out of an abundance of caution.”

In July, footage from the body camera of Baltimore City Police Officer Richard Pinheiro showed him staging a drug find, later arresting someone for the fraudulent discovery. The man who was arrested was being held on a $50,000 bond that he couldn’t afford and was released after the video was made public.

A second incident in early August appeared “to depict multiple officers working together to manufacture evidence,” the Baltimore Public Defender’s Office said at the time. Charges against people related to that footage were dropped as well.

The Public Defender’s Office Felony Division Chief Andrew Northrup was surprised by Mosby’s announcement of a third incident in two months, and suggested that the State’s Attorney had ulterior motives.

He suggested that the “fact that the state’s attorney went to the media about these cases without first talking to the defense lawyers involved in these cases speaks volumes that once again Marilyn Mosby chooses political expediency over justice.”

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Confederate monuments taken down in Baltimore overnight

Confederate statues in Baltimore were removed from their bases overnight by city contractors, who used heavy machinery to load them onto flat bed trucks and haul them away — an abrupt end to more than a year of indecision on what to do with the memorials.

Mayor Catherine Pugh, who made the decision, watched in person as the four statues linked to the Confederacy were torn from their pedestals. The Baltimore City Council unanimously passed a resolution to remove them, amid a renewed national conversation following a deadly terrorist attack by a white supremacist at a rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday morning crews working for the city began removing the four Confederate monuments at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and finished at 5:30 a.m.

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“It’s done,” she said Wednesday morning. “They needed to come down. My concern is for the safety and security of our people. We moved as quickly as we could.”

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In violence-plagued Baltimore, weekend ceasefire offers glimmer of hope

By Ian Simpson

BALTIMORE (Reuters) – After the deaths of nearly 20 of her friends and relatives, Erricka Bridgeford said she wanted to take a stand against Baltimore’s worst wave of deadly violence in a generation.

It was with that sense of urgency that the 44-year-old community mediation trainer and other activists decided to organize a grassroots “ceasefire” to stop the killings, at least for 72 hours, starting at midnight on Thursday (0400 GMT on Friday).

“We want to purposefully just have a pause and a sacred space where everybody’s intention is that nobody gets killed,” Bridgeford said.

The ceasefire has the support of gang leaders, drug dealers and others linked to the violence, she said.

The slogan selected by organizers gets straight to the point: “Nobody kill anybody.”

That immediate goal is ambitious, given the spotty response to the last Baltimore ceasefire, when two people died in May on Mother’s Day weekend, slightly above the average weekend toll.

As a consequence, there is plenty of skepticism in the city, where rioting broke out in 2015 over the death of a black man in police custody.

Even so, the organizers hope that this time Maryland’s largest city can take a first, tentative step in changing a culture of violence that has fueled one of the highest homicide rates in the United States.

So far this year, there have been 206 homicides in Baltimore, putting it on a pace to break the record of 353 in 1993.

Baltimore, along with Chicago and Detroit, is among cities that Republican President Donald Trump has mentioned in criticizing the failure of local politicians, mostly Democrats, to stop the violence.

T.J. Smith, a Baltimore police spokesman whose own brother was shot to death last month, said the department backed the ceasefire as a grassroots effort to curb violence.

He blamed the trend on repeat offenders caught up in the drug trade, gang rivalries and other disputes.

But on the streets of West Baltimore, where riots erupted after a young African-American man named Freddie Gray died from an injury in the back of a police van, retiree Todd Douglas sounded a note of skepticism, saying the killings would simply resume once the ceasefire ended.

“They’ll just wait and make up for lost time,” Douglas said.

Ceasefire organizers are planning almost 50 events -cookouts, peace walks, a basketball tournament and prayer meetings – across the largely African-American city of 615,000 people.

The Rev. Scott Slater, an Episcopal priest, will lead prayers at 10 spots where people have been killed in the past year.

“The intent is to honor the people who never make the news, except as a statistic,” Slater said by phone.

If nothing else comes from the ceasefire, such gestures were a first step in helping residents feel that they were regaining control of neighborhoods, said Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins-Baltimore Collaborative for Violence Reduction.

“Even if it ends up being only one day without a shooting, that’s going to be good for the city,” Crifasi said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Grant McCool)

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‘Nobody kill anybody’ ceasefire underway in Baltimore

Erricka Bridgeford came up with the idea for a weekend ceasefire called ‘Nobody Kill Anybody’ when her 19-year-old son alerted her to the recent spike in violence in Baltimore. Bridgeford knows the violence on Baltimore’s streets all too well, as her brother and step-son were both victims of murder.

“We have created a system where you arrest and punish people, but you do not heal the traumas that you caused,” Bridgeford said in an interview with RT. “America has a system that only believes that you can lock away problems and so that strategy does not really work. People need to be healed from inside out and locking them up does not do that.”

Bridgeford, joined by other activists, handed out flyers about peace to residents of the city. She asked them to commit to the ‘Nobody Kill Anybody’ truce and to pledge not to accelerate the violence that already exists in Baltimore.

Some laughed at her upon hearing the idea, but the majority of people were interested, she said. Many people spread the word, and soon gang leaders and members started to call her to tell her they would participate.

The city government and police department told NBC News that they support the initiative, but Bridgeford says that she chose not to reach out to them because people living in dangerous neighborhoods in Baltimore don’t trust the authorities.

“If you look all around this country and see that the way business is done is that some people have opportunities, some people never even know [they] exist” she told RT.

“I think there are systemic problems all over this country and Baltimore is not immune to that,” she said. She added that the police cannot struggle with all the problems alone as “there has to be something that systems are dismantled and restructured to address.”

The Baltimore Police have been the target of local criticism since April 2015, when Freddie Gray, 25, was killed while in police custody. Two videos have also emerged recently of two different incidents in which the police appear to be planting evidence.

Bridgeford knows this ceasefire won’t stop every single crime, but thinks it is a step in the right direction.

“We don’t think this is a cure,” she said, according to NBC News. “We don’t think this will even necessarily stop violence that weekend, but we know that some people have made promises that they won’t, and that just might save somebody’s life.”  

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The Nation: Kaepernick Would Be 'Godsend' for Baltimore

Colin Kaepernick finally, finally has a glimmer of hope. Baltimore and Miami urgently need a quarterback and progressives in the media are jumping over each about what a great fit he’d be for either team. But, according to progressive Dave Zirin of The Nation, there’s a “Trump apologist” standing in his way. It’s simply amazing how much power the president of the United States and his friends suddenly have over personnel decisions in the NFL!

Zirin, as far left as they come, writes Baltimore’s “quarterback situation is a shambles and Kaepernick could be a godsend for the organization. Yet the most powerful voice in Ravens-land against Colin Kaepernick has not been ownership, coaches, or fans. It has been Ray Lewis.”

What’s the rub with Lewis, the former Ravens’ superstar, now retired? He refuses to kneel at the altar of social justice with Kaepernick, Zirin and their kind. He’s an African-American who supports President Trump, too.

Last December, Lewis met with Donald Trump, Zirin wrote. Lewis “vouched for Trump’s commitment to the black community: ‘Urban development and job creation are everything,’ he said. ‘What we believe with the Trump administration is if we can combine these two powers of coming together—forget black or white. Black or white is irrelevant. The bottom line is job creation and economic development in these urban areas to change the whole scheme of what our kids see.”

Lewis has been discussing Kaepernick with Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti, and Zirin says, “it’s hard to imagine that he is saying anything helpful. Lewis has been on television and social media arguing, in a highly patronizing fashion, that Kaepernick needs to get away from those ‘encouraging [him] to be caught up in some of this [anti-racist] nonsense,’ saying: ‘If you do nothing else, young man, get back on the football field.… And what you do off the field, don’t let too many people know.’”

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“None of this is that surprising,” Zirin writes. “It is part and parcel of Lewis’s post-career makeover as the sanctimonious scold of the Black Lives Matter movement. He is selling himself as a modern-day Booker T. Washington, rejecting any kind of political resistance and preaching the gospel of economic opportunity as a cure for all racial ills.”

Kaepernick would be “a terrific and much-needed presence in the city of Baltimore itself,” Zirin believes.

Lewis could be the voice that moves the Ravens-crazy County part of this equation toward embracing Kaepernick. Instead, he’s choosing to enhance his own brand by building walls instead of bridges. Ray has learned well from Donald Trump: There’s more money to make and power to accrue in the business of division than in unity.

Lewis has remained silent as Trump has said and done nothing about economic development in “urban areas.” He has also remained quiet about Jeff Sessions’ neo-Confederate agenda of mass incarceration, the drug war and anti-affirmative action bombast.

Zirin must be seeing these things through mud-colored glasses. He and the Kaepernick apologists are completely incapable of admitting that their hero has alienated an incalculable number of Americans.

And speaking of “bombast,” Zirin leaves us to conclude — in his convoluted, progressive Ad Policy way of thinking — that if bad people would just get out of Kaepernick’s way, the polarizing star of the left could save any city that would be wise enough to be graced by his presence. And those people in his way magically extend all the way to 1600 Pennyslvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

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