Interview With Jalen Evans of Black Lives Matter Baltimore

More than 500 protesters marched from Empowerment Temple Church on Primrose Avenue north on Reisterstown Road to Reisterstown Road Plaza for “Black Lives Matter Sunday.” (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Would you mind if we start off with some background about yourself? Your name, where you came from, where you grew up, when you started working with Black Lives Matter, etc.?

My name is Jalen Evans. I grew up in Baltimore. When the uprisings happened I watched them and experienced them first-hand. I wanted to join BLM because we expect this to happen in other cities and towns but it happens to us and it made me feel like we have an obligation to it.

BLM started after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, and became recognized as a movement after protests in the streets following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. What role did BLM and other organizations play in organizing against institutional racism and police crimes during this time?

BLM in my view had to organize in the face of injustice and when they protested little and little people got the word of mouth out and joined.

Baltimore has been in the news in recent years because of police murder. The case of Freddie Grey in particular got us national media attention. What happened during the protests in the city of Baltimore?

There were organized protests in the southwest district. Then, two or three days later some Baltimore City High Schoolers got fed up and all banded together. They sent out messages and sent dates and when they met at Penn-North and Mondawmin protests erupted.

Can you tell us about the current situation in Baltimore?

Baltimore is experiencing the recovery from the uprising. Now we are all questioning our police due to the accusations and subsequent evidence of them planting drugs, which is making national news.

What has been the experience of organizing in Baltimore?

It’s harder to organize in Baltimore than in most other American cities. Don’t forget people have lives, but hey, at least like us on Facebook.

What is the biggest roadblock to progress?

The biggest roadblock would be that there is so much misinformation everywhere about Black Lives Matter. People need to get the legitimate facts. The most common misconception is that we are a terrorist group that kills cops and doesn’t care about black-on-black crime. Why is it every time a black organization pops up its always called a terrorist organization? If we were a terrorist organization we would already be infiltrated (laughs). Our ranks are grassroots and among the poor. But we’re not! We don’t blow sh*t up and set sh*t on fire – we’re not Al-Qaeda or ISIS!

How do you see your struggle in the context of international struggles like Palestine, Cuba, etc.?

Some of us, including BLM Baltimore, see ourselves as the Kurdish people. We have been oppressed and are fighting our oppressors.

What are the implications of the election of Donald Trump?

Donald Trump is playing a two-sided coin of police brutality. One time he’s saying innocent people were killed by police in Minnesota and Louisiana but then he embraced the aggressive tactics of police officers and insisted that his team was “rough” and encouraged police officers not to be concerned about preventing physical harm to people being taken into custody. His Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a VERY serious threat to the black community.

There are different campaigns to stop police crimes: movements to abolish prisons, disarm the police, abolishing independent police review boards and replacing them with civilian accountability councils, and so forth. Which do you see as the best for building up people’s power?

Police have way too much unchecked power. To many people it seems like police can never be held in check or can’t get fired or convicted and it’s true. We think the War on Drugs should be ended. Mandatory minimum sentences should also be abolished and people with non-violent drug offenses cases should be reviewed. Adding people other than police officers to police review boards should be the answer too.

Where do we go from here? What lessons should we draw?

I want everyone to do their research and pull OFFICIAL facts and not look at them with bias. Actually think about what you’re seeing.

How can people get involved?

People can get involved by contacting us via Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Categories: Interview, Police Brutality, Racism, U.S. News

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