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"An All In Special Report: Back To Baltimore", Transcript 12/11/2015

Guests: Sherrilyn Ifill, D. Watkins, Sheree Briscoe

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 11, 2015 Guest: Sherrilyn Ifill, D. Watkins, Sheree Briscoe

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for being with us tonight. It has now been nearly eight months since a young man in Baltimore died in police custody, and that sparked unrest that threatened to tear that city apart. Well, now as the trials begin for the police officers charged in connection with Freddie Gray's death, my friend Chris Hayes takes us back to Baltimore. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cell phone video shows the moment after -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 25-year-old can be seen on the ground with -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The family lawyer says the man's spine -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suspect Freddie Gray would end up with a severed spine. He would later die. CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: Residents of Baltimore took to the streets over the death of a man named Freddie Gray. But days of peaceful protest eventually gave way to destruction. The cameras came in. Definitely projectiles being tossed at police now. And America watched a city in chaos. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crazy. I don't have any words for it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop the violence, please! HAYES: This is the story of what happened after the cameras left. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority of the people that are protesting are still in the same predicaments we were in. HAYES: We went back to Baltimore and spoke with residents assessing the damage. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't riot because it's something we wanted to do. It's just we're just tired. HAYES: A police force under the gun. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people are angry and it is not just with the police. HAYES: And a city in the midst of an enduring crisis. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freddie Gray became an unwilling mark to make us hold up the mirror and look at ours. HAYES: Now, as the trials for the police officers charged in connection with Freddie Gray's death begin, a city with a troubled past -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been going on way before Freddie Gray. HAYES: -- and an uncertain future -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do break the cycle? HAYES: -- finds itself at a cross roads. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are at a very significant point in the life of the city. HAYES: Tonight ALL IN goes back to Baltimore. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: What happened in the wake of Freddie Gray's death did not happen in a vacuum. It's a reflection of the city where Freddie Gray was born and where he died. Tonight, we'll examine the root causes of the unrest, taking a close look at what happened in the decades before and the months since. But we begin with what happened in Baltimore this spring. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been firing the breaking news that started a little roughly after 3:00 this afternoon, violence that erupted in the section of northwest Baltimore right around the Mondawmin Mall Complex. HAYES: On Monday April 27th, this was the Baltimore Americans saw on their TV screens. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Windows are shattered there. That squad car. They're using riot gear. HAYES: Young people threw rocks at police and looted area businesses. Cars were set on fire. Buildings burned. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a CVS which looters have been working their way through over the last couple of hours. It is now on fire. HAYES: The chaos that erupted on that afternoon in that city had been building for days, over the death of a man named Freddie Gray. And it was the chaos that brought the cameras to Baltimore, the city where Freddie Gray lived and the city where Freddie Gray died. (SIREN WAILING) HAYES: April 12th, 2015. A group of police officers on bike patrol encounter a man near this intersection in West Baltimore. The man runs away from the officers but is apprehended nearby. The scene attracts onlookers. As the man is taken into custody, part of the arrest is recorded on cell phones. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’ve got it. Don't worry about it. HAYES: The man is seen shouting in pain as he is handcuffed and put into a police van. The van drives away and a short while later, police say, the man was found to be in medical distress. JERRY RODRIGUEZ, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: Right now we know that this individual had contact with the police. We know that this individual suffered an injury. We don't know what the cause is yet. HAYES: Family members identify the man as 25-year-old Freddie Gray. As video of his arrest goes viral on social media, officials launch an investigation in conjunction with the state's attorney's office but offer no explanation as to why Freddie Gray was stopped and arrested in the first place. Meanwhile, Gray's family says he is in a medically induced coma at a local hospital. Gray later undergoes surgery for three fractured neck vertebrae and a crushed voice box. One week after his arrest Freddie Gray dies. PROTESTERS: Tell the truth and stop the lies! Freddie Gray didn't have to die! HAYES: A protest movement gains momentum as more details emerge. A day after Freddie Gray dies, "The Baltimore Sun" obtains the charging documents, which shows that officers arrested Freddie Gray for unlawfully possessing a switchblade. Later that afternoon, police say Gray repeatedly asked for medical care inside the police van but did not receive it. RODRIGUEZ: I know that when Mr. Gray was placed inside that van he was able to talk, he was upset. And when Mr. Gray was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe. HAYES: As officials try to determine how Gray was injured, some in the community speculate that Gray off could have been taken on what is known as a rough ride, an unauthorized practice with unbuckled, handcuffed detainees intentionally given a jarring ride in the back of a police van. By week's end the officers involved, six in total, are named and police acknowledge protocol was broken. ANTHONY BATTS, BPO COMMISSIONER: We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been. No excuses for that, period. HAYES: The arresting officers did not put a seat belt on Freddie Gray after he was placed inside the police van, a violation of policy. BATTS: If someone harmed Freddie Gray, we're going to have to prosecute them. PROTESTERS: Justice for Freddie! Justice for Freddie! HAYES: After days of peaceful protests, the city reaches a breaking point. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Businesses were vandalized, looted, police cars damaged. At least six police officers slightly injured in clashes. HAYES: The unrest provokes a plea from Gray's family. FREDERICKA GRAY, SISTER OF FREDDIE GRAY: Please, please stop the violence. Freddie Gray would not want this. Freddie's mother does not want no violence. Violence does not get justice. HAYES: April 27th, 2015, funeral services are held for Freddie Gray. REV. JAMAL BRYANT, EMPOWERMENT TEMPLE: Freddie's death is not in vain. After this day, we're going to keep on marching. After this day, we're going to keep demanding justice. HAYES: But as Freddie Gray is laid to rest, tensions explode in Northwest Baltimore. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A large group of young people have been throwing bottles, rocks, throwing bricks that they're getting from a crumbling wall of a house nearby. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This thing is going to totally burn. You can see city police are in the process of marching down. But fire department's not going to be able to get down here to put this fire out. HAYES: Police in riot gear take to the streets as the unrest thrusts Baltimore into the national spotlight. MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), BALTIMORE: Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs. HAYES: A state of emergency is declared and a curfew is put in place. The next day, residents clean up the damage, while coming to terms with what happened. ANDRE JOLLY, BALTIMORE RESIDENT: It didn't make sense. But at the same time Freddie Gray didn't make sense. And until somebody makes sense of the real problem and that's the safety of the youth, they're going to act out on how they act out. HAYES: The president urges the entire country to do some soul searching. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It's just it would require everyone saying this is important, this is significant, and that we don't just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns. HAYES: The story dominates the news cycle, and that evening, more clashes are captured on camera as the national media come to the city. It's not tear gas. That's coming from -- that's coming from the crowd, and it's basically firecrackers being sent to the police. After several nights of unrest, peaceful protests returned. By week's end police complete their investigation into Freddie Gray's death and prosecutors review the findings. May 1st, 2015, nearly three weeks after Gray's arrest, Baltimore's lead prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, makes what is to many a shocking announcement. MARILYN MOSBY, STATE ATTORNEY FOR BALTIMORE: The findings of our comprehensive, thorough, and independent investigation, coupled with the medical examiner's determination that Mr. Gray's death was a homicide, which we received today, has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges. HAYES: Those charges against the six police officers involved include manslaughter and second-degree murder. Mosby says that Gray should have never been arrested in the first place. The knife police had found on him at the time of his arrest was legal. She also says police repeatedly denied Freddie Gray medical attention while he was in the police van. The van, as Mosby details, made five stops. At the first stop, a handcuffed Freddie Gray was taken out of the van and placed in leg restraints. He then was put back in the van head first onto the floor. MOSBY: Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet, and unrestrained inside of the BPD wagon. HAYES: At the second stop, Mosby says, an officer checked on Gray but did not call for medical help. Minutes later, a third stop. MOSBY: Gray at that time requested help and indicated that he could not breathe. HAYES: Then a fourth stop, where officers are called to pick up another suspect. Mosby says by that time Freddie Gray was unresponsive. MOSBY: Despite Mr. Gray's seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer. HAYES: According to Mosby, the van then headed for its final stop, the western district police station. Medics were called, and Freddie Gray was taken to the hospital, where he died a week later. Following Mosby's announcement, the police union strongly defends the six officers charged. MICHAEL DAVEY, ATTORNEY: We believe these officers will be vindicated as they have done nothing wrong. PROTESTERS: Freddie! Freddie! Freddie! HAYES: But in the neighborhood Freddie Gray was arrested, a sense of relief. For many chronicling and witnessing the unrest, Marilyn Mosby's announcement appeared to bring closure to a difficult few weeks. For those living in Baltimore, after the cameras left, the story had just begun. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: The reaction to what happened in Baltimore last spring and the significance of prosecutor Marilyn Mosby charging six police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: She saw him. She saw him as a human being, as a person who may have been born into a situation as the Negro national anthem says at a time, when hope unborn had died, but at least she saw him. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DEON BEASLEY, BARBER: They said we’re animals. I don't see my daughter as an animal. I don't see my child as an animal. I don't even see the other kids that was expressing themselves through the riots as thugs and animals. I see them as they're tired of the same nonsense over and over. They said the revolution should be televised. There it was. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: As national attention turned to Baltimore this past spring, so did national judgment. The media descended upon a place with a long and complex history of racial and economic strife, and the picture that was painted of that city, a city in turmoil, was often harsh. What people got wrong about the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We live here. Y'all coming to visit, seeing what's going on. We live in this city and we hurt. We go through stuff every day, every day. This is life. We deal with this every day. And just because we react, y'all want to criticize us? Don't do that. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: I was just one of hundreds of reporters who went to Baltimore in April, and I heard from a lot of people there who felt the media was unfairly representing what was happening in that city. Joining me here at the table, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and a long-time resident of Baltimore, and D. Watkins author of a collection of essays about growing up on the east side of Baltimore titled "The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America." It's great to have you guys here. It was one of these things where Baltimore exploded into unrest and the cameras came and it was like there's no prehistory, right? It's like where did this come from. Sharon, what do we get -- what did we miss because we weren't there before that moment? SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Well, if most people are honest what they know about Baltimore or knew before the unrest is the Baltimore Orioles, maybe the Baltimore Ravens, certainly the show "The Wire," but nothing real and authentic about Baltimore. And after the unrest started, I was watching a major network that will remain unnamed, and the anchor kept saying "Baltimore is on fire, a major American city." And I thought it was a major American city yesterday too. And in that so-called major American city female were suffering. We have this incredible disparity in income, in wages. The very landscape of Baltimore tells the picture, long before it started burning -- the vacant buildings, the lack of grocery stores. If you looked at the west side, the films of the CVS burning, nobody's concerned that you don't see a Safeway or a Giant or any kind of supermarket. I had the privilege of sitting on the board of Baltimore's public library, and one of the things we did was create an online food service so that people could order online and go to the public library to pick up fresh produce to deal with the food deserts. HAYES: To get food at the library. IFILL: To pick it up at the library so you could have fresh produce in places there were no grocery stores. HAYES: D., you've written a bunch of about your relationship as a young black man growing up in Baltimore with the police and how that was negotiated. I mean, what was -- when you saw what happened with Freddie Gray, what was going through your mind about what was underneath the surface that allowed that moment to happen? D. WATKINS, AUTHOR, “THE BEAST SIDE”: I wasn't surprised because the city has a history of police brutality. And you know, when we're talking about -- I heard someone say something really interesting, something about rebuilding the relationship between police officers and community members. And I’m thinking, rebuild? How can you rebuild something that was never there? I don't remember, other than being a little kid and officer friendly, I don't remember anyone having positive relationships with police officers. So, it was only a matter of time before something like this was bound to happen. You know, they kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and eventually, you know, you keep pushing and, you know, these types of things happen. HAYES: Why was it this moment? What's your understanding of why it was this moment? Because I talk to people who actually express befuddlement. Like yes, this happens, rough rides, it happens, people die in custody. And they were sort of -- they were slightly bewildered that this had become what it had become. WATKINS: Because of 24-hour news cycles. We watched this video over and over and over again. This case went viral. We know what happened with Anthony Anderson. We know what happened with Tyrone West. Many of us in the city have been organizing for them for a long time. But this went viral -- HAYES: Because of that cell phone video of him being pulled into that police van? WATKINS: No cell phone, no justice. HAYES: You think that was it? You think that was the thing that -- WATKINS: I’m 200 percent sure that was the reason why this brought about a different reaction. Because again, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, you're watching a video, Worldstarhiphop, MSNBC. We see the video over and over again. HAYES: And that blew up in the community first, right? IFILL: Remember, Baltimore is not on an island. And it's not on a foreign planet. It existed in the United States and we've seen Ferguson and we’ve seen, you know, Eric Garner in New York, and we saw Walter Scott get killed, you know, a very short period of time in that park in South Carolina before Freddie Gray. And so, I think we have to remember that the building that’s happening was happening not only in Baltimore, it was happening all over this country with young people living in cities where they have been dealing with years of police brutality who have had it. So, no question the videos are going viral and particularly Freddie Gray's video. There are two people he mentioned Tyrone West and Anthony Anderson are two African-American men killed in police custody in the years prior to Freddie Gray. And so, all of that foundation was there, but there was also a national context in which people are saying, enough is enough with police brutality. WATKINS: On top of the fact that we have nothing to lose, 97 percent of black people in Baltimore born in poverty die in poverty. What do we have to lose? What are we waging? What are we doing? What's the consequence for our actions when it's already nothing there? HAYES: When people would say, and I saw this all the time, they're burning their own neighborhood, they’re burning their own neighborhood, why are they burning their own neighborhood -- what did you hear when you -- WATKINS: I heard they're burning someone else's neighborhood, they're burning someone else's neighborhood, they're burning things that they never really had access to anyway. So, you know, Freddie Gray as was like the tipping point, but there's a whole laundry list of systemic issues that brought about these things. And it can potentially happen in other parts of the country as well because people are getting tired of our nation dangling wealth in front of us and systematically keeping us from having opportunities to access any of it. IFILL: You know, it's a funny thing when you're in Baltimore, if you go all the way downtown and you go to our port, Baltimore City is blessed with one of the most successful, profitable ports in the United States. So, you're down there and there's this incredible industry happening and there's all this business that's happening. You see the stadiums. You see all of that. And you don't have to go very far. It's not a very big city. You can drive another ten minutes, and I’m saying drive because there isn't going to be a subway that's going to take you anywhere. I’m going to say drive. Ten minutes away. And you'll see exactly what you saw in that video. And it wasn't just about the CVS -- everyone was talking about the CVS. But what was around the CVS? The easy tobacco mart, the check cashing place. Where is the infrastructure that people are supposed to really be invested in? HAYES: And I heard people say this time and time again, even with the National Guard, they said they got National Guard down in the harbor, everyone's concerned about the harbor, all the development goes to the harbor. I saw National Guardsmen in camouflage with rifles outside the cheesecake factory, right? And people standing at Penn and north being like what about us? WATKINS: Right. IFILL: And that reality of the investment in Baltimore communities is really a powerful one. You know, we were talking earlier about transportation in Baltimore. When we talk about what we missed in a major American city, mobility, the fact you can't get around this major American city with a real transportation system is astonishing. HAYES: All right. Still ahead, in the months following the death of Freddie Gray, violence spiked to record levels in the city of Baltimore. We went back to Baltimore to try and understand why. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Baltimore, like so many other American cities, has a legacy of segregation. And it didn't become segregated by accident. It was designed that way. A century of housing policy from segregation laws to the subprime mortgage crisis has divided Baltimore along racial lines and the effects of those policies can still be felt in the city's African-American communities today. It is in that context that we examined the unrest of April 2015 and the unrest that fell on the city nearly half a century earlier in 1968. Former Congressman Kweisi Mfume witnessed it firsthand. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KWEISE MFUME (D-MD), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: There was a lot of anger as there was in a lot of American cities in the 1960s. It was the period of the black power movement. People were very much divided over the war in Vietnam. Jack Kennedy had been assassinated earlier that decade, and then his brother, and then Dr. Martin Luther King. There was a lot of strife between people who thought that they had the right to impose their will on others and others who thought they had the right to protest that. So, it's in that context that on April 4th, 1968, when Dr. King was finally pronounced dead that evening that the community exploded. I was 19 years old. I will remember it forever. We all just kind of came out into the streets that night. And nobody knew what to do, sort of like a collective mourning. But the anchor that had been pent up in neighborhoods that were historically segregated bubbled over. And people were angry at the process and really angry about the system. A system that they grew up in that they and their parents pay taxes in, but a system that continued to find a way to segregate and to impose sort of unofficial Jim Crow. When Freddie Gray died in police custody, that same anger this time visited to a different generation took root again, not because he was like Dr. King, a civil rights leader and a great orator, but because people thought that there was no justice and therefore there should be no peace. And I remember leaving the funeral at my church that day of Freddie Gray, and it reminded me of 1968, April 4th. People were just pouring into the streets in this kind of collective mourning. And there were Crips. There were Bloods. There were elderly people. There were shop owners. There was a religious community. And what happened after that was all well documented with the uprising that took place. But it was like in 1968, unplanned and very hard to control because it was an expression by many of their anger, their frustration for their sense of reality, which said over and over again in many respects -- you really are different, you really are second-class. Now, whether that's right or wrong is up for interpretation but that's how people felt. So that becomes the common denominator of both of those uprisings. And it will take some time I think for historians to put it in its proper context. The real challenge, though, is to make sure there's not a third uprising in Baltimore and other cities over something 20 or 40 years later that is equally as disturbing. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: In April the nation's media, including us, headed to Baltimore to cover the unrest that shook the city after Freddie Gray's death in police custody. Now seven months later, we went back to Baltimore to talk with residents and politicians, reporters and officials, activists and business owners to find out what happened after the cameras left. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DEON BEASLEY, BARBER: I really think that in my heart of hearts this darkness, you know, in the city, we've got to change that. As far as this community, we've been -- we've been through it all. You know, way before Freddie Gray died, God rest his soul, but this has been going on way before Freddie Gray. This has been going on way before Mike Brown. This has been going on way before all that. HAYES: The months since the death of Freddie Gray have been tumultuous for Baltimore. Political upheaval has taken out the city's top leaders, while activists and community leaders have ramped up their efforts to bring change to a city that desperately needs it -- all during one of the most violent periods in Baltimore's recent history. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baltimore's homicide count has passed 300. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As of this weekend, 2015 marks Baltimore's deadliest year in more than a decade. HAYES: In the immediate aftermath of six Baltimore police officers being charged in connection with the 25-year-old's death, arrests in the city dropped so precipitously the mayor suggested police were engaged in a work slowdown. RAWLINGS-BLAKE: As long as they plan to cash their paycheck, our expectation, my expectation is that they work. HAYES: Meanwhile, homicides in the city spiked. JUSTIN FENTON, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Police leaders won't acknowledge it so much now, but at the time they were saying we are afraid to do our jobs, we are unsure, things we thought were legal, we're not sure if they're legal anymore. HAYES: Even as arrest numbers crept back up to normal levels, the number of homicides continue to hover above the previous several years, peaking in July. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been another violent month on the streets of Baltimore City. This time, 45 people have been murdered in July, a number that hasn't been seen since August of 1972. HAYES: Several other cities which did not experience unrest also saw an increase in violence over the summer. But many in the national media have seized on Baltimore as a cautionary tale of what happens when you go against the police. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The city of Baltimore has turned into what residents are calling the Wild West. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some are even saying they're too afraid to leave their homes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police officers are under a new kind of pressure not only to protect innocent civilians, but also not to make any mistakes ever since they fear prosecution. HAYES: Experts caution that the spike in homicides following the death of Freddie Gray does not necessarily indicate a long-term trend. Many residents believe that after the unrest in April, the police are hamstrung. BETH HAWKS, BUSINESS OWNER: The police are castrated. The police have zero power in this city. It is -- the lawless are the new protected class and the hard-working people are the criminals. HAYES: Others see a city whose long-simmering anger has simply exploded. DAYVON LOVE, ACTIVIST: People underestimate how much people pay attention. You know, people in our neighborhoods are paying attention to what's happening around them. And what they found was what they found before, which is people talking about that they care about their communities and neighborhoods but they don't see any material result. In terms of actual resources to sustain work that will sustain the community people don't see that and people are angry. HAYES: Frustration has been witnessed firsthand by Congressman Elijah Cummings. REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I know without a doubt there's a lot of anger but there's a lot of anger for a lot of reasons. When you deprive a people of economic opportunity, I think the door swings wide open for all kinds of problems. HAYES: Much of the city's discontent across the political spectrum has been focused on its leadership. HAWKS: I think Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has not tried to heal this community. BEASLEY: We're just tired of the -- you know, all the people saying that they will make a change but no one made a change. The mayor didn't do it. She didn't. You know, so at the end of the day it's like, who else can we rely on? HAYES: Over the summer, the country watched as the political establishment of Baltimore crumbled. Police commissioner Anthony Batts who many said had lost the support of the rank and file of his department was first to go. LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Baltimore's Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has been fired 2 1/2 months after the riots overt death of Freddie Gray. RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Recent events have placed an intense focus on our police leadership, distracting many from what needs to be our main focus -- the fight against crime. HAYES: Just two months later, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, once a rising star in the Democratic party, shocked political observers when she announced she would not seek re-election. RAWLINGS-BLAKE: It's not that I didn't think I could win. I just knew I had to ask myself the question at what cost? HAYES: Today, there are over a dozen people running for mayor, in a race that offers an opportunity for significant change of course. CUMMINGS: We are at a very significant point in the life of this city. I talk about transformative moments. And those are the moments that come when you realize that you're going to have to get better or you are going to see things get worse. And this is one of those moments for our city. HAYES: Since most of the cameras have left Baltimore, local community organizers who are already working for criminal justice reform and police accountability before the death of Freddie Gray have found renewed purpose in the midst of what many describe as a political awakening. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a bunch of work folks are building on. It's not like the Freddie Gray thing happened and now this is a new thing. I mean, of course there are more people involved but this is work that's been building for years. HAYES: As activists look forward, the city girds itself for what will likely be a tense several months. With the back-to-back trials for six officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. CUMMINGS: I have great hope for our city. But at the same time I realize that we can't do it alone. You can't have people sitting in Washington acting like it's OK to abandon cities. I’m hoping that we will come to the realization in Washington that we're all in this boat together and we're either going to rise together or we're going to fall together. But we're in the boat together now. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: In the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested, there's a new police commander in charge. She granted me a rare interview, next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAJOR SHEREE BRISCOE, WESTERN DISTRICT, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPT.: If you look at me, you're going to make some natural assumptions about Sheree. Are you not? You're going to think she's been here 21 years, almost 22 years, she doesn't understand what it's like. She doesn't know. Yes, I do understand what it's like. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CUMMINGS: From the age of 5 years old in my neighborhood in South Baltimore, police would come -- my first experience with the police was -- and seeing police in action was on Saturday mornings men would play craps, in other words, they'd play with dice and gamble in the alleys. The police would drive up, beat them up, take the money and leave. That's what I saw at 5 years old. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: The toxic relationship between the Baltimore Police Department and many of the city's residents has been fraught for decades, but it exploded into national view last April when Freddie Gray was arrested in the notorious western district. Now, there's a brand new commanding officer in charge of policing that part of the city. We'll talk with her next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FENTON: Covering this kind of a crime spike is overwhelming in terms of the victims' names keep coming in. And we always want to write about the victims and try to tell people more about them. And when they're coming in at the pace they're coming in you can't keep up with this. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: This year was the deadliest per capita in Baltimore's history, with more than 320 homicides. Baltimore police have promised to fight to curb the violence and to institute reforms. The department has already made several staffing changes including in the western district. It's the part of Baltimore where Freddie Gray was arrested. The new commander there is Major Sheree Briscoe, who has been with the Baltimore police force for over two decades. I met with her in the western district on the campus of Coppin State University. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MAJOR SHEREE BRISCOE, WESTERN DISTRICT, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPT.: If you look at me you're going to make some natural assumptions about Sheree. Are you not? You're going to think that oh, okay, well, she's been here 21 years, almost 22 years, she doesn't understand what it's like, she doesn't know. Yes, I do understand what it's like. I’m a mother of four. What makes me any different? My youngest child is 21 years old. So when people -- HAYES: Has he been pulled over by the cops? BRISCOE: Yes, he has. Yes, he has. So I’m no different. We're prone to the same standards, the same treatment, the same feeling as everyone else. So, that's really the thoughtfulness of this conversation saying that I’m no different. I just wear a different uniform. Now, there are people getting nursing degrees, degrees in science. I’m no different, no better. That very well could be me living in the midst of this community day to day, looking for hope, looking for possibility, looking for someone to care. Looking for someone to take five minutes, do something non-traditional with a thoughtfulness in mind, to make something better. And that's what we're working toward. That's where my focus is. Yes, we're doing the work of the how do you address the homicides, how do you address the shootings. But then the question becomes, not addressing it after it happens, how do you prevent it. HAYES: Right. BRISCOE: That's more of a thoughtful conversation. HAYES: Yes. BRISCOE: You have to do more in terms of applying resources and opportunities and being more thoughtful with the community and showing hope. Not just standing there with a banner saying, “I care”. Rolling up your sleeves and doing some work to let someone know that you care. When you call me, I’m coming because I care. It matters to me whether or not you live the quality of life that you have. That is what will impact crime. Not just simply chasing after the one number. HAYES: Right. BRISCOE: Though I have to be very mindful, if you're out here and you're law breaking and you're not law-abiding, that's not a notion we're going to back down from. Don't mistake me. I’m trained to do that. I’m taught to do that. I’m geared to do that. HAYES: This is a police department that has had tremendous scrutiny, is about to enter into a period in which six former colleagues are going to be on trial in a very closely watched criminal trial. I mean, I’ve got to imagine that impacts what people are talking about in locker rooms, how people are thinking about their job. BRISCOE: Of course it does. It impacts what you talk about because you're here to talk to me. HAYES: Yes, yes. BRISCOE: It impacts the conversation globally because it's not just about the six. It's about policing in America, period. So, yes, it impacts us. But it doesn't change why we raise our right hand. We're no less mounting that horse and going out here with diligence or thoughtfulness. HAYES: Right. BRISCOE: We’re still carrying out the oath of our office, with dignity of honor and respect. That's fundamental. That doesn't change. So when something happens in your family, like do you stop what you do? No. HAYES: No, but if it happened in my family, to extend the metaphor, if I felt, for instance, that six members of my family were being unfairly put on trial, I would be very angry. If I felt like they were legitimately being put on trial, I would be incredibly grief stricken that they did something terrible. But it would really affect me. BRISCOE: But see, that's a part of being a family. HAYES: Right. BRISCOE: And I’m not talking to this situation of the case. I’m speaking generally, because I’m not going to speak to that. That has a court proceeding attached to it and that is bigger than me and we're going to table that about those specific six. We're not even going to discuss that. I’m just simply saying when anything happens in your family you still carry on with the same level of pride, dignity, and respect. That's no different for us. That's no different for us. And I know you're wanting me to say what are they like? What are they like? We're still out here. We're not running. We're not going anywhere. So, in the face of the situation, when you get tapped, you regroup, you assess. Let's go. And you're moving forward. And that's where we are. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: What needs to happen in Baltimore now? We'll look at the future of the city, next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KWAME ROSE, ACTIVIST: You can make change. You can literally stand up one day and say, “I’m here for the death of Freddie Gray but also here to preserve the life of others”, and you can make that change. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEASLEY: We’ll never know how Baltimore really is because it’s different. But the scars are deep, the pain is deep, the tears are real. So at the end of the day, it's our real is that we live in fear. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: All right. Still with me, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, long-time resident of Baltimore, and D. Watkins, professor of creative writing at the University of Baltimore and author of "The Beast Side." It was interesting to talk to folks about what's happened there because there's a bunch of theories, right? And it does feel like a crisis there. You're shaking your head no. IFILL: The crisis was before everybody saw it. Baltimore has been perpetually in crisis. And what erupted was a crisis that rose to the consciousness of other people who were not in crisis. So, what it is now is an opportunity. It's an opportunity to make some change happen because it's now seen in ways it wasn't seen before. Whether that opportunity is going to be taken up, I mean, all the things that have been happening since the unrest are almost like the box checking things, you know? The police chief has to go. You know, the mayor says she's not running again. Maybe we're seeing those in Chicago now. Those are things that have to happen. But something else happened. The governor who set up an office down in the area of the unrest decided, after everybody went home, to cancel the plans for Baltimore's subway system, rail system, something that had been planned for 10 years, that was going to take people east to west in Baltimore, because the jobs the end of the city, create mobility for people, for single moms who have to leave their kids and stand at the bus stop for an hour and a half. He killed that and there were no protests about that. And there has been really no discussion about that. So I’m concerned about what the response is going to be and whether we're really going to take advantage of the opportunity. WATKINS: So, I grew up in Baltimore. And we've been living in a crisis is so long I don't even know what a crisis looks like. I didn't even understand how horrible my childhood and living conditions were until I had a chance to go to other places. And just even to piggy back what Sherrilyn just said, you know, it's very, very easy for a Republican governor to say, black people don't want to work, than it is to go through with the subway plans because social and public transportation in our city is ridiculous. It takes two months to get from east to west Baltimore. That's why so many east Baltimore people stay on the east side. (CROSSTALK) WATKINS: You’ve got to give up a day to get to the other side of town. HAYES: Right. So, then, what is the -- I mean, you’ve got this sort of question about police accountability and reform. You’ve got a question about homicide and gun violence, which is -- which the numbers are what they are. It's been a terrible year empirically in Baltimore. Then the question is, OK, now what? IFILL: I just want to say this -- that seems to be the only number that we can tally, right? So the actual people who were killed. And it's an important number because one of the things that I think has happened in Baltimore is human life has become so extendible when it's black people, and it's so disturbing and powerful and painful. But there are people who are alive who are suffering incredibly, who are suffering from a lack of education, who are suffering from not having hope or jobs, who are suffering from living in substandard housing. Where are we measuring that and you never hear about that? HAYES: There’s also a lot of -- my sense there's been a fair amount of organizing, too. I mean, there was a lot of organizing before Freddie Gray that built the frame work for people. You talked about that. And there's been organizing against violence. There is -- there's capacity there that is also easy to miss. WATKINS: The key for us who have been organizing is to keep organizing. I have to be 100 percent honest. I’m completely jaded when it comes to the system. And police reform or building relationships with police officers. There's a couple out there who are coming into the community and, you know, participating in basketball games and flag football games and things like that are cool. But the key thing for me is for us to figure out what our talents and our skills are, achieve mastery, whatever that mean, and share those skills with other residents. If I can do what I’m trying to do with literacy and reading programs and telling their own stories on top of controlling the narrative of stories coming out of their neighborhood, I’m doing my job. I know other people that do financial literacy. So, if you can teach us what to do with money, and how to flip it once we get it and save it and hold on to it, then, you know, you're activists. You're making a difference. I know other people who do things with nutrition and things like that. So, it's all about us to figure out how to do what we can do as citizens. I’m not anti-system. I want people to vote. I want people to do all of these things. But my job is to focus on what I have to focus on and create that skill -- help create that skill in culture (ph). IFILL: So, I’m a systems person. And here's part of the reason, because while this process is happening right now, billions of dollars are being moved around that should be in Baltimore. I just talked about the transportation system. That was a several billion dollar plan with 9,000 jobs that would have come from the construction alone, let alone all the businesses that would have been around the stations that is gone. You know, the Department of Justice is now involved with the police in this pattern and practice investigation. They are going to transform and change the police department. The question is, what is it going to be? What's it going to be for the next generation and the next generation? That's being decided right now. And if you're not engaging in that process with the Justice Department, if you're not insisting that there have to be accountability measures within the city police department, if you're not insisting that the money gets cut off unless certain changes happen, if you're not trying to find those officers who really are committed to reform -- and there are some, I’ve been really having interesting conversations with those who are -- then we're kicking that can down the road for another generation. HAYES: But there's also a degree to which, you know, the disinvestment that's happened in places like Baltimore. Let's just be clear, it's not just Baltimore, right? I mean, urban -- segregated cities across this country, you can tell a very similar story, that investment, reinvestment, or some sort of targeted belief that those places should flourish has to come from outside Baltimore at a certain level, right? WATKINS: Yes. I agree. I’m not anti-system, but if I’m doing what I’m doing on a community level, then I’m helping to create an army of people ready to, you know, step in. And be functional and able to comprehend that systemic work that needs to be done, too. IFILL: It never works without both. WATKINS: We have to work together. The guy in a suit has to partner with the guy in the hoodie, and the guy in the open toed sandal and (INAUDIBLE) the white guy in the Birkenstocks. All of these people have to get together and really, really, really work hard and achieve mastery in what we do. Then we'll see real change. But until that man, we'll see the same thing over and over again and we'll all be naive to, you know, sit here and act like there's not a huge system that benefits from the pain of a lot of people in cities like Baltimore. HAYES: Sherrilyn Ifill and D. Watkins, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. IFILL: Thank you, Chris. WATKINS: Thank you. HAYES: You can find much more of our reporting, including extended interviews on our Web site at This has been a special edition of ALL IN, “Back to Baltimore." Good night. END