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Perception of the police depends on your Baltimore zip code

Two neighborhoods in Baltimore are less than a mile apart, but have vastly different relations with the police. Hari Sreenivasan looks at how residents of the two communities are dealing with the recent unrest.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

     As we’ve been reporting, Wednesday night in Baltimore was calm, in part because of the continuing beefed-up enforcement and in part because most residents are complying with the curfew.

    Newshour senior correspondent Hari Sreenivasan spent time in Baltimore, reporting on how two vastly different neighborhoods coexist.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In the Sandtown neighborhood  of Baltimore, a woman named Marilyn on Appleton street takes pride in the garden she’s tending on her front porch…

    Pride in the tiny corner of the city she’s been able to clean up in the house that has been in her husband’s family since 1959.

    But she is also scared. Scared to give us her last name because of the troublemakers  in Sandtown. An element she suspects is behind the recent riots and looting….

    She fears retaliation from them for speaking her mind.

  • MARILYN:

    We have drug dealers trying to come on our block down the corner, or whatever, we call the police, they do come, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

    They should have buried that man peacefully, like his family asked, what they did, I think they did because I think they just wanted to steal, they wanted to take.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The past two days have been stressful for Marilyn, and her blood pressure has gone up, looters destroyed the CVS where she filled her prescriptions.

  • MARILYN:

    I don’t have my blood pressure medicine, I don’t have my medicine, period. Now I gotta find another CVS that didn’t get broken in or burnt down

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For her cousin, Gregg Lee, a block captain in Sandtown the recent violence and distrust are symptoms of a larger change in policing.

  • GREGG LEE:

    You don’t see an officer walking around, only time you see an officer is, they in the car, they on the way they… woosh flying. When I was coming up as a kid, you had foot patrol.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So you knew the officer Gregg?

  • GREGG LEE:

    Yeah you knew him. He knew your family, you knew the children.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Just down the block, beneath the incessant sound of helicopters, John Willard a priest from nearby memorial episcopal church walks a different sort of beat, handing out sandwiches, a kind word and earning trust where he can.

  • REV. JOHN WILLARD, Memorial Episcopal Church:

    I don’t enter into this community fully trusted, I had to earn my trust, people trust me now and that just started one person to one person. People defend me now and say he’s ok, don’t mess with him.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Willard has been working in Sandtown for the past eight years. Helping people out of homelessness and drug addiction, and coming to understand the depths of their anger.

  • REV. JOHN WILLARD:

    The people in this community feel hunted, they’re afraid the make eye contact with people, they’re afraid to hand a friend a cigarette because they’re afraid they’re going to get arrested because they’re selling cigarettes.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So both communities seem to be acting out of fear.

  • REV. JOHN WILLARD:

    Yes.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The police are gonna say, look I’m putting my life on the line.

  • REV. JOHN WILLARD:

    Absolutely.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    I open up that squad car, I’m knockin’ on that door, I don’t know what to think. And at the same time the people here say, when the police officer knocks on that door, I don’t know what to think.

  • REV. JOHN WILLARD:

    Absolutely, and that’s exactly the problem. Because that’s really what happens is the police dehumanize the people in the street and the people in the street dehumanize the people in the car.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    A dehumanizing rage that boiled over this week in many places, including this liquor store just off Eutaw Place.

    When the looting began, Terence Roundtree and friends could bear it no more, and they stood between the looters and the store.

    So you stood here and kept the looters from going in?

  • TERENCE ROUNDTREE:

    Yeah.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Why?

  • TERENCE ROUNDTREE:

    Because it’s the right thing to do. Like I said, although this is not where I live, this is still my home. Somewhere along the line you have to say enough is enough.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The Marlboro apartments where the liquor store was looted sits right on the dividing line of zip code 21217, separating Sandtown from the much nicer corner called Bolton hill.

    The historic Bolton Hill neighborhood has tree lined streets, beautifully maintained homes. A members-only swim and tennis club. The king and I opens at John Willard’s memorial church tomorrow night.

    Troublemakers hit Bolton hill too. Looting all the stores in this shopping center.

    At twilight we caught up with some Bolton Hillers at B Bistro, the kind of restaurant that serves good wine and truffled french fries.

    It’s less than a mile away from the porch we sat on in Sandtown, but has a very different relationship with the police. Andrew Parlock, and his wife Kendra were just finishing dinner.

  • ANDREW PARLOCK:

    I’m gonna call the cops the first chance I have if something goes down, compared to less than a mile my same zip code 21217, same zip code but they’re not gonna call at all and that’s something we need to deal with and if we didn’t know it on Saturday, we know it today. And I think that’s the good news, silver lining to this cloud.

  • KENDRA PARLOCK:

    Yeah there’s a real opportunity here to understand what’s going on and make a difference, make a change.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    These neighbors understand why the police respond differently here.

  • STEVE HOWARD:

    There’s both a white privilege and a class privilege and we in Bolton Hill get treated very nicely by the police, and the question is why is everyone not treated the same way that we’re treated.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    As darkness fell, we headed back to Sandtown to see people running back home before the 10 p.m. curfew. We heard the police choppers announce warnings as they circled overhead.

    Marilyn says she hasn’t had a curfew since she was nine and she is tiring of the police, and increasingly news helicopters.

  • MARILYN:

    They’re loud, they’re intrusive, because you know you can’t sleep or whatever, but by them choppers being up there, I do feel safe.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Just after the curfew news broke that Freddie Gray, whose death sparked the protests, may have been banging his head against the back of the police wagon, self-inflicted injuries that may have contributed to his death.

  • MARILYN:

    He antagonized the police, he probably was banging his head, but from what I’ve hear about how he died, I don’t think that was self-inflicted. I really don’t.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The answer to that crucial question may define Baltimore’s new beginning.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Hari Sreenivasan in Baltimore.

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