The family of Freddie Gray will get some justice for the black 25-year-old's death at the hands of police: a $6.4 million payment from the city of Baltimore.
The settlement, approved by a city board on Wednesday, is a big deal: It's a bigger sum than the city paid out in 102 cases of alleged police misconduct since 2011. The payments in all of those cases totaled $5.7 million, although most were capped by a Maryland law that previously set the limit for each case's payout at $200,000. (It's now $400,000, but government officials maintain the ability to negotiate higher payments, according to the Baltimore Sun.)
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement cautioning that the settlement is not an admission of guilt. But, at the very least, it shows the seriousness with which Gray's case is being handled.
The payout particularly shows the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement. After Gray was fatally injured while in police custody, protests and riots broke out in Baltimore — exposing anger toward police that had built up in local, neglected communities for years. Much of that anger came from a belief that police aren't held accountable for acts of alleged brutality — the $5.7 million paid out for previous police abuse cases was perceived as too little, considering the number of allegations involved.
Since then, the situation has changed. Baltimore's state's attorney charged the six police officers involved with Gray's death with murder and manslaughter — a clear attempt to hold police accountable for the death. And now the city agreed to pay a settlement larger than all the payments in 102 previous cases of alleged police abuse combined.
Beyond Baltimore, Black Lives Matter is making an impact
Other cases show the effect of Black Lives Matter: There were charges against police officers for the killing of Akai Gurley in New York City; Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina; Eric Harris in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati.
In response to the movement, more lawmakers are also pushing to hold police accountable. President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have both called for police to wear body cameras that would record police officers on the job. The Obama administration has said that the federal government needs to do a better job tracking police killings. Clinton dedicated her first 2016 campaign speech to criminal justice issues, including policing. And the other major Democratic contenders — Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley — released racial justice platforms that directly deal with these issues after facing pressure from Black Lives Matter.
None of this is to say that the battle is over and Black Lives Matter has achieved its overall mission of "redressing the systemic pattern of anti-black law enforcement violence in the US." Republicans and white Americans are still far more skeptical about the threat of racism in US society, according to surveys from Gallup and the Pew Research Center. And Republican presidential candidates — with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul — have avoided any criminal justice issues, including policing.
But the victories are adding up. From Tulsa and Baltimore to the White House, it's becoming increasingly clear that Black Lives Matter is making an impact.