How one family’s fight has turned into a platform for the voiceless
It has been 1,097 days since the death of local Baltimore artist Tyrone West. The cause of West’s death is controversial. After being pulled over by the Baltimore police for a traffic stop in July 2013, it was discovered that West had a bag of cocaine in his sock, but was unarmed. West was arrested and put into handcuffs. Eye witnesses to the scene say that they saw West beaten down with batons and pepper sprayed by over 10 police officers who arrived on the scene. West died in handcuffs.
West’s sister, Tawanda West, a local teacher, was devastated by the loss of her brother and has been actively seeking justice for him. West’s family filed lawsuits against 11 of the officers involved. One of the officers involved in the attack is currently the chief officer at Morgan State University. Two of the officers involved had previous charges of excessive force against them. Those charges were filed by Baltimore resident Abdul Salaam, who was beaten by these two police officers 18 days before West’s death. “I was basically beaten within inches of my life over a seat belt” Salaam reported to WJZ Baltimore.
West’s lawsuit was not won. Also, clear answers about the cause of West’s death has yet to be revealed. The state prosecutor determined that the force that was used on West was “justifiable.”
Since West’s death, every Wednesday, rain or shine, the West family and other activists have come together to protest the violence he faced in police custody. In order to get a statement from Tawanda West, I attended the 171st West Wednesday on the corner of Greenmont and 33rd street.
When I arrived, I found Tawanda speaking to a large and diverse crowd through a microphone. The people in the crowd were holding signs that said “End White Supremacy,” “Justice for Tyrone” and “Justice for Freddie Gray.” “We are more than faces on a shirt. Black lives matter. Our lives matter,” West says. After she finished speaking, there was a call for an open mic where people attending the rally were invited to speak about their own experiences.
Since the death of Freddie Gray, cases like West’s have been reopened for investigation. However, according to The Baltimore Sun, State Attorney Marilyn Mosby declined to reopen West’s case. Currently, all of the officers involved in the case are still on duty in the city of Baltimore.
The West family is determined to bring about justice for Tyrone. Tawanda West wants this group to be the one that promotes both love and justice. “This has just grown so much. When we started, it was just my family,” she explains. “Now, it is so many different kinds of people. These rallies started out for my brother, but now we are a group that gives a voice to the voiceless.”
If you would like more information on West Wesdnesdays, “like” Bmore Block on Facebook or follow them on Twitter at BmoreBloc.