Baltimore Recovering in Wake of Freddie Gray Protests
On May 3, after weeks of violent unrest spurred by the death of Freddie Gray, the latest national symbol of institutional discrimination and police brutality, Mayor of Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lifted the city’s recently enacted night curfew, and has begun efforts to withdraw the National Guard from the fray. Mondawmin Mall, where thousands of dollars worth of merchandise was looted during the unrests on April 27, also reopened for the first time on Sunday afternoon, indicating to many a potential return to normalcy. (CNN, “National Guard plans exit from Baltimore,” 05.05.15)
While being chased and arrested by Baltimore police on the morning of April 12, 25-year-old Freddie Gray sustained critical injuries from what many have called unnecessary force on the part of the officers involved, and later died at hospital on April 19. According to his family, 80 percent of Gray’s spinal cord was severed and his larynx was crushed during his arrest. As shown in a cell phone video taken at the scene of the arrest, Gray was dragged into a police van, limp and in apparent pain.
Police officials have acknowledged that Gray should have received immediate medical treatment at the scene of the arrest and have also commented that he was unbuckled in the van, which may have worsened his initial injuries. (The New York Times, “Baltimore Enlists National Guard and a Curfew to Fight Riots and Looting,” 04.27.15)
Gray’s untimely death spawned a week of protests that had been largely peaceful until the night of April 26, when scuffles took place between demonstrators and officers in riot gear. On the following Monday, after Gray’s funeral took place in the afternoon violence swelled into open looting and rioting, with people throwing rocks and bottles at officers. Pastor Jamal Bryant, who delivered Gray’s eulogy, appealed for calm and peace. “This is not what the family asked for, today of all days, for us to come out of the burial and walk into this is absolutely inexcusable.” Bryant said. (The New York Times)
As of May 3, officials have reported 486 arrests and 113 injured police offices. (Los Angeles Times, “As Baltimore curfew ends, celebratory crowds peacefully gather,” 05.03.15) Peace began to be restored, however, as Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced on Friday that six police officers have been charged in the death of Gray, and that state prosecutors had sufficient evidence to file homicide, manslaughter and misconduct charges against the officers. (The New York Times, “The Timeline of Freddie Gray’s Arrest and the Charges Filed,” 05.01.15)
This past Saturday, the turbulent weeks took a lighter tone as thousands rallied peacefully in front of Baltimore’s City Hall to call for an end to police mistreatment of black men. A participant explained the change in mood, “The public got an answer yesterday. I just hope that the changes stick. I’m really hopeful that it doesn’t turn.” (The New York Times, “After Thousands Rally in Baltimore, Police Make Some Arrests as Curfew Takes Hold,” 05.02.15)
—Yifan Wang, Reporter
Chipotle Cleans Menu of GMO Food
On Monday, April 27, Mexican fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle officially marked its first day serving food free of genetically engineered ingredients, becoming the first major food chain in the United States to do so.
For years, GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, have been the source of heated controversy within the food industry. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture statistic published by CNN Money, at least 80% of all the food consumed in the United States, and over 90% of corn and soybeans, contain some form of GMO byproducts, figures that many have demanded must change. (CNN Money, “Chipotle is now GMO-free,” 04.27.15)
The company cites it reasons for the ban as the limited scientific knowledge of long-term effects of consuming GMO foods and their potential for environmental damage. “There is a lot of debate about genetically modified foods,” remarked Chipotle Chairman and Co-CEO Steve Ells. “Though many countries have already restricted or banned the use of GMO crops, it’s clear that a lot of research is still needed before we can truly understand all of the implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption. While that debate continues, we decided to move on non-GMO ingredients.” (USA Today, “Chipotle: GMOs gone from our food,” 04.27.15)
Although Chipotle has been enjoying great success among its competitors, particularly legacy chains like McDonald’s, who have experienced growth at a fraction of its rate both in stock and in sales, the company’s leadership announced last week that the transition may necessitate a minor raise in prices. (The New York Times, “Chipotle to Stop Using Genetically Altered Ingredients,” 04.26.15)
Speculation in the business sector is that Chipotle’s decision to go GMO-free was a calculated move to appease the younger generations of Americans. In the same vein, Chipotle was also the first restaurant chain to disclose to the public which of its menu items contained GMOs earlier in 2013. According to a recent Nielson report published by Fortune, attaining non-GMO foods is of high importance to almost half of the population sampled. However, similar studies have found that people are generally not willing to pay higher prices for those foods. (Fortune, “Chipotle just went GMO-free – a savvy move to impress Millennials,” 04.27.15)
Although the Mexican-style chain will no longer directly sell food made with GMO-products, their pork and chicken continue to come from animals fed with GMO-grain, and many of its beverages will still contain sweeteners containing GMO-corn. The company’s other movements towards clean eating, however, include renouncing antibiotic-treated chicken and artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives.
Despite that Chipotle will not yet reach its goal of being completely GMO-free this year, it looks to be a trendsetter among other restaurants as a benchmark of cleaner, more natural food, and to live up to its slogan: “Food With Integrity.”
— Eilis Donohue, Guest Reporter
— Rhys Johnson, News Editor
Two Gunmen Attack Anti-Islamic Art Show
On Sunday, May 3, two armed men were shot and killed after they began shooting outside an art exhibit in Garland, Texas entitled, “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest.”
The exhibit, which featured controversial depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, was organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an anti-Islam activist organization, in response to an anti-Islamophobia event held in the same location earlier that year. (The Huffington Post, “2 Men Shot Dead After Opening Fire Outside Muhammad Art Exhibit in Garland, Texas,” 05.04.15)
Garland officials commented on the shooting in a recent facebook post. They wrote, “As today’s Muhammad Art Exhibit event at the Curtis Culwell Center was coming to an end, two males drove up to the front of the building in a car. Both males were armed and began shooting at a Garland ISD security officer. The GISD security officer’s injuries are not life-threatening. Garland Police officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed.” (The Slatest, “Two Gunmen, Security Guard Shot at Right-Wing ‘Muhammad Cartoon Contest’ in Texas,” 05.03.15)
The only injury sustained during the incident, other than those given to the gunmen, was a minor gunshot wound to the leg of one of the event’s security officers, who has since been treated and discharged from a nearby hospital.
Because the exhibit was expected to attract much controversy, the event was staffed with additional security and local police officers, who responded to the initial shots immediately. “We were ready for this,” Garland police spokesman Joe Garn remarked. (CNN, “Two men shot dead after they open fire at Mohammed cartoon event in Texas,” 05.04.15)
“The first suspect was shot immediately,” Garland Mayor Douglas Athas said of the incident. “The second suspect was wounded and reached for his backpack. He was shot again…We have no other indication that anyone else was involved.” (CNN)
The Islamic State extremist group in Syria applauded the two men’s efforts, and one of the attackers, a late convert to Islam with a history of extremist sympathies, has been found to have promoted the Islamic State on Twitter, and to have had contacts with fighters in the group. “The brothers from the Charlie Hebdo attack did their part,” the gunman wrote online. “It’s time for brothers in the #US to do their part.” (The New York Times, “Trail of Extremism on Twitter Led to Shootout in Texas,” 05.05.15)
Counterterrorism officials are continuing to study the two attackers’ backgrounds, while Garland looks to recover from the scare.
“Texas officials are actively investigating to determine the cause and scope of the senseless attack in Garland, Texas,” Governor of Texas Greg Abbott remarked. “This is a crime that was quickly ended thanks to the swift action by Garland law enforcement. Our thoughts and prayers remain with all those affected tonight.”
— Rhys Johnson, News Editor
— Maddy Vogel, Social Media Editor