It has been 1,624 days since Tyrone West died in police custody and 232 weeks since the inaugural ‘West Wednesday’ as of Jan. 3.
At the first West Wednesday of the new year, almost 20 people gathered at 33rd Street and Greenmount Avenue on a night when the temperature was 27 degrees and dropping; it snowed later that evening.
Tawanda Jones, West’s sister, took the microphone a little after 7 p.m. before a crowd bearing signs that read: “ANTHONY ANDERSON,” “FREDDIE GRAY” and “STOP KILLING OUR FRIENDS.”
“We’re out here fighting for all the victims of police brutality, police murder [and]police terror,” Jones told the crowd, “because it just needs to end.”
While it may be the only one of its kind, West Wednesdays is not the only protest against police brutality. Many NFL players were taking a knee during the National Anthem throughout the regular season. And, more than 300 protestors have been arrested in St. Louis since citizens took to the streets when Jason Stockley was found not guilty in the killing of Anthony Smith in September.
There have been some local victories. Baltimore City awarded $300,000 to the family of Anthony Anderson, who died after being tackled by a police officer. The city also signed a consent decree to implement mandatory reforms in January 2017. Eight officers of Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force were indicted for corruption last year; their former sergeant, Wayne Jenkins soon is expected to enter a plea of guilty.
Jones still wants accountability for her brother and said four-plus years of protest takes a toll.
“I’m sick of telling and reliving what happened, but it’s a part of my reality,” Jones said. “It’s a part of my family’s reality and it’s a part of my children’s reality. It’s sad that you take an unarmed person out of the world for no reason…just straight evil. And the craziest part: nobody’s been held accountable. And I just want to say to everybody that I’m not anti-police, I’m anti-police brutality.”
One new face in the crowd was Richard “Rikki” Vaughn, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2018. His campaign filed in July, but he has not yet formally announced his run.
“Our voices have to continue to go beyond just East Baltimore, West Baltimore, Baltimore County,” said Vaughn, who was invited by Jones. “We have to stay connected in our communities and we have to continue to make sure that our voices are heard. And this, tonight, is just the beginning of it.”
Vaughn said he was born and raised in Baltimore, where he attended Southern High School. He says his connection to the community may keep him accountable.
“Where is Cardin? Where is the mayor? Where is the governor? Where are they at when this type of issue or these type of situations happen in our communities? Again, I’ve said it before: it’s priorities,” Vaughn told the AFRO. “If it doesn’t happen in their neighborhood, then they don’t have to show up.”
While West Wednesdays show no signs of ending, Jones told the crowd that legislation is the only solution.
“If we don’t change things in the books, we all are doomed,” Jones said.