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Marilyn Mosby, the Black electoral infrastructure and prison as weapon against Black people

Picture of Dayvon Love

Dayvon Love

Director of Public Policy
Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle

There is often public criticism of Black elected officials that generally reflects a sentiment that they lack courage. As an advocate for my people, I have engaged in some of the most scathing critiques of Black elected officials, and this has been extremely important in the effectiveness of the work of my organization, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS). 

In Baltimore, we do not have community controlled, independent Black electoral infrastructure that can produce candidates for public office. This means that Black people who are looking to run for office have to rely on institutions outside of our community in order to be viable candidates for public office. The truth is, by the time we arrive at the ballot box, the choice regarding who represents us has largely been made for us. We are largely picking between candidates for public office that have been vetted by the corporate sector and the political establishment.

In the grand scheme of things, many of the Black people who are in elected office do not work for us, they are henchmen of interest outside of our community. I don’t expect Black elected officials to do anything unless we organize ourselves effectively to make them do it. We have to make it hurt for them to go against the interests of our community. The development of this electoral infrastructure is a long term endeavor that LBS hopes to build on behalf of Black people in Baltimore.

There are a handful of Black elected officials that have used their time in office to challenge powerful interests on behalf of our community. And while it is important to criticize Black elected officials when they are engaged in activity that is harmful to our community, we have to acknowledge when they do things that challenge powerful institutions on our behalf. More importantly, we should acknowledge the mechanisms that are used to punish those who do take these kinds of positions. The federal prosecution and conviction of Marilyn Mosby is an act of the law enforcement establishment punishing her for taking stances against their racist policy positions on criminal justice issues.

Outside of being the Black woman that prosecuted the officers that killed Freddie Gray in 2015, Mosby was a target of conservative prosecutors and the Fraternal Order of Police. I know first hand that her stances on issues that I have worked on contributed to her being a target of the law enforcement establishment. Her support of police accountability legislation, expungement of criminal convictions that stemmed the testimony of corrupt police officers, decriminalization of cannabis and support of community based approaches to violence prevention as an alternative to police centric approaches to public safety are issues that we have worked on together. These policies were efforts to fight back against the system of White supremacy that weaponizes the criminal justice system to undermine the humanity of Black people. Prosecuting her for taking money out of her own account, amongst other charges that have no potential to harm anyone, is a political punishment for taking positions that challenge the racist policies of the law enforcement establishment.

In Maryland there has been an aggressive push against policies that seek to reduce the harm that the criminal justice system has done to Black people. People like Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates and Howard County State’s Attorney and current chair of the Maryland State’s Attorney Association, Rich Gibson, have been leaders in the attempt to roll back the progress that has been made on criminal justice reform. Just to put in perspective the nature of the policy proposals that these folks are advancing, they support the repeal of the Child Interrogation Protection Act (CIPA). 

This law, passed in 2022, essentially requires that children have access to legal counsel and that a parent is notified when police conduct a custodial interrogation of that child. This is to protect youth from being coerced into making false incriminating statements against themselves. This should be a policy that is a no brainer especially given the high profile stories we have about children that have spent significant time in prison as a result of this issue (i.e. the Exonerated 5 in New York). The three Maryland DA’s that I mentioned earlier are all on the record in support of repealing this law. Marilyn Mosby’s time as Baltimore State’s Attorney provided a crucial counter to the policy agenda being advanced by the law enforcement establishment in Maryland. 

Regardless of whether you voted for Marilyn Mosby, or have legitimate criticisms of her tenure in office, one thing that we should all agree with is that the use of federal prosecution and prison time for political purposes is dangerous to those who aspire to engage the political arena on behalf of Black people. This sends a signal to Black elected officials that if they challenge powerful interests that they should expect to go to jail. 

There are allies of Marilyn Mosby that are urging president Joe Biden to pardon her conviction so that she doesn’t serve any time in jail. I support this call for her conviction to be pardoned. 

The fact that this level of advocacy is needed to get the Democratic party to address this political attack against someone who stood up to the law enforcement establishment should be a lesson on how much that needs to be done to change the exploitative relationship that Black people have to the Democratic party.

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