But while George had worked at The Sun since 2012, “you’re never sufficiently sourced or ready” for the situation that exploded last year in Baltimore and across the nation, he told a Marquette University audience recently.
CNN featured George in a special report last month titled “Who Killed Freddie Gray?” The Colorado native also contributed to the first series of the popular podcast “Serial.” He is working on a series of stories related to gun homicides while spending the academic year as an O’Brien Fellow at Marquette.
Throughout the hourlong discussion at Raynor Memorial Libraries, moderator Herbert Lowe, a faculty member and director of the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism, had George respond to video clips from the CNN report. One clip – videotaped on a cell phone by Gray’s friend, Kevin Moore – was of Gray’s arrest and helped separate the death from other instances of alleged police brutality, George said. “When you can see something for yourself, it’s irrefutable,” he said. “It’s proof that you (the community) could have been misled or lied to.”
More than 50 people attended the event, which was sponsored by Raynor Memorial Libraries, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, and the O’Brien Fellowship.
During a Q-and-A after George’s presentation, a faculty member offered his perspective on the relationship between rioting and the deeper message, noting his experience growing up in Los Angeles during the Rodney King trials and subsequent rioting. George said that in cases like that city, and more recently, Baltimore, there needs to be a better understanding that riots are rooted in much more than destruction. They represent a feeling of hopelessness, a feeling that Baltimore residents and police knew long before 2015, he said.
Another questioner asked George whether police are properly trained to handle situations like Gray’s. George said that though many decisions are made suddenly, the right one is not made enough. The police need to know the communities they serve better, he added.
George ended by offering one suggestion to eliminate #BlackLivesMatter deaths like Gray in Baltimore, Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee. Trust, he said, is what’s needed to activate change. He called for more understanding, dialogue and transparency between communities of color and law enforcement.