Pop star Prince performed his new release, “Baltimore” on Sunday night in honor of Freddie Gray, the young Baltimore man who died from severe spinal cord injuries after an incident of police brutality last month. “Wear something gray,” the musician is reported to have requested of concert attendees, to show their respects for the somber occasion.
The benefit concert “Rally 4 Peace” came up in response to the tragic death and subsequent riots that have been rocking the troubled suburb of Washington D.C. for weeks, much to the nation at large’s distress. “The system is broken,” Prince shouted to the crowd during his benefit performance. “It’s up to you young folks to fix it.” The artist was joined on stage by Marilyn Mosby, the state attorney who is representing Freddie Gray’s family.
In addition to speaking against the Baltimore police department for the racially-charged use of excessive force, Prince criticized the city of Baltimore for imposing a curfew as an attempt to curtail the riots. “We are here for you tonight,” he said, while performing “Purple Rain.” And: “It’s going to be all right. We’re going to figure this thing out.”
Tidal, a local television channel which broadcast the concert in real-time for free, has reported that a portion of the proceeds will go towards funding Baltimore youth charities. Freddie Gray’s death was only the most recent flashpoint in a national outcry over police killings of unarmed black men and other minority groups in the United States. The incident provoked weeks of protests punctuated by a day of riots, arson and looting in Baltimore on April 27.
Mosby, Baltimore’s chief prosecutor, has since lodged formal charges against all six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest, ranging from misconduct in office to second degree murder, a very serious offense indeed. And a celebrity with such status as Prince aligning his public opinion on the side of the prosecutor has gone a long way towards stirring community solidarity.
The artist and performer released “Baltimore” before the concert. The song features lyrics by Eryn Allen Kane includes a mention of Gray. As a powerful call for peace, the song urges: “Let’s take all the guns away.”
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