Baltimore: A Riot or a Protest?
The United States in on fire with the debate between Police, Safety, Prejudice, and Life. Many people have turned to protests to show their dissatisfaction with the current rules governing police. Others have turned to rioting and violence, spawning retaliatory violence. Violence is never the answer, and always Judgey when it happens. Two of our authors weigh in on the Baltimore incident, and try to not be Judgey.
I can remember fondly going to Baltimore for Sunday drives with my parents. I was eager to sample the many delicacies along Lombard Street. Each one was so appealing it was hard to make a decision as to which delicatessen and bakery we would embark. Then the riots of 1968 started. Buildings burned, stores were looted and cars set on fire. Lombard Street was one block of boarded-up shops. Sunday drives to Baltimore had changed… Four decades later and we continue to have racial disparity. Freddie Gray’s death has stirred much emotion and controversy bringing not just Baltimore’s problems to the forefront, but prejudice in general. This has been a complex and longstanding problem. I am not in any way condoning these acts of violence. This story travels deeper and is more complex. In a country where race relations have always been an issue, this story is not new. Until recently, blacks traditionally were looked down upon as second- class citizens. The Jim Crow laws (1874- 1975) separated blacks and whites from, housing, employment, and education, making wealth virtually unattainable. Lacking in formal education, many backs were condemned to work in low paying jobs. They were unable to support themselves - much less a family. How can we expect people who were raised with so much suppression to suddenly rise up and be part of society? We need to take a closer look at the economic distress years of separation has caused. Poor and minority communities need playgrounds where children can feel safe. Instead they are littered with hypodermic needles. Martin Luther King said, “A riot is the language of the unheard”. As a community, it is our social responsibility to reevaluate what clearly isn’t working. We must educate all citizens, provide safe and affordable housing so they can feel like they are contributing to society and not feel abandoned and left behind like rows of boarded-up houses. It is our duty as they are our future. Or the past will be repeated.
Recently there have numerous conflicts between low income communities and police. One of the largest has been between “residents of Baltimore, MD and police.” I put quotes here because the media as well as people on the street love to say this. It implies that police officers are not residents and follows along a growing culture that forgets that police are people too. Officers are almost always locals of the area the police. They have families there, PTA meetings, and many grew up in the communities they protect. But many low income communities don’t see them as people, only the enemy, and in a less obvious way they see them as the representatives of a system that doesn’t give them enough. I say not give them enough and I mean it. They want more free money and less effort. Yes, Freddie Grey seems to have truly been injured and mistreated and possibly killed by the officers that arrested him. The investigation will determine that and those officers will likely be severely punished, as they should for breaking the law. Not because Freddie Grey was black or poor, but because they broke the law. It’s not a racial issue, it’s not a community issue, and it’s definitely not a reason to riot.
Make no mistake, the events in Baltimore for that vicious week were not protests, they were not expressions of anger, they were riots. The majority of people that took to the streets were looting, burning, and destroying not expressing coherent desires and asking for specific changes. The only thing those locals did was to destroy their neighbors’ property and bust up a few police cars. The money for repairing Baltimore won’t go to the private home and business owners. They won’t change the system because they don’t really want it changed. They want more free services and money, not a truly better life. They will, however, get more police better equipped to prosecute. This will come in the form of officers equipped with cameras on their uniforms. It’s practical, efficient, and safe. But that won’t satisfy those that rioted. They want compensation and more free money. It will end up just like cameras in police cars.
In the 90s there were a number of accusations against officers for sexual harassment, rape, and assault taking place inside the cruiser. The end result of these complaints became the standard for officers to have rotating cameras in all of their cruisers. The camera observed all activity in front of the car, and if someone was arrested the camera would turn to show the inside. The number of accusations has never reduced. People still claim to have been assaulted or molested, but now there is a camera that shows a perp smashing his own head against the window or a woman threatening to sue. Let me be clear here, some officers do cross the line and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law just like every thug, drug dealer, and wannabe gangster should. But the vast majority of complaints are baseless and made by criminals looking to weasel out of their crimes. Just like many of the rioters in Baltimore claiming they were “protesting” when they were arrested after throwing bricks at people. Unfortunately, the vehicle Freddie Grey was transported in did not have a camera and neither did the officers and hopefully this will now change.