April 28, 2015 by gregrabidoux2013
Seems like just the other day it was Ferguson, Missouri. Yesterday, the Big Apple. And last night and probably this evening it will be “Charm City” aka, Baltimore.
Maybe it should be renamed “Harm City.” That might fit what has been taking place by this rust-belt city with its inner-harbor and its baseball birds (Baltimore Orioles) who recently had to cancel a scheduled game due to rioting, looting and violence that, in the words of one official, had “turned into a nightmare.”
What set off the good citizens of Baltimore to figuratively and literally turn its fury onto its own community, its own neighborhood?
Well, if you guess it must involve black and white you are close, this time it was gray. As in Freddie Gray, a 25 year old black male who was arrested for carrying a switchblade near a federal housing project. He later died of severe spinal injuries while in police custody.
Another black male is arrested. Another black male dies at the hands of law enforcement officers. Another city burns while the rest of the nation simmers from racial tension and hatred.
In what many are calling a spontaneous eruption of violence and wrath, Baltimoreans set over 150 vehicles on fire, looted and smashed over 100retail and neighborhood stores, set over 25 buildings on fire and clashed with police. This led to over 200 arrests and 15 police officers injured with at least 6 hospitalized.
Baltimore Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a African-American female, has come under intense criticism for initially instructing police to allow rioters space to “destroy” if that is their intent and later, waiting too long to recognize what seemed all too obvious-the authorities had lost control of the streets and needed help.
Finally, after repeatedly failing to get in touch with the Mayor (How exactly does that happen?) the Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan and the Mayor agree, the National Guard had to be called in to help restore calm. As of this writing (about 2:30 EST, Tuesday, 4/28) there continues to be a widespread fear that nightfall will bring renewed violence as several civil rights leaders have indicated they will join what they refer to as “Ground Zero” in the fight against police brutality.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama responded to questions about the Baltimore violence and unrest by discussing the number of Black males that have been either killed or injured over the last 6 months by law enforcement officers, calling it a “slow rolling crisis.” When pressed further about the violent response, the President seemed to reluctantly address the looting and said that those rioters should be treated as criminals.
Well, that makes sense since unless my law school training was inherently “off,” looting is still a crime, regardless of whether you feel there has been police misconduct on another case unrelated to your own looting and violence.
But it is never that simple is it? We are dealing with some very raw emotions and frustrations, especially in the Black community as they see yet another young black male die way too soon. But does it justify “trashing” your own community? Is this pent-up frustration, anger and civil impotence to change things or have your voice heard or is it exploitation of a situation? In other words, gee, what a chance to grab stuff and not worry about layaway?
One of the store owners claims that when he caught one of the looters and asked him how this would help Freddie Gray the looter responded, “Who?”
Look, I in no way condone police brutality. And I haven’t thankfully had to mourn anyone due to police brutality. But neither can I justify citizens of any age who also seek to destroy their own neighborhood and community out of either a misplaced sense of rage and helplessness or out of a rather calculated sense of opportunism. Maybe it’s some sort of toxic brew of both dynamics that is gripping Baltimore at the moment.
What I do know is that we need more calm and level-headed leaders in our communities, in our civil rights advocacy and from our elected officials to work together to address the real roots of such violence. And I would hate to think that the rather muted response from the White House is helping foment and not quell such anger and violence. Because that would be irresponsible. And what we need now from all walks of life in America is responsible leaders who are committed to be part of the solution and not the problem. Today and for the long-haul.
While Baltimore cleans up from last night and braces for this evening let’s pause and re-double our own efforts to make sure that such a scene is not inevitably coming to a neighborhood near us tomorrow.
May cooler heads prevail tonight.