The Baltimore Uprising: A Local's Perspective
The P.O.V. of someone that lives here
If you’ve read my other stuff you already know I can be pessimistic, I mean it doesn’t help my character to shit all over two sacred holidays, but I’m actually trying not to be here. I want to clear the air about a tragedy that has garnered nationwide attention. My friends who live out of town have been commenting about “how crazy” things in Baltimore have been lately. Yeah it was crazy but not as bat-crap insane as the media has sensationalized it to be. In this article I’m going to try to explain to you, dear reader, what all of this really means from the perspective of someone who lives in this town. And not some fly-by-night journalist with “Press” written on his photographer’s vest.
More Adventures In Brawl-timore
- In Exile From Home
Ever have those days where you’re going to have a relative come over that you don’t want to deal with? I had one of those and this was the result.
- Surviving Jury Duty
Like taxes, death, and bad customer service there is another menace we all have to deal with. The horrible waste of time known as jury duty. How do you cope?
My View On Police
Let me get my view on law enforcement, in this city, out of the way first. There a lot of good cops out there. There really are! It’s just the bad ones we hear about nine times out of ten. Of course there are cops that have bad attitudes. In fact every encounter I’ve had with police in Baltimore has resulted in me not liking cops a little more, maybe not as much as the standard black guy’s opinion on them, but still.
Even before the whole “black citizens versus white cops” kick the media dug itself in there were instances of over-authority. Officers who think they’re super cop, untouchable, unfaultable, the moment they put on the blue. THEY are the problem with the overall opinion on law enforcement.
No one is above the law, it’s been proven time and time again. There are cameras everywhere now, in high definition we see police brutality. With social media it spreads like wildfire in a pine tree forest. Unfortunately the city council, and the mayor, could not pull the money to put cameras in the “paddy wagons”. It only takes one bad apple to wreck the public opinion of the rest of the bunch. Lately it hasn’t been a good year for the police.
There Must Have Been A Reason
Let’s look at this from another point, the one of the police. Yeah, yeah; I just shat all over them in that last section, but let’s play devil’s advocate for a second. There are always videos of police brutality but what led to it? We only see a one-sided reaction video, but never get the full story. Before you know it there are riots and the city is filled with fair-weather protestors from all over the East Coast. It’s seen as black versus white; literally. At least in a city that is stuck in the past like my home town.
A black man is recorded being unjustly treated by police, and the first thing low-income neighborhoods decide to do is destroy their own communities? Everyone has the right to be angry, but the reaction is not very well conceived, and is a spontaneous act of irrationality. This city is not very well funded and some people have had to go back on unemployment after finally landing a job. Have you seen the video of the CVS Pharmacy getting burned out? “Black lives matter?” Does that include the mother of three in the unemployment line too or just the ones killed by police?
Essentially a lot of the riots thus far have been for guys that have had rap sheets longer than most people's legs. It's less of a protest for a victim of police brutality and more like an excuse to lash out against authority, or steal free stuff. Whichever poison you want to pick.
Baltimore Politics; or Passive Aggressive Boxing
There’s no such thing as economic down-turn here in Baltimore. We were hit with the Recession about four years before the rest of the nation. I’ll let you know when we are truly out of it. Considering that, how is the death of a guy, who had a rap-sheet and nobody knew, reason to go out and steal?
Apparently it worked. The Baltimore riots caused States Attorney Marylyn Moseby to charge the six officers with strong crimes. Going over the heads of the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.). A lot of people say she jumped the gun with her press conference, but she WAS under pressure. Both by her husband in city council, Nick J. Mosby, and by the fact that a few neighborhoods were being trashed. Every speech Mosbey has made since has been delivered with faux social superiority. Her aim isn’t so much to fuel the ill will but to make herself seem tough. As if trying to get into a history book or become a symbol of Black History Month. Instead her speeches come off sounding more like a high school student practicing her book report in front of the mirror.
All the Mayor said, during this entire ordeal was to “stay back and let them destroy”. Which you’re probably thinking meant “let them get their anger out” or you might consider an exaggeration on my part. From someone who lives and works for Baltimore what she really meant was “let them trash their neighborhoods so I can sell the land to out-of-town developers and collect on the insurance money.” Who else would let rioters do as they want; the bean counter mayor more focused on making the city look appealing rather than livable for those who have to exist here.
Governor Larry Hogan was then “finally called” to provide Maryland National Guard support. Around the same time a curfew was put into place. Once Governor Hogan kept repeating the point that Mayor Stephanie Rawlins Blake “finally reached out to us” a few times during his press conference. It’s clear that she was not quick to ask for assistance. She WAS however quick to hold a press conference after Moseby announced a full investigation into the six officers. Using strong words not exactly confirming if she was pissed off at the officers or irate at Moseby for going over the F.O.P.’s head.
Once Govenor Hogan took over, and the Maryland National Guard were set up, a curfew was put into place. At which point everyone decided to lead peaceful protests*. M16s and APCs can make a community get pretty humble.
*Yes there were SOME peaceful protests going on BEFORE the National Guard appeared on the scene, but these were not in mass quantity.
Clearing The Air
“Dude your whole city was on fire!”
No not really. The Inner Harbor, Camden Yards, Mondawmin, and a coupleother neighborhoods on different days.
“You’re lucky to be alive!”
It wasn’t really the white man genocide that CNN and Fox News made it out to be. A couple buildings got burned out, but no one died. It’s funny some coke heads in Hampden (by the Royal Farms) said cops were dying. Ignorance comes in all shades, just remember this.
"An Opportunity" For Who
During the time of the protests I was working. Luckily we got an off day on a Saturday and I was able to check them out. I guess that is the one advantage to civil unrest. Speaking of advantages these kinds of mass protests bring out personalities of all kinds. Ranging from positive, to negative, to everything in-between. There was anger, hope, reflection, prejudice (both black and white), depression, bullshit, money grubbing, attention whoring, advertising, hot headed cops, improvised speeches, cable news leeches, and the inevitable undertone that this “flower-power wins the hour” attitude wasn’t going to last.
The murder of Freddie Gray effected a lot of people, or at least their ideals. The “Baltimore Uprising”, like other riots were reactionary. A reason to cause havoc and get free stuff, turned into a peaceful rally in front of City Hall. Who knows how many of them at the rally perpetrated in the thefts and destruction? Was this remorse or social subterfuge?
From what I saw some of these folks looked like they were fair weather protesters. Using the attention for their own agendas. A lot of them, however, looked genuinely concerned for the future of Baltimore and it's people. I suppose you could say I was a little of both too. Why else go to ground zero with a camera and notepad? Why make that sound more noble than it really was? Why cover what had already been covered by every other news agency? Because I wanted to understand. I wanted to see what a peace rally looked like first-hand. Unfortunately in the weeks prior I can’t see any of it really making a difference.
Still I followed the march, I took my pictures, and I even helped carry a sign that required four people. I saw a part of this city that I had never been too simply for the fact that I’m white and normally, under different circumstances, would not be welcome there. When I got to the intersection of North and Pennsylvania Avenues it was just insane. It was here that I realized the murder of Freddie Gray was an opportunity that some came to knock on.
It's Not Over Yet, or is it?
A week after the protests; the curfew was lifted, the Maryland Film Festival took over the spot light, and suddenly the placards (like everything else in B’more) were dropped for the next big thing. However the damage has been done. The murder rate has gone up and there are parts of the city that not even the cops want to deal with (well… worse than usual).
Still Blake and Moseby are out planting trees trying to put a band-aid on a scab while the rest of the city dies of pneumonia. The trial for the accused has not yet taken place, but we all fear that justice will not be done. What justice is there to be done? Firing Commissioner Anthony Batts just adds his name to several other failed Baltimore City police commissioners. You know something’s not right when a city’s government has had three mayors but six commissioners in the course of 15 years.
No one will like the verdicts, or believe that they are sufficient. That will be when the city burns. This isn’t over, we are just in the half-time show. I suggest instead of grabbing some chips and a beer you stock up on shotgun shells for the 4th quarter. Or just be like the rest of Baltimore and take it with a lazy shrug of the shoulders.