What You Need to Know About the Baltimore Protests
America has always had a tumultuous and violent relationship with race, and it’s come to a painful head in recent years. The unrest came to a head with with the alleged murder of Trayvon Martin and subsequently unjust release of George Zimmerman. Public outcry become even more pertinent with the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson. Tensions rose specifically between Americans and the police force, who have been over-militarized, under-supervised and rarely seem to deal with the repercussions of their overzealous dealings with people of color. Just last year, the video of Eric Garner being choked out by police circulated the internet. However, despite video-graphic evidence of the excessive use of force, officer Daniel Pantaleo was not charged with any misconduct. Saturday April 25th, saw the beginnings of more protests and riots in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25 year old African American man that died in police custody earlier this month. This is just the most recent of the demonstrations happening across the country to combat police brutality and the criminalizing of black people in America. Here’s what you need to know:
The Inciting Incident
On April 12th, Freddie Gray was arrested after making eye contact with three officers and then running. The officers chased him and took him into police custody. On the way to the police station, Gray slipped into a coma and was taken to the trauma center. It was there that the severity of Gray’s spinal injuries were discovered. During the unaccounted 45 minutes that Gray was in their custody, police claim that Gray was taken without the use of force. However, there are multiple eyewitness accounts saying that Gray was ‘folded up’ by police and that they bent his leg backwards. Police said that Gray was upright and responsive when they put him in the police van, but during the ride, repeatedly asked for medical attention, which was ignored until the end of the ride. One week later, on April 19th, Gray was found dead. Six officers involved with the arrest have been suspended until a full investigation of what happened is conducted.
The Community Reacts
On April 25th, protesters gathered in front of the Baltimore City Hall and marched to Inner Harbor. Some protesters became violent at the end of the march, throwing rocks and pieces of concrete at officers lined up in riot gear. Police retaliated aggressively. J. M. Giordano, photo editor of City Paper, was tackled and beaten by officers while he was covering the protest. He was arrested and released the end day with a citation for ‘disorderly conduct’. Protests continued throughout the weekend. On Monday the 27th, Freddie Gray was laid to rest, after which more impromptu protests began, culminating when a CVS was burned down and looted. Maryland Governor Harry Logan announced a state of emergency and put a 10pm curfew on the city of Baltimore on Tuesday. The National Guard have been deployed to maintain peace. However, some protesters stood their ground and remained in the streets. Many volunteers in the community have come together to clean up after the violence, along with churches opening up to provide meals for children while schools were closed for the demonstrations.
The Media Coverage
Community leaders and citizens alike have been criticizing the way huge media outlets have been covering the events, citing that there have been more peaceful protests that violent ones. Multiple official statements have demonized rioters, with President Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake calling many of them ‘criminals’ and ‘thugs’ in their statements. The kind of rhetoric used around rioting has become notoriously racial, as press outlets change their tone when talking about white people in riots. Just last October, at Keene State College, white students drunkenly interrupted the school’s annual Pumpkin Fest. The night ended in with people throwing bottles, starting fires and even flipping cars over. These rioters were never described as thugs or criminals, but instead claimed the night got ‘unruly’. Hopefully these nation outlets can learn from this backlash and begin to report accurately on further demonstrations.
It’s becoming clearer and clearer everyday that the idea of a ‘post-racial America’ is far from the truth. The deaths of black Americans all over the country continue to mount, and reform needs to happen soon. We keep the family of Freddie Gray and citizens of Baltimore in our thoughts during this tumultuous and difficult time. Stay safe. #BlackLivesMatter