As I write this, the city of Baltimore is inching ever closer to martial law. Following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore man who died of injuries -including a spinal injury – sustained in an arrest after police did not get him timely medical care, violent protests, which started Saturday night but had temporarily calmed, resumed. On Saturday, according to the New York Times, 31 adults and several juveniles were arrested, six police officers were injured and tens of thousands of dollars of damage was done to residential and commerical property.
Fortunately, Baltimore has an experienced and organized team within their municipal structure and are well qualified to handle the breakdown of civil society, as is currently happening. Oh, wait. I’m sorry. Did I say they had the situation well in hand? I meant to say that they aren’t quite clear on the concept of how to contain violent protests that have splintered off into various areas of the city. Instead, they seem to have, at least according to the mayor, tolerated some of the destructive behavior as a way of helping Baltimore residents channel their anger and anxiety.
“I made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech.
“It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate.”
Before everyone piles on to say that the quote is taken out of context, the mayor is referring to the wide berth given to destructive protestors as a tactical mistake. Baltimore did, indeed, give the protesters who wished to destroy things as part of their grievance airing, space in which to accomplish their activities. Mayor Rawlings-Blake says, now, that in hindsight, allowing violent protests to seethe unanswered was probably a terrible idea. Obviously, many of us could have told her how that was going to end without the aid of time travel and a press conference, but I suppose they learned and that’s what matters.
Fortunately, for Mayor Rawlings-Blake, news cameras were turned on the White House Correspondents Dinner all weekend and most outlets couldn’t be bothered to show live footage of the violence happening in her city. Much of what was reported was reported through social media, by outlets with reporters on the ground and by spectators and bystanders. This afternoon, however, the violence is much more widespread, and cameras are tuining in to see protesters hurling rocks, pipes, rusted paint cans and bricks at officers as they “peacefully protest” the police department’s involvement in Gray’s death. Worse still, Saturday, most of the destruction was the work of unaffilaited splinter groups who were relieving their pent-up aggression with an oppressive system by hurling chairs through the front windows of the bars and restaurants around Camden Yards. Today, according to Baltimore PD, the protests are more organized, and feature special guests:
Police said in a statement that they have received information that members of “various gangs” — including the Black Guerrilla Family, the Bloods and the Crips — have “entered into a partnership” to harm police.
“Law enforcement agencies should take appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of their officers,” police said.
Capt. Eric Kowalczyk, the agency’s chief spokesman, said he could not immediately elaborate on how the information was received or why police found it credible. He would not say whether it was believed connected to the ongoing demonstrations regarding the death of Freddie Gray.
In December, the Baltimore FBI office issued a memo that the Black Guerrilla Family gang was targeting “white cops” in Maryland, an agency spokeswoman confirmed.
I hesistate to post a live-stream of any of the news services covering and broadcasting the riots because I don’t want this to seem like “must-see TV,” but nearly every news channel is now carrying a live feed of downtown Baltimore as the violence progresses. I’m sure you will be able to catch it live. Either way, posted or not, it’s going to be a long night for the people of Baltimore.