“Philly is Baltimore,” was what the protest was called on Thursday afternoon, April 30th. This protest took place in response to Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore, Maryland. While many were worried that Philly would indeed turn into a “Baltimore riot,” it seemed that people were there to voice their views; therefore, it was a mostly peaceful protest. However, the thousands of protestors did cause traffic throughout the city as they marched and chanted through streets, such as Locust and Walnut. The crowds consisted of many families, candidates for mayor, and even Philly’s “Philly Jesus.”
If you have not already heard, the city of Baltimore, merely two hours away from Philadelphia, was in total mayhem on Monday, April 27th. It was triggered by the unfortunate death of Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray, 25, arrested on April 12th, died in police custody from a spinal cord injury April 19th. His funeral took place on this past Monday in Baltimore.
Six policemen were suspended, but there is reportedly no clear truth in terms of what exactly happened. The police force is being questioned for why it took them so long to send medical attention for Gray when he was initially injured.
Gray’s family had asked for no protesting to go on out of respect for Freddie’s funeral on Monday. As the funeral came to an end, restlessness and frustration bottled up among the citizens of Baltimore. Tension built and soon the city of Baltimore rapidly turned into turmoil.
Establishments such as liquor stores and a CVS Pharmacy were looted and even set on fire. Cars were also destroyed by fire. It seemed that some of the citizens of Baltimore succumbed to dangerous violence. According to videos and pictures, the rioters seemed to be teens and young adults. It was reported that almost 200 people were arrested and 20 police officers were injured. It is not clear how many rioters were injured.
The National Guard was dispatched in heavy numbers along with Baltimore state police. They patrolled the entire city and attempted to keep order. However, ballistic shields did not seem to trouble the people of Baltimore. Smoke canisters and tear gas were hurled at people who violated the strict curfew placed on Monday and Tuesday nights. These curfews are still in place for the time being.
In addition to the Baltimore riots, the media was heavily criticized for misinforming viewers and their lack of coverage. Satirical media critic and host of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart mocked CNN’s coverage of Baltimore or rather the lack thereof. Host of the The Nightly Show, Larry Wilmore, scorned Fox News for their coverage of the Baltimore riots. Many presumed the coverage to be racist and highly disrespectful. What the media failed to report were the people who were protecting police from the looters. They barely covered citizens of the community cleaning up after the riots.
Celebrities took to social media to express their opinions and relay messages to the city of Baltimore as well as America.
But for some public figures who expressed their opinions on social media, major backlash followed.
2016 Republican candidate, Rand Paul is experiencing criticism for his comments on the riots. He cited the “lack of fathers,” as the reason for the uproar in society. Many thought it funny that he mention fathers, considering that his son was booked for a DUI. Rand Paul is not the other presidential candidate who expressed their opinions and comments on Baltimore. Hillary Clinton also shared her opinion on not just Baltimore but race in American as a whole:
“There is something profoundly wrong when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.”
From Mike Brown, Rekia Boyd, Walter Scott, and now Freddie Gray, it is very apparent that there needs to be police reform throughout America. Perhaps change is happening right now as Freddie Gray’s death was rulled a homicide on May 1st by Baltimore’s state attorney, Marilyn Mosby.
In terms of the Baltimore riots, tearing down your own city, a place where you have grown up, is not the answer to making change. What happened in cities like Ferguson or Baltimore can certainly happen in Philadelphia. It is not difficult to understand one of the many reasons why the riot happened. But this is not the way. As a country, incidents like these only slow us down. How can we move forward if we take three steps back?