While Baltimore is home to only 622,000 people, the city is known to be loud and busy: a microcosm for American urban culture. It proved just that over the weekend and on Monday night when protesters took the streets in a bottled up outrage shortly after 25-year-old African American Freddie Gray was laid to rest. What the media chose to broadcast, however, left our normally laid-back, touristy, Natty Boh and Old Bay lovin’ city with a seemingly permanent bad rep.
Gray is believed to be a victim of police brutality by many. The national debate is considered to be the “civil rights cause of our generation” and is associated with hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter, #handsupdontshoot and #icantbreathe. While it is still unknown whether or not the young black male’s spinal cord injuries were sustained during his arrest, it was reported that just seven hours after the funeral crowd dispersed, a full-out riot took their place. iPhone camera lenses captured trashcans, bricks and traffic cones being hurled into buildings, innocent bystanders and car windows. Baltimore Police warned residents on Twitter to avoid Western parts of the city as well as Towson Center and White Marshall Mall. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared a state of emergency and Governor Hogan announced around 9pm that he deployed the National Guard in response. Local college students including Towson received alerts via mobile concerning a possible threat to their campuses and as a result had their evening classes cancelled.
An African American friend of mine posted on Instagram that, “Our people are so tired of brutality that they can find no outlet but to resort to brutality itself.” Those who were mourning the death of Gray, however, weren’t the ones participating in the wreckage.
In fact, Gray’s family was shocked by the outcome and is still, today, urging for calm. “Our people” is used within the African-American community as a phrase of solidarity and not of separation, which is a common misconception. Andy Cush from Gawker.com wrote that during a heavily-guarded block party on North and Pennsylvania Avenues, he heard a man through a speaker saying, “I love my white brothers. I love my black brothers. This was never about dividing the community. This was a message to the government, the biggest gang in the world.”
The message has been heard well beyond the walls of the White House. “My friend in Israel just texted me asking if I was okay!” I overheard a girl saying on the Collegetown shuttle yesterday afternoon.
A 10pm-5am curfew has been put into effect for a week, but the footage remains frightening to those who are relying on the mega news corporations alone. They fail to realize that the riot was widespread due to people using the situation as a platform. A woman was coined, “Mother of the year” after she scolded her son for looting a store in front of CNN cameras and the video went viral. This all raises the question, why aren’t stations covering the peaceful protests with as much priority?
The Baltimore Sun claimed 35 people were arrested and six officers were injured on Sunday. WJZTV reported a church burning on the intersection of Gay and Chester Street. After that, multiple sites finally began posting what you didn’t see:
Andy Cush, Gawker.com
Middle-aged men stand in front of a line of riot cops as a buffer between them and the congregated citizens. “If there was no buffer, the situation could escalate like it did yesterday,” one of them said, according to Gawker.
Michael Reybolds, European Pressphoto Agency
Freelance writer and media analyst Justin Kownacki posts, “A ring of Pennsylvania National guard troops, each with a gun the size of a middle-schooler, are on watch around the Polish War Memorial in the Harbor East roundabout. The one I walked past told me to have a good day, as tourists, bicyclists, and joggers passed him in all directions.” He says he can’t overstate how surreal it all is.
Andrew Burton, Getty Images
Day 1: Violence. Day 2: State of emergency. Day 3: Cleanup. The Baltimore Riots were an exaggerated version of the old “bait and switch”. Protestors’ tactics were controversial but awareness was raised and voices were heard. News, however, should be both sides of the story. That being said, it would be wrong to define the city from any single element of this past weekend’s events. Baltimore is still home to the national anthem and the Orioles. It holds an incredible amount of history – and its progress depends on us.