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Peaceful protests turn into riots in Baltimore

By Dan McFadden
On May 1, 2015

Photo courtesy of Newsweek

     On the evening of Monday, April 27, riots broke out in the city of Baltimore, MD, spurred by two weeks of peaceful protests against the Baltimore Police Department. The protests were sparked as a result of the death of Freddy Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore resident, on April 12th, after police failed to get Gray timely medical care upon his arrest for a weapons charge.

     “Exactly what happened to Gray remains a mystery,” one CNN article reports. What is known is that at the time of his arrest, Gray suffered from a severe spinal chord injury and that “his voice box was crushed and his neck snapped before he slipped into a coma and died.”

     In the weeks that followed, nonviolent protests emerged throughout the city against the Baltimore PD’s negligence and in honor of Gray’s memory.

     “We hope there will only be peaceful demonstrations,” one of Gray’s family members said.

     “Gray's death in custody is the latest in a string of high profile deaths involving African-Americans and law enforcement,” a CNN article stated. 

     Shortly after Gray’s funeral, held this past Monday, looting and riots began to break out throughout western Baltimore. Fueled partly by social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, many posting that the protests resemble the 2013 sci-fi horror film The Purge, a movie that promotes anarchy and violence in the streets.  

     “Groups of violent criminals are continuing to throw rocks, bricks and other items at police officers,” read one tweet from the Baltimore Police Department. As crowds began to grow and vent their disregard for the BPD, Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, declared a state of emergency for the city, calling on neighboring counties to aid in containing the breakout.

     News coverage captured these riots happening in real time, observing on the ground and in the air as large crowds assembled and looted the Mondawmin mall, a check-cashing store and a liquor store, to name a few. One of the first buildings to be looted was a local CVS Pharmacy, which was later seen to be filling with smoke as looters set fire to the building.    

     “Once you burn down a resource that helps the community, it’s going to be a long time before you get that resource back,” Joe Johns of CNN commented. As more building fires rose, the scene soon resembled a warzone and the National Guard was called in to help restore order.  

     As dusk broke on a terror-stricken Baltimore, authority figures could be seen standing ready with gas masks and weapons, securing barriers all around the city in an attempt to contain and dispel the riots.

     During an emergency press conference held that night, Mayor Rawlings-Blake issued a citywide curfew for Baltimore beginning on Tuesday, April 28, from 10pm to 5am, as well as closing schools until further notice. “We will be holding all rioters accountable,” asserted Rawlings-Blake.

     “We won’t let our city be taken over by thugs,” spoke Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan. One government official even took to calling the rioters “cowards."

    The stance taken by government officials in conjuncture with the swift outpour of law enforcement did little to visibly weaken the resolve of the criminals. As the riots continued, reports came through of a massive building fire in the eastern region of Baltimore, and fire department units rushed across the city to extinguish the flames of a recently constructed senior center.

     By daybreak, reports would come through of over 200 arrests, 144 vehicle fires, 19 structure fires and as many as 500 National Guard troops and 5,000 police reinforcements called to aid as a direct result of the Baltimore riots.

     In death, Freddie Gray is added to the growing list of causalities that have occurred as a result of racial prejudice in our law enforcement system. Still, a lot more of these victims so often go unheard. They are only noticed in the media after they’ve been silenced, which further adds to the frustration felt by African-American communities. As one reporter reminded viewers, it was Martin Luther King Jr. who is quoted with saying, “Rioting is the voice of the unheard.”

     With each scenario such as this, the divide widens and the clearer it becomes: something needs to be done to ensure such incidents do not reoccur. Or else, those unheard will do whatever it takes to make sure their message is received.


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