Blowback in Baltimore City
by Chris Campbell
As I write today’s missive to you, rioters are running up and down the city on a mission to make Baltimore’s glass repair business owners the richest men in Babylon.
By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard the news of Freddie Gray. And the protests and riots since…I say protests and riots to note the distinction between the two. Most news sources aren’t making this distinction, but I think it’s important.
I observed the protests on Saturday. Over 2,000 protesters -- from all walks of life -- marched to speak out against rampant police brutality in Baltimore. It’s a message that’s easy to resonate with everywhere in the United States. Many American police are overstepping their bounds. And the militarization of domestic police officers on top of it is setting a dangerous precedent.
The protest began in an area of Baltimore I, admittedly, up until Saturday had never seen. It’s a part on the West side that has been ravaged by decades of de-industrialization, loss of population, drugs, the War on Drugs, police raids and harassment, and gang violence. Whole blocks are boarded up, with the backs ripped out of many of the rowhouses and trash strewn all over the still fenced-in backyards. It’s something you see in pictures of the third-world. Not something you would expect to be in your backyard. It’s an eerie sight.
The protest was, by itself, peaceful. This is despite much antagonism from the police and other external forces. For example, many protesters were stopped, given random “verbal warning” tickets, and checked for warrants. For protesting.
And in another bizarre example, one man with a camera seemed hell-bent on getting punched by a protester. He repeatedly ran up to random people in the crowd, stuck his camera in their faces, followed them, rattled off meaningless questions, and then repeated the process with someone else. It was bizarre. After seeing him antagonize several people, I shot the following picture. Note the reactions of the bystanders.
Despite setbacks, the protest felt productive. The mood was constructive. Unlike in many of the Occupy Wall Street protests, everyone understood why they were there. And the message was lost of all ambiguity:
Once the violence started downtown, and hordes of people realized they could get away with it, there was no stopping it.
The majority of the rioters, we know, are mostly teens and 20-somethings. And they are using Gray’s death as an excuse to loot and tear the city down. Again, these are not protesters exercising their right to free speech. They are simply young, black and angry. Or seem to be having fun. Or both. And now here we are…
The National Guard has arrived. After Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency. Three of Baltimore’s most notorious gangs -- the Black Guerilla Family, the Bloods, and the Crips -- have reportedly joined arms to take out police officers. Businesses have been shut down all day. The Orioles game was cancelled. I walked toward the troubled areas during the afternoon yesterday, and on the way, the streets were empty and a CVS was on fire.
I just took this photo from my roof of another burning building. Upon writing, I’ve counted four.
It’s about 1a.m. as I write this to you from my apartment in the heart of Mt. Vernon. Helicopters are swarming overhead. There is a building on fire to my right and another to my left -- each roughly seven to ten blocks away. The sirens are incessant. And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
What you’re seeing on the news isn’t the work of a bunch of “animals.” What you’re seeing happening in Baltimore… what’s happening right outside my doorstep... is blowback. To be clear, I'm not condoning the riots in any way, and I think what they are doing is despicable and foolish. But it's a reality. And there's a root cause. Several of them, in fact. And it might be a long night so I’m getting it all down now.
Before I go, though, check out what John Angelos, son of the billionaire owner of the Orioles team, said yesterday. “Responding to a local reporter who lamented over the riots on his Twitter feed,” reports Breitbart, “the baseball executive initiated a long series of tweets of his own to explain his position on the matter.”
Here are Angelos’ tweets, assembled by Tom Ley, a blogger at Deadspin:
“... speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society."
MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
“The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.”
Chris Campbell is the Managing Editor of Laissez Faire Today. © 2015 Laissez Faire Books, LLC.