The all-too common occurrence of riots in the wake of the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police gripped Baltimore during the weekend. This time, the violence was provoked by the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in Baltimore Police custody.
Many have called for calm and some have even criticized rioters, including “The Wire” writer David Simon.
Unlike prior incidents following police killings in Ferguson, South Carolina and Ohio, Baltimore’s violence has highlighted not racial inequality but economic.
In a piece by Baltimore resident and current Washington Post writer Michael Fletcher, the city was waiting to explode:
In the more than three decades I have called this city home, Baltimore has been a combustible mix of poverty, crime, and hopelessness, uncomfortably juxtaposed against rich history, friendly people, venerable institutions and pockets of old-money affluence.
Fletcher’s piece analyzes the shocking disparities between Grey’s West Philadelphia neighborhood and the rest of the city. It’s a portrait of a level of inequity you’d be surprised to find outside of the third world.
That theme was echoed by an unlikely source: Baltimore Orioles COO John Angelos. Responding to a Baltimore talk radio host, Brett Hollander, Angelos had this to say:
Brett, 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.