Baltimore, the largest city in the State of Maryland, is in a state of emergency, wracked by rioting, burning, and looting.
What precipitated the riots was the death in police custody of a black man with a long rap-sheet, 25-year-old Freddie Gray, a week after his arrest.
Gray was seen to be in apparent good health at his arrest, but later sustained injuries to his spine and larynx. The cause and circumstances of his injuries are now under investigation by the Department of Justice. Gray fell into a coma on April 12, and despite multiple surgical attempts, never regained consciousness. He died a week later on April 19, 2015. Six police officers have been suspended pending an investigation.
On Saturday, April 25, organized protests in downtown Baltimore became violent: Police were pelted with rocks; at least 5 police cars were damaged.
On Monday, April 27, what began as peaceful protests after Gray’s funeral service exploded into apparently spontaneous riots. A day later, 15 buildings had been burnt down and many others damaged and looted; 144 cars burnt; pharmacies were looted for drugs; at least 15 police officers have been injured; some 200 people have been arrested; schools are closed; and a state of emergency declared in the city of Baltimore. Business owners, including black owners, fled for their lives, and looters just took what they wanted. One shop-owner said he called police 50 times, but no one came. (Daily Mail)
This video shows the all-black looters running in and out of a store. Then the rioters dragged the shop-owner out and flung him to the ground (0:07 mark), where he was beaten.
How did peaceful protests so quickly conflagrated into violent riots?
Answer: Because the protesters were given permission by the mayor to riot and commit mayhem.
CBS Baltimore reports that on April 25, 2015 at a press conference, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was asked by a reporter to comment on how Baltimore police responded to the protesters. The mayor replied:
“I made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate.”
What the mayor said about giving “space” to “those who wished to destroy” was understood by blacks to be permission to riot and loot, as evidenced in their social media posts. Here’s a post by Baltimore high school students, calling for a riot at 3 on Monday, April 27, 2015: “We Going To Purge.”
“We Going To Purge” is a reference to the 2013 dystopic movie, The Purge, written and directed by James DeMonaco and starring Ethan Hawke, about a future America after an economic collapse where the “New Founding Fathers of America” had installed totalitarian rule. For one night a year — called “the Purge” — all crime is legal and all police, fire and medical emergency services would be unavailable for 12 hours, from 7 pm till 7 am the next day. The cathartic Purge resulted in a revitalized economy and crime and unemployment rates plummeting to 1%. In reality, the Purge is used as a method of artificial population control, as the people living in poor areas are usually the criminals’ main targets.
On Monday, after rioters had laid waste to downtown Baltimore, Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s spokesman Howard Libit issued a statement seeming to walk back her remarks:
“The mayor is not saying that she asked police to give space to people who sought to create violence. Any suggestion otherwise would be a misinterpretation of her statement.”
At a press conference today (Tuesday, April 28), President of the Baltimore City Council Jack Young apologized for calling rioters “thugs” and called those responsible for the violence mere “misdirected” youths.
The only difference between the Baltimore race riots and The Purge movie is this:
In the movie’s dystopic future, unconstrained “legal” crimes are limited to one night a year. The police and business owners of Baltimore only wish that were the case. For in real life, the riots and lootings continue in Baltimore and, in the absence of any politician with the guts to actually say no, they are sure to spread to America’s other urban cities as well.
H/t FOTM’s Anon and japoa
UPDATE (July 29, 2016):
Every officer charged in Gray’s death has been cleared, and all charges against them dropped. The officers are now suing prosecutor Marilyn Mosby.