Reed A. Kingsmen
Reaction Paper 3
November 22, 2015
Why Baltimore Rioted
In class we have been discussing riots extensively; trying to understand how they work, what happens afterwards, and why they happened in the first place. Based off of all the different examples in class we’ve seen so far I will attempt at explaining why Baltimore reacted the way it did after Freddie Grays death. A city that dealt with one major riot in 1968, due to the assassination of Martin Luther King that costed over $77.5 million in damages alone still had enough unresolved tension to cause another one of epic proportions.
One would think that after experiencing a race related riot in such recent history the people of power within Baltimore would still have it relatively fresh in their minds about the dangers of leaving issues unchecked for too long, and the city of Baltimore definitely has had some issues that have been ignored. Since 2011, “the city has paid over $5.7 million over lawsuits” regarding police brutality. With more than one hundred people suing the city for the exact same reason may raise an eyebrow leading one to believe that it may be people trying taking advantage of the system, but every single case was in favor of the one who pressed charges due to overwhelming proof that the police used excessive force. The African American residents of Baltimore are all too familiar with how the police force takes law into their own hands and drawing the line wherever they see fit, but something not so well understood is how does this keep happening. It’s a never ending cycle of police officers being found guilty, the city paying for the damages, and then nothing in the form of lasting change actually happening. Seeing these police officers not having to obey the same laws as everyone else has poisoned the relationship between Black residents and city officials. The devil being buried in the details, most city settlements have “a clause that prohibits injured residents from making any public statements” about what occurred. So not only have these incidents occurred but the city is using tax dollars to silence the victims.
Freddie Gray was arrested for possessing an illegal switchblade, which was A) found out to not be illegal and B) was found unlawful in a search and frisk. While being transported in police custody Gray fell into a coma after sustaining injuries and died in custody. Gray went through what is locally know as a “Rough Ride” where the police make unnecessary stops suddenly while the captive person is in the back so they are thrown around. This form of excessive violence serves to dehumanize already oppressed citizens, but this time it served as the boiling point. After investigations it was found that Gray’s death was a homicide at the hands of the police. There was peaceful protest throughout but in many ways it was a hostile environment with tension so high that only a few agitators were need in order to tip the scales into the people striking out against the police who had done them so many injustices already.
And then almost like a record stuck on a loop the violence broke out and could only be squelched by the National Guard appearing with overwhelming force, outgunning them in almost every way possible.