Riots: Triggers and Grievances in Baltimore and Ferguson (Section 2, Ashley J)

While the class has largely been covering riots and their effects on communities, the class has just begun the discussion of why and how riots began. In the media riots are covered to be disorganized with no clear end goal, but the triggers of these events are usually forgot by the media coverage. Protests and riots are a form of civil disorder that is a reaction to a grievance ranging from living conditions, race or ethnicity, law enforcement, etc. Many of the riots that the class has read and discussed involve racial profiling, segregated housing, and police brutality. In both Baltimore and Ferguson, racial tension as well as inequality contributed to the shocking accounts that many minorities experience from law enforcement.

A major tending trigger that can result in riots and protests involve police brutality. Many articles that were read in class shared the history of racial segregation and the current racial profiling that is still apparent in many communities nationwide. The demographics of many segregated areas have a high minority population with a majority white police force. The communities were stereotyped and not properly represented, instead usually faced harassment from the police.  Many unarmed black men are being shot or wronging treated in police custody. On April 12, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland, Freddie Gray was died in police custody after receiving spinal injuries and falling into a coma after his arrest. The medical examiner ruled Gray’s death a homicide but the police officers involved were only suspended with pay until the investigation. After Freddie Gray’s death, Baltimore broke out into civil disorder which began to turn violent on April 25,, 2015 when the ransacking and burning of many local businesses began, resulting in a State of Emergency declaration (The Sun, 2015).

“I condemn the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement about the riots in Baltimore, Maryland.

This quote is depicting the rioters to have randomly decide to loot in the city of Baltimore. There is no mention of the brutality that the officers have been inflicting on an entire community and it seems the death of Freddie Gray is not seen as a motive to start the protesting. Lynch blames the rioters for “senseless acts of violence” but that is exactly how many African Americans are being treated in police custody. The trigger for these violence acts were not exclusive to Baltimore, but can be seen nationwide. In Ferguson, Missouri an unarmed black man names Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer.  This also triggered a strong reaction of riots and disruptions throughout the city.

Racial tension have continued to rise as more and more African American’s are labeled as ‘thugs’ and mistreated. Since many of these events, positions are currently looking for ways to fix the criminal justice system. As discussed in class, body cameras are being thrown in along with a multitude of other ideas (The Sun, 2015). But as we have seen in the past, videos containing important events and evidence can disappear when police are put in the hot seat. The social dislocation is a direct result of segregation and low incomes, more federal aid needs to be given to improve neighborhoods and employment opportunities (Joseph A. Palermo, 2015). Although the issues is beginning to gain recognition change will only happen when people let go of the negative stereotypes involving race and poverty.



Huffington Post. “The Baltimore Riots, Inequality, and the Federal Inaction.” Huffpost, The Blog.  19 April. 2015. Web.

NPR. “Ferguson Businesses Struggle To Rebuild Post-Riots.” NPR, Around the Nation. 7 August, 2015. Web.


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