No. 23

May 01, 2015

I usually refrain from writing pieces that are editorial, share political views, and are non-music related, but this month called for an article detailing the events which have recently transpired in Baltimore, Maryland. A major protest in downtown Baltimore on April 25, 2015 over the death of an African-American man , turned violent, resulting in 34 arrests and injuries to 15 police officers. The city erupted into hateful protest, with mobs rioting, looting, and damaging property all over the city. A state of emergency was finally issued, the National Guard called in, and a 10pm curfew went into effect citywide. The madness went on for days, dominating television news with near 24-hour coverage, and is still on-going as I write this article on April 30th. Suspecting that the views of a majority of the major media outlets are biased to their contributers, and have agendas that lean more towards ratings rather than reporting, I decided to write this article independently hoping it might encourage commentary and discussion about this subject.

On April 12, 2015, Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr., a 25-year-old African-American man, was arrested by the Baltimore Police Department for allegedly possessing a switch blade, contrary to the law. While being transported in a police van, Gray became unconscious, fell into a coma, and was taken to a trauma center where he died on April 19, 2015. His death was ascribed to injuries to his spinal cord and on April 21, 2015, six Baltimore police officers were temporarily suspended with pay pending an investigation of the incident. In the spirit of civil reaction, protests were held in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, calling for an end to police brutality and justice. After Gray's funeral on April 27, 2015 civil unrest erupted with mobs of protestor turning violent, looting and burning local businesses, attacking innocent citizens, and damaging property. Vehicles were busted up, windows broken out, and property set on fire. The Baltimore Police Department were first to respond, arriving to form lines of officers in full riot gear in attempt to establish a frontline. Protestors took to throwing rocks and bricks at police officers, taunting them, refusing to comply and desist. The police took no action, allowing the rioters to rampage at will, and no arrests were made. This chaos continued night after night leaving the citizens of Baltimore unsettled over these events, concerned for their property, and the safety of their families. In reaction to the unrest, the Maryland State Police sent 82 troopers to protect the city.

There has been an outpouring of opinion in posts to social media. Many consider the response by the City of Baltimore to be lacking, poorly executed, and ill-timed. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has come under scrutiny for her public comments declaring approval to give protestors space to destroy. It is also under scrutiny that the violence and destruction went on for days before Mayor Rawlings-Blake finally called Governor Hogan to request a state of emergency. Many citizens are calling for the Mayor to resign her position. Once a state of emergency was declared, the National Guard were called in, arrived to strengthen the frontlines, and the situation appeared to come under control. A citywide curfew was issued for 10pm, but many protestors ignored the curfew, continuing to occupy the streets. This led officers to advance the frontlines, making random arrests.

Another controversial action came when Baltimore City prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced she was bringing charges against six officers in the death of Freddie Gray before a police investigation was even concluded. Mosby's appearances in front of the media came across as arrogant, as if it was her crusade for social justice to applease the masses and quell the violence. Mosby's close personal ties to the attorneys in the Gray case has some alleging a personal conflict and requesting she be replaced by independent prosecution. Mosby may have bitten off more than she can chew in this high-profile case just three months into her appointment as city prosecutor.

Feature Pics

Protestors Turn Rioters Destroying the City

Police Hold The Frontline

It seems whenever a shooting like this happens the victim is portrayed by family and friends as "innocent", "good", and "a nice person". This was the case in the Travon Martin shooting where later it was uncovered there was a drug connection. This case is no different. Freddie Gray had a criminal record, mainly on drug charges and minor crimes. In February 2009, he was sentenced to four years in prison for two counts of drug possession with intent to deliver and was paroled in 2011. In 2012, he was arrested for violating parole but was not sent back to prison. In 2013, he returned to prison for a month before being released again. He had been involved in 20 criminal court cases, five of which were still active at the time of his death, and was due in court on a possession charge on April 24, 2015. He was not some nice boy that was an innocent victim , he was a criminal, he ran from police, he was resistive, and he had a deadly weapon in his posession.

One must try and understand the mentality of the police officer who is working in a society today where his life is at threat everyday on the job. They are heavily on their guard, charged up to engage, and don't play games knowing that anyone could be concealing a deadly weapon. When a police officer tells you to "freeze", "put your hands in the air", "lay on the ground", etc. you comply with the officers instructions. You don't run, resist, or give them any reason to engage you physically. While there seems no justified reason for any prisoner to receive spinal cord injuries through their handling in police custody, unfortunately there are bad cops, its a problem that needs to be addressed through better screening and evaluation of officers. The Baltimore Police Department certainly has had its share of problems recently with officers failing to follow protocol and show restraint. Police brutality exists, not just in Baltimore but nationwide. Its also an issue that needs to be resolved through community action and legistlation.

The protests for Freddie Gray have spread nationwide with a growing number of gatherings in other cities. The main message of these protests surrounds the concept that "Black Lives Matter", a phrase that has come to exist in the wake of police violence. The concept is most often confused and seems to have many meanings. Some black protestors explained the campaign to not just be about police brutality, but about the general unhappiness amongst blacks that the live in neighborhoods in decline, where buildings are boarded up, condemned, crumbing to the ground, and economic opportunities are bleak. One must consider though that these neighborhoods they complain about were once highly esteemed communities with homes bearing the quality architecture of detailed trim, brickwork, and marble steps. These neighborhoods which became predominantly black communities were let to ruin and fall into despair by its residents. Then being overtaken by a criminal element, these neighborhoods became undesirable economically.

Politically, I am not sure any politician gets whats going on. President Obama addressed the Baltimore riots by stating that absent fathers and lack of jobs were the reasons behind these events. What ? Mayor Rawlings-Blake acknowledged the social and racial divides, more as a race-baiting tactic, and encouraged the protests even after the destruction began. No one seems to see the underlying reason for these riots, that supporting a racist concept such as "Black Lives Matter" fuels a racial divide and leaves people with segregated views. In today's world of human rights and focus on equality, the politically correct campaign would be that All Lives Matter, not just black or white lives. There needs to be an end to black only agendas, an end to the segregation and racism they promote. In the case of this "Black Lives Matter" campaign, it seems a failed premise. Protests in support of justice and reform lose all credibility when those campaigning for justice, defy it. With this recent Baltimore riot, dozens of shops, businesses and gas stations were burned and ransacked across the city as the streets were turned into a war zone. In addition to damaging an estimated 200 businesses, rioters also torched 144 cars, according to police. The scale of violence and destruction which erupted in Baltimore this past month has not been seen in that city since riots in 1968 following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King.It is their own communities that they are destroying and without any thought of the after effect. Millions of dollars in property damage have been inflicted, insurance claims will be filed, and the city of Baltimore will now be considered a greater risk. Expect the possibility of higher insurance premiums for home, business, and auto policies. The economic impact is real. Some businesses have lost everything to looting and destruction, they may move on, and then there is the millions of dollars in taxpayer money wasted paying for this state of emergency.

Meanwhile, as these riots went on in protest of "black lives" and Freddie Gray, Rick Fletcher, a 61 year old disabled resident was brutally attacked by approximately 49 students from a near-by school on April 22, 2015, attempting to stop a street fight against his truck. Not only did he sustain property damage but he sustained broken eye sockets, a broken nose, broken ribs, bleeding on the brain, and many lacerations. The estimate for his medical bills is between $200,000-$400,000. These school students who are by majority African-American have been bused in to Dundalk from deparved parts of the city where they are disrespectful and have caused troubles in this Dundalk neighboorhood. This news event received very little media coverage, being practically overlooked. Don't "white lives" matter too ? Its just another day in a city that bleedz.

Feature Pics

Freddie Gray Was Involved In Over 20 Criminal Cases

Richard Fletcher, Dundalk Man Beaten By Black Teens

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