Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore riots

I'm OK! Despite the chaos here in Baltimore over the last few days it hasn't touched me.

You may have heard about the guy whose back was broken by Baltimore police. He was enough of a troublemaker that the police knew him. He saw the police and ran. The police gave chase based solely on the fact that he was known, in a bad neighborhood, and was running. They searched him and found an illegal switchblade. They put him in irons and threw him in a police van. Between the time when he went in the van and when he came out his spine was severed. He died a few days later.

Some think that his back was broken when cops stepped on his back, but cellphone footage showed him getting into the van under his own power.

Saturday the protests started up the street from me at Camden Yards, home of the Orioles and only a mile and a half (2.4 km) from me. The peaceful protests turned violent, but didn't get out of control. There was more on Sunday. Monday was the funeral for the man who was injured in police custody. His family asked for people to stop protesting for the day and pick it up again on Tuesday. Instead a message went out on social media calling for congregation after school at Mondawmin Mall, a known rough area, and then moving toward downtown in a "purge". This is thought to be a reference to the movie "The Purge" where everything is legal for one day.

A neighbor was sent home around 3:00 from her job at a university near Mondawmin. Her and all the students and workers. When I flipped on the news I saw live footage of a line of riot cops facing a loose crowd of high school students who kept milling about and throwing stuff at the cops. Suddenly, the cops surged forward as one and cleared the street. The wall moved up the street driving the crowd and being fed by more cops coming from around the state. Cops were hit and sent to the hospital. People were arrested. Then cars started getting destroyed and set on fire. A 7-11 was swarmed and looted. Then a CVS. But they mostly stayed away from homes. Partially because the police seemed to be more concerned with protecting residences than businesses. Then cops arrested some people watching from their own yards just watching the chaos go past.

As the wall of cops passed, you saw one woman come out and start sweeping up the rocks and debris from the road.

There were three major points of violent action at the beginning. They migrated, split, moved. I watched a group of about 18 walk across a baseball field looking like something from a zombie flick. They tried to break into a RiteAid, but the glass wouldn't break. They continued on down a street that would have eventually taken them to Camden Yard. But the news turned back to the big mob. The CVS was eventually set on fire as the wall of cops finally reached there. People were hanging around down near the waterfront waiting for the mob to arrive so they could join in the looting. I don't think the mob ever got there.

People were playing basketball in the street in front of my house.

Many universities shut down. The mall and surrounding businesses did the same. Most of the businesses along the downtown waterfront area did, too. But the Orioles game that night wasn't cancelled until 30 minutes before game time. Some people were already in their seats when they were told to go home. Knowing that this was going to be a target for the rioters, they should have shut down earlier than they did. The police were already there using the stadium as a staging area and launching point because they knew that place was going to be a target.

With all the police pushing out, Mondawmin Mall still got looted.

I talked to one of the neighbor kids. He said his cousin was part of the group that looted the 7-11. She (the cousin) said all she got was a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Which tells you something about the motivations. Some people were angry about their life and lack of chances in life. This bit of police brutality was just the straw that broke the camel's back. For some it was an excuse to break things and steal stuff. Probably more of this than the first group. Then there were the people who just wanted to be involved. They wanted to be able to say they were there, in the middle of it. Years from now they'll tell their kids they were part of the 2015 Baltimore Riots. It was fun. They were part of something.

After dark, after the National Guard showed up, we lost track of crowd movements. Many people went home. The ones out for fun went to get supper. But fires continued breaking out all over town. The closest they got to me (that I heard about) was 2.5 miles (4 km) away at Lexington Market (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson shopped here). The Bloods and Crips came out saying that the story that they were plotting to kill cops was totally untrue and that they were out trying to stop the looting.

So, yeah! Exciting! But I was in the clear.

1 comment:

Brandi Mills said...

Thanks for the post. I heard about this late yesterday afternoon and hoped that you were all right.

It's also interesting to get a report from someone actually in the area.