Note: The following is dated Monday, April 27 as the mass protests in Baltimore were devolving into a riot that lasted until the early morning hours.
First things first.
Yes, there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed. And this moment, as inevitable as it has sometimes seemed, can still, in the end, prove transformational, if not redemptive for our city. Changes are necessary and voices need to be heard. All of that is true and all of that is still possible, despite what is now loose in the streets.
But now — in this moment — the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease. There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today. But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.
If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore. Turn around. Go home. Please.
Second thing second: The death of probable cause in Baltimore.
Third thing third: http://davidsimon.com/zero-tolerance-is-exactly-what-it-sounds-like/ . So eyes on the real prize here.
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[…] Finally, David Simon, creator of “The Wire”–the iconic show about poverty, drugs, violence and police brutality in Baltimore has a message tonight: […]
saw a picture in the sun with a looter and his toilet paper, ice tea and chips.
very disrespectful to life of freddie gay associate these riots to his death.
I understand the plea you make – the power and eloquence of a simple “please” – and if I put myself in the shoes of the people in the streets I understand the rage behind the anger – I would feel it too – and if I was middle class and white (as indeed I am) I would want order to be restored as soon as possible – BUT what I don’t understand is why a country as rich, talented, diverse and dynamic as your’s can’t seem to make any headway in dealing authentically with the economic and social problems it faces. Why does your country treat poor people with such disdain? Isn’t there enough for everybody?
With best wishes
My country has taken profit as a metric for how to build a just and viable society. For about thirty-five years, we have soaked in the fraud.
But if you think it is white or middle-class people who are exclusively hoping for a restoration of order, you might consider the fact that I am watching the rear of a string of homes at Federal and Gay streets afire. The wind changed direction and the set fire turned against the residents of a poor, African-American neighborhood that has only partially recovered from the 1968 riot that burned it. It is a long way from Melbourne, Australia, to be sure.
Would you be ok if they only fire bombed the police HQ?
I mean war has been declared on people of color since basically this country was founded.
[…] Simon, who once worked as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, railed on his website against the violent mobs. […]
When I watch what is happening to my beloved city, I think of this quote from Robert Kennedy:
“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy, speaking after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rev. Jamal Bryant’s leading a “No Justice, No Peace” chant at Freddie Grey’s funeral was a terrible disservice to Baltimore. Somebody needs to speak to this.
“No Justice, No Peace” means “let’s not be peaceful”. Rev. Bryant is getting a pass for his role in this disaster.
“Please stop rioting” position is basically a gutless stand to take. Calling out a community leader who promoted violence would actually show some character. David Simon – Baltimore and its stories have made you rich. You owe a huge debt to Baltimore. Show some nerve, and stand up to those who incite violence.
Bullshit. No justice, no peace does not equate with advocacy for a riot. No peace can be defined as unrelenting protest and dissent.
I know I define it as such. Reverend Bryant has every right to demand justice in such unequivocal terms.
“No peace can be defined as unrelenting protest and dissent.”
So we’re going to argue semantics while Rome burns?
You honestly think the typical young black man in Baltimore believes “no justice no peace” is a call for peaceful protest? That is really what you think?
Have you no shame, sir? Baltimore is being destroyed. Take a stand.
I want to give the criminal justice system in Baltimore and its elected officials no peace until some measure of justice is restored to this government’s relationship to the communities it claims to serve. I have no problem saying so.
If the phrase scares you or implies only unreasoning violence, that’s in your head. That’s not semantics. It’s perspective.
Well, I have to say I respect your willingness to let my posts stand.
I still say you’re dissembling. The people rioting tonight are not interpreting the phrase that way. You know it. I know it.
A lot needs to change in Baltimore. The police need to change most of all.
But it’s not just the police that need to change. “No justice no peace” is failing the city of Baltimore tonight.
Wait. Do you think the rioters get to define the phrase for all of us?
I think far, far too many young people hear the phrase “no justice no peace” and think “its time to get my tough guy act on”
I was once a wanna be tough guy. So were you. What do you think they hear when they hear that phrase?
Speak for yourself. I was always a bookish, Jewboy liberal.
Peter, “No Justice, No Peace,” means exactly what it says—if there is no justice, there will be no peace. And guess what? There shouldn’t be. People are tired of being abused by law enforcement, they’ve asked politely for it to stop, it doesn’t, so ratcheting is the only choice left. How is demanding justice for the victims of violence “promoting violence”?
“For us to come out of the burial and into this, it’s absolutely inexcusable,” said the Rev. Jamal H. Bryant, who hours earlier delivered Gray’s eulogy. “Violence is not the answer for justice.”
Whether people are comfortable admitting it or not, white people create situations where black people (And all people really) can’t help but be furious and violent then when they react that way say “see look how animalistic they are”. This is torture.
Nobody said that shit at Selma. Or after.
But yeah, they’re having a field day with Baltimore right now. Goddammit.
I never called anybody animalistic.
My beef is with the phrase “no peace no justice”.
I don’t think the rioters are animals at all. I think they are thinking men and women, who give that phrase its common sense meaning.
[…] Simon, the creator of The Wire, wrote this today […]
[…] there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed,” Simon wrote in a post on his website, The Audacity of Despaire. “And this moment, as inevitable as it has sometimes […]
[…] there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed,” Simon wrote in a post on his website, The Audacity of Despaire. “And this moment, as inevitable as it has […]
[…] there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed,” Simon wrote in a post on his website, The Audacity of Despaire. “And this moment, as inevitable as it has sometimes […]
Hey Simon, someone finally “threw a brick.” That’s one of your lines, right? Here’s another one: “Happy now, bitch?”
Quote the entire passage about the brick and the problem with your reading comprehension will become entirely apparent.
It’s a paragraph of moderate length, so your lips will need to move some.
That’s exactly what was meant. Conflating rioters with protesters is always the first step in deligitimizing them. Thank you Mr. Simon for differentiating.
Even some reporters today (I’m watching WBAL) were using the terms “protesters” and “demonstrators.” They were swiftly and rightly corrected by their colleagues, who emphasized that looters and vandals and rioters are not protesters or demonstrators. I keep making this point over and over again at the Baltimore Sun’s discussion boards. My god, wanna see what people really think? Take a gander over there. It’s chilling. The most vile, racist stuff. And they’re all, of course, too gutless to write their spew under their real names.
After falling for the lefts Benghazi aka hands up don’t shoot I will be waiting for the real facts to come out before I get worked up. Fool me once…. I just hope our sides congressman and thought leaders use their voice to call for peace, unlike in Missouri where they helped fan the flames for something that made lots of us look dumb in the end.
Two things came out of Ferguson. Apparently you missed the second one. Darren Wilson not being charged was only the first. But that DoJ report of systemic targetting of people of color was the second. If you choose to ignore what that revealed and how those revelations reflect on the anger and ultimately the unfortunate violence in Ferguson, then you do indeed look dumb in the end.
And you just proved my point.
The bomb shell report that should have lead to heads rolling and national outrage gets forgotten because of our congressman, “serious thinkers” and professional agitators decided that hands up don’t shoot was too good of a catch phrase to let go away. To this day many people on the left still think hands up don’t shoot was real. Go look at the abuse Jonathan Capehart took for having the audacity to go against his side’s conventional thought.
Everyone on the right, from their best and brightest to their biggest rednecks followers know without a doubt know that Benghazi was the biggest scandal of all time. Because Benghazi is proof that Obama is weak and Hillary is evil. Now the real story about the CIA running guns from that area gets forgotten just like the Ferguson report.
Powerful people have been ignoring a community in crisis for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it takes a few bricks to get their attention.
Very philosophical. I wonder how that sounds to the folks who literally have the backs of their rowhouses on fire because the winds have shifted from the set fire on North Gay Street. That’s an African-American neighborhood, and a poor one.
[…] David Simon, creator of the Baltimore-centric HBO series “The Wire,” addressed Monday’s clashes and urged an end to the violence in a blog post: […]
So sad that all these armchair revolutionairies have forgotten the past. It was not, will not ever be the brick. Time and time again civil disobedience has proven the way forward. Every brick thrown every store owner beaten is fuel that emboldens racist corporate institutions and individuals.
Mico, bingo. Exactly.
“I have said that the brick was there, at the end, and if we don’t address these inequalities in our society then the brick would be inevitable”
The inequalities haven’t been addressed. Not in America & especially not in places like Baltimore. Now the brick is here. Right in America’s face. How much do Black people have to “peacefully” accept before we’re allowed to use “violence”?
And you center Baltimore here. Do you think Baltimore would be erupting minus Walter Scott, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Tania Harris, Ayana Jones… and all those in between and soon to come?
I love your writing. On this blog most of all. I’m shocked & dismayed to see you take this position.
Sweet and docile,
Meek, humble, and kind:
Beware the day
They change their mind.”
Excerpt from ‘Warning’ by Langston Hughes
You mention Mandela but not Biko. MLK but not the Ballot or the Bullet.
I absolutely agree.
And you don’t mention anything past the brick. What comes after? What is the purpose? What good comes of it other than the expression of anger? Do you really think white people will suddenly go ‘Shit! I guess they really mean it!! We better chill!!’
What is it that you actually think is supposed to come of rioting or violent protest that we haven’t seen before?
Maybe it will be violent revolution. It’s happened in THIS country before. And multiple other countries. The country I was born in, the 1st Black republic in the world was born out of violent rebellion.
“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” Martin Luther King Jr
“And then somebody shot me.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Too flippant by half. King anticipated his own death in every sense — a singular fact that adds to his heroism, sacrifice and ultimately, to his unrivaled and permanent moral influence in this country and worldwide. You can acknowledge the savage cost of non-violence and King’s belief in it; you can’t deny that its power prevails precisely because of its moral grandeur and the extraordinary cost that King was willing to pay.
“I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., March 14, 1968
There is much to be protested right now. Relentlessly.
The riot is fucking that up.
“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.” Martin Luther King Jr
Posted with an understanding, David, that you stand more than willing to condemn said conditions, but are pleading for a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
A very wise statement. A good primer on the practical effectiveness of mass civil disobedience is in Gene Sharp’s book, online here: “There Are Realistic Alernatives”.
Thank you for mentioning and reminding everyone of Gene Sharp. A great man. As is David Simon.
No simple answers and no simple cause for where we are.
But one thing we can look at is how we responded to 9/11. Our politicians responded with violence against two countries that, essentially, had next to nothing to do with 9/11.
And, as part of that aftermath, we saw the need to militarize our police forces with black uniforms, helmets, stun-guns, armored personnel carriers, gas-masks, assault rifles, drones, etc.
Now, after 15 years of showing our citizens how to respond to violence with violence, we’re all scratching our heads when the under class responds to violence with violence.
Iraq, point taken. But the people in power in Afghanistan were shielding Bin Laden. That is hardly “next to nothing to do” with 9/11. They were accessories.
So, the answer is to them bomb the *entire country* to ashes? I don’t buy it.
Accessories? More like a watch or a handbag?
Yes, your leaders harbor those who kill thousands of Americans, you lose your country. It’s that simple.
“Accessories” is a legal term, which you will find as you read more.
Yeah, I know what you meant to say, because I have a J.D., jack ass. You are way, way off if you think you could make a cogent argument that the citizens of Afghanistan are accessories to murder. But that’s the kind of thinking that blind bravado produces.
amen to that
“this is Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods won’t save you”
Sadly, rather than focus on what actually happened or how things could possibly be changed in a department that’s paid out over 5.7 million in settlements and judgments in brutality cases, the usual idiots are rushing to post pictures of the few looters as if to say “See! See! Those People have it coming.” Oh, and, of course, blaming Hillary Clinton. Because Hillary.
Meanwhile, here, people are taking David Simon to task for not siding with the looters.
Jesus. I’m giving up hope here that there’s anything in our future but fucking civil war. And not North v. South. This one will be everywhere, on every street, and in every neighborhood.
I read the DOJ report on Ferguson and it’s clear that that random Midwestern municipality was the tip of the iceberg. America has not been this restive in a long time. This shit is depressing. Images of looting rioters will just reaffirm misconceptions about the inner city. I’m disturbed by the phenomenon of outside agitators living out their Che Guevara fantasies at the expense of those who have to remain in these ravaged communities after the riots recede from the news cycle. You don’t show your support for the people you purport to champion by encouraging violent unrest.
[…] out on today’s violence in Baltimore. Taking to his preferred method of public communication, Simon posted to his blog today that this moment of boiled over violence and mayhem may seem to have been inevitable, but is […]
Thank you for your years of service attempting to bring light to the incredibly complex situations in American cities. We tend as Americans to want to take our little bites of junk food media coverage and then with all our years of judgements, inherited, absorbed, and sometimes even consciously arrived at, turn to our neighbor and use tragedy as a chance to speak our 2 dimensional observations.
These are complex fucking times, there is no black and white, there are multiple fuses and one has to dig incredibly deep to find where and when the fuses were lit. This isn’t the end of the World either, merely a tremor, a quake, a little steam being let off.
These people are above all angry, hungry, restless. I would act no different in there shoes. Was it Frankl who saw a starving adult take food out of a child’s mouth during the Holocaust? We are all capable of anything.
It is to your website that I go to see some truth spoken and some vibrant debate. Thanks, please keep it up.
“If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford. Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve. I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own.”
You wrote that, and it was empathetic and just, and you took some stupid heat for it. Now I agree that the grizzlier acts these last two days have been sad and not constructive, but that sympathy to the underlying pain and rightful rage seems skimped on here, and in a landscaped always prepared to dismiss and deny that, I think it’s more called for than a scolding.
I don’t think I’m skimping. For one thing, that paragraph, in full, expresses admiration for undeserved restraint. I have no less admiration for anyone who sought to protest the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and wants to continue that fight. But the brick is the brick. Understanding all the provocations and all the justifications for the brick doesn’t deny its cost — not only to those victimized by the brick, but to the moral cause behind which the brick is tossed.
“First things first.”
There is plenty to write about Freddie Gray, about Baltimore, about the drug war, about Martin O’Malley and the long, slow death of probable cause. I hope to do some of it. But right now, my city, where I live, where so many of my neighbors and friends live in many different neighborhoods, is vulnerable.
First things first means exactly what it means. If you’re going to protest, that is worthy and essential. If you are going to continue this riot, go home and leave the streets to those who understand the moral power of mass disobedience and mass protest.
“But right now, my city, where I live, where so many of my neighbors and friends live in many different neighborhoods, is vulnerable.”
Some are more vulnerable–routinely so– than others, like Mr Gray and his severed spine. Others’ vulnerability has only been measured and felt by having war-like conditions within their city. But i’ll digress.
A question about a severed spine. If a cop shot up a kid one could potentially understand a delay in understanding the circumstances that led to that and ascertaining all the facts. A wide array of factors could conceivably lead up to a shooting, be it negligence, a perceived threat, so on and so forth…..But Mr Simon, a severed spine, come the fuck on. Answers should have been ascertained immediately. You dont accidentally beat the shit out of a kid so bad you paralyze him. A black eye, sure. A few bruises, ok the cops had a bad day. A kid coughing up blood, he should have never hit the cop and make him chase him. But a severed spine??? A week was long enough for questions to have been answered relative to a gruesome injury that could have ONLY been cause by extreme police misconduct of the worst kind.
Do you think for a minute that anything I’ve written seeks to mitigate the violence done to Freddie Gray in the course of an arrest for which there was no serious offense and no probable cause? Do you think I am asking the protestors to go home? Or the looters? Is anything remotely ambiguous here?
I am not saying you are. In fact I commend you in all you do. But I am saying the authorities in Baltimore have. A severed spine by itself is such a gruesome injury that is equivalent, in my estimation, to that video in North Charleston, SC: an immediate arrest, no bullshit. You dont accidentally paralyze a kid who is otherwise completely healthy. So though I commend you and your work and the stances you take, my tone was directed towards BPD and the Mayor. But i would hope you would agree that the injuries Mr. Gray sustained are so gruesome that an immediate arrest would have suffice and that negligence or accident could have caused them.
“The police abused their power and murdered a dangerous, aggressive thug with a lengthy rap sheet. I’m going to give up everything I worked my entire life for so that I may take up arms in riotous protest with complete strangers. Viva La Revolucion!” — said No One Ever
Personally speaking, I feel like a lot of what I have seen or heard in recent days media coverage, comments from various people, or online postings seem to always try and pin what is happening in Baltimore onto one single cause or event. I.E. “It’s about Freddie Gray and police brutality towards black people” “It’s because of economic injustice that has ravaged inner cities” “It’s about oppressive policing” “It’s about black culture which doesn’t teach respect” “It’s about opportunistic assholes just seizing on the chaos”
But what if it is many, many different aspects, all negative, that have basically just turned inner cities into powder kegs? Just years of frustration, injustice, inequality and little opportunity being finally aired out, with then, yes, opportunistic people (what seem to be mostly youth) taking advantage of the situation. That it’s not just about Freddie Gray, but Freddie Gray served as the spark or catalyst. And this could be said about many inner cities and rust towns all around America, like Ferguson.
They took a man’s head off. Desperate people take desperate actions.The rioters are doing nothing less than fighting for the lives of all Black people.
The protestors were fighting for that. The rioters are rioting, and the dignity and power of the protests are imparied.
Ugh, I am so disappointed by your reaction to what is happening in Baltimore. You’ve been my hero for so long. You often speak and write about the Black lower-class as having been virtually thrown away by US Capitalism. Certainly you are aware that riots are an extension of protests rather than some mindless activity. I’m not suggesting you endorse the riots but rather use your brilliant mind to analyze them in a progressive manner and to continue to be a great voice for the voiceless.
Perhaps you’ve oversimplified my reaction.
All things equal, your [opening] statement is an oversimplified response to the situation. We risk our humanity by seeking redress via brick in our hand, yes, and there is a reason people take that kind of risk. But that doesn’t naturally mean we lose this moment for Baltimore.
I hope you are right. Because right now, that middle portion of the American electorate that is required to do everything from elect coherent thinkers and semi-progressives to national office rather than reactionary Cro-Magnons, to ratcheting down the drug prohibition and mass incarceration, to the demilitarization of the entire police culture — that cohort is watching Baltimore and thinking differently.
I am about efficacy. I want change as it might actually occur in this, the only available political culture in which we are likely to operate. I will trade all the pompous, red-banner sloganeering right now for tangible improvement, however incomplete. That’s not as cool as some good old lefty rallying cry at the barricades, I know. But goddamn that shit accomplishes so very, very little.
Well, she wants your reaction to be as simplified as hers, anyway:
“…analyze them in a progressive manner and to continue to be a great voice for the voiceless.”
She just wants you to quote scripture to the letter. Otherwise, she’d be asking you actually employ your brilliant mind by tapping its capabilities for observation, judgment, and reason. You can’t be a hero if you’re an apostate.
Here they are, fighting for the lives of all black people by stomping on a store owner:
Cops are out here ignoring the rule of law, killing Black men without provocation or punishment. Black people (and others) are saying, “Uhm, please stop, obey your own rules, please?” You are contributing to making things better by trolling twitter looking for examples of Black malfeasance. SMH.
[…] Baltimore (The Audacity of Despair — David Simon) […]
How come no Baltimoreans protested fhe murder of Zach Sowers? Or countless others where police weren’t involved?
It is fundamental to all of us when state-sponsored violence claims the life of a fellow citizen.
You didn’t answer his question. How many murders in West Baltimore this year? And how come we haven’t see this kind of protest and rage over that? Hundreds of black men are murdered each year by other black men. Never hear a peep from black leadership, never seen a protest or a march.
Is it possible to be outraged over two things at once? Or is the human heart so stunted in some folks that they demand attention to one outrage at a time.
I’ve spent my adult life chronicling inner-city violence and its human cost in one form or another. For you to bring this bullshit into my house is embarrassing if you are capable of such a sensation.
There is no greater rhetorical dishonesty than this: I want you to ignore X. Explain why we are not talking about Y at the instant that X is being discussed.
And in this case, the dishonesty is also a cover for racism.
Vince, it is fundamentally different when the state (which, of course, is meant to protect it’s citizens) kills a citizen. Also, if you haven’t seen and heard black leadership and citizens speaking out against inner city violence, you haven’t been paying attention: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/04/why-dont-black-people-protest-black-on-black-violence/255329/
Additionally, I’d like to ask why white leadership isn’t protesting white on white violence, since it happens at about the same rate.
You never hear a peep because you don’t spend any time in the black community.
If you did, you’d know that community leaders are constantly harping about how black on black crime plagues the community.
Good lord These are *cops*. Do you really think this equivalence of yours could possibly stand up to a second’s scrutiny by any reasonable person?
I can’t believe I’m bothering, but: what if there were a spate of burglaries in your neighborhood — would it matter to you whether those burglaries were carried out by cops rather than civilian criminals? Of course it would. And if it were ongoing and nobody were doing anything about it, you’d be at your city hall every day. You might even throw some shit through a window if it went on long enough.
This isn’t a question a serious person would ever think of asking.
I noticed a lot of violent destruction after a recent sports, but not much condemnation. Heat of the moment you know. I am an older white woman and I have been amazed at the composure of the black community after blacks, children included, have been brutalized, beaten, humiliated, and murdered in cold blood, and I am damn sick to death of it. Who in the name of God do these law enforcement employees believe they represent? Certainly not me. If someone killed one of my sons I too would be creating mayhem. Black people have been remarkably restrained!
Indeed! Remarkably restrained is an understatement! And where were the Baltimore Police today? Were they protecting the citizens of West Baltimore? NO. They were amassed downtown “protecting” the Mayor and City Hall… I left Baltimore in 2010 – anticipating exactly what I’ve seen today. And I’ve watched this, as all afternoon and into the evening. Baltimore Police and the Mayor of Baltimore should be condemned for not protecting the people of west Baltimore. And the Baltimore Police have much blood in their hands…. They created this mayhem and yet will not stand up, own up and do their job. Shame. Shame. FYI – white, former property owner and taxpayer who fled Baltimore is dismay in 2010.
Most of the rioters didn’t know the drug dealer who was killed in police custody and don’t care about him. They are just impulsive, amoral, and violent creatures taking advantage of anarchy to loot.
They have a black mayor, a black attorney general, and a black president. “Systemic racism” is bullshit. Blacks unfortunately are just more violent and less law-abiding, on average, than other groups. That’s just statistical fact. A consequence of that is that they suffer more from police brutality, on average.
I’m sorry. I covered the Baltimore Police Department. If you don’t believe at this late juncture that this institution, bouyed by the drug prohibition and all the overreach that results from that nightmare, is not a problem for the poor of Baltimore, you are willfully oblivious.
I’m not suggesting the Baltimore police are perfect – no police are – but the more times you end up in contact with the police, the more the prospects are for negative outcomes. How many times was that Freddie arrested?
How many times would he have needed to be arrested to make his death at the hands of the police justified? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? Seriously, what exactly is your point, other than to claim the victim got what he deserved when the police murdered him?
You are absolutely correct in your assessment Mr. Simon. The poor have different interactions with police than those in other socio-eco stratta. Its true that this adversely effects the african american population, but it isn’t just a police v. blacks problem.
“The poor have different interactions with police than those in other socio-eco stratta.”
And it ain’t just Baltimore. I’ve just come from a long day practicing criminal defense in the courtrooms of a small southern town. You don’t have to be black to have the deck stacked against you, just poor. And god help the homeless who come up against the law, because the law certainly will not.
You sounded just like me after the Ferguson incident. But, then he was an imperfect victim. So, I thought Eric Garner would be that moment for the nation where we would have the moral high ground for once and for all, and we could finally talk about the issues with criminal justice reform that need to be resolved. But, the officers’ deaths tragically ruined that. Then, I thought maybe it would be Tamir Rice, but white America yawned. Or John Crawford. Or Freddy Scott. I finally have bookmarked 180 articles related to either death in custody, brutality, etc. Pretty soon, I was angry as these teens. I can control myself as a middle-aged white woman. I’m not sure I could if I were a systemically oppressed, poverty-stricken teenager. Your appeals will fall on deaf ears. If I were them, I guess might not be hearing you either.
Now is the time for mass disobedience, even for mass arrest. There is plenty to be outraged about.
But a riot is a riot. And running out of a liquor store with a case or two doesn’t seem to prove much to anyone — other than affirm the need for a militarized police culture to those desperate to believe in such.
Then you would agree that optics matter and that this is a public relations war. The terrible optics of, say, the Rodney King riots and rioters destroying own neighborhood businesses did what for reform of Los Angeles policing? It did shit, as evidence in the Rampart Scandal. So yes, at minimum rioting is a double blow against whatever cause you are protesting. We agree
But let us not forget that damn near all riots or preceded by orderly peaceful protest. And what answers have been attained from that? I suggest your fellow Baltimore natives would be well served to study the Birmingham and Baton Rouge bus boycotts. What is in their pockets was always considered more valuable than who they are.
How does it take desperation to believe a militarized police force is necessary in the face of a militarized citizen riot? Isn’t that exactly what is called for to bring order back? Do you believe law and order are secondary to letting angry people rampage because a criminal they never met died?
The statistics are there…. Police brutality and murder rates have remained remarkably stable since the stats have even been tracked. The only difference now is CNN gets a lot of clicks when they invoke black rage or white guilt.
Very easy to ignore decades of repression that alienated those who take to the streets. You are beginning at chapter eight and laying claim to the whole story.
Your words were cute but they were backwards. This is American, homie: the bastion of white rage and black guilt
How interesting that you brought up long-term stats on police brutality. In 1941, the NAACP identified police brutality as the number one issue facing the black community. In addition, Slavery by Another Name by Douglas Blackmon and The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander actually spell out exceptionally well the historical relationship between the police and the black community. The problems are so historical they date to the era of slavery. These are not new problems. They are reaching a breaking point where people are tired of being afraid of the police. Of course, most white people have never bothered to read books of this nature, so they nothing of this history,
And let’s not forget that most white Americans don’t interact with the police. The concept of whites privilege doesn’t mean anything because we believe everyone else is treated the same as we white people.
I agree with you. I see exactly how the riots will backfire. I see exactly how our cause will once again be derailed if the violence of the response to police violence always becomes the focus. But, MLK said riots are the language of the unheard. He didn’t use the word protests. He used riots. The problem is the ultimate Chinese puzzle. The solutions require less cracking down on the community with violence and intimidation by the police but the people are resorting to reactive tactics that inspire more cracking down. I have to shake my head in recognition that Harry Anslinger started the War on Drugs in Baltimore. Oh, and the Wire, was outstanding.
I just can’t understand people “counseling” to angry people on streets. If there is a violence, it is coming from the governments and what’s happening in streets are just reflections of it. Don’t tell people that they should go back to their homes, tell the government that they should consider the demands of people which can turn people to their homes and above all, tell them that they should teach their police not to kill people. This violence on streets is because of the police, the government, not people.
(Or listen to Darcus Howe. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzDQCT0AJcw )
This riot may indeed be an inevitable response to systemic state violence. But looting a liquor store on Liberty Heights Avenue isn’t exactly a revolutionary road. It’s the weaker choice than mass protest and mass civil disobedience. It’s the exact imagery that a repressive state would order up for the fresh self-justification of continued militarized cruelty.
A few more days of that on the national news and Freddie Gray, who died for no good reason, will in death stand for nothing.
“If we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no peace.” https://twitter.com/ajplus/status/592824864077025280?lang=en
It seems fair enough.
But what will it achieve? Other than letting a small group of people blow off some steam, what will the riots — not the protests, the riots — achieve?
You might want to read up the thread. DKS isn’t saying to be peaceful. He’s saying to deny the peace in a way that might work.
Once the Police/Gov/Media start caring about the Black people being murdered with impunity by the state then we can talk about the destruction of property. Until then miss me with the moralizing against “rioting” where was your outrage when Freddie Gray got his spine severed? Did you chastise the police against their use of violence during your time as a Reporter at the Baltimore sun? because as you well know, this violence against Black people perpetrated by the Police is nothing new.
Did you read what I wrote as an affirmation of police actions in the death of Mr. Gray? Really? Read it again.
It seems as if the BPD is showing, and should be commended for, an extremely high level of restraint. Do or would you attribute that to the lessons learned from say Ferguson and their militarization, better leadership from the Mayor of Baltimore on down, or maybe as a mea culpa so another Mr Gray wont happen from their hands?
Some restraint, some lack thereof. They beat down a couple photojournalists pretty nicely the other night, and let’s not forget the fundamental lack of restraint that brought the city to this moment.
The flip side of restraint is that their restraint can get innocent people hurt, robbed or killed. As it did on Saturday in the inner harbor (hurt and robbed, that is; fortunately, no one was killed then).
Oh yeah, this will go over well.
You think because you made a show you have the right to lecture a community that has been brutalized for decades how they should be behaving? Fuck off, Simon.
I live in Baltimore, still, and I’ve written about it for my adult life — all neighborhoods, all communities.
Where do you live that you want to see it burn?
Kind words for a city and people you care for. Good luck to you and yours.
Build Resurrection City and I will sit there with you.
[…] his full post, which is simply titled […]
Let’s face facts. Riots work. They cause people to pay more attention than civil disobedience,. We’re still talking about Ferguson today because of those riots. We’ll be talking about Baltimore because of these.
It’s misguided to compare Selma, or Gandhi to today. The short attention span of the average American today will not allow for civil disobedience to result in much. 50 plus years ago you had 3 channels and a newspaper to read to get your news and could actually focus on what was happening. Now? Folks are drowning in information due to 24/7 cable and the Internet, alongside working more for less. Peaceful movements destined to get drowned out by the next shiny object in today’s age.
Just look at how quick Freddie Gray pushed Walter Scott off the front page.
The visceral reaction everyone gets to seeing riots on TV sticks way more and creates space for change. Just now I’m watching people on TV talk about socioeconomic issues underpinning the riots. You think that gets talked about at the volume and frequency if the riots didnt happen?
“Let’s face facts. Riots work. They cause people to pay more attention than civil disobedience”
Rioting gives the racists and authoritarians ammunition.
In two days no one will remember Freddie Gray’s name. The inattentive, short-term media eye will be on the photogenic looted stores, the cars burned, the police and journalists assaulted. The police and National Guard response will be swift and heavy-handed. In two months, no one will remember but those left in the neighborhoods to try and pick up the broken pieces.
People pay more attention to civil disobedience if it turns violent, sure, but the conclusion they take away from it is often going to be the very opposite of what the protesters want. Namely, many many people will dismiss the legitimate grievances of the protests as a whole because the riots make it easy for those in power to paint the protesters as simple criminals and thugs, even if the rioters are in practice a small minority. On a more subliminal level, it also allows those so inclined to stoke up racial prejudice, to paint a picture of African-Americans as inherently violent and lawless and at fault for their own suffering because of it.
In short, these rioters couldn’t be doing more damage to the cause they’re supposedly fighting for if they were an actual fifth column working for the government precisely to alienate people from the protests.
Thank you, Scott. You hit the nail on the head. Some of us have been trying to say exactly this, repeatedly, here on this blog, at the Baltimore Sun, at news sites all over the blabbosphere. Those baying for blood play perfectly into the hands of authoritarians and racists.
By your own admission, that paying-of-attention doesn’t last more than a few news cycles. So people are “talking about” the riots. So what? That’s going to bring change? Talking about the riots for a week, and then things go back to normal, to the usual hyper-militarized police brutalizing the same neighborhoods?
Unbelievable the exhortations to violence in this discussion. Why don’t you people who think it works so well get out there yourselves and throw cinder blocks into store windows, set fires, and attack pedestrians? Are you out there doing that since you say it’s so helpful? I live in Charles Village. Do you want to come here and break into my house? Will that satisfy you?
That it is understandable — this we can say, with empathy. That it was inevitable given Baltimore’s police-community dynamic in recent years — we can say, with regret. That this works, or has some certain benefit, or will not steal the high ground from the mass protests that preceded it — we can’t say this. Last night was a riot. A riot is not progress or a guarantee of anything other than a riot.
“The drug war, race and economic inequities have produced a systemic dynamic…”
And nothing anyone has done or said in opposition to that systemic dynamic in the last 40 years has changed a fucking thing.
There’s “riot” and the aftermath of “riot” in Yemen, Ukraine, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Palestine, Colombia, Mexico, and many other places, if we use the legal definition: “A violent disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled for a common purpose” but technology means the most culpable of those “persons” can now sit calmly and comfortably, with their hands clean, far from the scene, while their drones and their bombs do the wet work of empire.
What “riot” means here, now, is simply violence from below. The “rioters” don’t have drones and Bradleys and F-15’s and they never will have them.
Ludd’s right Simon, the sad awful truth is, whatever it was In King’s, and Ghandi’s, moment, peaceful protest is now media-neutered, safely containable, an amusing feature, almost entertainment in the world’s implacable greed-driven descent into total inhumanity.
That same systemic dynamic has created a feral demographic in and among the larger group of its far more innocent victims. What the corrupt and frightened children(media executives and politicians) behind the fourth wall want to present America with is a unified mass, the “rioters”, and place them in front of any image or speech that would really change this shit up.
If there was a policing force within the disenfranchised community non-violently protesting that was capable of stopping the rioters…well yeah.
Peaceful protest is dignified, and evidence of a higher morality, and it is today completely harmless and ineffective, except as personal catharsis, because the power above doesn’t give a rat’s ass about our complaints, or our assertions of human commonality. They have their plans and their dreams, of control and security and unlimited profit, and they’ll get rid of anyone who gets in their way, by whatever means they find necessary. Attrition, neglect, the toxicities of the drug war, the steady grind of broken-windows policing, right on up to wholesale massacre and death camps.
Not yet though.
They have to get middle America on board. With inchoate fear, graphic feral violence, and that reassuring fatuous smug masculine authority Bratton so typifies.
This is what we’re looking at. This is where we are.
There has been a turning in the past year — a national reconsideration of the drug war and its costs, an argument about these levels of incarceration. It has been joined in numerous quarters after decades of silence. And the video-chonicled violence against people of color has sparked a crisis of conscience in the public discourse. What was handily ignored and marginalized was and is taking center stage.
The riot tonight sets all of that fledgling effort back on its heels. It accomplishes little except emboldening those who want a militarized culture of social culture to prevail and remain entrenched.
Yes. Okay. It’s disheartening to see things fall away from the bonding energies of compassion and recognition of injustice.
But the conversation, if it continues politely, leads to what?
You’re forcing this discussion into a binary of approve/disapprove of “riots”.
What I disapprove of is the creation and maintenance of human suffering in others, for gain, for comfort, out of an arrogant sense of entitlement.
What decent human being is okay with present wealth disparity?
“Waddya gonna do about it?” That’s the name of the game.
That’s what’s defending itself through FOX and CNN.
This isn’t about street level property destruction and looting as political strategy. It’s about the inevitability of chaos and violence erupting as the veneer of progress shatters.
I can disapprove of a lot of things at the same time. That’s not binary.
I am appalled at all of the root causes for this unrest, and strangely, my heart is big enough to disapprove of the burning and looting of the city. Saying some grevious result is inevitable is easy — I’ve been predictive of this moment in a lot of conversations over the last decade, frankly — but shrugging at it, or worse, validating it, is a step further. I won’t take that step.
I applaud you for engaging in this discussion and remaining engaged despite the many misunderstandings and attacks. I am sad for all those who have suffered and who are suffering today and who will continue to suffer – from injustice, from abuse, from rioting, from living in fear. Thank you for simultaneously calling for both justice and peace. Your role in bringing these matters to light is greatly appreciated.
As a native Marylander who now lives in Los Angeles, I have watched this on this news with both odd fascination and horror. It is very sad to know that the entire nation is now focused on my state for such a tragic death and senseless riots….
Out of pure curiosity, have you spoken to any of the Wire alum associated with the BPD about this? I would love to hear what folks like Jay Landsman, Ed Norris, Ed Burns, etc. have to say about the situation. Thanks for posting such a thoughtful response so promptly!
Mr Simon, try to isolate it all you want with words like
“There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially”
You though, are smart enough to realize there was real power in Trayvon protests but it did not prevent Eric Garner. There was real poser in Eric Garner protests but it has not prevented the myriad other incidences that have occurred. You are simply regurgitating the same politicians plea, which when listened to, changes nothing for years, decades, and generations. These kids, know so. What, do you have to say to the other side when the victims have held quiet for generations? Many do not gain national attention and multitudes do not end in death. These kids know the broken record you are singing when they hear one. You are the tourist, wielding your camera, amazement and rationales. Stop and see it from their side else you be the one who loses the real and only narrative here..
Do you think any edifice of injustice as vast as this one crumbles at the first, or second, or third outrage? Do you think that institutional power or social control is relinquished easily and gently? What social or political movement emerged victorious at the first or fifth revelation? The oppressive nature of the drug war, of militarized police, of mass incarceration is now at the forefront of a national agenda.
Do you want to seize this moment and fight for it? Or do you want to piss it away by showing middle America and argument for why Baltimore needs more — and not less — police repression? Because that’s all tonight achieved for Baltimore, or the country as a whole.
I was in Baltimore this weekend for the Os/Sox series. Charm City is one of my favorite cities in the country. It’s beautiful and quaint, but course like sand paper, and similar to New York or Boston in the sense that you can breathe the city in. You feel a certain electricity in Baltimore.
Anyway, I’ve been reading your comments all evening while watching the news and surfing the web – have you seen this video yet? It almost captures exactly what I’m trying to describe.
Thanks again for the thought-provoking discussion this evening.
I respect you a lot, but I think you may be wrong about riots not affecting change. This article is about police reforms in Cincinnati after the 2001 riots. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-04-03-cincinnati-riots-anniversary_N.htm.
No David. You are already acting as a marionette in this whole thing.
The small number of rioters is being used, once again, as a way to characterize the overwhelming majority of those who are peacefully demonstrating. By now, you should know better.
I don’t expect more from you or anyone else deciding to offer ‘advice’ towards those reacting to hundreds of years of abuse while no changes are made, but it is a bit infuriating to see the same scripts being championed time and time again by “popular figures.”
You could have found a way to try to speak against the looting while making it clear you understand the greater point of what is going on and not just follow the police department’s talking points. Use your pulpit to make it clear that murdering Americans because of ‘a look they gave’ is fucking unacceptable.
I think using your web platform to just spout ‘go home and things will get better’ ( to the great glee of many folks who actively hate those protesting) is unrealistic, irrational, and pathetic.
Read the comments. It’s clear that I want the protests to continue, and against the drug war and the militarization of police, I want civil disobedience on a mass scale. I’ve been arguing for such for a long while. I want the high ground in this window when law enforcement excess is on the national agenda; I don’t want to lose an electorate that is necessary to get federal sentencing reform, or a diminution of the drug war, or a national repository for police shootings and police violence information. I’m interested in actual political efficacy. You’re good for slogans.
And a riot is a riot. And your indifference to its actual cost on the ground, in Baltimore, to Baltimoreans, is noted. We’ll still be here, cleaning this up when you’ve moved on to cheer the looting of some liquor stores in the next state over.
Isn’t it grand to pontificate from afar? Whatever else my little digital pulpit is about, it’s here, in this city
The images are horrific enough. I can only imagine what the people of Baltimore are going through. By that, I mean the families running from their homes set ablaze, the A-plus student who was in the wrong place at the wrong time; and yes, the police officer who wonders if he’ll get to see his family again. Everyone.
It reminds me of the riots in Britain in the summer of 2011. A link to the events of this is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_England_riots
It’s not a complete parallel because, for one, the black populace of Britain don’t have the same high-profile homicides DIRECTLY due to police ‘interventions’ as the USA.
Secondly, as the riots spread to other cities, white kids were taking part.
The mass media reeled, from what started as a racially motivated reaction to an all-out apathetic crime wave.
In Northern cities such as Salford and Manchester, the looting excuse was peddled: “These kids don’t have nothing.”
It was a lie. They were stealing from small businesses, taking an opportunity to thieve due to the stretched resources at that particular time of austerity. None of the kids were destitute when they looted. That’s a fact.
The minute you commit an act of vandalism, theft or violence, based on this weak notion of ‘retaliation’, you lose the argument.
In light of most recent events right across the country (Ferguson etc.), and with all the wrong ingredients waiting in the wings, my bleak question is:
Wasn’t this horrible day an inevitable occurrence for Baltimore?
Email I sent this morning to Renee Montagne, Steve Inskeep, Korva Coleman, and Eyder Peralta at NPR. Damn these people and their grotesquely, obscenely incorrect language. Dave Mattingly also just used the word “protesters.” I also sent this to my friend Didi Schanche, who works on the Foreign Desk, but she agrees and is passing it on to other people at NPR. I realize I’m persona non grata there, but I know more about what’s happening in Baltimore than anyone at NPR, that’s for sure:
Subject: Stop saying “protesters”
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 2015 07:06:31 -0400
Please stop using the words “protesters” and “protests” to descibe what went on here yesterday! These people were not protesting and they were not demonstrating. They were rioting. They were vandalizing. They were burning. They were looting.
You’re doing a great disservice to the THOUSANDS of peaceful, non-violent protesters in this city who have been active and extraordinarily disciplined. Since I live here, I know what a powder keg this is. I also know what a protester is.
Rioters aren’t “protesters”!
Large group of volunteers cleaning up that burnt out CVS in Baltimore http://pbs.twimg.com/media/CDrLLJeWoAIAfKK.jpg
Sadly, the okay to destroy comment this past Saturday took root and broke ground yesterday. The mayor will regret her words for the balance of her career. If they indeed were not clear, as she says, then it was her job to make her words clear — Saturday. Not last night.
The first time that David Simon has anything to say about what happened to Mr. Gray in Baltimore is to tell the rioters to go home. That’s more shameful than just about anything that happened in the streets of the city yesterday.
First things first, as I wrote.
In fact, I was working on a longer post about the drug war, Martin O’Malley and the death of probable cause when the rioting broke out yesterday. Still am. But I paused to express my dismay at the fact that my city was being burned and looted at the time that this was so. How rude. How utterly insensitive of me.
You wouldn’t know shame if it crawled up your leg.
“You wouldn’t know shame if it crawled up your leg.”
The format in this thread’s got me dangling.
Is that me? WTF?
If it is, man you do not know.
What is this, a probation report?
You have no idea where I’m at with shame, or any of the more immediately particular elements of this conversation. Except what I’ve said, here. Not once advocated the violence, not once condemned it.
Your, understandable, maybe even necessary defensive pugilism’s blocking access to what common ground there is.
The push evident in what I’m saying isn’t for or against the violence and the looting, it’s against the vague but parallel demand for condemnation that the cardboard figures of talkshow hosts were, and I suppose still are, using to softly, patronizingly, cudgel any Muslims that manage to slip through the media barbed wire and actually get their voices on the air.
“Answer the question! I want to know if you condemn beheadings, and ISIS!”
When to reply to that demand is to submit to the dominance-hungry sadism behind it.
Fuck the question.
Confused myself. Thought I was replying to the fellow who tried to reference why he thought I should be ashamed of a particular stance. Did the reply misfire? They are all disembodied from the threads when they land, so I might have screwed up. Will try to check back on it.
Opens it up for me to say I can only imagine what it’s like for good folks close to the conflict.
And I do believe honest risk-taking speech is vital,
Bill By God O’Reilly,
Wonders never cease.
Proving what some of us were saying Saturday night (which was a very different day and night from yesterday):
“How drunk sports fans helped spark Saturday night’s post-protest violence”
By Brandon Soderberg, City Paper
“Following a day of riots in Baltimore, a community center and apartments owned by the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore were set ablaze and burnt down before firefighters managed to contain the flames.” (USA TODAY)
Yup… let’s burn our churches and community center down in “protest”. I would guess most of these stupid idiots don’t even know what they’re “protesting”. To them it’s an excuse to break the law under the pretense of some kind of “right” they have. And do they they think this kind of behavior makes the rest of us look at them as victims? Is this going to help get them a job? I don’t think so and I don’t think that’s what they want. Look at the faces of the guys setting the fires. Look like your next new hire? I doubt it. Peaceful protest is a right we have in the U.S. We can use it to try to make change. Rioting is crime and criminals belong in jail.
Peaceful protest always fails. Anyone calling for peaceful protest does so in the knowledge it will simply preserve the status quo and all the violence that is inherent to it. Anyone who lacks the courage to forcefully and unequivocably back the protestors and rebels in the streets of Baltimore has failed at the first challenge.
This is more than just a riot. It’s part of a low-level insurrection of the oppressed peoples of the USA. This isn’t ballot box stuff any more. The point of no return has been passed.
In a society that values private property rights over human life breaking the ultimate taboo of life in a capitalist, liberal, state such as the US and violating those property rights is the only meaningful recourse anyone has to affect meaningful political change. Violating private property rights will do more to force things to change than voting ever could or ever will. Only when rich people have to start worrying about being able to look after their loot will conditions improve for the oppressed.
Asking people to go home is objectively siding with the cops. Shame on you David Simon.
“Peace won’t come by words alone” – Carl Von Ossietsky
This is late breaking news for those who went to Selma, or who helped the Mahatma collapse the Raj, or those who followed Madiba into a civil war that was long predicted but never actually occurred. The victories of non-violence are astonishing and apparent. Your grasp of history is simply lopsided.
If you actually think that struggles for liberation have been successful without violence then you are the one that’s historically illiterate. Without guns and the threat of violence and insurrection there would never have been any progress on civil rights in the USA at all!
I would recommend you read “This non-violent stuff will get you killed: How guns made the civil rights movement possible” by Charles E.Cobb Jr. and which is easily available in pdf form if you do a quick google search.
And as for the Raj, do you know anything about the history of the British Empire? The number of massive armed revolts and strikes that took place to get rid of colonial rule in the 19th and 20th centuries? And as for “Mandiba” (which I presume is your attempt at spelling Madiba aka Nelson Mandela) well he never claimed to believe in or practice non-violent resistance. The ANC and the South African Communist Party both of which he served in were in favour of using violence against the apartheid state. The liberation of South Africa was a very violent process. The fact there was no civil-war after apartheid was destroyed and they had prevailed was a testament to his graciousness, not a commentary on the effectiveness of non-violence, since without violence they would never have won in the first place!
Only the American liberal’s whitewashing of this history would tell you otherwise. You know nothing about Mandela or the ANC and the struggle they had to go through, a long violent and bloody struggle against a brutal and violent enemy.
The overthrow of the British Empire was a very violent process. From Africa to Ireland, from the Carribean to India. Empires were built with violence and violence is the only reliable method by which to dismantle them. You live in a country that was founded by extreme violence and war against the armies of the Crown and the Empire. You think America would be a free country now if the founding father’s hadn’t embraced violence and killed people in their thousands? Would the names of the founding fathers be remembered if they’d tried non-violence and been gunned down mercilessly by the professional troops and redcoats of the British army?
Your very liberty was a product of violence, on a scale much greater than anything that’s taking place in the streets of Baltimore today, yet you would deny this method, the only truly historically proven tried and tested method of winning your liberty, to the people of your own city!
Your grasp of history is nothing more than an incoherent string of liberal platitudes whose sole puprose is to encourage people to stay at home, not to rebel, and to accept the status quo.
Have you really just seized the mantle of King and Gandhi in the cause of violence? Really?
Because those men were more revolutionary than you can comprehend.
As for Mandela, do you have the slightest understanding of the limits that the ANC put on the targeting of actual human beings, asbout the limits of anti-state activity in place at the time of the Rivonia trial, or about the recriminations within the ANC to thosew select moments when anti-state actions resulted in deaths? The South African regime was toppled through the power of moral force and, in particular, a singular man’s astonishing capacity for restraint.
You want to claim great victories in other places, go ahead. But claiming that the gun served Mandela, or King, or Ghandi is farcical.
I didn’t mention King. Please don’t put words in my mouth. I said the civil rights movement, which was more than just one person. This “Great Man” version of history being used as a cudgel to beat the people of Baltimore into passive acceptance of their lot is not only intellectually dishonest but historically illiterate. I say that not as personal abuse but as a banal statement of the obvious.
Without guns the civil rights movement would never have happened. This is a well documented historical fact, one that doesn’t suit your narrative, but a fact nonetheless. I even went so far as to provide you with an excellent and detailed source to back this up.
And as for Gandhi, without the threat of massive violent insurrection (which he acted as a pressure valve to control) he would’ve had absolutely no leverage whatsoever. As Orwell rightly pointed out, without the massive workers organisation that took place in early 20th century India, without the threat of violence this carried Gandhi would’ve had no leverage whatsoever with which to negotiate with the British Empire. He’d have been thrown in a jail cell with the countless others who died in that period and forgotten about.
Have you David Simon forgotten 1776? What about the Irish rebellions of 1916-1922? What about Haiti? or Zimbabwe? Or the countless other peoples and nations who owe their freedom to insurrection?
I made a long, detailed, clear and coherent post and the best you can come up with is this glib nonsense in reply? Why not attempt to engage me with a modicum of respect and seriousness and try to address the issues I raised, rather than side-step them? I took the time to address your points could you do the courtesy of addressing mine?
Are you out on North Avenue now with your fist in the air? I hope so. It would certainly soothe my sense that your revolutionary spirit saw the merits in seeing others brutalized and their city burned. I live here. I have friends in West and East Baltimore. I know people who have jobs at some of the places being looted. I also have many friends who were with those deliberate and precise protests that marched to City Hall making demands, but whose platform and standing has now been impaired. I’m with them.
You’re on the internet, not merely explaining the inevitability of the violence in Baltimore — which I understand as much as the next man — you’re advocating for it. Violence as a means of change. Insurrection? This isn’t armed insurrection? That gives too much credit. On my television, I am watching the looting of a mom-and-pop liquor store.
If you haven’t got the courage or the knowledge to argue about the issues, and instead have to side-step and come out with this specious nonsense, then it’s quite clear your position in untenable. Scratch a liberal and find a reactionary….
I’m fully in favour of looting as you can accomplish far more politically in the united states by violating private property rights than you can by voting or peaceful protest.
In a society where live doesn’t matter but property does you need to apply pressure where it is most effective.
I’m in favour of doing what works. Violence, looting and armed insurrection works. Mealty-mouthed liberal nonsense of the “go home, stay passive, do nothing” variety that you’re advocating does not.
If you don’t believe me take a quick look at your passport. Does it say “British” or “United States of America” on it?
Presumably it’s ok for your liberty to be won by destroying private property and violent armed insurrection, but not for black people living in Baltimore, right?
If every time an American police department murders an innocent person 2 cops were executed in retaliation then they’d soon stop doing it. Whatever works….
Good for you then. Looting with political consciousness.
What arm-chair horseshit.
It’s a fact. Looting is a political act. Private property is a political institution, and property rights are the the most sacrosant holiest of holies for the American state which murders black people in Baltimore and other cities with near-impunity. Only once private property is threatened will there be any incentive to act to change the way the police in America behave.
I’d recommend EP Thompsons “moral economy of the English crowd” for a detailed historical look at how looting is an expressly political has won more freedom over a longer period of time than any degree of voting or non-violence has. I could even give you a pdf version of it if you’d like to improve your knowledge of working-class history? It was based on examples in English history but the same principles apply to most contemporary states, including the US.
What was it Bill Haywood of the I.W.W. said? “A liberal is just a man who leaves the room as soon as a fight breaks out”
That’s you David he’s talking about. You’re the one who gets cold feet at the moment of truth. Something for you to think about as you continue to side with the cops against the people.
And an ideologue is someone who can rationalize and excuse any barbarism.
You’d’ve been a real asset to the NKVD in ’36. That Lorca fella needed to get got, along with all the other Trotskyite revisionists. Purity above all.
A looter is a looter. A man who makes a moral dissent and maintains it — in any forum, and at all points — has my admiration.
” Only once private property is threatened will there be any incentive to act to change the way the police in America behave.”
You realize a lot of the private property that’s threatened is in black neighborhoods and belongs to black people, right? Or maybe you don’t.
I’m sure the merchants or the people whose cars are getting trashed appreciate your willingness to let their stuff get destroyed to make your point.
Game, set and match- Ludd 6 – Simon 0
Hey Alex DeLarge,
I know you were trolling. Never mind that I don’t agree with Mr. Ludd’s take on what violence accomplishes as you seem to, but this ain’t no basketball game.
Oh but the further you are from Baltimore, the more it is a game. Mr. Ludd and Mr. DeLarge are playing in earnest.
Meanwhile, the engine company down the street from me just emptied out for the third alarm on that North Gay Street fire. Seems the wind changed direction and now a row of houses on Federal Street are endangered. African-American neighborhood, quite poor, never quite recovered after it was burned out in 1968. There it’s not a game, or an academic discussion.
Yeah, it worked so well in ’68. America just rolled over and handed out jobs to the Black people it had been oppressing for years. It was a real turning point for urban Black communities, from despair to resurgence.
We know it’s a great idea because you read somewhere that looting is a political act.
All this bullshit from a keyboard nowhere near Baltimore or any hint of danger.
By that same argument, anything can be accomplished with just the right amount of violence and stealing.
Hell, let’s take out the entire police force.
No-one’s “innocent” in the end, are they? If you wear a badge, you’re just in the other gang, and for that, they should suffer. Right?
Predictably psychotic, isn’t it?
Your comments point to a lack of personal empathy, a trait shared by psychopaths alike.
I wonder how adamantine your postulations would be if your house was set ablaze by these “protestors”.
Almost all of your examples involve throwing off a foreign/colonial power or revolting against minority rule. The circumstances are not comparable, and the implications should be obvious.
Your only counterexample is the role of “guns” in the civil rights movement. Cobb’s point was that blacks used guns to protect themselves from civilian mobs — not to engage in armed insurrection or violent rioting. To wit, he explains: “Black defenders also knew when and where to abstain from using their guns. The key distinction made was between police violence and civilian violence. Violent police mobs, like the one that rioted on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, found it easier—or at least less risky—to target unprotected, nonviolent protesters. Protests like that on Bloody Sunday in Selma and the Selma-to-Montgomery march that followed were always tactically nonviolent. The very practical and disciplined black self-defense groups did not interfere with the violent, hate-fueled actions of uniformed authority in these instances. ”
Meanwhile, there is a direct line between the actual riots of the late 60s, Nixon’s ascendancy, and the Reagan Revolution. That anyone would read the history of the American civil rights movement as counseling in favor of urban riots as a mechanism for change is baffling.
Before anything else, it needs to be pointed out that the man’s name is spelled Gandhi.
Ned Ludd is in the right here, and Mr. Simon though you are a great journalist and author I have to suggest that your grasp of history is shallow. If we want to talk about the ANC, what about what Winnie Mandela had to say about necklacing (the practice of burning petrol filled tires around the necks of suspected collaborators)? That practice wasn’t from some dark old days of a pre-enlightened ANC, that is the strategy that won Mandela’s freedom and brought the party to power in the 80s and 90s.
If we want to talk about the Raj, why are we ignoring the contributions of all people other than Gandhi to the independence struggle? It is tragic that the Ben Kingsley film is all most Americans will ever know about Indian independence. But our ignorance doesn’t erase the contributions of Bhagat Singh or Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army.
Mr Simon, your website is called The Audacity of Despair. I would expect you to understand, as you have understood before, how comprehensively the peaceful law abiding approach, culminating in the Obama presidency, has failed the American people. They gave away the farm and what do you expect the next one is going to do?
The corollary of despair is violence. Whether you like it or not it is the next stage of the track we’re on.
Will correct. Typing at a warm pace to keep up with commentary and encourage open forum for debate. Thanks.
My website’s title is a provocation to be sure. But actually, I’ve seen progress on reducing incarceration, ratcheting down the drug war and demilitarizing the police culture in this past year. I believe that progress will continue at a more meaningful pace without the looting currently underway in Baltimore.
As to the lessons of history, Gandhi and King and Madiba will forever be known for that which did not happen in the transference of power. You can speak of the implied threat of open warfare or insurrection — and indeed there is power to such a threat — but that is not how the great revolutions of our time achieved critical mass. The Berlin Wall, South Africa, India, the struggle for American civil rights are all credited to a mass refusal to accept status quo, not to armed insurrection. And rightly so.
The Berlin Wall fell because the Soviet soldiers weren’t allowed to shoot, they were ordered to do nothing. A young Vladimir Putin was embarrassed and left feeling permanently ashamed.
I hope you’re right, and I’d agree there’s been a shift in tone on crime and law enforcement. I wonder whether that’s more or less important than their gutting the Voting Rights Act and doing TTIP/TTP. I can’t see any of Hillary’s foreign dollars making it to the everyday Americans.
The best one we ever had was John Brown. At least I hope you’ll acknowledge the issue is murkier than you had initially allowed.
I really torn here. Historically, violence sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. It is easy to say a few eggs need to be broken to make an omelet, but if those “eggs” are your friends and neighbor’s property, then it is understandable Simon wants the violence to end.
Moreover, the real key to change is organizing. Here, it doesn’t seem as though there is any organization or thought behind the violence in Baltimore. I think we can all agree that random act of violence don’t acomplish anything. It took a while before the ANC decided nonviolence wouldn’t work in South Africa. I hope we haven’t reached that point of no return in this country.
David, what’s your message to the kids in Baltimore who probably won’t see the kind of change you hope for in their lifetime? Be patient?
What is your message? Is transformation closer now that mass protest has devolved into burning and looting? Is change now closer? Have allies rallied to the cause of change after watching Baltimore tonight? That’s weak bait, Derek.
What’s yours? Don’t vote, don’t hold peaceful protest, don’t participate in or try to improve civil society, just burn shit up and vent?
Maybe patience and steadfastness in a concerted effort are what is really needed instead of emotional expression that goes nowhere.
My message would be stay in school if you can, at least try to get an education. If you can’t do that, try to find the smallest job you can, and keep a flicker of hope burning. Until you get enough money to leave Baltimore.
If you can’t do that? My message would be not worth repeating on this forum
Exactly WTF did Bose and the Indian National Army accomplish for India’s independence?
Incidentally, there were less than a million Britons in India as of the mid-1940s, and they all had somewhere to go. So please explain how this could possibly provide a useful roadmap to oppressed African-Americans who comprise less than 15% of the US population and are not under the rule of a foreign colonial power.
As a white man who’s never felt threatened by police, I refuse to judge what’s going on in Baltimore now.
I’m a white guy who has spent a lot of time in the company of Baltimore police, some of them good friends and many of them good public servants. Some, too, were brutalizing, racist and classist. From that, I’m willing to judge: The drug war, race and economic inequities have produced a systemic dynamic in which the lives of not only people of color, but the underclass especially, have been devalued. And now, finally, with the advent of cell-phones and digital cameras, this dynamic is self-evident on a local and national level. I have no fucking problem judging.
And I want the argument to progress, to be sure. A riot, even if inevitable or understandable, is an inferior and imprecise weapon with which to exert for change. Mass civil disobedience, rather than civil unrest, can achieve a great deal without undercutting the legitimacy of the grievance. Revolutionaries will be disappointed, of course. They command from some other place than West North Avenue, and they always imagine the brick landing on the skulls of the right people. It doesn’t work that way even in a bar fight. A riot is shit ugly. And in the end, it loses the allies that non-violent anger and mass disobedience would otherwise glean when diligent and committed people embrace the strategy.
I doubt the mass of people in the USA really give a shit what is happening in parts of Baltimore. Especially the white dominated right-wing media who (e.g. Fox News) probably love it.
You know when Mandela created change in South Africa, he wasn’t advocating a love-in. He advocated going around blowing shit up. If this is a false equivalence to what is happening in Baltimore, the underlying impetetus behind the groundswell is probably much the same. We’re done talking.
Read Madiba’s defense speech at his Rivonia trial. He put strict conditional limits on armed insurrection even at that point and despite domestic brutalities and civil oppressions that are far in excess of Baltimore, Md. in 2015. And even then, standing in the dock, he argued that these were only necessary because redress within the Afrikaan regime was prohibited.
You are offering an equivalency that isn’t actually there.
“Having said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites.”
Mandela. Acknowledging that he was willing to rebel against a government that was denying him all civil liberties and representation by explicitly not targeting white civilians, or even white government officials. He was willing to blow up a radio tower or two, to be sure.
Do more research on what the ANC actually advocated and to what they limited their armed struggle against a totalitarian regime. Are you equating the status of the underclass in America with that of black South Africans under apartheid? Really? There is gross inequality in my country and many affronts to civil liberties that need to be addressed. But are you remotely aware of what the absolute framework of apartheid entailed? And still, the ANC was targeting government infrastructure only.
No, I’m not equating status of the underclass in America with that of black South Africans under apartheid. But it’s a sliding scale isn’t it? I get why some kid who has no future wants to chuck a brick through a window – and I suspect you do to but are too polite to say so. And yes, I have lived in Africa, so spare me the lecture about the ANC.
Why do you continue to insist upon spelling Madiba’s name as “Mandiba”…?
Because I’m typing fast, and I start to spell Mandela and then halfway through decide to use the familiar Madiba. There’s a lot coming over the transom. Apologies. Will try to correct.
It would be great if peaceful protest still worked.
But millions of people around the world marched against war in Iraq. What happened? The media made the protestors look like hippies..
Occupy Wall Street was probably the single most well organized peaceful and purposeful protest in the history of mankind. But, what happened? For weeks, the media, even NPR, referred to the protesters as goofballs. Police agencies from around the country conspired to track down and harass organizers until this incredible protest fizzled.
So what is an aggrieved populace to do?
Millions of people in the country that undertook the Iraq conflict did not march in opposition to the war. Thousands did. Most Americans supported that intervention, regrettably. And Occupy, which I very much admired, had no second act after the march.
Opposition to the drug war and the militarization of police has been growing geometrically in the last decade. There is much to be gained in terms of national consensus. But looting a liquor store on Liberty Heights Avenue doesn’t do much to turn the opinions of middle Americans against the image of police in riot gear beating on the poor. It does the opposite, sadly.
Agreed no second act in Occupy however I feel the disenfranchised have no other avenue to turn to in order to effect material change after a peaceful protest. As disgraceful as it is to see a CVS looted, burned, and the even the fire hoses cut it provides a platform for the poor to finally have their voice heard over the systematic economic inequality suffocating their lives on a daily basis. You can’t just say go home??
Organization works. Random acts of violence and looting by individuals, while perhaps understandable, won’t acomplish anything.
OWS protestors didn’t even know what they were protesting. It’s no wonder they accomplished nothing (except raping some naive female protestors).
This is now bullshit. They knew exactly what they were protesting. And tarring them with fanciful atrocities is a tactic that is as old as the Bonus Army and Kent State. Mr. Talland, if you can’t do better than this, you’ll find the kill file.
I get the frustration that leads to the brick but it is heartbreaking first and foremost for the people in the path, but also for the long arc of history. Actions like these increase the likelihood that this is all people will remember and that divisions will deepen.
I hope your message gets through.
Violence and rioting solves nothing and causes more problems than it solves. We can agree with that wholeheartedly, 100%. But peaceful forms of civil disobedience and dissent solved what exactly? Peaceful marches worked during the civil rights era of the 50s and 60s because it was new. Those in protest had an unassailable more authority. The newness of black men and women and children working together with an unbreakable, greater-than-yourself plan was in fact revolutionary. A failure to respond to that would have without question tore the moral (if it ever existed at all) fabric of this nation.
But guess what? The powers that be responded. Black leaders killed or imprisoned (thanks COINTELPRO, J.Edgar Hoover). Ghettos created (dont you love redlining). Crack pumped down our throats (Oliver North). And we cant forget a legal double standard in drug sentencing laws (Rockerfeller). Those policies, besides just being designed to fuck negroes up, it effectively took away the obvious moral authority those fighting for justice had…key word being obvious. But if that didnt work we have the final trump card that has made marching peaceful ineffective: the media.
Besides using polarizing tactics to effective demonize one side as a means of scaring the other side into watching and tuning it, the media has and still til this day frame any form of civil disobedience according to the worst elements. They will show repeated on endless loop people looting, even if it is from a extreme minority of those protesting. They will stick mics in the faces of individuals who obviously arent prepared to give mission statements to arguably a world wide audience. The standard is MLK level perfection and anything that doesnt meet that standard gets exploited, as a means to prevent well meaning whites or those within power to effect positive reforms or to further drain those who are giving their blood sweat and tears fighting for change.
I dont know what the right answer it. True revolution always happens outside of the dominant systems. Those protesting cant pick up the phone and get a governor on the line or lobby for new legislation. But I am sure the CEOs of Nike or Verizon can who sure as hell make 10s of billions from these communities. Think of when Netflix raised their prices and millions of its middle class customers who could afford it said fuck it we aint paying this shit, maybe the right protest is more so with our dollars than a brick in the hand. Who knows. BUt when a young man, otherwise thought to healthy and in his prime, gets a fucking severed spine…..SEVERED SPINE……well, ….maybe god bless us all.
On a live feed, I just watched a policewoman carried to an ambulance after being struck down. Where is the victory in that?
Yes, the threat of mass civil unrest is often a cudgel that forces reform upon calcified institutions. But there is a human cost whenever and wherever that threat is executed. And mass civil disobedience and protest can accomplish all that unrest can without sacrificing our humanity and alienating potential allies. It says nothing about what happened to Mr. Gray that some certain number of assholes are looting a CVS store on North Avenue. It actually affirms those who would excuse police brutalities in a crude and ignorant way.
Although I am black, I have lived from throughout my entire childhood and still do live now an adult a pretty sheltered solidly middle class life for the most part (im still black after all). Live in what a magazine recently called one the top 10 cities to raise a family in america. I can literally go down a list of good shit I experienced. I bring that up because it is on that basis that I, not as a human, nor american, and damn sure not as a black, can share with a great swath of others, primarily whites or those who share my socioeconomic status the total fear that only can come from rioting. Rioting and destroying of public of public property and harming those who take an oath to protect us is some scary shit.
And that’s the point. It takes riots happening on most of our front doors to either empathize, understand or remotely feel what many in the great american underclass go through (I am of coarse not saying that about you specifically Mr Simon). What does it say about us as an american society or experiment or however you want to classify it when the plight of one group–a severed spine…SEVERED FUCKING SPINE–during an otherwise routine encounter with the cops, can only be equaled to when the plight of another groups means riots are relatively too close for comfort. AGAIN, there is NO, i repeat, NO justification for rioting and as i pointed out in my previous letter, here in 2015 peaceful marching makes little sense if any at all. BUt lets frame this issue the proper way: we live in a society where it takes damn near a war in the streets for some people to feel and understand what other people endure on a day to day basis.
“On a live feed, I just watched a policewoman carried to an ambulance after being struck down.”
“Won’t somebody think of the Cops!” – A Rich White Liberal
You’re good with labels. You’ll go far in the American political firmament. It was made for you.
I see people.
“I see people”
Only if they’re wearing a uniform it seems.
It’s “whose side are you on time” now David. No more of this liberal all-things to all-people shit. Time to nail your colours to the mast.
My colors are up. They fly for something better than a pirate ship looking to rake a liquor store on North Avenue. Sorry.
The Day of the Rope is coming, you whiny little faggot. Your kike friend Ned is correct; it is in fact “whose side are you on time,” and there is nothing you can do that will ever cleanse you of your guilt. “Multiculturalism” and “diversity” were always destined to end in rivers of blood. Neither side will have you, because you are at heart a despicable, low-testosterone traitor with the wrong color skin.
I hope you live to see your family raped and murdered like the boers you and your ilk are successfully ethnically cleansing from their homeland. Don’t expect us RethugliKKKans to go down quite so easily. The niggers know not to try this shit in Texas. We wouldn’t have enough body bags to deal with the result.
When friends like Max here assail from one side while ideologues on the left wail about my unreasoned reluctance to embrace the political virtues of rioting, I kinda feel as though I landed it. But maybe that’s just me.
You probably think you can reason with the likes of Max, don’t you David?
“if you can’t convince a fascist, then acquaint his head with the pavement”
Racism of the type typified by Max, and which is prevelant in all American communities, is not going to yield to logic or reason, it will take force. Not “moral force” but physical force.
Let go of your perverse lust for violence, Mr. Ludd. I’m beginning to think I’m actually dealing with a sociopath.
Max just marginalized himself to the point where no one needs to kick his ass. He’s going to spend the rest of his life at the fringe of American life nursing racial grudges that constrict his own choices and future. In this forum, he made an ass out of himself in a singular post.
You imagine that he needs an asskicking for his ignorance? Really? You kind of like violence, huh?
And there the tip that Ned Ludd is Not From Around Here, and just trying to stir things up. Americans spell it “colors.”
Don’t you have an election in Britain you could be commenting about?
Maybe he is Russell Brand?
What we need is less people lumping all folks together as one amorphous dehumanizing group. Implying that cops don’t deserve respect simply because they are cops is ridiculous.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
“Won’t somebody think of the Cops!” – A Rich White Liberal
Won’t somebody think of what’s going to happen when the cops come back with automatic weapons and create a modern day Jallianwala Bagh massacre…. while millions of Americans rush to their computers to post pictures of the few people looting to cheer the murderers on.
I agree with everything you wrote and feel your pain. There once was a time when reformers could release a little pressure to keep the entire system from exploding. Not any more.
I understand and share your belief in non-violent protest.
At the same time, do you really believe we must accept the stance that a few reprehensible actions should discredit the cause at large? If our society requires the victims of a racist and oppressive system to voice their unrest non-violently to a man is there much hope in changing the status quo?
As an aside: I understand your position on supporting journalism as a trade. How can I send you money for more frequent thoughts on these issues? Maybe support a grant for the Sun to hire an extra reporter? (Or at least remove the broomstick from someone’s ass so they don’t have to sweep the floor at the same time).
“At the level of individuals, violence is a cleansing force.” -Frantz Fanon
Outrage is an inappropriate response when a disenfranchised community–under the weight of a lifetime of violent oppression–turns to violence to redeem its longstanding suffering. I prefer understanding.
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”~ Mahatma Gandhi
Well said, sir. I’m interested in your further observations on this situation as well.
In the past, have you not passively encouraged those with dissent on their mind to “throw a brick?” Whether you meant it literally or figuratively; whether you were referring to police misconduct or economic policy; didn’t you suggest this activity was becoming inevitable?
Come on, Brendan. You can read me more carefully than that.
I have said that the brick was there, at the end, and if we don’t address these inequalities in our society then the brick would be inevitable. I’ve even marveled at the restraint of those who inhabit the other America and who have not yet yielded to the brick. I have never in my life encouraged anyone to any violence. You slander me to say so here.
David’s response is consistent with what he’s said in the past. For confirmation of what David has said in the past about this, play starting at 24 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNttT7hDKsk
If you’re going to judge, watch the entire speech first. That’s the problem today, everyone reads a few sentences in a 30min speech!