Drug War

Baltimore

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.

Additional Notes:

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.

862 Comments

  • 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.

  • Dear David,

    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

    Philip S
    Melbourne, Australia

    • 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.

  • 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.

              • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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.

      • Thank you!
        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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • “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.

    “Negroes,
    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.

    • 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

      • 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

    • “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.

  • 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.