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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Can everybody on this forum practice one thing tonight. Love, compassion and understanding? Please, I’m so sick of all this shit. It really doesn’t need to be this way.
Nothing but respect for you, but I feel this post is wrongheaded. I happened to be coming out of the Enoch Pratt yesterday as a group of so-called “violent rioters” were coming down Cathedral St. They were, at most, 13 or 14 years old. They were using their t-shirts as make-shift tear gas masks and they were clearly scared while attempting to put on brave faces. I (a middle aged white lady) gave them the peace sign and almost every one of them bumped my fist. But they were scared and you could see it in their eyes. I begged them to be safe and careful and I’m praying they made it through the night.
These are kids who see no future for themselves and why should they?
There’s something seriously wrong with a city that can muster riot gear teams, helicopters, a curfew, the National Guard etc etc in 10 minutes but over the course of several hours could not be bothered to find a fucking seat belt or a phone to call 911 for Freddie Gray. This isn’t on the citizens and it certainly isn’t on the frightened children who were in the streets yesterday bc they figure they’re gonna die at the hands of police pretty soon one way or another — whether they’re running towards them or running away.
I hope you come up with something better and more meaningful to say about this. Baltimore was and is counting on you.
First things first.
First things first is keeping kids from getting shot by a trigger happy police force that’s been running roughshod over its populace for decades in my book. I’d have asked where their parents were but let’s face it David, they’re probably dead or in jail already.
If all of them were as trigger-happy as advertised, there should be a lot of dead people tonight, but the coverage so far doesn’t indicate the death of a single protestor, rioter or looter. Clearly, the origin of this conflict is the brutal treatment of a young man in custody, and clearly there is a pattern of police brutality that extends over several recent years of beatings and city settlements.
There is much to address in the BPD. And Freddie Gray is the road to it.
But given what happened today and tonight in Baltimore, the body count from this riot doesn’t correspond to your claim of a department looking to murder people. At least in the present moment.
Their restraint in this moment — in THIS particular & singular moment, with the national media on them (finally), a DOJ investigation freshly underway (finally), and a lot of politicians’ careers on the line (anybody heard anything about Martin O’Malley’s presidential bid lately? No? I didn’t think so) — is indeed somewhat admirable.
It’s just too bad that they didn’t see fit to practice that restraint or encode it in policy anytime in what, the last 50 years or we wouldn’t be here in the first place.
And you cannot honestly tell me, after all you’ve witnessed, that if you saw a bunch of middle schoolers busting out the windows of a cop car that you wouldn’t be at least a little concerned about the outcome.
On a lot of levels, I’d be concerned.
I know I was.
Oh, and if anyone doubts my veracity on the age of these protestors, ask the police at the Enoch Pratt central library. If they’re not lying then they will have to co-sign.
[…] http://davidsimon.com/baltimore/ […]
[…] avoir été arrêté par la police, le créateur de la série The Wire, David Simon, a publié un post de blog pour demander aux émeutiers de cesser la violence. Plus tôt dans la journée, la famille de […]
I suppose that all depends on why you can’t effect change without the brick doesn’t it?
Yeah thats why its working so well for the Palestinians.
How is it working out for the Israelis?
It is the people with power we hold as morally responsible to end violence. Not the ones who are victimized by them.
Too glib by half. The Israelis do indeed need to own their intransigence and their unwillingness to empower the Palestinian authority. But the critique of the Palestinian cause for much of the last sixty years is straight-up true: If the Palestinian cause had manufactured some version of a Mandela, a King, a Gandhi or even a Michael Collins — someone capable of using non-violence, compromise and moral suasion to truly challenge the Israeli policies where they are most vulnerable, there would by now be a Palestinian state on the West Bank.
Michael Collins wanted peace, but he was the pioneer of guerilla warfare – not exactly a non-violent man.
There are many reasons the Palestinians haven’t produced a statesman along those lines, and they can’t be blamed for all of them. Mandela and Gandhi were born to prosperous families. Even Collins was able to get a job working with the Royal Mail in London, where he learned the skills to fund the War of Independence. It’s often forgotten that decades ago, it was the Israelis that were cannily discrediting moderate Palestinian voices, and giving oxygen to the extremists they knew how to handle. Repeatedly, they have made winners of Hamas, and they know what the results of that are.
Life in the open-air prison of Gaza, which is being razed every few years now, is not conducive to the production of charismatic political leaders. I’d guess that a DeValera is more likely: an American-born Palestinian who identifies with the cause.
I loathe Netanyahu and the marginalization and humiliation of Abbas as a policy, make no mistake. The Israelis are as much an impediment to peace as the Palestinians presently. Their use of Hamas as a whipping boy in Gaza to disempower Abbas is as cynical as it is effective. But in the long window of histor since 1948, you have to bend over backwards to explain that the Israelis are fully to blame for the empty wasteland of Palestinian leadership. Here’s a couple equivocations in that paragraph you just penned: The Palestinian people in 1948 were among the most literate and prosperous in the Middle East and until 1967, they controlled their real estate on the West Bank and Gaza, both. And still, they did not achieve a leader who could come to terms with the idea that the Jewish state was going to exist and that a two-state solution required coexistence and half a loaf for both sides. Not. A. Single. One. The Israelis couldn’t achieve such unanimity on their own; but the internal marginalization and assassination of any Palestinian openly contemplating a peace and a two-state solution with the Zionist entity — you could not even use the name of Israel — sure could.
It doesn’t exactly honor the Palestinian people to so infantilize them that you blame the Israelis for managing their entire political leadership over the last 70 or so years.
I have little to object to in your comment, apart from your reading into my post of opinions I’d never hold. I have no objection to Israel. I certainly don’t blame the Israelis for poor Palestinian leadership, which clearly exists. But neither do I blame the great mass of those currently eking out a living in Palestine for the decisions of the few among them, for the extremism of Hamas, and for the failures of Fatah.
My point is this: I would be wary of pointing to a mass of people in a desperate situation caused by previous generations, and wondering why they can’t get their shit together.
I don’t think that’s what you’re doing, for what it’s worth. But that is the point I make, rather than those you may have inferred.
I see we agree for the most part, and I don’t blame a mass of people for the desperate situation — certainly as Israeli leadership has exacerbated that situation, I don’t blame either side exclusively. But self-determination is exactly what it sounds like. The Palestinians have had 70 years to achieve a leader who could come to terms with the inevitability of a two-state reality. Mr. Abbas represents the first actual opportunity since 1948.
That the Israelis have so misused him is to their shame, to be sure.
Keep in mind that Collins was eventually assassinated by his own side for no other reason then signing a peace agreement with the British Government. He even famously stated, a quote you can find some where if you look for it – I can not site it now and I am sure I will butcher- that by signing the the Anglo-Irish treaty that he was more or less signing his own death warrant.
Collins used brutal tactics to achieve his ends, but he also realized that these tactics need to have a goal. They need to be directed towards a greater effort that will bring about the change you want, and not just spiral into a never ending conflict that passes from one generation to the next.
His tactics were also precise. He targeted informers and black-and-tan commanders. Military targets explicitly.
Far be it from him to walk a suicide bomber on a Dublin bus, or launch rockets randomly into Ulster, or kidnap and kill Protestant teenagers hitch-hiking in Connaught. And then yes, when the time came for peace, he took half the loaf from Churchill at the cost of his own life. That man was a nationalist, a hero, a warrior and ultimately, a peacemaker. And he paid the price for it.
The mirror of that is if the Israeli state had ever had a statesman of Mandela’s stature they would not have headed down the road of racism, intolerance, apartheid and war crimes
Well, they had Rabin, who the Jewish extremists — no better than any other fascists — managed to murder. And they had Barack, whose offer of Palisteanian statehood on the West Bank and Gaza, based on 1967 borders with some land exchanges was met with Arafat’s call for the second intifadah, so that’s a start. Apartheid is entirely hyperbolic given the fact that the Arab-Israeli political parties are the third largest block in the parliament and Arab-Israeli citizens carry the same civil rights as Jewish Israelis. I don’t recall the ANC being given seats in Pretoria or black South Africans having any civil liberties at all. So right away, you’ve embarrassed yourself.
Racism and intolerance? Yes, I think too many Israelis, in the 70-year run up to this moment, have lost sight of the humanity of their Arab neighbors. The reverse is also quite apparent, as well. I can certainly blame all parties for dehumanizing each other nicely.
The Palestinian cause would have to be universally comprised of Gandhis, Kings and Mandelas to have any chance at Israeli approval of any two-state solution. Forget about the 1967 borders.
The same standard is being applied to Ferguson and Baltimore protesters. As you say, one thrown brick “risks losing this moment for all of us.” That’s a pretty high standard for people who are justifiably irate and more than a little frustrated and impatient with the peaceful means of seeking a long overdue transformation.
You are historically wrong. The Israelis offered two states under the 1967 borders with land swaps under Ehud Barak. Offered it openly and directly, and not to a Palestinian Mandela or Gandhi. They offered it to Arafat. They got not merely a simple no, but the entire second intifadah in reply.
Bone up on the history, man. There’s a lot of it.
I was basing my observation on recent history, man. There’s a lot of that, too.
Netanyahu won the election with a last-minute promise to reject any two-state solution because he said it would give attack grounds to extremists and present an existential threat to Israel.
So I guess you could say we’re both wrong. As it stands, Israel would not accept any two-state solution even if Gandhi were leading a Palestinian cause comprised of four million Mandelas.
By comparison, Israel’s offer under Barak was very generous, but I wouldn’t go so far to say it offered the 1967 borders. It wouldn’t have given up sovereignty over the ever-expanding larger settlements, the Jordan Valley and nearly all of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. It offered something like 10-to-1 land swaps for West Bank territory and the right to return for a very limited number of Palestinian refugees.
And not to pick nits, but I’m pretty sure there was another event that sparked the second intifada.
I am in agreement with you regarding these recent years. The Israeli performance is untenable in every sense. And Netanyahu’s currying of the Israeli right to maintain his office was vile.
Don’t agree with you on your view of Israeli bargaining chips. I said the core of the offer was the ’67 borders. Yes, there were land swaps. Yes, the right to return is a non-starter and rightly so. That one has to fall if a two-state solution is ever going to be viable.
Let me sum it up this way. For years after 1948, Jewish liberals used to say — looking at Arab and Palestinian leaders from the Mufti, to Nasser, to Arafat — that the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. There was fundamental truth in the claim when no one dared offer any possibility of recognition of the Jewish state and when the constant refrain from Arab heads of state was that the Jews would be driven into the sea in the next conflict. But now, a Jewish liberal can be defined sadly as someone who is a little too quiet about Israeli behavior, and it is more honest to say that now, it is the Israelis, with the ready help of Hamas, who never miss a chance for peace, or for marginalizing and humiliating Abbas and the PA.
I know. I read that and some other stuff as well. And I have some hope, especially on the West Bank. To God’s ear, I say. Sooner, rather than later.
Can you suggest any starting places for reading material? I’m interested but have no idea where to start.
I think you should bone up on history David, particularly your gross misrepresentation of the events leading to the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
“The primary innovation of Barak’s new plan is that the US-Israeli demands are to be imposed by direct force instead of coercive diplomacy, and in a harsher form, to punish the victims who refused to concede politely. The outlines are in basic accord with policies established informally in 1968 (the Allon Plan), and variants that have been proposed since by both political groupings (the Sharon Plan, the Labor government plans, and others). It is important to recall that the policies have not only been proposed, but implemented, with the support of the US. That support has been decisive since 1971, when Washington abandoned the basic diplomatic framework that it had initiated (UN Security Council Resolution 242), then pursued its unilateral rejection of Palestinian rights in the years that followed, culminating in the Oslo process. Since all of this has been effectively vetoed from history in the US, it takes a little work to discover the essential facts. They are not controversial, only evaded.” Noam Chomsky – http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/51a/092.html
A lot of writing to back up years before the singular moment when the ’67 borders were the core of Barak’s offer and half a loaf was not nearly enough.
Arafat walked from that moment, not the Israelis. And as the intifadah got underway, the moderate wing in Israeli politics was then doomed. You’d do better highlighting Netanyahu’s cynical performance in more recent years; Barak wanted a partner for peace. Instead, he got the mediocrity that was Arafat and a ticket to a no-confidence vote when the buses started blowing up. Cherry-picking your way back to 1968 won’t make that particular moment disappear. Sorry.
Ahh yes. I have heard this one before. It is the slaves fault that they have no peaceful leaders.
More sloganeering when a fact or two might suffice.
Between 1948 and 1967, to whom were the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza slaves? The Jews? They Israelis had no control over that real estate or its population. None. Zero. The Arab leadership was of its own creation, and the Palestinian leadership as well. And not a Michael Collins or Lech Walesa emerged.
Ah yes, we have heard this one before: It’s the Jews fault. Always and forever.
Yes. It is Israel’s fault, now, and always and forever. It is always the fault of the oppressor and never the fault of the oppressed. Its why we don’t tell rape victims that maybe they should just lay and take it and not fight because things might get worse. Matter of scale here but the principle is the same. Victims are not to blame for fighting back nor are they to blame for being victims.
Hiding behind the fact that no peaceful leader emerged for Palestine after 1948 is a ruse. Palestine rule didn’t exist prior to 1948. The British controlled the area prior to the partition plan and Zionist terrorism had forced the issue to drive Palestinians from their homes. Of course they fought. And after what would you suggest they do? Go gently into that good night?
More specifically Israel is unwilling to come to a solution which does not include apartheid and Israel can act unilaterally if they so choose. Palestinians aren’t a part of that political discussion, its between Israel’s liberals and Israel’s hawks and the liberals are losing. Palestinians do not control the settlements they do not control the borders they have no police force, no garbage collectors, no power plants. When they attempt to create them they are labeled as terrorists and bombed. As such, Israel is at fault. And they will forever be at fault until they stop oppressing.
Similarly in the United States, the United States is at fault, now and forever, for the systematic oppression of black people. Slavery was not the fault of the slaves it was the fault of the United States in allowing it. Freddy Greys death is not the fault of Baltimore’s black community it is the fault of the police officers for murdering him, the police force for allowing the systematic brutality to continue, the city for not reigning in the police force, and the United States polity in general for accepting and not changing the fact that we systematically utilize the power of the state to brutalize and murder unarmed black people.
And yet here you are, telling black people its their fault for being the victim and having the audacity to fight back. And its disgusting
And Israel is ever the oppressor? In 1947, after the partition vote? In 1973, on Yom Kippur? Really.
One side accepted partition and the other cried for war. The nakba and Israeli independence resulted. Given the resulting Jewish state, what should be done with the Jews and their state? Say the words aloud.
I know I believe in the Palestinian right of self-determination and fully support an independent Palestine. But what of the Jews? Do you believe in a two-state solution? Or do you think the Jews are going to dissolve their 70-year state and emigrate from their historical sliver of the Levant out into a world in which the great, civilized nations have long competed with each other to murder them en masse for the last couple thousand years? If you have possession over judgment day, what is the outcome? Explain the future if it were at your command. Be specific. This should be interesting.
As to your assessments of what I have said or not said, dishonest equivocations make for an easy argument. Only a straw man would claim that I told anyone it is their fault for being the victim and having the audacity to fight back. I said I stand with the protestors practicing civil disobedience and I blame those who loot and burn in their name, and in Mr. Gray’s name, with squandering a moment of great moral authority. Your reductive mangling is, as you would put, disgusting. Transparent, as well.
[…] Simon’s stance is the same following Freddie Gray’s death. He strongly criticized the violent reaction on his blog. […]
I’m going to say this one more time, then leave it alone.
I think far, far too many young people hear the phrase “ no peace no justice” and think “its time to get my tough guy act on”
I was once a wanna be tough guy. David claims to never have heard the call of the wild. I don’t believe him. I think all young men, no matter how nerdy, have a wanna-be tough guy streak.
What do you think these young men hear when they hear that phrase? “Go forth and peacefully protest”? No way. That’s not how they hear it.
I’m not saying that the police force doesn’t need to reform. It does. Badly.
But we also need rich, well dressed, middle aged men, to stop standing up and yelling “no peace no justice” to young impressionable, emotional audiences. That’s not Gandhi’s message. It’s not Dr. King’s message.
It’s just the wrong message.
Rioters caused millions of dollars in damage to my city in 2001 following the all-too-familiar story of the police shooting of an unarmed young black man. The people who bore the brunt of the damage were the people who also bear the brunt of police misconduct. I don’t see how anyone, anywhere, can claim that this is a good reaction. It harms the very community it claims to assist and it turns the people on the outside looking in against a just cause.
People can blame the media all they want for focusing on the violence, but the fact is that there wouldn’t be anything to show without the existence of rioters.
And people claiming in these posts that this is how the poor get a voice are out of touch. This is how the poor get poorer. Those rioters don’t speak for the downtrodden any more than I speak for “the whites.”
Some real reform did eventually come to our town too, but not because of the riots. National civil rights leaders were involved. Negotiations happened. And there was an extremely effective boycott that forces our city’s hand.
“The people who bore the brunt of the damage were the people who also bear the brunt of police misconduct.”
This cannot be repeated enough.
I see a lot of people arguing on here that these riots are going to have an effect, either positive or negative, on the outcome of the issue at hand: namely the systemic violence perpetrated against blacks by law enforcement officials. I disagree with both sides. I don’t think it’s going to matter either way. It doesn’t change anyone’s mind on either side of things. It won’t even be remembered unless it leads to sustained violent protest throughout the country for an extended period. Otherwise, it’s just last week’s news and in a month we’re too busy paying attention to something else to remember it. This story isn’t new and it isn’t shocking. It’s just the same old cycle that we already know about and everyone already has their trite responses and historical arguments to back up whichever side they’re on.
But when I say it won’t matter, I’m only talking in terms of a larger national debate. It’s going to matter very much to the people living in Baltimore. It’s going to matter very much to the people whose houses are being burned. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s net result negative. It does nothing to advance a cause and it fucks over people who are not even remotely the source of the problem.
The people who are losing their houses right now certainly don’t deserve it. Instead of sitting at our computers having a lively debate which will convince no one of anything they didn’t believe before, maybe we can come up with some ideas of how to help the area rebuild? Obviously that’s not going to solve the larger issue at hand re: police violence against blacks, but even if the rioters stop looting and burning and whatever else they’re doing right this very instant, those houses are still going to be burned and those people are still going to not have a home.
I’m not trying to imply here that this is going to turn a negative into a positive, though. If your street got burned down, people trying to help you rebuild it doesn’t erase the trauma of having your street burned down. But it might suck less than not having the means to rebuild it and having everyone be super interested in how it got burned and then completely indifferent to what happened afterward.
[…] Simon’s stance is the same following Freddie Gray’s death. He strongly criticized the violent reaction on his blog. […]
[…] Here is the powerful plea posted on Simon’s blog: […]
I don’t want it to be so, but maybe it’s time to revisit Segregation.
There was an interesting article in Slate magazine a year or two ago that suggested that black people in the 50’s & 60’s civil rights era never wanted Integration, which was a goal imposed on them by white liberals. All they really wanted was Jim Crow laws abolished + voting rights + equal dollars-per-public-school-pupil.
You fucking revisit it.
I don’t want to live around white people with opinions like the one you just offered.
Drysdale raised a possibility–he didn’t offer a firm opinion. If you want to foreclose the possibility you should work on your own attitude and hypersensitivity. Yours is the sort of reaction that indicates weakness and something to hide.
Nothing to hide. Mr. Drysdale’s suggestion is entirely worthy of human contempt. Race is the great American pathology, and Mr. Drysdale, by even contemplating an American apartheid, announces that he is already suffering an acute infection.
If there’s a thing you can’t contemplate, you’re obviously nearer to pathology than your target. And if you’re depicting willingness to contemplate *as* pathology? Say hello to Mr. Orwell.
I can contemplate a lot of things that I nonetheless hold in absolute contempt.
Racial segregation, the clap, and the unlimited private financing of elections are all in the category of things that I can not only contemplate, but revile — all in the same instant. No great leap of imagination is required.
That’s a valid viewpoint, no question, but–even acknowledging your accomplishments to date–I bet you’ll put more balls in play for your team if you don’t grip the bat so tightly. A lot of people see more in overall white liberal reaction than simple revulsion against racial bigotry, and they obviously aren’t hallucinating.
You’re trying too hard and overreacted, and it’s counter-productive. If the best you can offer the Drysdales of the world is bad bad bad, wrong wrong wrong, you’ll end up driving more people towards serious consideration of segregation. His comment was worth more than what you credited.
But it’s bad. And wrong. And a step back into the gutter for humankind.
Perhaps, Mr. McLaren, I’m not overreacting at all. Perhaps I’m just being empirical about a miserable little idea.
Point being, if it’s so obviously bad and wrong, then you wouldn’t need to work so hard to shut it down. And if you have to work that hard to shut it down, then it’s not so obvious, and that raises questions in the minds of the audience members.
What makes you think I’m trying hard?
I have no interest in discussing this. Not because I am desperate not to discuss it. But because I think it’s a vile, ignorant notion that simply goes nowhere. That’s just what I think. And I’d rather address other arguments that have real merit in my opinion.
Well, you’re certainly trying hard right now, to not just acknowledge the plaining meaning of my comment–you came off as try-hard, it’s a crap rhetorical reaction, and it will do the opposite of help, is all.
It’s a crap inquiry. This thread is officially useless.
I don’t care that you think it deserves a better answer. It doesn’t.
My blog, my opinion. Better stuff to argue, by far.
I think the “discussion” about segregation completely misses the point. While watching the cable news coverage last night, I saw several West-siders complaining about the police harassing them on the way to work-throwing them up against walls during raids, etc. Most complained that they understood why the police did it, but also noted they understood and sympathized with the rage many protesters feel. The problem is that most cities are still segregated. In West Baltimore, my strong suspicion is that the majority of the complaints police get are about number one males. If the entire population of a segment of the city are black, then it’s understandable that the police are going to inconvenience many law abiding black men. Redlining is a major part of the problem. De jure segregation would exacerbate, not alleviate, the problem.
I think you may have misunderstood what he’s saying…or maybe i have. Integration was not necessarily the goal–equality was, which is a different thing altogether. The hard, hard work of integration has always been performed by America’s Black community: it suffered hostility, cross-burnings, anger, white flight, –and more. To what purpose? Is integration the same as equality? It isn’t Black people’s job to move into white neighborhoods and endure harsh treatment in order to teach white people that, hey, we’re actually just like you, with dreams for our kids and everything! Ask around: Black scholars and the guy on the corner may well tell you that integration hurt the Black community in ways both large and small; my 14 years of teaching at two HBCU’s has shown me firsthand what happened to Howard and other Black colleges once integration (which is always only partial, as white people have no real desire for full-scale integration) came along. All I’m saying is, ask around–and read up on ways that integration actually hurt the Black community:you might be surprised.
Thurgood Marshall made as eloquent an argument as can be found that segregation was a destructive force in the lives of both white and black Americans, and that the notion of separate but equal, in actual political practice, was a comprehensive lie. I think he was right.
Segregation no more guarantees equality than integration. But it does tear at the fabric and dignity of any society that attempts to implement it.
Stop being a self loathing white leftist. Mr Simon, 65 percent black Baltimore is no longer America: it’s Africa in America, where the skyscrapers long ago erected by white men believing in a brighter future now stand to mock the deteriorating conditions of a city completely controlled by blacks.
You wake up to broken-down buildings because blacks fail to maintain the buildings/homes whites abandoned because of black crime; community centers go away because the 65 percent black city lacks the tax base to sustain them; no one takes away any fathers, with black males possessing free will to either leave a pregnant woman or commit a crime that puts them in jail; traffic lights don’t work because no funds our available for the Department of Transportation because of the 65 percent black city lacks the tax base to fund it; and the houses are crumbling and falling down because they were built to shelter white people, not the descendants of obsolete farm equipment from the south whose criminality and inability to assimilate to western civilization drove whites to rebuild the city in the suburbs.
With white people abandoning the city their ancestors built, and building new, thriving communities in Baltimore County, why couldn’t individual black people collectively create a community where CVS would be begging to invest in, instead of the black leadership of the city begging CVS to “pretty please” open up a store…? Who would have thought a baseball game could be delayed or cancelled because of not only inclement weather, but the inability of black elected officials to control a black population rioting/looting/burning a 65 percent black city? This is the state of an “American” city in 2015, one where the almost entirely black government has failed in its duty to protect private property and the general welfare of its tax-producing citizens, instead turning the city over to black rioters (“kids,” as the black Baltimore Police Commissioner dubbed them) who only needed “space to destroy.”
And those black kids destroying private property and ensuring avenues of wealth creation are forever closed with the tightening of the Visible Black Hand of Economics on the city have the black Baltimore City Council President on their side too. Individual black people collectively broke their promise to maintain white civilization (a city they took over because of high levels of black violence created the necessity of white flight) in Baltimore, with tens of thousands of black people possessing the exact same promise and potential as Freddie Gray.
Freddie Gray should never have been born, his mother a drug addicted, welfare queen incapable of balancing a checkbook, let alone raising a child.
But he was born… and now the tyranny of #BlackLivesMatter continues. A complete and utter thug, the absolute worst of the black community, is now championed as the latest cause and hero of the black experience in America.
Just remember this: once you have experienced blacks, you’ll understand why San Francisco is working overtime to price blacks out of the city.
The American Dream is over; we are now in the early stage of the American Nightmare.
We’re certainly living your nightmare. The rest of us are rather enjoying that fact.
I agree with David Simon when he says, “you fucking revisit it.” But, I’ll also say that was you say is simply untrue. There have been roughly two traditions in African American protest. One, which gained traction with Booker T. Washington and was later picked up to some extent by the Black Power movement, did not see a lot to be gained by joining white society. That’s different than saying “let’s keep segregation.” The real message there was, and is, “we’ve got to do it for ourselves. Forget about white people.” The second tradition, which roughly started with W.E.B DuBois an was later picked up by Civil Rights activists, is more popular. The message that comes from this tradition is that African Americans need equal rights under the law and as long as there is segregation that’s not going to happen.
If Baltimore wasn’t already economically & geographically segregated this wouldn’t be happening.
I can’t believe an adult would seriously offer this up as a viable ‘solution’.
Aside from any other moral or ethical objection to segregation, there’s also the fact that it just didn’t work for blacks. Every time a black community actually managed to build something for itself, paranoid whites found an excuse to burn it down. During the Tulsa Riots, white guys with airplanes and dynamite bombed what had been called “Black Wall Street” out of existence.
No need to revisit segregation, it never really ended. Separate and unequal still exists in widespread practice even though it’s been erased from the law books. Google ‘white flight’, or ‘disparate impact in housing’. Read some Michelle Alexander, or Ta-Nehisi Coates. Yes, yes, I know, things have improved since my parents couldn’t try on shoes, or attended certain schools, or vote. But nowhere near enough, and the drug war, housing discrimination, and other damaging social policies have played a role in that.
Segregation is bad news; that’s the lesson everywhere it’s been tried. It may comfort people in the short term to live apart but in the fullness of time, given what a society must endure together, it’s bound to lead to mutual resentment, then blame, then atrocities.
[…] “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,” he wrote on his blog. […]
What these misguided young people do not grasp is that the violence and rioting will backfire terribly. Businesses won’t return, buildings won’t be rebuilt, everyone’s quality of life will suffer even more than it ordinarily does. Everything will be that much worse in the aftermath. The folks who are still going to be stuck living there will be the ones who pay the price.
That said, when is this country going to address police brutality? It keeps happening, everyone gets angry, everyone points fingers, nothing happens and then it happens again and again and again. When does the nation stand up and say NO, we don’t care about “the job” or the union, you CANNOT murder and abuse people with impunity EVER because we don’t do that here?
I was at the Ferguson protests, and I tend to agree that criminality solves nothing. But I also understand the rage. The Occupy movement was largely peaceful and accomplished very little, if anything. At this point, what tactic works? A certain portion of the country won’t listen no matter how level-headed or reasoned an argument a person makes, so what’s to do? I don’t say this to be snarky or smug, I honestly don’t know.
The Occupy movement also didn’t have any coherent arguments about anything. That might be why it didn’t accomplish much.
I’m a big fan of The Wire. I always find it interesting the parallels between the show and real-life. To me this is nothing more than Omar Little tearing through the city trying to get Marlo’s attention. Peaceful protests are ideal in theory, but lack “teeth”. If police are being abusive and unjust towards a particular group, a peaceful protest does not serve as a signifigant deterrent. I think the response has been so grand, in part, because of the national narrative of police brutality and a kind of “devil may care” response by the justice system.
The police were being rather brutal on the bridge at Selma, too. Nonviolent protest and astonishing discipline gave us the Voting Rights Act, along with an iconic and permanent hold on our national conscience.
Let’s see what looting Mondawmin Mall and torching a senior center site get us.
And how much of dealing with MLK came about because Malcom X was the alternative and scared the shit out of people?
Did Malcolm loot liquor stores or set fire to senior center sites? I missed that part of his narrative.
Yes. Riots and looting and violence were commonplace during the civil rights struggle. It may not have been Malcom specifically but it certainly happened.
MLK did not make his “riots are the language of the unheard” because no one was rioting.
That’s certainly true. And the threat of long hot summers in American cities certainly led some moderates to more reasoned reconciliation with the racial and social realities in this country. It also led many more people to abandon the cities entirely. How did that hypersegregation work us as a nation? Did it make Baltimore better, or worse? Detroit? St. Louis?
For every American who you think was driven into the arms of the civil rights movement by the fear of racial unrest, I believe there were half a dozen who were brought there by the moral force of the movement itself, and by the movement’s consistent embrace of non-violence amid so much white brutality. And further, for every American who you think was scared into the arms of the civil rights movement, I’ll wager there were two who were scared into racial and political alienation by racial fears.
That shit is self-defeating. And thinking that much of white America is going to re-calculate itself because young black men in Baltimore are displaying their desperation in spasms of televised violence is beyond naive. Sorry.
Maybe. Maybe not. But i am not going to tell black people that they’re unheard and oppressed because of their moral failings to sit and take beatings and murders with more aplomb.
That is what your piece says to me when you tell people to go home “you’re not helping”.
Either way I know of no social movement of any scale which was effected entirely without violence. We, as society, always seem to go back over the past with a fine toothed comb and downplay the violence and play up all the actions that allow the status quo to continue. Maybe that is coincidence, maybe it’s statematic. But sure as shit it happens.
And what grounds do we, as society, have to criticize anyway? We never had it half as bad as black people have it today and we fomented and enacted open war against the rightful government. And after that we are supposed to condemn the truly oppressed for some rioting?
I’m telling anyone and everyone with the bricks to go home. I was explicit.
They are not helping.
The ones ready to take to the streets to protest the death of Freddie Gray and the policies and culture that led to his death. I want them in the street in great numbers. They are essential. In fact, I want them to be known as protesters, dissenters. I don’t want them to be slurred as rioters or thugs. As is now the inevitable result of today and tonight in Baltimore.
Just so long as you realize what you’re saying when you say that.
MLK shared your scepticism about the political utility of rioting, but he was clear that to denounce the rioters without simultaneously denouncing the conditions that cause people to riot was “morally irresponsible.” I did not see anything in your post denouncing structural racism, inequality, imperialism or other things that MLK always made sure to denounce before speaking out against riots.
It was a brief post, but even so, you apparently read past the sentences about effecting change, transformative and redemptive moments for our society, and finding meaning in a police-custody death that I explicitly declared senseless even before anyone attempts to adjudicate same. None of that caught your eye because you didn’t want it to, apparently.
But indeed, I’ve been working on something longer and was in the heart of it when the first fire trucks went down the street. What part of “first things first” did you also not understand?
If Selma happened today, I’m not sure we’d have the attention span to stick with the story until everyone arrived at Montgomery. How will the MLK of our decade raise his calm steady voice above the din? Here’s hoping we get to find out sooner rather than later.
I do worry about that too.
Sadly, with a Twitter and Instagram account.
As a side note about Mondawmin Mall I was watching the coverage on CNN with Erin Burnett’s Out Front. She repeated over and over that Mondawmin Mall was just built to revitalize the West Baltimore neighborhood “and now it’s being looted.” I grew up just up Liberty Heights Ave and Mondawmin’s been there what, sixty years? Rouse development built it when I was a baby.
My point is how can we trust the media reporting if they can’t get basic facts straight? The clear inference to the rest of the unknowing nation was that the rioters were looting this new structure that had just put up. Now this was true with the fairly new CVS store at Penn and North but not so with Mondawmin.
Whatever the age, it is true that Mondawmin represented one of the first major retail developments in Baltimore that had significant African-American ownership and participation. It’s there because Little Willie Adams and Henry Parks and others dreamed it, and wanted a mall for Baltimore city that would be an urban answer to those of the suburbs. That’s the history.
The US cops have to be brutal, because the people they are up against are complete morons. If I was a cop in Baltimore, I would beat the snot out of everyone I met in those riots, loudmouth punks breaking their own city, morons. So I think the police needs to be more brutal to end this, send a signal to those retarded monkeys, if you behave like this you will pay.
I thank Christ you are not a cop in Baltimore, and I grieve for the fact that there are some number like you who are.
Ah, there we go. You didn’t have to say it for everyone to know you were thinking it, but thanks for being completely obvious in your hatred.
We met briefly when I worked for you in Yonkers this winter and I know you know these streets better then anyone. But, can we account for the professional rabble rousers that don’t want to give peace a chance. They ruined it for Ferguson and now they will do the same for Baltimore. Peace is being held hostage by those that don’t want change in the status quo
Just posting a youtube link to a live feed from vice news. They are live in Baltimore. Thought it would give individuals that aren’t directly from Baltimore a chance to view different perspectives of people on the ground.
If it doesn’t work, just type in vice news on youtube.
Wow. You’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Big fan of The Wire. Provides an insight into the complexities associated with urban decay, poverty, and drugs in modern cities.
I don’t know if abstining from violent disobediance is the way to go. Change will happen if those in power are prepared to listen and be seen to be prepared to listen. It would not seem to be the case presently.
One change that I think is needed is dropping the use of the metaphor of war to describe the drug problem in America. A war has enemies, occupying forces, death etc, not civilians, neighbourhoods, etc.
I just read an article were certain gangs were forming an alliance to target police – the enemy in this war against African-Americans.
BTW, the fourth series was a standout with the kids that drove it.
[…] Simon’s stance is the same following Freddie Gray’s death. He strongly criticized the violent reaction on his blog. […]
Same old nonsense about behaving for a better tomorrow that is not coming. “Go home” and wait for Hope and Change 2.0.
No. Out with the old and in with the new. Nothing to lose, no tomorrow and they kill you no matter what you do.
And that plan is going to achieve exactly what? Other than further marginalizing the hard efforts of others who are still fighting for change, I mean.
You are literally “white privilege” at its finest. Gross.
Funny it didn’t come up all that much when I was wasting my professional life arguing about drug prohibition, mass incarceration, privatization of prisons, militarization of police and the dimunition of the underclass. But the moment I don’t hop aboard for some burning and looting, my unbearable whiteness becomes an issue for folks like you.
I could not give a fuck. I’m watching the entire black infrastructure of my city — mayor, congressmen, police officials, clergy, store owners, community leaders, ordinary people watching their neighborhood on fire — on television tonight. They want justice for Freddie Gray and they want the rioting to stop. Fucking white privilege, again no doubt. The only privilege I feel right now is that I don’t live at Federal and Gay. Those people are trying to keep the backs of their homes from going up in flames, and doing so in a neighborhood that never came back after it was torched in 1968. I do indeed feel the privilege that has me half a mile away. I also feel something that might be simple empathy as well.
The folks here arguing for more rioting? I’m not sure what the fuck they feel.
Here’s dose of truth for “Dose of Truth.” If that IS your real name. Using the word gross in a serious debate makes you sound like a toddler amongst grown ups. A toddler or Ben Affleck. Take your pick.
“Further?” Already off the map and out of sight, how many spinal cords need to be severed for you to figure that out?
Meet power with power, only justice is in the streets. “Order” is just richspeak for do what you’re told and shut up.
Game is rigged, but you know that.
This game is rigged, alright. No one gets anything that they need or want. No one.
And the closer you live to this city in which I am writing, the clearer that becomes. And nothing I’ve written argues for anything other than a redress of police violence and the dimunition of black life. I’ve reached an age where I’m much less interested in the righteous passion of the rhetoric and more interested in the efficacy of actual reform. And this riot? Zero efficacy. Zero.
So your plan is to do battle with the army, basically.
Meet power with power? Bricks vs. the National Guard? People talk as though citizens could actually fight back. If it comes down to “meet power with power”, the citizens won’t win.
Remind me? How did Selma end? Or that dock strike in Gdansk?
“When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.”
Ta-nehisi knows what’s up.
I don’t doubt your commitment to the city, but as the kids say, “your privilege is showing.”
Mr. Coates, whom I know and admire, is elsewhere in these comments. He notes that he was in no way equating an unwillingness to accept rioting as viable as compliant behavior. He was, instead, criticizing authority figures who condemn rioting without endeavoring to change an untenable status quo or without addressing themselves to reform. Mr. Coates affirms further that he sees a distinct difference between civil disobedience — as opposed to civil unrest or violence — and mere compliance.
I’ve been arguing for specific reforms with regard to the policing culture in this country for a couple of decades, and continue to do so. I’m okay arguing against rioting as a pathway to anything that is achievable as reform. In fact, as a matter of political efficacy, I think looting liquor stores and burning senior center sites just sucks.
If that’s white privilege, I’m willing to swim in it. No fucking problem.
[…] of The Wire, the acclaimed HBO crime-drama that was set in Baltimore and aired from 2002-2008, called on Monday for an end to violence that erupted after funeral services for Freddie Gray, whose death […]
Words we don’t hear often enough:
Rioters – Your anger is understandable.
Yours, White America
Actually, I think ‘Your anger is understandable’ is exactly what’s being said. It’s just justifiably a sentiment being offered to actual protesters, not short-sighted idiots who burn down their own community and play into the exact narrative the establishment is hoping they’ll play into.
One should not empathize with the urge to shoot yourself in the foot.
The anger is entirely understandable and I can say that to protesters and rioters alike.
But the behavior of one is destructive to the success of the grievance. As well as to those innocents who have the misfortune to catch a brick.
I’m less understanding, if only because I’m so tired of seeing legitimate grievances undermined by short-sighted people who can’t see the inevitable consequences of their actions or how they’re hurting the very people they claim to fight for.
People responding to legitimate grievances with really stupid and self-defeating solutions is hardly unique to Baltimore in April 2015. It’s a tradition that spans the entirety of human history. Because, as a species, we can be alarmingly dense sometimes.
What’s frustrating, though, and seemingly everywhere in this comments thread, is when otherwise well-meaning people get so lost in the fact that the initial grievance is legitimate that they perceive any criticism of those who fight against it as wrong. So no, you can’t say the rioters are doing a bad thing because you can’t understand their anger and their pain and so on and so forth, even if the ultimate effect is to make their situation that much worse afterwards.
Please don’t claim to speak for me, Larry. You don’t hear these words often enough because you don’t listen. You don’t hear these words often enough because you don’t demand that the institutions that protect your privilege say them to their members.
No no no. You don’t speak for me.
[…] DAVID SIMON: 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. MORE […]
These are our children… our aged, angry, neglected, disappointed, hurt children. They are not hoodlums or thugs. Young people so fed up with and disturbed by their lack of happiness, safety, nutrition and loving attention. Brought up on the violence and brutality of games, movies, television shows and even cartoons… they have latched onto this moment and grabbed the spotlight in the only way they think will get us to notice them. It has worked. What will we do differently for them?
I disagree that it has worked. I think it has marginalized real protest in my city.
But agree that they are our children, and they deserve a very different world than the one we have arrayed here in this city.
“Brick” is actually my nickname, and I grew up in Baltimore on Wabash, right off Liberty Heights Ave. Not to put words in Miss Maria’s mouth but I think you misinterpreted what she was trying to say, David. She wrote that the youth “have latched onto this moment and grabbed the spotlight in the only way they think will get us to notice them. And it has worked.” Can we agree that their thinking has in fact worked, as flawed as it is. Their despair is the major topic of discussion now. A week ago they were in pain but their pain went unnoticed. Now, with the death of Mr. Grey, and the subsequent, completely predictable rioting, they have our complete attention. Albeit for the ass-backwardly wrong behavior.
Nothing else seems to get our attention but these dire life or death situations. If The Wire did not have those fictional dramatically dire situations no one would have cared for it so much. Unfortunately, America loves a train wreck, violence, a riot, the fear of Ebola. These events drive the news. We have to find a way to change the paradigm. But right now, my city is in flames and I’m here in Ohio knowing that the nickel rides still continue, we could have arrested the perps in five seconds but didn’t because the perps wear blue. And Bodymore ain’t Ferguson so black folks burning and looting was a foregone outcome, in my view.
Are people talking about their despair? I wish this were so.
Beyond Baltimore, they are using other words to describe those kids. And if you think this country can move toward sentencing reform, the elimination of privatization of prisons, a ratcheting down of the drug war, or a national repository for information on police violence without first overcoming the American electorate’s natural fears, then I don’t know what to say. The high ground is just what it sounds like. And law enforcement reform, after being ignored for decades or given over to tough-on-crime politicians maneuvering for the center, is actually a national debate.
And yes, the riots in Baltimore are now in the spotlight. Do you think the imagery of a liquor store being emptied or a senior center site burning is really being accompanied by a discussion of the desperation and brutalization of young urban men? Really? Are you listening to what rhetoric is actually accompanying that imagery?
Yes, I hear and understand the rhetoric accompanying the images of the looting all too well. And I’ll gently disagree with you by offering that I, for one, am hearing the beginnings of needed discussion, at least on CNN. Of course the elected officials are saying all the expected cover-my-ass things but, more importantly, we are getting some discussion about how we got where we are in B’more. This is coming from folks on the street.The one or two CNN reporters who are actually on the street letting the people speak for themselves are providing a service by allowing key testimony. And these citizens are angry, of course, but are articulating very well. The stereotypical diatribes I just tune out.
My point before was that the way we begin these discussions needs a new paradigm. These stories do not appear to gain traction without violence. Let me be clear I’m not advocating violent responses. But until we can find another way to bring this despair and injustice to the daily discourse, the poor will continue to take their message to the streets and in front of the cameras.
I hope you’re right. I doubt, though.
Before I go out to teach today, I thought I would let you know that right now on CNN thre is a very substantive discussion led by Wolf Blitzer on problem solving in the West Baltimore community. While Wolf appears to be incredibly naive (“wow, it’s hard to believe this is going on in a major city like Baltimore) the national and community leaders the network assembled is impressive and their articulation of the real, underlying problems is succinct and nuanced.
Here’s a thought. Why don’t you call CNN and get involved in the discussion on live TV?
You certainly have the cache to be included and given what I have read here, yours is a voice that should be heard.
If you’re able turn on CNN right now to see what I’m talking about. Peace, my brother.
Trying to write a piece for the blog specifically about what I know and what I am informed enough to argue rather than becoming a talking head on cable.
I understand and respect your feelings. But I would argue that, to most (?) Americans, your work uncannily articulates the authentic pain and anguish of our city and, as a favorite son, I think people need to hear what you have to say. TV, for better or worse, reaches more folks. Of course its your call and I’m just thinking out loud.
Unfortunately, the television networks gravitate to video of riots and violence. To them, that is what is newsworthy. Moths to the flame.
The so-called journalists (with the exceptions of Melissa Harris Perry, Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes) are too lazy to actually go and talk to the kids on the street and to reveal what is happening now in all its complexity, in the light of history and statistical reality (disparate treatment, based on race).
It is not possible to present in 2 minutes of tape why it feels logical to a young black man to run when a cop makes eye contact with you. James Cheney would tell us if he could.
Really? You think that entertainment media is more brutal than food deserts and police beatings?
[…] creator of the Wire, David Simon, also published a powerful and concise blog post calling for an end to the […]
Well done, David. Totally agree.
And to all the armchair revolutionaries who can’t bring themselves to condemn wanton violence and opportunism and outright stupidity (i.e burning poor neighbourhoods) shame on you. Unless you’ve got a program to replace your current government, including a replacement for federal, state, and municipal policing and all the other institutions necessary for a civilized society, maybe you should take a minute to think about who’s really going to suffer from the violence you seem to think will be so “progressive.”
If you’ve got a program and a strategy ready to go( that DOESN”T cause suffering of the most vulnerable), let’s hear about it, debate it, and put it into action. If not, perhaps you should find another hobby. Or at the very least not cheer on the burning of someone else’s neighbourhoods.
Warren, in response to your remark that “…wanton violence and opportunism and outright stupidity (i.e. burning poor neighbourhoods)” accomplishes nothing is absolutely correct. As is that a complete, top to bottom overhaul of our current “…government, including a replacement for federal, state, and municipal policing and all the other institutions” – especially among those in charge of policing individuals. I am also weary of our media and pundits pouncing on the riots perpetrated by the black population is unconscionable in the of the fact that a passing blurb is mentioned when white people riot. The following might at first seem humorous, but as one scrolls down through the images and their accompany text, the humor is replaced with an acknowledgement that there is something very seriously wrong/biased in how the media reports events. The media also must bear a responsibility for the riots:
The media get everything wrong. I have no illusions about that.
White people riot when their stupid sports team loses and because they’re drunk.
I understand why they’re rioting in Baltimore. Every time I see the news about another black man murdered by the police I’m enraged. Once I check my privilege, of course.) That doesn’t mean I agree with the burning of poor and innocent people’s neighbourhood’s as a solution. And I certainly don’t agree with anyone cheering it on in the mistaken belief that it’s going to be what changes policing in this country. If you don’t have the patience for reform, channel your energy into a workable plan. Otherwise, go home and bang your head against the wall for all the good you’re doing.
Basically, if you’re a parent in Baltimore and you don’t know where your kid is right now, then you are part of the problem.
Maybe your kid was just standing on a corner somewhere and got tossed into a wagon by police. Maybe his spine is damn near severed.
What? In my opinion, the biggest goal for tonight is to stop the rioting and save as many businesses as you can. It sounds like listening to the police chief and others, that a lot of the rioting at least early in the afternoon and possibly tonight came from large groups of kids with no supervision. It takes a lot of discipline and effort to pull off a successful non violent protest that builds coalitions and changes people’s minds who were previously indifferent to the issue. I am sure there were some very smart, young adults who were there, but the mob mentality of others took over. I am guessing the youth who actually care aren’t out there tonight starting the fires. At this point, if you’re a parent, and you don’t know/aren’t looking for your kid with all this shit going on tonight, then yeah, I think that’s a little fucked up.
this dude made bank on exploiting stories of black poverty and disenfranchisement, now he thinks he has the right to talk to us and police our reaction to a brutal police murder. and he suffers from great man syndrome thinking a social movement runs off the magnanimity of one leader. politics is a dirty fight and if you don’t fight back hard they lock you up and muzzle you and you’re left to rely on their scraps of sympathy. stay home and stop writing david simon
Wow. I just thought I was someone who lived in Baltimore, reported on the drug war as a destructive force, and was hoping that Mr. Gray’s brutal death at the hands of a militarized police might be a real opportunity to aggressively argue for some reform. Now, I’m watching burning and looting and no one is saying shit about Freddie Gray or about what those who brought real protest to City Hall want to see addressed.
Politics is a dirty fight. Right now, in Baltimore, my side is losing ground. See, I am home. And I’m writing, sorry.
Yeah, bank. But he claims he owns a house in the Baltimore hood as a life long city dweller and neighbor of John Waters perhaps AND i guarantee you he does not have a second home in Miami or New Orleans or LA or Aspen, etc. but that he takes his millions from that crappy series the Wire and donates it to poor starving Africans in Somalia or perhaps Bethesda and drinks two buck chuck from Trader Joes. Hypo libo.
Ricardo, brother. Things you don’t know:
1. What I do with my money.
2. What causes I support.
3. Where I live.
4. What and who I care about, personally.
5. What I commit my resources to in hopes of change.
Things I am now certain about you:
1. Your substantive arguments being weak, you’ve reached for gutless, ass-ignorant ad hominem. It is too exhausting for me to argue ideas, so maybe I can shut up my adversary by categorizing him quickly, stupidly, and without a fact in hand other than my own imagined stereotypes.
2. Alone so far this evening, you’re not worth any more typing.
Rico, did you just call The Wire, “crappy”?
I feel that his writing is very important because it teaches that these people are human and that they do matter. Surely I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
Wow. Subhuman Trash…where did that name come from and what world view caused you to select it? But I digress. You’re entitled to your opinion about Mr. Simon, as fucked up as it is. Haters gonna hate. I don’t know him personally but his work has been right on the money (no pun intended) for a long time. He writes about black people and our plight eloquently as any writer, regardless of race. He’s earned every dime by telling it like it is. The characters he created on The Wire, especially the black characters were astounding, especially since he is not black himself. And if you don’t think white people should create black characters you need to stop humming the theme to Shaft, because John Shaft was created by Ernest Tidyman who was, wait for it…a white dude.
Mr. Simon could have retired after The Wire and moved to Tahiti but here he is, in the middle of night, dealing with the likes of you. How many people at his level take the time to respond to regular folks? Go to bed.
Amen! Well said Mr. Simon!
There are very few mass protests which have been able to prevent looters and vandals taking advantage of the disarray for personal gain/excitement.
England 3-4 summers ago, WHO in Seattle… It is sad that we have that element in our society, but we do. They should be charged and punished for their crimes where possible.
They have absolutely nothing to do with the citizens who are drawing a line against something they passionately believe in. Two separate stories, and they should be covered as such.
My timeline is full of photos of peaceful protests in unrazed Baltimore neighbourhoods. Flames and breaking windows make better headlines so media resources are redirected. The correct way to cover Baltimore tonight is to report both stories; the first one – the important one – hasn’t gone away because a minority of delinquents act out.
The Baltimore Sun took down their paywall for the night, which I applaud. I suspect that is a better source of balanced coverage of the night in Baltimore than sources and who filter coverage to support a preconceived narrative. .
The fire today in Baltimore had nothing to do with the protests.
Scroll down to “Fire not related to looting, official says.”
Instead, what happened was that police kettled high school protesters, who responded by throwing stones. Not Molitovs, David. Just stones. A completely predictable response and almost certainly the one the police were looking for when they began the kettle. It helps them with the public relations aspect of the protests.
As a bonus, the police get free amplification from liberals like you who cross your arms and “tut-tut” about how unruly those Negroes are being.
But hey, you know what’s best for Baltimore, right? You wrote the Wire!
I just watched a battallion chief for the BFD say that the four fires that burned a vacant warehouse, a senior center site, the rears of a string of row houses and several cars were the result of set fires. I wasn’t referring to anything thrown by anyone.
The folks living in that neighborhood don’t need any amplification from little old me. They know they were on fire.
Does it ever bother you to imagine than even if unwitting, the actions taken by the violent end up mattering the most? That the violent action is the only thing that hurts enough for anyone to notice at all? Our modern world is indifferent to anything that isn’t on fire.
There are as many instances of non-violence and mass disobedience changing the world as violence. And certainly as many instances of violence changing the world in unintended and uncontrollable ways for the worse.
“many instances of non-violence… chaging the world”
Man did you even look?
Thats true. I guess I’m just thinking of the way our modern media influences our perception…and priority of thought on these things. We have a lack of willingness as a society to give our attention to events like this unless they are already out of control. Peaceful protests get mentioned in passing….fires and looting get CNN all day. Ferguson would not have been ferguson without the looting and the fire. I’m not defending it as a legitimate action to take…I’ve just noticed what it takes to get the generic band of office workers in Columbus Ohio to look at the tv in earnest. In nature there is erosion and glaciers….but there are also wildfire..and volcanos. It’s all change but at different speeds and in different ways. I’m not sure which leads to the most change in the best way…but the fire burns brightly. I know in this shortsighted, selfish, instant gratification day the fire at least gets people talking. Unfortunately it’s often negative….violence also scares people..so whatever positive there is in snapping peoples attention to the problems that are…is all undone with the negatives inherent in looting and destruction. It’s too hard for the regular joe to take the long view and see this as a reaction to a historical indifference towards the suffering of a group. Kind of a conundrum.
Have you ever been hurt? Have you ever lost a home, or a loved one to violence? You talk about this stuff too glibly.
I’m talking about it in a detached, philosophical way. In the immediate ‘on the ground’ personal level I’m right there with you. You’re right…it is kind of grossly glib. I’m being imaginative.
[…] Simon’s stance is the same following Freddie Gray’s death. He strongly criticized the violent reaction on his blog. […]
And what are the concommitant dangers when violence is preached or advocated? What is betrayed then?
Give credit where credit is due: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/nonviolence-as-compliance/391640/#disqus_thread
Plagarism is weak.
Agree to all, including the necessity for mass protest and civil disobedience and the need for the condemnation of the injustices underlying the riot. But they just burned down a building slated for a senior home in East Baltimore, and oh yeah, the flames went after a row of houses after the wind changed directions. Do you want to read that MLK quote to those folks. It’s a poor, African-American neighborhood along North Gay Street that was never properly restored after it was torched in the 1968 riot.
A riot may be the laungage of the unheard, but it will be ignored as babble and rage by a power structure that might otherwise be moved not by mass civil unrest, but by mass civil disobedience.
[…] Simon’s stance is the same following Freddie Gray’s death. He strongly criticized the violent reaction on his blog. […]
[…] The reality is this has been building from generations of gross neglect in very poor communities. Fifty years ago Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that a “riot is the voice of the unheard.” These riots have been building from the era of Dr. King. David Simon, the writer of the HBO series The Wire, got it right when he wrote on his blog: […]
Well, I hope you’re wrong Mr. Simon. I’m with you in that it’s hard to see a real aid to any argument in this sort of thing I can’t help but feel that the peaceful attempts at protests have largely been met by indifference at best by the large majority of the public. A couple of worked up nights on Twitter and then some self-congratulatory Daily Show pieces before we all go back to talking about the latest Game of Thrones.
This strikes me as a reaction to that indifference. Desperation and anger boiled down to it’s purest form. Maybe it’s ultimately self-defeating but like I say I hope you’re wrong. Maybe something like this will finally push people to something, anything that resembles a productive response.
Well said. M, I align with you here.
Poem to Baltimore
for David Simon
is on my mind tonight.
O man Baltimore, it is heartbreaking to see an uprising that is based on such valid objections and righteous indignation, defamed by hoodlums who probably didn’t even know the history of the building that they just burned to the ground. O Baltimore home to The Wire, you’d think it couldn’t get worse and it just did.
April 27, 2015
I’m a hack. But Christ, I’m not usually that awful.
MR SIMON…I know u wont respond to this comment ..hell u might not even read it…but since writing and not rioting is the best way to express my anger im satisfied with doing just that.. How can you possibly know what the solutions are for black people under an oppressed system when your white privilege doesn’t allow you to become a victim of it? At most u can be ashamed of the system , but we don’t need Your shame of the system ..we need your change..if u do nothing Mr. SIMON, then your as just a part of the oppression than the systems that do it. You allow it and your silence gives it Permission to resume “BUSINESS AS USUAL “.. just because u hired a few Black people to even out your diversity quota doesn’t give you the green light to a solution for what is best for US…KNOW THIS..Rioting is Not a behavior, Its a Reaction… you come from a cultural history of oppressive behavior instituted against Black People that still remains to this day ..If you don’t know the solution to combat these oppressive systems, then do yourself a favor .. don’t provide a solution for others especially since it does not affect you. …IM DONE .
I’m sorry that I can’t embrace rioting as a plausible political statement. I think it sets us all back at a moment when the very legitimacy of the drug war, of mass incarceration, of militarized law enforcement was being questioned and attacked nationally.
I understand that you believe that I might think otherwise if I was African-American, or if I lived at North and Pulaski rather than on some quieter street in Baltimore. I understand the impulse to find my standing wanting, and perhaps, in many fundamental ways it is. But I have spent my adult life writing about at least a portion of what seems to anger you. Although I am less directly affected by these matters, of course, I thought them important enough to address for their own sake. If you are familiar with my arguments and find them wanting, I can do no more. But I have held these issues to be important enough to advocate against the systemic misuse of law enforcement and incarceration of urban Americans and the underclass in particular for many years. I did years of research, attended to events and trends in this city, and took my best shot.
What entitles me to speak? I am from Baltimore, and I am a fellow citizen of yours, and I believe in what I say. What gives any of us the right to make any argument, or statement? Do you seriously believe that race, or age, or faith, or sexual orientation, or political affiliation precludes any of us from speaking to the issues that matter to us? I’m inclined to listen to you on any issue you wish to discuss on the merits, regardless of your personal categories. The rules of civility and rhetoric demand no less, at least in my opinion.
If we’re speaking of efficacy…
“But I have held these issues to be important enough to advocate against the systemic misuse of law enforcement and incarceration of urban Americans and the underclass in particular for many years. I did years of research, attended to events and trends in this city, and took my best shot.”
And how efficacious was that?
Jury’s out. I just attended a bipartisan conference on reforming sentencing culture so as to reduce the federal prison population by 50 percent. I met with President Obama who addressed the group, arguing for the agenda. On the left at my table was Newt Gingrich, who was one sponsor of the bipartisan effort, on my right was a vice president of Koch Industries. The keynote speaker was the Governor of the Great Red State of Georgia, who has undertaken exactly this agenda of abandoning mass incarceration. In that state, it has already happened without a corresponding rise in crime. The general sense in Washington is that sentencing reform on the federal level might actually be an achieveable reform because of the new sensibilities of libertarians, conservatives and liberals to the costs and brutalities of doing what we have been doing.
Not as much fun as burning down a North Avenue liquor store, I know. But we all do what we think might help, I suppose.
What exactly do you want David Simon to do? Why do we as black people try to always hate on the few white folks who are trying to help, to understand, to encourage? The real question is what the hell are you doing?
I teach race and ethnic studies at the college level. The first assignment for my class I asked them what were their expectations for learning. Right off the bat one student sends his assignment in to our class discussion board where everybody can read everybody’s responses. Within two sentences he’s babbling about how President Obama is scheming to start a race war in America. Crazy stuff, right? Just out of the blue, and his comment had nothing to do with the assignment. So I’m thinking, “I’ve got a white racist in my class, let me watch out for this dude.”
So I responded to his statement and asked him to provide me with a citation (proof) for what he said. What does he do? He complains to the Provost of the university (our version of God at the college level) that I’m not permitting him free speech. So now I know he’s a white racist since I think he wants me to be fired.
Turns out dude was not white. A brother was doing that! WTF! My point is we as a people seem to always try to tear down people who want to help us. So to you I say why not just shut up until you find out what’s up. Yes, David Simon is white. Yes, he has the benefit of white privilege. Is he likely to be shot in the back or to be tossed in the back of a police van? No.
But he appears to be a good dude, trying to care about Baltimore. All of Baltimore. So keep wolfing at him, run him away, and whatever he’s doing to help reduce the injustices we face by him being a respected white guy that all Presidents will take seriously will go away. He don’t need the drama. Dude got paid. But…
Looks like he cares more about black people than most black people care about each other. But you don’t like that because you feel he’s not qualified to comment because he’s not black. He’s not calling you nigga. We’re saying that to each other. He’s not using “Uncle Tom” as a slur. We’re doing that to each other. He’s not privileging light skinned over dark skinned. We’re doing that to each other. He’s not cutting the damn fire hose that’s sending the water to firemen trying to save the damn store where you buy groceries. We did that on national TV to our neighborhood — and I say “our” because I grew up in West B.
Why do we do that? Because we’re self destructive. Just like your message was.
Ugh, more SJW speak. Can we stop with it already? If there’s any white person qualified to talk about this, it’s Mr. Simon. He’s lived it, wrote it and had it screened (in the form of The Wire).
I’ve lived nothing. That goes to far.
But it was my beat and I reported as best I can. And I still live in Baltimore and I am still interested in criminal justice reform. That, I hope, is sufficient to have an opinion. If not, if thinking a riot in my city should stop is white privilege, then I’ll swim in white privilege. At that point, the phrase means exactly zero.
I meant lived it as in covering the beat. You had to be out there in the streets to do your job, being a reporter.
Didn’t I read somewhere (maybe here, not sure) that you did your job while wearing a bulletproof vest? To me, that’s living it. If not, please excuse my poor word choice. The overall point is, you are quite qualified to have an opinion on this.
God no. No vest.
I understand that the Washington Post gave its police reporters vests in the early 1990s. I thought that was an embarrassing overreaction.
…was that necessary, David? No wonder you experience such dissent in your comments sections, you’re an asshole for no reason a lot of the time.
I really do hope you were kidding, just like Mr. Simon clearly was in his own comment. If you truly see him as an asshole in this context, you took that “hack” joke too seriously. Also, if you really want “asshole” try some of the very people who comment here without a fundamental grasp on the points Mr. Simon is trying to make.
I thought I was being self-effacing there. Sorry.
I just looked back and saw that it said a poem “for” me. I read quickly and thought it was a commentator claiming a poem “by” me. So I was remarking on the notion that I could write verse in any way. I really am sorry for the unintended insult. My bad.
I don’t know what it says about my sense of humor that I laughed out loud at your initial response to the poem. Probably not good things, I suppose.
My respect and congratulations for writing this, Mister Simon. Protesters ignore that chaos is not the answer to be listened and considered by authorities, to make a change and do justice for Freddy Gray. They loose all their rights by terrorizing the city, instead of preparing a serious proposal for a solution.
Protestors are okay with me. Dissenters are welcome. Those willing to disobey authority and refuse to participate in injustices and systemic abuses are heroic. Those who engage and organize mass civil disobedience are onto something.
Rioters are fucking it up.
The distinction is critical.
I’m going to let this speak for me….
I love Mr. Coates. Love him.
But I do not agree that non-violence is compliance. Compliance is compliance, indifference is indifference. And civil disobedience is exactly what it sounds like. A refusal to cooperate with the police culture in Baltimore, the mass action of jury nullification in the city, the willingness to stop traffic and risk arrest and crowd the jails as they did in Alabama and Mississippi generations ago — there is power in such relentlessness. Mr. Coates, if he sees no middle ground bewteen compliance and burning and looting a city is mistaken.
Good point. There are plenty of ways to protest that are stronger than just standing in the square chanting slogans, but that don’t involve burning down your neighbor’s houses or stealing their stuff.
The reason the response to police militarization, drug war horrors, and day to day to cop inflicted brutality is because black folks have not developed a coordinated means of response to the many issues that affect us.
The NAACP is useless and toothless because their organizational structure makes each completely with branch separate usually run part time by some preacher with no training in law or public policy. They were once feared legal tigers, now they are an irrelevant anachronism.
We have powerful writers and some well known talking heads & bloggers, but they don’t meet, by Skype even to coordinate messages or emphasis. Not the way the right does.
The kid paralyzed in Palm Beach ought to be at the top of every blogger’s commentary.
The PBPD ought to be quaking in their boots, not at the prospect of Al Sharpton parachuting in for a rally. They ought to be getting ready for a billion dollar lawsuit covering every incident of wrongful death and coverup tied to over 100 police shootings.
We ought to have a Woodward and Bernstein culling every single citation in Ferguson going back a decade to ready a civil rights complaint and lawsuit.
All these and other ideas & projects ought to be coming out of a black RAND Corporation.
You will not stop these killings and assaults by making racists feel “bad”. You’ll make it stop by making it sickeningly expensive to taxpayers to allow it to go on.
The brutality at Rikers should have the City of New York facing damages in the hundreds of millions. You won’t get that by a bunch of preachers crying.
You will get it by patient, meticulous legal fighting for five, six, or seven years by firms that will do to these departments what Erin Brockovich did to PG&E.
Take these city’s cash, make the taxes go up to pay for brutality, and it will stop in a flash.
Bravo, Mr. Bottoms. Great post.
Hey David, thanks for responding to this. Just to be clear I don’t think nonviolence is compliance either. Nothing compliant about King or the movemnt. Point I’m trying to get it as when politicians preach nonviolence while going along with the kind of systemic violence which breeds this sort of thing (arresting someone for looking suspicious) they betray the whole philosophy. In that case they really are just preaching compliance.
Hope you’re well and look forward to seeing you soon.
Agree! I am reading fast tonight with one eyeball, and writing rhetoric and argument with the other. Sorry if I pulled your point up short. I should have read deeper.
I’m almost through with a draft of number one, so yes, I can’t want to back in a room with you and the crew. But first it seems, I’m gonna need to write something about the run-up to this nightmare in Baltimore: The drug war, Martin O’Malley, and the death of probable cause. Inevitable doesn’t make it any less grevious. Mostly, I am amazed at the affirmations for rioting not merely as inevitable, but as an affirmative outcome. That sentiment seems to accrue the further the correspondent is from Baltimore.
Super nice. I am a Libertarian and love when the Atlantic and Slate go that way (surprisingly more often than not lately) when it comes to the uber police state. Enough is enough-too many cops are animals who are not representative of their communities-including rich white folks like myself. As a standard white guy in a pseudo outburb area of a major city, I worry about what the cops will do when they encounter my black South American wife in my hood when I am not around to defend her. Seriously. Because she is the only person of color in an 8 block area. My city is pig centrale.
So instead of accepting a civilly phrased and fair-minded challenge offering historical examples of riots that have elicited change, Mr. Simon deletes established facts he chooses not to see. An intellectual approach very much like the brutality he has gone out of his way to condemn..
Whhhaaaat? I’ve passed through every comment.
This was an oversight on my part (I had left a reply to this comment). Apologies!
How can you say that “There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially” after close to a year of peaceful protests aiming to generate real action about cops murdering black men on a regular basis have amounted to fucking nothing?
That’s some bullshit, there was no “real power or potential in the peaceful protests,” and if you think there was you haven’t been paying attention.
A year ago, I’d’ve said there would never be a tipping point in the race to incarcerate and the American drug prohibition. Reform is a slow train, always. But this is now a national conversation in a way that it hasn’t been in decades. If you think there is nothing at stake, or that a continuing attention to a continuing injustice can’t ever produce change, then of course, riot to your heart’s content.
News just reported that one of the clergy leading the protest march has lost the property that was slated to become a senior center. It’s now a flaming wreck. I’m sure he’s entranced by all the extra advantage that the rioting has given the cause.
Didn’t mean to suggest that I think rioting adds value to protests and are therefore justified; I was more implying that the ineffectiveness of the past year’s protest (evidenced by *continued. police. murders. of. black. men. regularly*) explains some of the frustration that leads to violence.
I hope you’re right that continuing attention to injustice will produce change. But then I see popular press reducing the whole issue to “violent rioters and looters” and I lose loads of hope. I worry that people will spin this to be like “See? David Simon AGREES that rioters are bad, therefore the protests are illegitimate and also we can now use this to de-legitimize all protest!”
Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say your piece – you’re not responsible for people abusing your words in interpretation – but it worries me is all.
Rioting may be inevitable. It might even be deserved.
But it is bad. And it is bad for the cause as a whole.
You know what else is bad for the cause? White commentators telling people how they should and shouldn’t act. It’s easy for you to reduce a complex and varied response to “rioting is bad for the cause as a whole.” This entire response comes off as paternalistic and focused on what the mass media and government already wants us to focus on. Not the physical and economic violence of the state or the police waged on an underclass, but on the sensational reaction of the underclass to generations of violence and repression. You can’t see the forest for the trees with this response and I hope you eventually put this all into the greater historic and cultural context instead of focusing on a minority of people rioting for a few days.
I greatly respect your body of work, but I feel you have fallen prey to the sensationalism and myopic perspectives that modern media encourages.
Again, i live here. I vote here. My child goes to school here. I’m fully and personally vested in Baltimore and its future. And oh yeah — I’m white.
If being a white resident of the city and suggesting to fellow citizens that burning and looting the city is actually impairing an increasingly potent use of mass civil disobedience, undercutting protestors that are indeed bringing a real argument home and that they should not burn and loot — if this is what you want to cast as white privilege then white privilege doesn’t mean jack shit. You’ve devalued the criticism completely.
If you want to claim that the riot is off-point, I agree with you. There is much more at stake, and much more going on. But pissing and moaning about what the media will focus on once a riot commences — and what will be ignored — is exactly the issue. That’s why I offered a plea not to have this thing go to violence when I did — because looting and violence had already completely captured the news cycle. And then after writing what I did, I woke up, took my kid to school, then went to North and Pennsie to pick up trash and join the protests. If you think other Baltimoreans are required to go mute while the city is suffering riot, and if you think the race of those Baltimoreans precludes their saying something, then maybe the problem is yours.
I point out you’re white not to preclude you from the discussion but to point out the context in which your statement is seen. It is easy for someone who doesn’t have the boot of the state on their neck, who doesn’t constantly have to face oppression to tell people how they should behave and what an appropriate and effective response should be. If you haven’t noticed civl disobedience and marching in the street has accomplished jack shit in the last decade. This isn’t to say violence will accomplish something, but when the powers that be don’t give a fuck that your lives are being taken and look away when you protest and act like you don’t exist, how would you react when one of your own gets killed again. These riots didn’t start spontaneously, and the cops initiated the rolling street fights as much as the rioters. Where’s your outrage with the cops forcing students off buses to find their own way home and then menacing them and actively throwing rocks at them and antagonizing them. Your statement ignores the entire context of how this started to give a minority of the protestors a finger wag.
Your plea had no mention of the media ignoring the actual structural problems, your plea was in fact simply a reaction to that same sensational media coverage, your plea ignores much of the context of structural violence and discrimination you have based your career on as a writer. You telling people to go home is not going to stop rioting anymore than it is going to help in making the changes that need to be made.
We don’t need David Simon to be the voice of reason that implores people to stop being angry and fall in line, we have enough of those motherfuckers all over the media. We need you to be what you have always been, a voice for the disenfranchised, a man shedding light on the structural problems and someone who will fight the powers that be to bring change not simply look down your nose at people who feel like their lives are worthless and the Baltimore that they know is a sacrificed area.
I don’t give a shit how its seen. I can’t control the racial baggage that some might bring to what I say or do. I can only research and think and write what matters to me. But let me ask you something: Does all the other verbiage emanating from me — the journalism, the film work, the essays, the speeches the interviews — does any or all of that ignore “much of the context of structural violence and discrimination.” Or are you really saying you required more of a preamble than praise for the protests and the unity at the funeral before a two-paragraph plea for people not to debase that with burning and looting? Really?
All of the other shit that has been said about these issues for the last couple of decades isn’t sufficient to allow affirmation of the protests to stand as sufficient preamble to, “please don’t riot because there is much at stake here.” Really? Step back for a moment. Please.
If you want more of the stuff that makes you happy, oh look, this morning there was a Q-and-A published about all of the structural violence and discrimination underlying the situation in Baltimore. It’s long. I’d link to it but I’m tired today. We can pretend I never said any of that shit to Bill Keller on Tuesday in any other venue ever before and just plunked myself down afresh to shit on the rioters out of context, if you need to. Even as a standalone, I kinda think the interview makes this criticism of yours a little bit moot.
Let me answer your question with another question. Given your experiences, your research and your body of work, why did you think it necessary to give a two paragraph rebuke to a small group of rioters (relatively speaking)? Did you think your statement would hold more sway with the rioters or that it would prevent riots?
I kind of think all the media reactions and the reactions from the state saying the exact same thing your two paragraph response did make that moot, don’t you think?
Well for one thing, I imagined — correctly, I think — that a large swath of public Baltimore, black and white, official and unofficial, would all be tweeting the same thing. It didn’t strike me as a singular thing to do at all. It felt like a community effort, even in isolation.
And why was it a short couple paragraphs? Because I was in NY at a meeting at the HBO offices and I’m watching rioting on the television in an office and my train ticket back home may be no good if they close Penn Station, and my young daughter is down there alone with a babysitter, and the images I am seeing of Mondawmin are hitting me with a wave of sadness and loss and I’m trying to rent a car as fast as I can but it’s gonna be a half hour before it comes. And so I type a blogpost that says the protests matter, the outcome matters, but please don’t do this. And then the car came and I closed up my computer and began the drive down I-95.
How very calculating of me, huh?
[…] Simon, who once worked as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, railed on his website against the violent mobs. […]
If they protest peacefully that gets shut down. If they wait for court-based justice they get ignored and people have fundraisers for the officers to show support. That’s if charges are even ever brought. Give them drugs then arrest them for selling them and using them. Stand on your doorstep you get shot. Walk down your steps you get shot. Run away without a weapon and get shot. If they protest violently that’s evil too, in the same country that celebrates American revolutionary violence every year with independence day and Boston Tea Party observations. Black people are not pets, waiting for the seemingly inexhaustible white supply of instructions to run out before finally striking back. And if peace was going to work it would have worked 50 years ago.
Stop telling people to wait on your imaginary changes. This isn’t an Obama speech this is reality.
In this instance regarding the outrageous death of this young man in police custody, no one shut down the protests in Baltimore. The right to protest was acknowledged and encouraged by everyone from the mayor on down. That’s just so.
Your hyperbole is staggering.
They only allow protests and counter arguments that fall into the MLK territory of waiting to get murdered and remembered for your noble, peaceful acceptance of it. That’s why he’s the one with a holiday. If violent acts aren’t going to be met with severe punishment when they’re committed by the police you’ve removed the value from law so this is the response.
walking around singing hymns and talking about Jesus hasn’t worked. Voting Democrat hasn’t worked.
That sounds so smart and philosophical.
Try telling it to those people over at Gay and Federal streets tonight. They need to know what their sacrifice is all about.
So snark is superior to hyperbole? It’s not philosophy, it’s an outlook borne of being black and working in the inner city and seeing that things aren’t improving the way people pretend they are and they’re not going to without severe reactions. It’s from seeing this stuff happen to the areas of Inglewood/LA where I spent large parts of my childhood b/c the black experiences nationwide say this is just our reality in this country. MLK was wrong. Jim Brown was right.
I can be accused of certain things, I’m sure. Pretending that things are improving in urban America is not one of them. I’ve spend my adult working life arguing the opposite, in prose and film both. But in Baltimore, things just got worse, not better. And Freddie Gray is still dead and no one is talking about him now, and the imagery on everyone’s televisions is taking the America that doesn’t give a fuck right off the hook for all of it.
When have “severe reactions” produced a change in these situations? What positive change have you seen come about through this kind of violence? I grew up in South Central too, and I’ve never seen Jim Brown going out anyplace with a fucking brick in his hand.
I’ve been watching the cycle of police brutality and murder followed by righteous indignation, and protests . Then if the stage is big enough the opportunists show up, your basic looter, nihilists out for chaos, white supremacists stirring the pot .
Finally the chaos dies down, whichever unfortunate black man or woman whose death was at the heart of the mess is forgotten and a chance to make a case for reform and oversight is once again lost.
I believe marching and chanting and street theater is all a giant waste of time. This is no longer the 60’s and the sympathy that help the civil rights advances of the time happen is non-existent in Faux News world. Keep fighting this new indifference and bile poured on for the sake of ratings with old tactics and what you will get is nothing.
Let me pose two scenarios.
A. PG&E gets notified a group of protesters is out front demanding justice for people injured in their San Bruno disaster of a few years ago.
B. Erin Brockovich on line 3.
Scenario B is the one that is the one that will get results.
We don’t need 10,000 protestors in the streets of Baltimore or Ferguson. What we need are 100 lawyers in Palm Beach, Florida building a case for a billion dollar suit for all the police violence and civil rights violations. And something similar in Ferguson, and for those abused at Rikers in New York.
Bankrupt a couple of municipalities. Make it cost so much to continue to employ vicious, trigger happy, violent police any mayor would be insane to allow his police force to shoot unarmed children and beat middle age men bloody.
We don’t need Gandhi. We need about 500 of the meanest, most aggressive, meticulous lawyers that have ever walked the earth in every city where this crap is going on.
Make the taxpayers feel the pain for their out of control SWAT and drug units and I guarantee you it will stop.
Black live don’t matter, not to these people.
But money, money always matters.
I have often thought that police brutality settlements should have to be paid out of the cops’ pension fund. Maybe that would encourage them to police themselves…
I happen to be reading Homicide right now and read the part about McCown the other day… Aren’t there some instances where picking up the brick is at least understandable? If I was friends with that kid who got shot for nothing more carrying a concealed shiny lighter I would want to inflict some violence on that cop. Not picket. Which I think is a natural reaction. Just sayin…
They fired Scotty McCown, who, however wrongly, did believe he saw a weapon. He needed to be fired. It signaled progress of a kind, no matter how much it pained Baltimore officers at the time. Five or ten years earlier, the administrative process would have left McCown on the street. Is the loss of a career commensurate for a bad police shooting? Not an intentional murder, but a police shooting in which the judgment of the officer, however well intentioned, was entirely wrong? You tell me.
What needed to happen to Scotty McCown beyond what did happen to him? And if you argue for violence, or imprisonment or death, please explain to me how you are going to get even good and moral men and women to join any police department when those are the wages not of willful brutality, but of mortal error.
I don’t think D. Novak is encouraging violence against the cops, he’s empathizing. Picking up the brick IS understandable, understanding of course that empathy doesn’t mean excusing the act. We have the capacity to understand and yet not approve. This is precisely Why non-violence is so powerful, because we hold the rage in our hearts but do not act on it. Every generation needs to learn this, if not through history than from a great leader, whether it be in the community or on a larger scale. These kids have the rage but they see violence everyday in their community and they might not get a chance to see the benefits of non-violence at their level; they get called a “bitch.”
We’ll see if the level of physical violence tonight, the awful destruction of property notwithstanding, is more than an average night in West Baltimore. These reporters are talking about the “years it will take” to rebuild.” The years it will take to rebuild?! The communities that were torched in 1968 were NEVER rebuilt. Maybe this will bring some attention to the endemic problems that gave birth to this situation. Maybe Condoleeza Rice will say its the “birth pangs” of a new Baltimore. Maybe, but probably not, there’s too much money in fighting this war. As those cars get torched and young men get zip-tied, somebody is seeing dollar signs. Some fucking stock will probably go up tomorrow too.
Oh I don’t know, Mr. Hope. Read the comments. There are a lot of people aboard tonight very much excusing, if not lauding the act.
We all understand the frustration of dealing with a policing culture that holds such a low regard for human rights as we’ve seen over the last year in this country — courtesy of a digital video revolition that has documented what people of color and the underclass have long known and endured. But a national conversation had been joined — and the argument was ongoing and has come to include reconsiderations of everything from the drug war to mass incarceration. There is work to be done here. The riot is now the subject, however. Not Freddie Gray. Not reform. Just burning and looting.
There is work do be done here, Mr. Simon, absolutely there is. That work which is in front of each of us, our part. That Minister in East Baltimore damn sure is going to build that retirement home again because that is the work, that is the solution. It may seem Sisyphun or Sisyphusian or just plain absurd, but it is the way. Blues music, congo square, get behind a mule in the mornin and plow.
This was a real opportunity for growth and yes, the opportunity has shifted but we go on to the next situation. If Bill Moyers one day said, “To hell with it,” I think all would be lost, but he won’t- the struggle’s the thing.
Well hey, you’re welcome for buying your book. Anyway, props on responding to all these comments, many of which are bullshit.
This blog post will get more attention than any before or after. The mainstream press has already come rushing in with adulation. You may even get a pat on the head from some on the Right. Another vetted liberal earns his check. Look at the folks who are congratulating you and see if they are political allies.
Weakass shit to play guilt by association.
I can’t control what some rightist asshole says. Just as I can’t control some idiot ideologue on the left who thinks that conflating rioters with protestors is a clever way to proceed. I wrote what I think, and I write my hopes for my city. I’m watching my city burn tonight and reading commentary from a congregation of dickheads who think this is an opportunity for political gamesmanship. I live here. I’m listening to the fire trucks. I’m looking at the orange glow.
Fuck you for thinking I give a fuck about who agrees with me and who doesn’t and what is to be gained. I will be living here after the fires go out, along with everyone else from Baltimore, while the rest of you dilettante revolutionaries move on to the next horror show. And whatever reform was possible from Freddie Gray’s death stays unrealized while you shitbags are in the next state over, cheering everyone else on as they burn another hometown where you will never tred.
Well said, Mr. Simon. I live in Baltimore, too, and I applaud your stance and judicious use of *ahem* “strong” language in your response to the posers trolling you blog.
Agreed. Rock on, David Simon. You’ve done more for race relations in this city than a lot if not all of the people attacking you here.
Funny how a white guy Hollywood guy not of the hood guy who thinks he knows the streets as a “journalist” (I studied as one in college and realized it is probably one of the dumbest majors out there in hindsight) can think he has the balls to plea for all that peace and understanding. Funny, he won’t be talking if he was shot by the police in question but then again as a white guy, well, the odds of that happening are slim to none.
And yet my house isn’t threatened with fire right now. That outcome belongs to the poor, African-American residents of Gay and Federal street, who saw the winds shift away from the site of the planned senior center that got torched tonight. That’s a neighborhood that never fully recovered from the torching that it received in April 1968. I’m sure you can interest those folks in a denigration of any calls to stop burning and looting.
I am white. It’s so. I’ve never lived anywhere but Baltimore since 1983 when I came here to work as a reporter. I don’t know much about this Hollywood of which you speak, sorry.
Ricardo, you’re a moron.
David Simon’s books are required reading at the FBI Academy.
Peter, you are a moron. Now we are even. To quote the great band, I2XU. FU.
Ricardo, welcome to the free for all here. The site works better when we argue ideas.
Agreed. Funny how Peter used the term “moron”. How “retarded”.
Yes, it was ad hominem and quite pathetic. Much like your imaginings on who I am, what I do with my income, and what I value. Pot, kettle.
David Simon has quite a reputation. Only a fool would call him Hollywood.
David speaks of history. There is a long list of riots — often forming when all efforts at peaceful protest have failed — that have resulted in change. Here are just a few that come to mind:
In Japan, the rice riots of 1918 began when the price of rice shot into the stratosphere. The first protests began in a small fishing town. These protests were peaceful, but did not work. The riots spread across the nation, resulting in bombed government buildings. Prime Minister Terauchi Masatake and his cabinet took responsibility for the turmoil and resigned.
The Boston Bread Riot, which protested the tendency of merchants to horde grain in order to drive up prices (not unlike the efforts to corner the New York ice market in 1907, which resulted in the subsequent Panic), involved attacks on various ships. Measures were passed to ban grain exports and ensure central grain depositories, which mollified future grain shortages for a while until the Revolutionary days.
No mention has been made of the Haymarket massacre, which also started peacefully before the bomb and arguably lead to an esacalation of the fight for the eight hour day. (It is possible to argue that the iniquity within the trail had more to do with this than the bombing, but what would the labor movement of the late 19th century and early 20th century look like without 1886?)
And then there are the ways in which riots create responsive historial riptides. The Baltimore Riots of 1968, which the present riots are being compared to, caused Spiro Agnew to bitch about local leaders not acting enough to stop the mayhem. These statements capture the attention of Nixon, who needs someone who can beat George Wallace. Would Nixon have appealed to the “silent majority” without Agnew? This is a question still argued.
Obviously, riots are the protest of last resort, but to insist that riots are not, in some sense, an inevitable response to authoritarianism, that riots cannot be used to change the world or alter conditions or that riots do not have “real power and potential,” and to believe that riots are not effective in some way — even if you are a full-bore pacifist or against violence or justifiably celebratory towards the work of Gandhi and King — is to have a shaky and laughably naive grasp of history.
The Kerner Commission resulted from the 1967 tragedies. It wrote a fine report. It was ignored. And then 1968.
Sometimes a riot is just a riot.
Over in East Baltimore, there is a site for a senior center on fire. The man who was developing it was an organizer of the protests. When the winds changed, the structures threatened were a string of rowhouses. This is one of the poorest African-American communities. It never recovered from the torching it received in April 1968.
That’s real history, real topography for the town that is actually on fire tonight. Were the riots that followed King’s death inevitable? Surely. Were they a tragedy for East and West Baltimore. Yes. Were tonight’s riots inevitable? Perhaps. Certainly, if the investigation into death of Freddie Gray was not pursued aggressively by authorities in Baltimore, there would be a trial by fire. But your philosophizing about the effectiveness of burning and looting seems pretty callow right now in my city. And not just to white folk or authoritarian figures.
I agree with you that there are nonsensical riots that result in nothing less than mayhem and have participated in a few protests in which peaceful resistance devolved into vandalism. (And I see that you got into a debate with Ta-Nahesi Coates downthread, who wrote an excellent Atlantic essay on the “nonviolence is compliance” angle.) But sometimes a peaceful protest is just a peaceful protest. It is ignored, derided, devalued, belittled, and otherwise reduced to something pedantic, when anybody who has studied the accumulated tides of political movements knows that each incremental battle results in a slow advance forward. Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat before Rosa Parks, but did not fit the right archetype and is barely remembered today. And as Jeanne Theoharis’s excellent book, THE REBELLIOUS LIFE OF ROSA PARKS, points out, Rosa Parks’s dominant rebellious nature was sanded over by the elder statesmen which wished to sanitize her true essence.
It is not callow to consider the way in which we fool ourselves about the fiery nature of rebellion and protest that we wish to disguise under the facade of civilization. Your rhetoric about the torched senior center could easily be transposed to that of war. For war is precisely what happens with a protest, whether peaceful or violent. In Hamburg, the charred out husk of St. Nicholas’ Church — once the tallest building in the world — sits as a permanent reminder of the bombings during World War II. The senior center is a casualty of war, as is all vandalized property. But does it detract from the reasons why Hamburg was bombed? Would you condemn the Sons of Liberty for “vandalizing” tea when pouring it into the Boston Harbor?
I’m not claiming to agree with violence. But when you oppress people long enough, peaceful protest simply isn’t going to cut the mustard as a legitimate remedy.
Thanks for the exchange.
Well, if this is war, and that is your rhetoric, then that is something very different.
How do you think urban black America is going to fare on a war footing? Being a small percentage of the national electorate and with neither the logistics, resources or weapons systems of even the National Guard. Is war really the analogy you are offering to my city at this moment? Why?
It certainly is a “War on Black America,” but this isn’t my rhetoric. Glen Ford used that phrase in a piece published on CounterPunch about militarized police in April. There was Spike Lee’s remark last year to Anderson Cooper, where he said, “There’s a war on Black America,” and pointed out quite presciently that the community “can’t take it anymore” and that the sitution would “blow up” and reach a culmination point, which we are starting to see the beginnings of. I could go on, but, as I’m sure you know, the war metaphor is so common among those who have rallied to protest police brutality and the betrayal of civil rights that I’m baffled why you’re unable to see it applicable to Baltimore. No, urban Black America isn’t going to fare very well in any war. But they’re going to fight anyway, much as Black Power did (begetting COINTELPRO). To quote Kwame Touré (who said this just before proposing revolution), “The masses don’t shed their blood for the benefit of a few individuals.”
Michelle Alexander is an elemental voice here too.
I appreciate your speaking out tonight about the criminal activity in Baltimore that some defend as necessary for change. I’d ask any of them to please share recent examples in the US where arson, theft and assaults masquerading as a “protest” did anything for anyone. Seriously. Are we that desperate as a society?
And what about assaults masquerading as police work? Are you as willing to be appreciative of the protestors speaking out on that score?