Drug War


Note: The following is dated Monday, April 27 as the mass protests in Baltimore were devolving into a riot that lasted until the early morning hours.

First things first.

Yes, there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed.  And this moment, as inevitable as it has sometimes seemed, can still, in the end, prove transformational, if not redemptive for our city.   Changes are necessary and voices need to be heard.  All of that is true and all of that is still possible, despite what is now loose in the streets.

But now — in this moment — the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease.  There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today.  But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.

If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore.  Turn around.  Go home.  Please.

Additional Notes:

Second thing second:  The death of  probable cause in Baltimore.

Third thing third: http://davidsimon.com/zero-tolerance-is-exactly-what-it-sounds-like/ .  So eyes on the real prize here.


  • Good Luck citizens of Baltimore. My thoughts are with you.

    I can tell you that the riots in Baltimore have a ripple effect all the way down to the southern city I work in. Police are on edge. My witnesses that I have worked so hard to find, so hard to prove to them I am trustworthy, are now backing up on me, or disappearing. These are witnesses in murder cases in which the victims are neither white, nor rich, but are from the same neighborhoods as the witnesses and the shooters. Do I blame them? Not entirely.
    Most cops are good people doing a terrifyingly dangerous and difficult job that few would have the stones to even try. Some, very few, are either bullies or idiots or both and should never be entrusted with a badge. When those few manifest their idiocy by killing or maiming someone illegally, it hurts us all. Then you have an entire section of the population with righteous complaints. But a few of those complaining are idiots or bullies or both, and they decide to use this as an opportunity to break shit and hurt people. So the police say “see, we were right” and the ramp up…and the rioters say “see, we were right” and here we go again.
    All the while homicide cops and prosecutors all the way down in Atlanta are holding things together with bubble gum and duct tape hoping the same thing doesn’t occur here. Assholes are Assholes, whether they wear a badge or heave a brick.

    Good Luck Baltimore.

    • With what looks like due respect (you don’t come off as an asshole) . . . an Asshole who wears a Badge is different than an asshole who doesn’t.

  • David, I like to work big to small. Although certainly an issue, isn’t police brutality WAY down on the list when you begin discussing the problems plaguing the African-American community? It would be like first treating a hangnail on a patient that came in with third degree burns. Why are black leaders so disproportionately focused on it? Perhaps it fits their narrative of “victimization” and allows them to eschew personal responsibility. Shouldn’t you first ask, what factors are present to induce young African American males to participate in a disproportionately high percentage of crime in our cities?

    I would start with, in any order 1.) Breakdown of the family/absentee fathers 2.) Lack of an emphasis of education 3.) The loss of meaningful, salary appropriate, blue-collar work in communities 4.) Shitting out kids when you can’t afford them 5.) Reliance on government handouts, creating a culture of dependency. These are all interrelated, yes. Yet you don’t hear many black leaders calling out the African-American community on this, do you?

    • The drug war is a war on the poor, astonishing in its scope and ruthlessness. In your racist stereotyping of African-Americans, or even of the poor, you absolve this country of far too much ill intent.

      • I’m shocked at how quick you have been in this thread to label people racist when they offer a different perspective. I’ve also noticed you get mildly defensive and revert to ad hominem whenever someone raises the issue of absent fathers as a cause for the many problems we’re discussing here, including the riots. It’s like you don’t have the stomach to discuss it or address it.

        I loved S4 like everyone else, and was appropriately heartbroken over the boys’ outcomes. But to exclusively blame No Child Left Behind, the drug war, or O’Malley’s PC policies for how young people turn out is short-sided in my opinion.

        What is racist to suggest that children without a father, left to be raised by an unequipped, poorly educated, financially-strapped mother/guardian will often lead to an undesirable outcome?

        Sometimes, it’s almost as if you don’t respect any other opinion that didn’t originate in the back of a BPD squad car on a journalist’s notepad.

        • The entire post was a calculated effort to argue the lesser competence and worth of black citizens and to suggest that their behavior is to be blame for those moments when their victimization at the hands of law enforcement is made plain. It is a purposeful and racially-motivated changing of the subject and frankly, in my considered opinion, it is racist in intent. If they are complicit as a people, then their complaints as individuals can be marginalized. That’s how it works.

          Ask yourself something: Where do you think a good many of those absent African-American fathers in our underclass are at present? And before you answer, remember that our drug war and our sentencing policies have made the United States the manager of the most vast prison-industrial complex in modern history.

        • I have a question and it is only in response to your reply…maybe Mr. Simon doesn’t give the time of day to the absentee father excuse because it is a bullshit excuse. On a completely personal level, there has to come a point where one stops blaming the shit they do on how they were brought up. Again, I mean that on the personal level and taking responsibility for your actions. I do not mean in anyway to dismiss the systematic and institutional racism that exists, nor am I debating it’s obvious existence.

      • The war on drugs (poor people) has been a total failure, in every sense of the word. That doesn’t change the fact that all of what I stated above is true for a LARGE percentage of poor people, and a disproportionate percentage of poor people, especially in Baltimore, are African-American. I hope we can at least agree that their plight can be attributed to both external and internal factors.

        It seems to me a much more potent message would be for the African-American leadership to focus on the areas I mentioned, and make a plea to begin changing the culture internally, first. Focusing on the external factors, prevalent though they are, seems to me to promote “victim hood mentality” and diverts attention away from the one place change always has to begin – from within.

        • Is it possible to work on two problems at once? Because law enforcement in black urban America is decidedly a problem. Having covered it in detail, I can promise you, some basic reforms will not waste anyone’s time and it might save some human life. Now then, there is plenty of time for you to preach self-improvement to African-Americans with all the white privilege you can muster.

      • Looks like yet another reasonable conversation, in which personal responsibility is brought up, is being “shut down” by the race card and the oppression card. America is a country in which its citizens are expected to make something of themselves, not sit around and complain, take handouts, and continue destructive behavior.

        • Freddie Gray got a handout alright. So did Mr. Scott. And Mr. Garner.

          Those guys are living the life, ain’t they? Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with America and its unarmed casualty list. Move along, people. Nothing to see here.

    • “Yet you don’t hear many black leaders calling out the African-American community on this, do you?”

      You are wrong, Paul. We hear it all the time. Maybe you don’t, but we do. We even heard it at Freddie Gray’s funeral, where Rev. Jamal Bryant practically yelled at the congregation that, paraphrasing, “This is not the time to waste buying lottery tickets! Pull up your pants! Step up!” Etc.

      And seconding David Simon’s comment about the war — and it is a war — on the poor.

    • Trying to create a black/white racial narrative regarding police brutality in Baltimore is ignorant considering about half of the officers in the BPD are black, as are the mayor, the police commissioner, and the deputy commissioner of patrol. Read first, talk later.

      • When reporting “The Corner,” it became apparent that the most brutal officers in sector two and in the D.E.U. and flex squads were, in fact, African-American. And that was the 1990s. The reason? I don’t know, other than to attribute the excesses of the policing culture to classist, rather than racial, alienation. And maybe note that when a black police officer begins to wail on a black suspect, he does so without the historical baggage that might make a white officer think twice about the image he presents.

        • I think it is probably still the same way. The guy I mentioned below who said the 13 year old kids can catch a hot one is also black.

          I want to say there may be some self-loathing aspects to it as well as what you laid out in THE CORNER (which I agree with) but that’s psychoanalyzing from afar. We’d have to ask the BPD psychiatrist (from what I understand there is only one…another factor contributing to the overall problem, I would wager).

        • People will always find a reason to make themselves feel superior to somebody else because it’s a cheap ego boost. Wouldn’t matter if we were all the same color and all had the same amount of money…We’d find something else.

    • Well you were off to a murky but decent start and then you dropped “4.) Shitting out kids when you can’t afford them” and clearly laid out the hand you are trying to pass off. Just wondering how often you start statements with: “I’m not racist but…” This reads like one of those.

      The problem with your list is that it lets you off the hook, lets us off the hook. Have you actually looked at history? There is ample evidence…evidential fact, not theory, or conspiracy, but fact…of the ghettos we currently have being created with intention. But let’s start at the top of your comment…police brutality should be WAY down the list. Seems to me, if I was stopped multiple times a week on the way to work, to a friend’s house, to my mom’s house, to the store and had to justify that trip, I would start to feel some resentment. It would probably cloud my judgement of things and give me an unwholesome view of authority. I am just working off common sense here.

      If I looked at my family history and that history potentially involved lynchings, slavery, almost certainly tales of discrimination; that would probably color my view of the present.

      These are real truths. Try as you and the counter-narrative will to run away from the past and just make it “their fault”, the past isn’t going anywhere. And to get down with some capitals, NONE of what I have just written justifies entirely what is happening so drop those raised eyebrows down an inch. However, to just pretend that these problems are somehow entirely restricted to the here and now is lazy, ignorant and foolish.

      • “Well you were off to a murky but decent start and then you dropped “4.) Shitting out kids when you can’t afford them” and clearly laid out the hand you are trying to pass off”

        I’m not trying to pass out out any hand, and I don’t need you to determine if I “drop anything”.

        “Seems to me, if I was stopped multiple times a week on the way to work, to a friend’s house, to my mom’s house, to the store and had to justify that trip, I would start to feel some resentment. It would probably cloud my judgement of things and give me an unwholesome view of authority. I am just working off common sense here”

        Several black men & women work at my CPA firm in Baltimore. During a recent water cooler conversation about speeding tickets, one of these gentlemen revealed to me he hadn’t been pulled over in 10 years – for anything. If every single black person has to deal with this stuff, why doesn’t he?

        “If I looked at my family history and that history potentially involved lynchings, slavery, almost certainly tales of discrimination; that would probably color my view of the present.”

        No doubt. However, the point of my post was that black leaders and community members are sending the wrong message. No one ever accomplished anything significant in life dwelling on the past and pointing fingers at other people. An honest accounting of your decisions, the behaviors you can actually change, should be where you should start – and that should be the message to these communities.

    • There so many black leaders speaking out against. Seriously, just Google it. Just because you refuse to do research doesn’t mean black leaders aren’t speaking out about the problems you have specifically mentioned.

    • thank you for your comments. While I agree with your sentiment of prioritization of problems, I wonder, as any person should, who gets to makes this prioritization? What will be the role of black folks in this prioritization? How will this process be structured? Etc. I have no clue how you came to your prioritization list and such a clear resolution to its righteousness, but it doesn’t even seem to follow your own analogy about the doctor. Your list would reflect the prioritization of a doctor who has never actually met their patient and has perscribed a drug cocktail for them. Perhaps if we inserted a little more understanding and humanity and removed a bit of the judgement the conversation about addressing the needs of the monolithic black community may move towards better outcomes for us all. –embrace the day

    • I do not have any insight into Baltimore, but is the situation there really just a reaction to what has happened in Baltimore (not just Freddie Gray, but other incidents of police misconduct)? Or is this the boiling point for a population that has grown sick and tired of seeing police brutality in person and in cities and towns across the country? I am a white person in an incredibly white community in CT, and I am exasperated by these stories and seeing the police stand behind their culpable colleagues. I can only imagine how upsetting it is for black Americans to see these stories and to live these stories on a daily basis. From the “walking” crimes in Ferguson to the “biking without a receipt” crimes in Tampa, it is clear that there are systemic problems that black Americans are facing that no other group in the country is forced to confront. I could chalk up the Zimmerman verdict to an over-confident prosecutor and stupid jurors. But when the police are doing the killing, the assaulting, the harassing, it is a different story. And, while I do not doubt that most police officers are good people and really do want to serve and protect, the reality is that there are still a lot of bad police officers. I applaud the mayor of NYC for having a talk with his son about how to conduct himself in the presence of a police officer. That is simply responsible parenting when you think about even just recent history. For the NYC police leadership to openly disrespect their boss and for them to foment dissent against him reveals much about how police view themselves in American society. And they and their supporters are encouraging a racist divide, looking for ways to defend the actions of bad police officers at all costs and (over)criminalizing the actions of black victims. I wish that America’s political leaders at all levels recognized the systemic dysfunction. But, somehow, incredibly, this has become a partisan issue. But it seems that when history looks back on these sorts of events, it will be very obvious who were the ultimate bad actors.

  • Mr. Simon opened my eyes to the realities of poverty and the prison industrial complex and for that I think that he is brilliant. But his assertion that non violence can change a system as entrenched and corrupt as the Fraternal Order of Thugs is ridiculous! He should know that this country is ALL about money. There is money to made imprisoning black, brown and poor white bodies.

    The police and prison unions draft legislation to shield themselves from justice while denying justice to American citizens There is NO ONE who can check their hand, Since Trayvon, Black children waited for justice to work on their behalf. They remained calm while the DOJ proved just how toothless it is. They were restrained while Mike Brown lay rotting on the street for 4 hours. They acted with restraint even as the DA told hem that Wilson did nothing wrong. When the judge allowed the murderer of Renika Boyd to walk free on a technicality, her brother jumped up and said, “That MF killed my sister!” That is when the patience of this children was exhausted.

    The prison industrial complex will continue as long as there is money to be made from the bodies of poor people. Let us not pretend that marching or non-violence can change that. Let us not pretend that children who march peacefully can demand an audience with ANYONE and receive it. As in the case of Ferguson, the door to the White House did not swing open until fires burned.

    Power never concedes anything without a threat of violence. We all know that. Let us stop pretending that we are surprised or even outraged by what has happened. We are relieved because all of us are afraid of the police and we all know that we need reform but we have too much to lose to take to the streets and demand justice. So we let the children take the risk, putting their lives and freedom on the line for what they know is right. And we know it will work and reform will come because change has never come in this country any other way.

    Who did not see this coming? 50% unemployment rate, 25% incarceration rate and horrific brutality. Imagine how you would feel if your teeth were knocked out of your mouth because you parked illegally. Imagine how you would feel if a police slammed you to the ground so hard that you suffered blunt force trauma and internal bleeding, Imagine watching a police body slam your grandmother and handcuff her with such force he broke her shoulder.

    In respond to calls for justice for police who broke a 140 pound man into two pieces,and simply shrugged it off, the President of the Fraternal Order of Psychopaths accused the public of attempting to LYNCH his progeny. That was too much. That is when the pressure cooker exploded.

    Savage is what savage does and a government that allows police who are nothing more than criminals to beat human beings to death is just as savage as the savages who perform the act.

    We DID nothing when we SAW a dog chew off the face of an unconscious suspect.
    We DID nothing when we SAW a police shoot a man in the back 8 times
    We DID nothing but PAY when we SAW video after video of police in cities from state to state beat, rape, tase, shoot, choke, suffocate, and humiliate young boys and girls of all colors who all just happened to be poor.

    We pondered the effects that these videos going viral would have on our children. Now we know. Telling children who are enraged and agitated to calm down… how does that work when someone asks it of you?

    • A riot will fix everything, I’m sure.

      Last time that America was greeted with a string of them, we were rewarded with Richard Nixon, Spirow Agnew and as couple decades of counter-revolution and reactionary governance. But I’m sure this time, because the disenfranchised in Baltimore tore up a drug store, some mom-and-pop liquor stores and groceries and burned out the site of a future senior center, real change is on the way. Civil disobediance and mass protest has dignity, demands attention and draws allies. A riot is a riot is a riot. It gets attention to be sure, but the wrong kind.

      • Donna makes some salient points in her defense of confrontation for change.
        First, her assertion that revolution is just in the name of oppression come directly from Two Treatise on Government by John Locke. This work inspired Jefferson and other revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
        Second, her suggestion that those in power seldom give it up without a struggle is also found in the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Nevertheless, MLK and the Civil Rights movement was non-violent and based mostly on Ghandis tactics and strategies.
        One could argue though that those gains have also seen serious reversals to personal freedom from oppression.

      • I am appalled that an American can not run or carry certain items which r concealed in their pockets without being apprehended by police. is this “1941”. What gives a white boy, such as yourself, the right to call the shots for us black folk. we were chained, raped, worked to our deaths, everything horrible by your ancestors. You r not exceptional. You have stolen your intellect, your education, everything u r from some special black youth. his/her ancestors gave their lives, their happiness, their children’s aspirations for your place in this society. “We r mad as hell and we r not taking it anymore.” I am 83 y o and I thrill to see us fighting back in any manner we so chose. so thanks for your instructions but we ain’t having any today. we r no longer praying for our dignity we demand it.
        Looks to me that the U S is fighting all over the world even here.

        • I’m sorry that you don’t see me as a fellow citizen of the city of Baltimore, vested in its future and hungry for the fundamental reforms in the culture of law enforcement. That is my purpose. And while you take real satisfaction in “fighting back” in the manner you choose, I don’t see looting stores and burning down the site for a senior center as being either tactical or strategic victories.

          I think mass civil disobedience is powerful, and non-violent resistance is the way, and I felt this intensely when I was out at North and Pennsie today, where Baltimoreans — black and white — had cleaned up from the previous night’s rioting and were holding the intersection. That felt like fighting back and it felt like the kind of fight that could carry some of middle America toward some actual reform. If you prefer looting and burning as strategy, so be it. But I live in Baltimore and I want the same progress as you on the same issues as you, and when I think you’re screwing up the chance to achieve something, I’m gonna say so. If you think a Baltimorean asking other Baltimoreans to continue to press their protests for justice, but not resort to burning and looting is white privilege, then fine. I’m swimming in white privilege and content to do so. I think you just defined the term “white privilege” out of all possible purpose and meaning.

          As to my ancestors chaining, raping and stealing from your ancestors and their children, I can’t deny the obvious advantages of being white in America, or the disadvantages of being non-white, or the unlevel playing field of our society, you are exactly correct. Nor would I want to deny such. Obviously, I am fully committed to addressing the disadvantages as they relate to a brutal culture of drug enforcement and mass incarceration of black folk in this country.

          But to be precise, my ancestors began to arrive on these shores around 1910, for the most part. In the era of American slavery, they were pretty much busy stealing chickens and running from Cossacks in Hungary and Russia. Again, that doesn’t absolve them of having been advantaged by a racially divided and biased culture, but I think chaining, raping and working people to their deaths — as a specific indictment of my heritage — needs a small modification.

          But to your larger question. I live in Baltimore. I believe that I share a common future with other Baltimoreans, and that solving the city’s problems benefits everyone. And I think a riot doesn’t solve much at all.

    • From time immemorial, the only proven solution to dismantling evil institutions is nonviolent resistance.

      An evil institution is one whose main purpose is ignominious and which may have gotten its start with a specific individual or small group but which lives on without them. The people working for the institution are like most people – they take their clues as to acceptable behavior from what those around them are doing but do have a moral core. Evil institutions (like the prison/ industrial/ war on drugs law enforcement one) always have some justification/ some dehumanization of those victimized/ some way to make the victims look like the bad guys built in. They encourage the type of behavior that can then be punished.

      If you are to reform these types of institutions, they are too big to simply go away and almost always serve a legitimate purpose as well as the evil one.

      Nonviolent protest and humanization of the oppressed is the only antidote to the power of these institutions because it is the only things that can convince the majority of people working in the system (the police officers/ DAs / prison guards / judges) that they themselves are the problem. This then can lead to change from within. Some of the faces and people will have to go, but many will remain and it is imperative that they deeply and profoundly believe that change is the right thing.

      If you try and force change on people who feel that they are in the moral right, there is an inevitable backlash that may erupt overnight or simmer over time. This is the tragedy of MLK’s death – the work was only partially done and today’s school-prison pipeline is a direct legacy of a power structure which did not internalize full civil rights. He anticipated that those clinging to power would pit the working class against the african -americans and had planned to work together. This obviously didn’t happen and until the two groups understand that they are better off fighting together against the 1% than scrimmaging for the scraps remaining, the bullshit will continue.

      This is a long battle and people must accept that many of those who today oppress will continue to be in power. This is the MLK concept – love your enemy, hate the institution.

    • A riot will fix almost nothing. The anger in a riot is too unfocused. More productive would be the organization of peaceful protests to build community again and again and again until there is a committed, willing and organized populace, and then, if the system still crushes you under their boot heels and demands subservience, a true revolution might actually be able to occur. The only violence that ever solves anything is focused revolution. Riots overshadow the issues, give the media fodder to demonize and discredit the many valid reasons there are to be so upset.

    • Great Post, Donna!
      Well said. I’m still too angry to explain to racist white folks, why conscious black people are upset. I’m too angry, and too tired. Police brutality happens here in Portland, OR too. I’ve protested against the killing of black men and women here. It’s just not as prevalent here as it is in other cities.

    • Dear Mr. Simon,

      I am a huge admirer of yours. My father grew up in the neighborhoods depicted in The Wire. But was troubled by your response to the uprising related to riots the Freddie Gray killing think may have been different were you living in this neighborhood.

      I just read this thoughtful article from The Atlantic by Tan-Nhisi Coates who grew up in this neighborhood speaks with such clarity and intelligence about this inevitable outcome. I’m sharing it for you to read.

      • I read it.

        I don’t agree — and neither does Mr. Coates, if you read him with care — that mass civil disobedience, which I support, is commensurate with compliance. It is not. I was out at North and Pennsie today in support of precisely that. But a riot is a riot. I want the protests to continue in Baltimore and I want the protesters to become disciplined, formidable and unrelenting.

        The burning and the looting of last night? No. Not at all. And understanding the inevitability of a riot, as Mr. Coates certainly does with this one, gives no one a plausible moral reason to support a riot. If you look carefully, I’m supportive of protests in Baltimore and of non-violent and protacted civil disobedience as a strategy. I think there are tangible reforms that are within our grasp with discipline and commitment.

        The rioting fucks that up. Sorry. Understanding it offers little to commend it or its results.

        • Neoliberalism has bred the prison industrial complex of incarceration and inequality. The destructive allure of rioting as an ignorant, raging response to particular incidents of state sanctioned violence devastates communities. In the aftermath, ordinary citizens stand up to clean up together and lament their losses. Meanwhile the corporate media identify bogeymen thugs and divert the public gaze from #blacklivesmatter, and the alarming spread of paramilitarised policing deployed against peaceful protest the world over..

          Cops murder black citizens with monotonous regularity and apparent impunity. It is only because of the tenacity of ordinary people standing up and calling out these outrages that this has become “an issue” amongst the chatterati. Whilst I deplore the mob destruction of the rioters, it seems to me an inevitable consequence of a corporatocracy which denigrates public service, community and cultural values and instead esteems avarice and fear of eachother in the interests of a tiny few.

          I sincerely hope that the people of Baltimore will stand together and continue to call out state violence and not become caricatured apologists for their disaffected and disenfranchised youth.

          Yes burning and looting is wrong, but keep your sights on the bigger villains from Wall Street to corrupt government and it’s institutionally racist armed police departments.

          with sadness and solidarity

          • Agree with exactly everything, only hastening to add that there are people in the Baltimore streets marching and bringing mass civil disobedience into play. They have some high ground. The burning and the looting isn’t simply wrong, it makes vulnerable the power of legitimate grievance and prolonged disobedience even before it is fully brought to bear.

            • Thank you.

              So, I look at links like this

              … and I see vulnerability exploited by cops which looks like incitement. Suspension of mass transit, leads to people being stuck, mostly young people trying to get home from school. Forced together in the face of faceless armed riot police, made faceless by their armor and all too apparent preparation for street warfare.

              All of which leads me to conclude that the riots were triggered by aggressive paramilitary policing. If the “public servants” of the city were really interested in their community, kids would have been allowed to get home, there would have been dialogue and appeals for calm, not tooling up for a riot that was yet to happen.

              It is in the interests of the state to delegitimise grievance against it by violent provocation, creating the desired violent reaction which can then be demonised and become the “story”. Thus perpetrating the narrative that black youth are by nature a criminal class, and that “running whilst black” is reason enough for battery and murder.

              This tactic, violent militaristic confrontation by the cops, is widely deployed against peaceful protesters from Occupiers to civil rights defenders, and successfully so, the media love to cover violent confrontation, peaceful assembly rarely gets a mention.

              Consequently, citizens become fearful of assembly having witnessed unlawful arrests and frightening aggression, they stop standing up as they feel they have too much to lose (jobs, liberty, personal safety etc). True, new technology allows us to deconstruct the media spin with our tv studios in our pockets, and allows us this immediate discussion and connection, but to stand up together in our streets we must be brave, strong, committed and focussed, not distracted or disillusioned by the way we are played by the powers that be.

              You have a powerful voice in this moment in Baltimore and your country, calling out the viciousness of the neoliberal state is even more important than lamenting the looters, aim high whilst building community, solidarity and strength with your neighbours and ensuring that the essential truth of #blacklivesmatter isn’t hijacked by standing together and amplifying eachother’s voices to overcome the remorseless din of the lamentable tv news and its paymasters.

              Wishing you well

              • I’ve written much and argued more in a variety of venues for the demilitarization of law enforcement, for an end to the drug war and for a reduction in our levels of mass incarceration. And I will do so for a while still certainly.

                But your desire to have me aim my rhetoric in your preferred direction only is too much a la carte to someone who was trained as a journalist. When the folks on my preferred team are wrong, or if I think so, then that needs to be voiced and full-throated, too. Otherwise, any claim to being even a vaguely honest polemicist is undercut and quick. A willingness to call bullshit even when it doesn’t suit my preferred narrative or outcome makes everything a bit more credible, and the failure to do so marginalizes the commentary so that you are preaching only to your own choir. I am certain that both the police line up near Gwynns Falls and Mondawmin made some mistakes and I am sure there were provocations. I am also sure that those students were provocative as well and that no one, in actuality, behaved with clean, perfect innocence. If it was all police provocation, then why doesn’t the student response manifest itself in simply a back-and-forth with the police line? Why the looting? Why the private vehicles set afire? Why the damage to the mall? I don’t know who did what up there in the earliest moments of the riot that followed; neither do you. But I distrust any narrative in which one side behaves cleanly or as wholly innocent and well-intentioned dupes of the other. Years of reporting whisper to me that nothing ever lands so cleanly when all of the facts are known.

                • Nothing is clean and everything is messy, nor is there any excuse for wanton criminality which shits so supremely in its own backyard. My observations are made from the comfort of my technology in suburban London, though hopefully illuminated by compassionate critical analysis and genuine affection for your city.

                  Why do some people rampage? Why do some rampages merit more condemnation than others? I have also seen footage today of “high spirited” sports fans burning cars and vandalising public property.

                  You are an increasingly rare breed, principled journalist and thoughtful polemicist, in a miasma of Murdochian propagandists. So my plea is not to sanctify anyone, but in this shitty reality to remain loud and proud of ordinary citizens and speak truth to power, as you so eloquently have in your remarkable, groundbreaking and inspiring work.

                  [cue shameless fandom the Wire remains the best TV series ever made to date, Treme was a beautiful, musical and soulful ode to the big easy introducing me to great performers and the reason I made a beeline for Trombone Shorty’s glorious gig at a UK festival last summer, Generation Kill helped me understand the soldier’s perspective, The Corner was poignant and terrible, and Homicide was refreshingly new at the time, many thanks for your enormous cultural contribution, long may it continue]

                  So, thanks for enriching my experience. I appreciate your call for balance in the discussion of current events, my plea for “aiming higher” was not to excuse nor ignore riotous criminality, but to contextualise it in the hope that soundbite reportage cannot ignore the urgent need for nationwide police reform as demanded by an increasingly diverse movement of American citizens.

    • Let me get my bona fides out of the way first. I am a 66 y.o. white man living in Maui. However, I grew up in Cleveland Ohio and have visited and stayed in Baltimore on numerous occasions. I was always struck by how similar the two cities are. Both have strong cultural and educational institutions inside their borders and both have/had an economy built on dying industries. Both have a wide chasm between the educated professional class and the under-employed working. And both have a history of both black civic representation (Carl Stokes was the first black mayor of a large city in the US) and police brutality. And in the last three months, both have seen one of their young black men killed while in contact with those who are supposedly dedicated to “serving and protecting”. Both of these tragedies were caught on camera.

      If six months ago you would have told me that each city would see the killings of one of their young black men by a local cop caught on camera and that one of these cities would erupt in violence, my money would have been on Cleveland. Why, you ask? Because I know from personal experience that there are violent, out-of-control cops sprinkled among mostly ethical policemen throughout the CPD and that the CPD has known about these guys for decades. That’s right since I was a teenager in the early 60s it was well known among everyone in the community that there were cops in the Cleveland police force that could literally get away with murder and have. But, you know, they only killed black men and since I was white, why should I care? Well the reason is that these black men are Americans too. They disproportionately suffer many of the social ills that most white kids don’t. Today I’m reading that Mr. Gray may have had lead poisoning as a child. Is this really possible in the 1990’s when Freddie was a kid? I know you’ve written about the Baltimore education system Mr. Simon. Do they have a program for young kids who suffer from lead poisoning? Given your description of the Baltimore school system, I imagine not. Cleveland certainly doesn’t.

      So I get the anger. But what I don’t get is the wilding. But since it’s happened in just about every corner of America, there must be a reason, certainly some kind of reason. But what is it?

    • Seen from abroad, things happened to Baltimore last night resulted in … european news. All major print press, all TV stations, some even with own correspondents in your war zone.

      Giving us the newest update to US racist police brutality elsewhere and background stories regarding the developement of Baltimore referring to this.

      Be assured that all this destructing doesn’t result in nothing. Instead of this it presents a picture of a society. No one will forget. Part of Americas face. Changed dramatically by the last decades. Seen from outside.

      Rest in peace, Freddie Gray.

    • Much of the American left seems to have abandoned the concept of lower-case-R republicanism entirely. I say this as a deeply disappointed American progressive, feeling quite ostracized at present for failing to support the purposeless destruction of Monday night’s riots. The work of representative government is apparently far too slow to serve any disadvantaged persons, ever, and is thus inimical to the notion of justice. People are angry, goddammit. What’s a ruined family business or two?

      I agree that there is much work to be done, and much to protest – but we weren’t witnessing protest at seven o’clock last night. To confer the moral authority of “protestor” – a title a huge number of people in Baltimore have earned justly – upon a group of opportunists out to fuck shit up, well, I just can’t do it.

      The more-progressive-than-thou attitude of those who justify the destruction is symptomatic of the American left’s tendency to devour itself in an endless series of purity tests. I fear for what that portends against a well-moneyed, well-disciplined, well-entrenched neoliberal right.

    • Mr. Simon

      I loved the Wire – it was great to see so many talented black actors and actresses in one show. It seems a shame that many of those faces have not gotten roles in other shows, although certainly some went on to stardom (idris Elba).

      I think what’s been lost in Baltimore is an objective standard for behavior. It doesn’t matter if a suspect is a mass murderer – the police have a duty to protect anyone in their custody from harm. Citizens have a duty to act like civilians (with the emphasis on civil), not criminals. They also have an obligation to demand results and enforce change upon our elected officials. If the policing is unfair use the best mechanism – the ballot box. As Obama once said, “Don’t boo, vote.” But if you continually vote for the same old same old accountability is erased. And Baltimore, 2015 is the result.. .

    • First off I want to tell Mr. Simon that The Wire is my hubby’s and my all time favorite series.

      Our son used to live on W. Franklin St. I met the most delightful people while sitting on his row house steps! I fell in love with Charm City and now truly BELIEVE as it is written on all trash receptacles! I Mr. Simon, you and I were in sync about the recent violence in your initial blog. But after some particularly nutty responses to your blog it seems like you got a bit defensive and began speaking in tongues. I’m speaking from the perspective of a former county jail nurse in the deep South. I had to “respond” to sooo much verbal abuse that I learned to turn on my “robot”. What a relief to squash one’s emotions to better one’s reactions!

      There is so much power in the words “I’m sorry!” Doctors are slowly grasping the fact that when in error it is imperative that they sincerely apologize to their patients. This is very simple; those miraculous words can heal life-altering wounds and need to be generously spoken by the police and elected officials as well. The big question hanging over us is “Can angry protesters be assuaged by an apology and a promise to solve the mystery behind Mr. Gray’s injuries?”

    • I spent the majority of my childhood in various poor-white redneck trailer parks and run-down minority ghettos (black and mexican) in multiple states across the south and west. Skin hue withstanding, the similarities between the poor black and poor white communities were surprisingly broad. Sure, there were nuances that one could observe, but there existed one
      characteristic, in particular, that no eyes could escape when looking upon those households that were permanent fixtures in our neighborhoods: absent or derelict fathers. I’m careful to say, “permanent fixtures”, here because it wasn’t uncommon for functional two-parent households to move into the neighborhood; the difference being that those households didn’t remain. They were quickly passing through — often they had fallen on a rough patch in their lives and were within 6 months of getting back on their feet and out of those neighborhoods. Those parents also often had the good sense to prevent their kids from playing too much with the rest of us hooligans running the streets. The households with a derelict or absent father tended to be the ones “stuck” in those neighborhoods, and they were also more likely to have kids that turned into criminal juveniles.

      Like others commenting here, I believe the police have generally become too militaristic, I believe too many people are incarcerated for non-violent offense, and I believe the “war on drugs”
      has not been successful enough to warrant future support. I would actually support legalization of a wide range of behaviors consenting adults take part in, but we should not fool ourselves
      into thinking those are solutions to the root cause of violent interactions between people in poor neighborhoods and the police. Decriminilaizing drug use will neither prevent/avoid drug use,
      nor will it contain the other criminal behaviors that are inevitably committed by those whose drug appetite exceeds their ability to pay for it. Demanding our police force show more restraint and fairness is a goal worthy in itself, but it will not decrease the criminality among poor teenage boys that leads to the interaction with law enforcement. The best chance at accomplishing both of those goals, reducing the drug use and the delinquent behavior that leads to law enforcement interaction, is to increase the percentage of two-parent households.

      • More than 2.3 million Americans, most of them men, are now incarcerated, their numbers bloated by the drug war and the rush to imprison people for non-violent drug offenses in many cases. How many of them are fathers?

    • HBO will probably bank at the end of the day with all the new HBO NOW subscribers looking to finally watch that show they’ve been meaning to watch for a while now.

      The protests and riots occurred right in the middle of a conversation I have been having with a friend about the system and Baltimore. He is watching The Wire for the first time and as of yesterday had only the last episode to go. I told him that we should talk again after that montage at the end.

      That montage is cynical. When I watch it I think of all the things the characters tried to change things up throughout the run of the series and how nothing changed. What didn’t they try? What needs to be done? A stone cold coup d’etat?

    • David —

      It makes me happy to see rational, powerful voices speak to non-violent civil disobedience in their own communities. I also want to let you know how much I appreciate you taking seriously voices that disagree with your stance here in your comments section. A lot of people would hide behind their statement, let it simmer and speak for itself, instead of continuing to clarify their position (including to some people who are not at all interested in that clarification). Intelligent people like yourself give me hope for the future of this country.

      Thanks again, I’m very appreciative of your cumulative body of work and this particular article.


      • I like argument. I like debate. I can’t do this very often for obvious reasons, but right now it seems like more talk about the problems in Baltimore and why they matter to all of us is of some value.

    • As President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 about the riots
      “What did you expect? I don’t know why we’re so surprised. When you put your foot on a man’s neck and hold him down for three hundred years, and then you let him up, what’s he going to do? He’s going to knock your block off.”
      To me your demands that people swallow their anger, put down the bricks and go home is unreasonable and arrogant. You know as well as most that these youth have only known police oppression in their neighbourhoods their entire lives. Many of them have no jobs or opportunity and their only interaction with the state is through the foot-soldiers of the neoliberal system that is imposed on them. When they see another of their own brutally murdered by a police department and then face angry white crowds at Camden or police itching for a fight after they’ve given students no way to get home, what do you think the result would be? It’s easy to try and put boundaries around what you think are legitimate and illegitimate expressions of outrage as a white man who doesn’t have to live it. It is quite a bit harder to have such a rational thought process while you have to live the brutality every day and you have cops (most of whom aren’t from Baltimore) rampaging through the streets committing state sanctioned violence against anyone who crosses their path.
      How long did you think people would just sit back and take this before it blew up? Why are you so surprised that vandalism and looting is the reaction of those who you yourself admit have been cut out of the system and thrown away?
      Remember when millions marched in the street against the War in Iraq and it went on anyways killing over a million people? Well maybe many of these people feel that marching in the street hasn’t accomplished anything and are lashing out irrationally because they feel they have no other option. Maybe empathy with the oppressed should be your response instead of deigning to tell them how to act from on high.

      • Absolutely, this riot — and others against this level of militarized police presence, state-sanctioned killing and mass incarceration are inevitable. Completely. And quite obviously. No one is arguing with inevitability.

        Are they a good thing? For Baltimore? For the realpolitik of law enforcement reform? For drawing middle-American allies to an agenda that will require moving the political center closer to the needs of an urban minority population that is, at best, five or six percent of the electorate?

        Millions did not march in the street against the War in Iraq. Not in the U.S. That is hyperbole. Thousands did, and polls consistently — and tragically — showed American support for the war at its inception and for a good while afterward. And millions are not marching now for an end to the drug war, or for the demilitarization of law enforcement or for a reduction in the American gulag. But public opinion is actually on the move in the last couple years, and if you look online you will see a remarkable consensus growing among different political factions for reform. Does that get easier — or harder — when the news cycle becomes a riot in Baltimore, replete with a militarized police presence struggling to regain civil order? Do you care? Is there a goal here — a tangible improvement in the lives of inner-city Baltimoreans — that matters to you? Or are we still where we were when Ferguson broke, merely acknowledging the depth of the anger and alienation and declaring the worst outcomes to be what everyone already knows they are?

        • This is sort of the problem that leads people to these levels of anger. While we debate the realpolitik and the political value and representation of these people, they have to live as an underclass, they have to die and suffer. No one is saying these riots are good, no one is saying they are productive, but chastising rioters and telling them to go home ignores the issue entirely. This violence you are furious about is a drop in the bucket compared to the actual structural and societal-wide violence that is inflicted on people every day. It is almost laughable that you would pick the rioters as violence to make a stand against at this point if it weren’t so sad.
          Millions did march against the war in Iraq. I am talking about the world-wide response and it accomplished nothing. Even inside the US there were hundreds of thousands that marched in the lead up to the war and after the invasion including single day marches of over 250 000 in NYC and 50 000 in Boston just to name 2. IF American politics have taught us anything, it is that public opinion is simply used as window dressing to try and provide legitimacy to a corrupt political system that most people have no say in. Will these riots push public opinion back against the supposed growing consensus, perhaps, but does that matter to the political system? As Iraq showed, it absolutely does not. To imply that that I don’t care about regain civil order is just the type of dismissive tactic I would expect from a reactionary railing against protestors instead of the structural and economic violence this system subjects people to.
          If we’re going to talk about the goals of the protesters, why are you asking the same questions about the police, the military and the state. What are there goals? To stop the protesters to get everything back to normal. Why is the onus in this scenario only on the protesters to demonstrate that they denounce violence, when the most violent parties in this system are the state, the plutocrats and their minions?

          • Mr. Geomo.

            I think we crossed in communications.

            My previous email urges you to go the link at the Marshall Project off an interview I had set up with Bill Keller on Monday and then did on the morning after the riots. If you do not see that you have my absolute agreement that the systemic affronts to the urban poor are the fundamental from anything else I’ve reported or written or filmed in the last couple decades, then let me offer the contents of that interview. It’s now online.

            But you are trying to declare war on the sea and shovel back the waves when you complain about a riot capturing the dialectic and the commentary to the exclusion of all else. It simply does. That is the cost of a riot — the built-in cost. We can agree on the riot’s inevitability, and we can understand its substantive and specific origins, but in the end, the riot becomes the only narrative that matters for an America that needs to be pushed from its original fears to abandon an incredible edifice of legal persecution. Is that harder or easier with a riot in play? I said what I said when a riot was in play? I say other things at all other times. And everywhere, in each moment, I am trying to be as direct and honest as I can.

            As to millions marching against the Iraq War, I can only quote Tip O’Neill’s ancient wisdom: “All politics is local.” What was true in Rome or Paris did not mean shit to the American body politic. The opinion polls of likely U.S. voters mattered and they were not favorable to those who wanted peace. Similarly, what is true to those who understand much about the injustices and vulnerabilities in urban America do not mean shit to an American body politic that is astonished by the imagery of Baltimoreans burning and looting. Which is why yesterday and today — with the threat, I hope, receding, and a continued campaign of civil disobedience bringing the attention back to greater truths — was better for all of us who care about this stuff than Monday. That’s why I wanted people to go home. Because I want the protestors in the street, with the cameras on them.

            • The war in Iraq wouldn’t have happened without the coalition of the willing because it was an illegitimate war. The support of Spain and Italy and the UK etc was essential to gaining international legitimacy to allow the US to invade. My point is those protests in the allied countries and domestically in the US had no effect on any of those countries and that was coming from relatively privileged people. Again I’m not saying rioting is a solution just simply saying it’s easy to condemn rioting, it’s much harder to swallow that anger back away once it has been released. Thank you for your time and your efforts to engage and clarify your statement. I do appreciate your role as a public intellectual and thank you again for your work.

    • Politicians look at the strife in Baltimore and shake their heads and wring their hands while offering platitudes about jobs. Leading up to the election in 2008 John McCain and Barak Obama both told us that the jobs sent overseas were not coming back. As the selling out of Americans by its elected leaders to the hucksters of Wall Street continues, TPA and TPP being prime examples, the lack of jobs for our future generations can only lead to more civic unrest. The problem is that until the unrest comes to the open sewer of Washington DC, politicians will continue to issue disastrous policies as they look on and shake their heads. They should look in the mirror.

    • David, I was planning on going to this Saturday’s protest and march at City Hall, until I read this:

      A veteran organizer in high-profile civil rights cases, Shabazz is included in the “extremist files” of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a watch list that includes Aryan Nations and Ku Klux Klan leaders.

      The Alabama-based law center describes Shabazz as “a racist black nationalist with a long, well-documented history of violently anti-Semitic remarks and accusations about the inherent evil of white people” and a man “particularly skilled at orchestrating provocative protests.”

      . . . The Rev. Alvin S. Gwynn, Jr., president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore, said his group has been meeting with other pastors to find ways to “speak with one voice” — and said “outside agitators” are complicating the effort.

      Activists like Shabazz “aren’t’ trying to solve the problem. They’re trying to use this situation to gain a platform for their own agendas,” he said.

      Now I’m not so sure. What’s your take?

      • My take? My take is my take.

        There are people in this world that think a white guy who resides, votes and identifies with the city of Baltimore should not open his mouth to say please do not burn and loot the city. I woudn’t wipe my ass with any definition of privilege that suggests such speech is out of bounds for anyone, or that any voice ought not to be heard. My take is that I’m listening to everyone and judging them for what they argue and propose, and not giving a fuck about who they are.

        • I was asking if you think Shabazz is indeed dangerous and if he will try to incite the crowd on Saturday. (I hope this shows up in the right place in this thread. It’s gotten so long by now.)

    • The kids out there expressing their anger most likely aint reading this blog post and dont give a fuck about what any of us have to say here. It was politically correct for you to speak out against the violence considering your sentiments on the issue of policing and the inner city. Glad thats out of the way.
      But we all know how this plays out dont we? Cop kills man. Cop is acquitted or found guilty. Some peaceful protests happen and a couple stores get looted. Politicians promise change to capitalize on situation. Change never comes. Another cop kills another unarmed man….cut and past that times infinity.

      Why do you think assholes like Ted Cruz find it popular to all of a sudden speak on criminal justice reform? Is it because meth is on the rise and the poor white kids are getting locked up under the same laws put in place to squash the inner city problem? I think we are on to something here….maybe a few high profile killings of white unarmed criminals will hit the news….maybe then coincidentally real change will come.

      • You’re right, a lot of folks in the street aren’t reading any of this. We shouldn’t discuss and argue what is happening to the city, or what the potential for reform is or isn’t, or even take heed of any of it. We should instead distract ourselves and talk about things that respond to us immediately and viscerally. How about them O’s?

        What is on the table, among Americans, however many or few can be interested in a problem, is at least on the table.

        Most of my adult life, the problems we are now discussing weren’t even on the table. That they are now is a fresh given. Every effort of goodwill may end badly, but I don’t want to waste whatever this window is by burning, or looting, or yawning at the seemingly intractable nature of the problem.

  • Didn’t have to look far for the “Nelson Mandela used non-violence” card. David, he was the co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC.

    • Read his statement at Rivonia and note the astonishing limit to any human targeting by the ANC. They blew up radio towers. Indeed, the handful of ANC armed operations that resulted in casualties resulted in recriminations within the party that lasted into the reconciliation panels, post-apartheid.

      Didn’t have to look far for someone to seize a solitary tree and declare it a forest.

  • OK, while we have some semblance of calm can we examine how we got here, specifically as it pertains to Baltimore? Being familiar with you on your blog it is safe to assume you dont *like* Martin O’Malley….so take us back 5 to the 10 years…what were the policies in place that created a police culture where where a young man can die from a severed spine? Were there previous examples of cases there locally where a Mayor or someone of significant authority could have stepped up and said enough and change the policing culture or even the culture of local residents? Quite simply, how–citing specific cases if possible–did we get here?

      • Ohhhh, bring it. Let’s put that dude on a track for retirement — and put forth the lesson that no city should ever, ever embrace those draconian policies ever again. Not if they don’t want this as their legacy.

        (Nothing against O’Malley on the personal level. I’m sure there’s a nice grant-funded professorial job waiting for him at Hopkins — or something — once he gets the hell out of politics.)

      • I look forward to your future writing detailing Baltimore specifically arrived to this moment. How we got here is one half of what’s needed, obviously the next step would be where do we go from here. It is safe to say i think that any city in america of decent size is one fucked incident away from having the national guard being called up. Right now it must be contingent upon all policing authorities to change their practices as to how they make initial stops of individuals thought to be committing low level offenses. Lets keep in mind, most of these situations have occurred when cops seek to detain black men for minor crimes: jaywalking, broken tail light, selling loose cigs, flashing a toy gun. But then again i guess being black in america is still a serious crime.

        Suggestions: When a cop stops an individual, they must give their full name, rank and who their commanding officer is. They must clearly state what the purpose of the stop is and that their stop by law (hopefully a law would be enacted) must not exceed the purpose of that stop (with strict limited exceptions). The cop must notify that person that encounter is being filmed and the cop must allow that person to film it as well. That must if disputing why he is being engaged by the cop can ask for, at his expense, that a 3rd party–obviously another cop–be present and come immediately to the scene. Sensible solutions that in my opinion would diffuse most if not all hostile situations occurring during low level offenses

        • Okay, let me know how well that works when the police officer stops somebody with the same clothing description as a suspect in a convenience store robbery/murder that just got put out over the radio.

          “Sir, my name is Officer Stevens, my commanding officer is Sergeant Pierce, we’re on vid—” Zoom, off your suspect runs to dump his gun, and disappear into the darkness while the officer runs after him yelling, “Sir—Sir—we’re being recorded, and I’m……”

          Yep, let me know how that works in your Utopia.

          • It’s not that complicated, actually. Are you unaware of this digital revolution that has made cameras utterly ubiquitous in everyday life? Really?

          • Actual SPUSA, i said with strict limited exceptions. Say you are that cop in North Charleston, SC pulling someone for a broken tail light. You give him your info, tell him why he is being pulled over and reassure him based on law that the stop wont go further than that stated reasons. No running his info to see if you has warrants, no searching his car, no need for him to get out of his car. For added protection of and for both sides, all parties can film the encounter. Now, under that circumstance, do you think that gentleman would have fled, thus causing other (deadly) problems? He sits there, he takes his ticket for which warranted the traffic stop, everyone lives to see another day.

            NOW, being that i said with strict limited exceptions, like if a guy flees or additional criminal or illegal activity is observed, verifiable with all parties recording the situation, then the cop is free and empowered to react accordingly. The point of the suggestion is that it is time for ideas and solutions, ones that for once reassure a certain populace and underclass that their interactions with authorities will be dignified while also ensure the police authority and ability to safely and justly do their jobs. Im just a regular guy but i do hope whether it be your SPUSA, Mr. Simon or all concerned that a call for solutions be loudly rung out ideally now, if not sooner than later

            • Kevin, are you saying that a police officer shouldn’t be able to check a motorist’s driver’s license for warrants if the traffic stop is for a broken tail light? Do you have any idea how many people with warrants for violent felonies are discovered that way every year? And while the North Charleston incident was obviously a case of outright murder, what if the traffic stop had gone just as you propose—how many more months might it have been before the mother of Walter Scott’s child ever saw a dime of the child support he owed her?

              In addition, I’m not quite sure where you were going with this statement:

              “NOW, being that i said with strict limited exceptions, like if a guy flees or additional criminal or illegal activity is observed, verifiable with all parties recording the situation, then the cop is free and empowered to react accordingly.”

              I’m being facetious to make a point, but in your Utopian world this would mean that if an officer stops somebody with a broken tail light, goes up to the driver, a third party individual starts taking video, and the officer sees a gun and a bloody rag stuck in between the driver’s seat and the console, the officer then has to turn to the guy taking the video and ask him to verify what he sees (remember, in your words, “verifiable with all parties recording the situation”) in order to proceed.

              If that brief distraction gives the driver enough time to pull the gun, kill the officer and drive off, at least your policy would make sure the murder of the officer was verified by a third party.

  • […] David Simon, a longtime cops reporter for The Baltimore Sun and creator of the HBO series “The Wire,” wrote about the upheaval in Baltimore Monday. He cautioned rioters against committing acts of violence in Freddie Gray’s name. “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 diminution of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.” (davidsimon.com) […]

  • I certainly agree with David Simon that the rioters should go home. Whether or not such destruction leads to creation in The States I know not. It’s dangerous to try and conflate situations from one continent with another – and I’m 3,600 miles from Baltimore – but in a London context, it certainly does. The US does wealth gap and neglect like no other, (which, it has to be said, is why here The Wire has an ghoulish, prurient appeal over and above it’s remarkable storytelling, acting, production), and whilst the UK is the US’s little brother in disadvantage and lack of equality of opportunity (in European terms), it doesn’t do the abandonment seen in US cities. There’s rough parts, but nothing like those Baltimore streets – even if the rowhouses look almost familiar. Race sits differently here too. The nearest the British underclass gets to portrayal on TV is/was “Shameless”, a white comedy. And the odd bit of welfare porn.

    Despite our cosier environs, London saw much the same as Baltimore 4 summers ago. Police shoot a black guy dead after a pull-over and under pressure, obfuscate for several days. A protest turns into a riot, and those professing to be “victims” create victims of their own – and predominantly in their own neighbourhoods. London police definitely”gave them room to destroy” (could I identify with THAT statement from your mayor!) as they stood and watched and did SFA for 3 days. The liberals lined up to explain why the stealing of sneakers and burning of furniture stores was all down to police harassment,
    and whilst there certainly is some, I very much doubt it’s anything like that portrayed in The Wire. The degree of harassment doesn’t seem to be the catalyst.

    4 years on, money has poured into the areas hit by the mobs and they look better now than before. We have laws about language that can be used which you would consider a curtailment of freedom of speech.
    The American model of multiculturalism and positive discrimination predominates in the public sector and if we get a leftwing coalition of the election, it will be turbocharged. And now, after many years, poor black boys are no longer the worst performing at state schools. That accolade now goes to poor white boys and I swear there is a feeling of “job done” in some quarters.

    I guess the message should go out to poor white folk that they need to trash their local shops and facilities to get noticed. It works here, though the UK is a lot more squeamish about such things.than the US.

  • “Non-violence is a type of political performance designed to raise awareness and win over sympathy of those with privilege. When those on the outside of struggle—the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine—have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed, this is a futile political strategy…”


    I hate to see neighborhood people and businesses hurt, but I have come to believe Americans are so inured to the reality of the brutal violence — against African-Americans, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and other oppressed people — that no one gives damn.

    Time for an entirely new strategy for change.

    • Less than ten percent of the U.S. population is African-American. In order to achieve a cessation of the drug war, the demilitarization of police, the end of mass incarceration, or even a national clearinghouse for information on police violence, we’re going to have to convince someone other than “people within the struggle.” There’s not even a plurality otherwise.

      Do you seriously think last night wins allies for a ratcheting down of the social control inherent in our present law enforcement culture? Really? Fucking really?

      • No I don’t believe rioting wins supporters. But I also believe that nonviolent protests sanctioned by the powers that be, are also ineffective.

        That’s why I said it’s time for new strategies.

        • I just came back from North and Pennsie where hundreds of Baltimoreans — most black, some white and Latino — have blocked the intersection and were peacefully offering a tableau of unsanctioned civil resistance. I hope it goes on for months, or at least as long as it takes for the policing culture to see some real reforms. I hope that the police on the other side of the line are chastened by the presentation of non-violent resistance. I hope that they are unable to arrest their way out of the protest, or to clear that intersection until the demands of Baltimoreans are heard. I hope.

          I also that hope no one throws a bottle at the cops or that none of the cops fires a can of mace. That happened at one point, threatening the equilibrum and offering an excuse for more destruction and brutality. There is a vast world between violent insurrection and sanctioned compliance.

    • Judy, what does Palestine have to do with this? That’s a complete non sequitar. It’s amazing to me how many people are using the plight of African Americans to advance their own political agenda. You do not care about the poor. You do not care about African Americans. You cynically exploit their struggle to score cheap points against some overseas “oppressor”. Stop waxing poetic about the futility of non-violence. Your neighborhood isn’t up in flames.

  • The “evil” the Mayor sees in her streets is there. But as evil tends to do, it lives on lies, echoes, vile rewordings, diseased transformations. Under this evil there’s the evil of mass complacency, human indifference, denial of any social compact. Put your mark there, not on this epiphenomenon, Mr. Simon.

  • Listening to my i-pod on shuffle on the way to work today, the Apple gods selected Nina Simone’s ‘Baltimore’ for me. The lyrics were as mournful as ever:

    Oh, Baltimore
    Ain’t it hard just to live?
    Just to live.

    Watching the events of the past few years from my sheltered position in the UK, I can no longer bring myself to condemn this kind of violent rage. How can people be expected to live like this?

    I cannot continue to condemn black folks for being violent against PROPERTY when so many of their countrymen treat the death of so many black men and women with a collective shrug (I don’t include you in this condemnation David btw)

  • All of these armchair revolutionaries chanting “burn baby burn” from the safety of their lounge chairs remind me of noting so much as the Keyboard Kommandos of the right wing who are willing to fight until the last drop of blood is spilled—so long as it’s someone else’s blood. Any of you brave self-styled freedom fighters live in the Mondawmin Mall, Pennsylvania Ave, or any other area where this is going on? If so, why are you inside? Why aren’t you out there torching your own neighborhoods like the people you claim to admire?

    • “Any of you brave self-styled freedom fighters live in the Mondawmin Mall, Pennsylvania Ave, or any other area where this is going on? If so, why are you inside? Why aren’t you out there torching your own neighborhoods like the people you claim to admire?”

      J. D. Rhoades, yes! Thank you!! All these wankers all over the blabbosphere who spout their exhortations to violence — oh, how brave they are. I live in Charles Village, three blocks from mayhem last night on Greenmount Avenue. Perhaps if the rioters had come to my house, and those of my neighbors, we’d be closer to justice today. Just as, clearly, destroying property in poorer neighborhoods, their own neighborhoods, will bring justice. Q. E. D.

      Fuck you people who are excusing this destruction. You are handing the racist, authoritarian National Security State a gift on a silver platter. You are just as bad as those foaming-at-the-mouth racists who want to shoot on sight.

    • Have there really been many armchair revolutionaries chanting that? There *was* one really annoying white anarchist yelling “KILL WHITEY” in the bar last night but I told him to shut the fuck up and he backed off.

  • I’m sorry, but didn’t you call for riots after the George Zimmerman verdict? Suddenly you call for peace when it’s your town that’s burning?

    • My comments were on this blog. They are still posted. Perhaps you should read the entire paragraph, or if you have, this is a real lapse in reader comprehension. I have never urged anyone to violence and specifically, the corrupted and manicured quote that makes its way around the internet, void of its actual context, is simply not what I expressed. You’ve been had.

  • My heart goes out to you baltimore all the way from sydney australia.
    Black fellas in your country have suffered too much for too long. David I hope your message gets across and soon. More violence won’t solve this, though it is an understandable response.
    wtf is wrong with these police man? the world looks at your country as broken when once you were the land of hope and dreams.
    peace baltimore my thoughts are with you.

    • First, let me be crystal clear that I do not think all blacks are criminals. However, for those “black fellas” who have chosen to be criminals, there is zero reason for the bleeding hearts and dramatization of insufferable treatment and suffering. I am also not saying that the police force is perfect. I have seen them discriminate and have found some of those whom I have met to be full of themselves. However, the one thing they seem to have in common is that they truly want to serve and protect their communities.


      It is pretty difficult to feel so terribly sorry for the 13% of the population that is responsible for 49% of the murders, 25% of forcible sex offenses (aka rape), and 67% of all robberies in 2012 & 2013. Based on the percentages, per capita, blacks are committing nearly 8 times as many murders as whites. (4 times greater than the 13% which would be in line with their population percentage, and then doubled because only 40% of murders are committed by whites compared to their population makeup of 78%.) Still feeling sorry for those “black fellas”? You cannot seriously sit around blaming everyone else other than the criminals who not only created but are actively supporting the downfall of their own communities.

      The media here in the states is STILL lying about what happened to the criminal Michael Brown in Ferguson (not to mention others) because the truth is too inconvenient. I can’t imagine what you ended up hearing in Australia. You may not like to hear it, but he was lunging at the officer and trying to get the officer’s gun. The facts all support that, and “witnesses” who said otherwise have been shown to have lied. Stop making excuses and start holding the criminals responsible for the content of their character. Trying to make saints out of criminals because of the color of their skin IS racism.

      • When you declare as preamble that you don’t think all blacks are criminals (good for you! what insight) and then in the next dependent clause put “black fellas” in quotes, I kind of know where it is going. Crawl back inside that beer keg, my brother. This website is not for you.

      • If you haven’t read enough to know that Freddie Gray was apparently arrested for running from the police (which is not a crime) and that to date the police have provided no reason for chasing him or for his arrest, you have no business commenting. He did not commit any crime. Or at least not one that the BPD has managed to come up with yet, and I’m pretty sure they would have concocted one by now if there was any semi-logical way to assert one.

          • The racists on social media are trying to play up his old ticket for having gambling dice in his pocket so I think it’s fair to say any excuse will do for some people.

  • On the one hand, I think that the conversation surrounding police brutality (and the secondary conversation about systemic racial bias) is progress. Particularly given the coverage its received by major news media outlets.

    But then I look back and there are days like today where I realize “Jesus Christ, we’re having the same goddamn fight we had in the seventies.” We’re still fighting squares vs counter-culture, or whatever godforsaken terms we’re using today. Silent majority, Law and Order, Tough On Crime, Urban Plagues… we sure come up with new terms for the same tired arguments. I feel it is almost impossible to untangle the question of race from the question of class in america; far too many of us use them almost interchangeably.

    I’m watching Treme for the first time (thanks to HBO Now finally making it affordable for me!) and am struck by the amount of human compassion that the work has for the community of New Orleans. That focus on recovery feels like a needed tonic on days like today.

  • To see what riots can and can’t accomplish, just visit Detroit—which never really recovered from the unrest following of Dr. King’s death. The view from the air is especially telling. Compare aerial photos of Detroit, the Gaza Strip, and certain portions of Baltimore with images of Hiroshima after the bomb and you’ll see a shocking similarity. Great powers have no monopoly on devastation. It’s easily accomplished one store front at a time. There is no way that visiting violence and destruction on your own community will ever lead to positive change. To fight the power there has to be something left worth fighting for. If you riot to protest oppression, you’re just doing The Man’s job for him.

  • As someone looking from the outside – I cannot for the life of me understand how US Police can shot unarmed civilians, or suspects wanted for non-violent crimes….

    Walter L. Scott – left his car with a passenger in the car – how hard would it have been to pick him up later or at his workplace and charge him for resisting arrest.

    With regards to Freddie Gay – I am sure the powers that be – know exactly what happened and knew very shortly after it happened, the delay in releasing those details has left a void…

  • Oh and a follow-up to my last post. When I saw the kids headed downtown, I texted an acquaintance in the (fairly high-up ranks of the) BPD just to let him know there were children headed his way and despite them being angry & looking to bust some cop cars, they’re children, watch out.

    His response? “They can catch a hot one like everyone else.”

    Lots of tear gas in Baltimore last night. Not a lot of compassion.

    • KT is an instigator. I would take everything this account posts with major grains of salt. Obvious bias informs every post. This is all I am writing here, beware.

      • Thanks for the heads-up, exposing the grave danger we face by reading the words of KT.

        And for a good laugh in this otherwise depressing issue.

      • Wow, I’ve never been the target of a conspiracy theory before. Fun. I’m actually just a citizen of Baltimore who has a right to my opinion, and I could post the screencap of this conversation to prove it, but frankly, given this person’s position in the department it really would not help bring about peace right now. Which is all I care about, so, go on & spin your web.

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