As I sit here in my cell at the Chesapeake Detention Facility in Baltimore, reading the City Paper articles about protestors who are upset that white police officers are killing black men ("This is What Democracy Looks Like," Feature, Nov. 10), I feel hopeful that society is finally waking up. But I think that while these cops are the weapons being used to carry out these murders, it is our justice system as a whole that is every bit at fault for these deaths.

Is it any wonder that black men are being killed when our very own government has declared war on us? Yes, I’m talking about the decades-old “War on Drugs,” also known as the “War on Poor and Minorities.” The real killers work at the federal courthouse downtown, where they kill blacks and poor people from nine to five, Monday through Friday, year after year. The white robes and burning crosses of the past have been replaced by black robes and judges’ gavels as the way to terrorize, subjugate, and, yes, kill off an entire portion of our society.

I'm glad that people are out there letting America know that we are not going to tolerate executions of black men in the streets, but I hope these protestors realize there are hundreds of thousands of Mike Browns and Eric Garners being slowly executed in federal prison for non-violent drug offenses. Marching around the city and disrupting holiday events is a good start. I hope these folks end up at the federal courthouse, where the vast majority of black executions happen.

Timothy McDermott
I watched the demonstration on President Street from our apartment window—that was on the evening protesters attempted to shut down I-83. Later, news reports described them blocking more streets and access routes around Baltimore. Additionally, City Paper’s online video showed further disturbance at the Washington Monument lighting ceremony and an effort to block entrances to Penn Station. In my opinion that wasn’t “democracy,” it was civil disobedience!
Baynard Woods’ extensive, “real time” reporting (This is What Democracy Looks Like,” Feature, Dec. 10) was excellent, with vivid descriptions and the identities of many participants. Based on your front-page story, I’m grateful to police commissioner Anthony Batts and other law-enforcement professionals for handling the volatile situation peacefully and refusing to allow the protests to escalate into violence.  

In my opinion, the demonstrators need to find ways to change the system, not disrupt the lives of ordinary citizens. I'm no expert on grand juries, and to me they appear flawed. This is where the energy must be focused, not on some guy driving down I-83.  What did Penn Station employees and railroad travelers do to evoke outrage? The same question regarding the Washington Monument lighting ceremony should be asked—why was it important to ruin a performance by Roland Park Country School? Were I a member of that Semiquavers a capella chorus, I'd be upset and angry. They had every right to perform.

Incidentally, I read a letter the head of that school wrote the Baltimore Sun and was sickened. Instead of expressing alarm, her response to the disruption was smarmy and laudatory. Coincidentally, another letter berated attendees at the celebration for not joining the disruption.

During a major electrical power failure in New York City, I experienced what happens when riots break out and the police can no longer hold the line. I felt a cold terror of helplessness, and I never want to experience that again. A rally can easily become a riot. And that's when private citizens move in to defend their property. I've read reports the only stores in Ferguson, Missouri, saved from burning and looting were the ones where managers and employees stood on the roof with rifles!

Protest organizers need to get the message—the police can only do so much to keep the peace. I'd personally like to point that out to Rev. Heber Brown II, the Baltimore Bloc, Tre Murphy and the rest of the hot-head leaders. What happens if they breach the police "skirmish line" and all hell breaks loose?

I also recognized these protesters might make excellent targets for citizen snipers.  And when the shooting starts, heaven help us!

R. E. Heid
Body Bad

In Baltimore City Power Rankings (Nov. 25), you quite rightly take issue with how the Serial podcast ". . . oversimplifies a massive space like Leakin Park ('What it's known for, sadly, is its dead bodies')". You call it a "red flag."

Yet in the weeks since that statement you have dedicated print and video space to highlighting the park for nothing more than a body-dumping ground in the "Blood at the Root" series. What gives?

Leakin Park is a true urban treasure, a rarity of natural forest and stream valleys with miles of pristine trails and open space in the heart of a major city. It is one of the largest parks of its kind in the country. It hosts a nature center, an Outward Bound campus, rec centers, and a full calendar of programing for families, young and old. The immense ecological and cultural benefits provided by the park are immeasurable. It is a shame that the park takes the brunt of the blame for failures of society outside the park's borders.

You don’t need a calculator to figure out that more bodies have been left everywhere else in the city than have ever been left in this one park. There are legitimate conversations that need to take place on violence in this city, as well as public funding for open space and parkland. City Paper’s and Serial’s recent sensationalist coverage of Leakin Park avoids any serious discussion of those.
Jim Brown
Boardmember, Friends of Gwynns Falls/Leakin park,
No Dough

This is my response to reporter Van Smith's well done article in your last issue entitled, "St. John the Divine" (Mobtown Beat, Dec. 10), regarding money in politics.

The only way to get the money out of politics is: to get the money OUT of politics, ALL of it, without exception!

There simply is no other way. Daily and weekly papers like yours really no longer accept paid political advertising—most of them, anyway.

The real problem, therefore, is over the radio and television airwaves, especially network TV, THE main villain in the piece, and there a simple solution is readily to hand via the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC can simply issue a mandate banning all such sales and media buys as illegal, and that would be that. As for the expected wailing from the donors that it would deprive them of their right of free speech, I’d weigh that against the total death of democracy as we know it if we continue down our present path, and vote to abolish it. The people who own the TV stations are THE culprits, but they don’t own the airwaves—WE the people own them. The FCC belongs to us, not to them.

The problem is that no member of Congress—House or Senate—will ever vote such a bill into law, and no president will ever sign such legislation into effect. Just as at the federal level, the same is true at all state legislatures: it simply isn't going to happen.

Personally, I favor the $1 check off on our federal income taxes to publicly fund campaigns as happened in 1976, but the people rebelled against that, and it went by the wayside. I hope it returns for all elections.

Thus, we are left with an insoluble problem that already translates itself into the following grim fact of political life today: Our politicians—elected and not—are ALL owned, every single one of them, without exception. How they can look in the mirror and retain their dignity every day is simply beyond my understanding. I believe that they all hate it, but there it is nonetheless. They ALL do it.

I put my money where my mouth is. 1986 was the last year that I raised any money for any election anywhere. You're either a whore for sale or you're not. It's just that simple. You can't be "a little bit pregnant." One way around it would be to compel newspapers to print the names of ALL donors to ALL candidates. Then at least the voters would know who owns who. Another is to compel all TV stations to give free and equal air time to all candidates, as at least one network station actually did once that I recall, in 1978. It was great!

If there are other solutions, I urge your readers to share them here with all of us, as I have above.

As for me, I have resolved to do the only thing that I can in good conscience do, and that is to run in every single Federal election I can until the day I die, probably losing all future ones as I have all past ones. Not doing that to me is vacating the battlefield to my opponents, however, and that I will not have. I'll be beaten, but I won't be absent. I didn't go to Vietnam in 1966 to return home to this criminality in 1967.

Blaine Taylor
“‘The Eric Andre Show,’ Adult Swim’s absurdist, punk-rock talk show, is unlike anything else on television”

The Eric Andre Show taught me how to love again.

–“Tony Boston,” Dec. 11
“Iconic Fells Point dive bar Leadbetter’s Tavern is set to close”

Nooooo! Great part of the ghost tour and I love a dive bar!

–“Colleen Campbell,” Dec. 12

No big loss.

–“Wendy Phillips,” Dec. 12

Here comes another yuppie spot. Fells has totally gone south with entitled cum stains.

–“Sean Bowers,” Dec. 12

The world needs dive bars to stay divey. This new is kinda sad.

–“Mark Brock-Cancellieri,” Dec. 12

This makes me sad seeing Fell's point dynamited away for more overpriced yuppie pretentiousness... they suck the charm out of everything clever and original and turn it into a corporation...then raise the price so high that no one can afford it but them.

–“Richard Smith,” Dec. 13

I ended one night in March of 2003 at Leadbetters. Haven't had a drink since.

–“Rya Lee Dorsey,” Dec. 13
“Mr. Wrong: You Should Support the Rights of the Protesters who Interrupt Holiday Stuff”

And you should also support our right to call them jerks, assholes, and worse. Do these losers actually think they're gaining support for their cause? They're as effective as a bratty four-year-old throwing a tantrum—someone may kowtow temporarily just to shut them up, but ultimately in the long term they either grow up and mature, or lose.

–“Alexander Mitchell,” Dec. 11

The amount of maturation it takes to stand up for what you believe in, in a peaceful public protest, ever so slightly dwarfs the amount of maturation it takes to call people a-holes on a Facebook post.

–“Doug Hoepker,” Dec. 11