A Dumb Distraction

Over the last two weeks, City Paper reporters, photographers, and editors have been working night and day, seven days a week to cover the tumultuous events in our city. You can see all of our coverage in one place here.

The response to our work has been overwhelmingly positive, as readers from Baltimore and around the world have let us know they appreciate the perspective we've offered. But some persistent trolls using ridiculous conservative nonsense language like "SJW" have latched onto a misunderstanding and some confusion in our frenzied reporting on Saturday to call us "liars" and try to distract from the important work that we're trying to do, so I wanted to explain it once and be done with it.


City Paper staffer Brandon Soderberg and contributors Gianna DeCarlo and Caitlin Goldblatt were covering the protests on Saturday when fights broke out in front of Camden Yards. Soderberg explains much of this dynamic at that point in his story here. It's worth noting that besides this story, published today, City Paper has not publishing anything at all about this incident. The vitriol seems to be aimed at Soderberg's and Goldblatt's social media posts. Again, there is no "story" to retract as many have suggested.

Among the seemingly drunk patrons was a woman who was continually approaching the protesters, some of whom were becoming violent. Soderberg has been seen in one picture pulling her away from danger as a man throws a chair through a window. In another picture, another man is seen holding a large white bag while also tugging a black purse away from the woman, as DeCarlo and Goldblatt are intervening.

Once the pictures spread online, many observers re-posted them and contextualized them as narrative of violent protesters terrorizing peaceful baseball fans. Soderberg, DeCarlo, and Goldblatt knew that was not the full picture, as Soderberg eventually explained in his story. At the time the pictures were spreading, there was some confusion about which "bag" posters were referring to. Soderberg and Goldblatt thought they were referring to the man's white bag—in the confusion of the moment, they hadn't realized there was another bag, a purse. They responded to people spreading the videos on social media that the woman had been trying to grab the man's white bag, because that's what they understood to be happening.

Once the confusion was sorted out, Soderberg acknowledged in social media posts on Sunday that the man was probably trying to grab the purse. And now a video that we've all seen for the first time today makes it pretty clear that he was grabbing the purse.

We all apologize for our confusion. There was never any intent to be less than honest. Our ongoing coverage of the events following the death of Freddie Gray reflect a commitment to reporting on what is really happening on the ground in Baltimore. The relentless tweets and emails we have all received about this matter feels like an attempt to discredit us and distract us from our work. We will not be distracted.

Soderberg also sent over this rough video from that moment with the following note:

During reporting, I occasionally shoot video, usually to capture moments or stray audio and to get a sense of the timeline of events rarely to use for anything other than as a reminder of the evening. I was recording when I saw and heard the confrontation and kept recording so you get this video from my perspective. You will see some of the violence of the evening and I think you'll see me trying to help two people that I thought were in danger. One of them is struck with a bag of peanuts and falls to the ground and you can hear me try to explain to her that I'm with the protestors but I am trying to help her out. You'll also hear me attempt to reason with the woman from the widely-shared images, trying to explain to her that she needed to get inside and that her being out there and walking towards the protestors was not helping. You also hear me screaming like a loud asshole at her and I regret that. I was trying to help and I could've done better. I was arguably, as misguided as she was in trying to intervene and prevent bad things from happening.