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Malik Shabazz does more harm than good in Baltimore

Today I heard second hand that the troubles here were too close to D.C. to be ignored. Frankly, I felt the trouble started in D.C. and came here, and its name was Malik Zulu Shabazz ("Shabazz plans rally for thousands Saturday," April 28).

Mr. Shabazz, former chairman of the New Black Panther Party and present National President of Black Lawyers for Justice, seems a pretty neat piece of work. He organized a rally in Baltimore on Saturday, April 25, which many, including me, mistakenly thought to be a protest of the police brutality most recently represented by the death of Freddie Gray. His incompetence is clearly demonstrated by the fact that he could only sucker about 1,200 people into attending the demonstration. His slogan was "Shut it Down." This is just slick enough to allow the ambiguity that permits him to claim that he didn't incite anyone to riot. I was there, and I claim he did. He was speaking directly to the souls of a few demented youths who needed little encouragement to make trouble and be violent, and I feel certain he was pleased at the opportunity to fan the flames.

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Anyone who knows even a little about mob behavior understands that a strongly motivated cadre can, during highly emotional times, find a ready source of fuel among teenagers in impoverished areas of inner cities. Encouraged to become young hoodlums, these kids had a great time running wild for hours Monday and when they wake up Tuesday afternoon (no worms need worry about early birds here), they will see if they can get it going again. There are several reasons that they probably won't be very successful. First, a small number of them may have had enough; second, most of Monday's antics are now on video and the police will certainly have found and arrested some of the rioters by now, and finally, the fires require spark (Mr. Shabazz and the cadre of trouble makers), fuel (large numbers of disillusioned and easily-led teens), and air (represented in this case by the empty space in which to make trouble).

Today there will be less air as the empty spaces are quickly being filled by Maryland State Police, police from neighboring jurisdictions, and the Maryland National Guard called in by the governor. Any additional help we might get from the federal government would always be appreciated, especially if it could include some way to keep D.C. troublemakers like Mr. Shabazz out of Baltimore.

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Kirk Shriver, Baltimore

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