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Putting Freddie Gray in context

It pains me to see the tortured faces of peaceful protesters mourning the loss of another community member to the unreasonable force of police officers. I am further disturbed to see people with sympathies scattered across a wide spectrum, from supporting the protesters to defending the police at all costs, collectively distracted by violent outbursts downtown.

Since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9, I have paid close attention to the facts of the many cases of alleged police brutality across the nation that have followed. Some cases, upon investigation, do not necessarily fit the title "police brutality," yet many unfortunately do. Now that a similar tragedy has befallen my hometown, I have seen first-hand the social media responses of those whose lives are just on the periphery of, or even part of, the protests and violence. I too have witnessed a tragedy in Maryland: the reactions of my high school peers in the rural and suburban areas north of Baltimore.

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I am disappointed at how many people fail to make a distinction between the peaceful masses and the violent few.

I am disappointed at how many people were not upset by police brutality but were upset that the television coverage of the Orioles baseball game was interrupted for news coverage of protests.

I am disappointed at how many people use unconfirmed, shaky allegations of Gray's supposed prior arrests as reason to classify him as a "thug" who deserved to die at the hands of police. (Keep in mind: He was doing nothing unlawful prior to his deadly arrest.)

I am disappointed at how many people are closed-minded enough to blindly assume that Baltimore's police force — or any police force — is infallible, and I am disappointed that so many people haven't researched the department's history of corruption, unlawful tactics, brutality and settlements for excessive use of force.

I am disappointed at how many people fail to see that this case is representative of a larger problem in Baltimore that needs to be addressed.

I am disappointed at how many people criticize the city's response to unlawful and violent protesters and fail to see that the city's carefully measured response to violent protesters most likely prevented all-out Ferguson-esque rioting.

I am disappointed at how many people support the mind-numbingly ignorant double standard of believing that citizens must act lawfully, peacefully and respectfully in order to be respected, heard and treated well by the police, yet not believing that police must also act lawfully, reasonably and respectfully in order to be respected, heard and treated well by citizens.

I am disappointed at how many people fail to recognize the vast gray area between being a "cop hater" and a "cop apologist" — two phrases which I have seen thrown around with far too much ease but which do unfortunately describe a few people on the fringes of the debate.

I am disgusted and disappointed with the violence, looting and flag desecration from a small minority of protesters in Baltimore, and I am just as disgusted and disappointed by the amount of people who chose to publicly embrace and perpetuate the problematic mindset that got us here in the first place.

But I am the most disappointed by the amount of people who will read this, get angry because it's an uncomfortable truth they don't want to hear and blindly argue back without doing any research or considering the entire situation.

Joshua Murdock is a Maryland native studying photojournalism in Colorado. His email is josmur@gmail.com.

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