The rioting in Baltimore this week over the unexplained death while in police custody of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man, brought comparisons to recent events in Ferguson, Mo. But unlike Ferguson, where whites make up the majority of the police force and leadership despite an overwhelmingly black population, Baltimore's mayor, state's attorney and police commissioner are black, as is a large portion of the police force. But it wasn't always that way. Baltimore had to battle systemic prejudice
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake defended her handling of the recent riots and her previous work on police brutality issues during a briefing with reporters in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood Wednesday afternoon.
There are reasons for anger in Baltimore: racism, poverty, targeted policing, poor education, few recreational opportunities, drug-ravaged neighborhoods. And while none of them justify the violence, we suspect some of those caught up in the fervor Monday night woke up with regret and shame the next morning. To brand them thugs is to dismiss them based on circumstance without any context — much like police are accused of doing to Freddie Gray, who died in their custody, sparking the unrest.
As the Maryland National Guard patrolled Baltimore streets for the first time in more than 45 years, some critics questioned why it took so long to deploy them. Among those airing concern: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake did not return his repeated phone calls for more than two hours Monday as rioting spread across the city. He felt he couldn't call out the Guard without her.
This isn't the first time rioting has rocked Baltimore. In early April 1968, the city exploded in a rampage of rock-throwing, arson and looting following the slaying of civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Thomas Rhodes walked across North Avenue carrying long shelves from a small convenience store that were gutted by looters the night before, passing between a line of state troopers wearing helmets and holding shields.
Some local organizations, including the SPCA, postponed events last weekend due to the Freddie Gray protests, and at least one, Handel Choir, saw a drop in attendance for its big Distant Bells concert downtown. Other groups have events planned this weekend but are closely monitoring the ongoing Freddie Gray situation.
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Tuesday criticized those rioting in the streets of Baltimore as "criminals" and "thugs" and argued that broader societal changes is needed to address underlying tensions that exist between African American communities and the police.
Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, a West Baltimore native who represented the neighborhoods hit by riots while on City Council, said she was "saddened" by Monday's violence. But she said she understood the "pain" residents are feeling over Freddie Gray's death and the depressed conditions of their poverty-stricken communities.
Police officers were seriously injured in violent clashes on the streets, buildings were looted and destroyed and Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, activating the National Guard as portions of Baltimore devolved into chaos and burned on Monday.
It was hard to tell exactly where the music was coming from — perhaps from the large yellow van at the corner of North Avenue and Monroe Street — but the song was clear and loud: Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror."
Television was filled with images of Baltimore burning Monday night. And those pictures that were seen nationally and globally have been seared into the minds of at least another full generation of viewers.