Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Burning Down a Pharmacy Isn't Justice

What is known is this--on April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray was arrested by Baltimore police. He was allegedly in possession of a switch blade knife. He initially ran, was chased down,  taken to the ground, then hand cuffed, and finally put in the back of a van. Before they transported him to the lock up officers slapped leg cuffs on him. Reportedly no one involved in the arrest strapped him in with a seat belt, which is in violation of Baltimore Police Department policy.

At some point Gray suffered a severe spinal injury. No one knows, or at least will admit they know, what happened to cause it. He died a week later. Six officers were suspended with pay and the investigation is on going.

His funeral was held yesterday. By the end of last night, 144 cars had been torched, 15 structures set on fire, 15 cops injured, six of them seriously enough they had to be hospitalized, and 200 arrests recorded. This morning units of the Maryland National Guard were deployed in the city.

Yes, we've been down this road before haven't we.

The main question being asked at the moment is how did local authorities let things spiral so far out of control? Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was quoted as saying, "They just outnumbered and out flanked us. We needed to have more resources out there."

Commissioner Batts' assessment of the situation no doubt caused many--mainly the people who run and watch Fox News--to shake their heads in disgust. In fact one could almost hear them banging their fists onto desks and coffee tables in a terrible rage as he spoke those words.

Indeed, what were those fuckers in Baltimore thinking? Didn't they see what happened in Ferguson, Missouri?

Actually Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake saw exactly what happened in Ferguson and she was doing everything in her power to avoid a repeat of it. She knows her police department has a reputation which is deteriorating even more quickly than the city's infrastructure. The very last thing they needed was the world wide media showing them firing rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, and who knows what else into loud, yet peaceful demonstrators. There can be no question she was desperately wanting a quite public display of restraint from her officers.

Unfortunately, as we all saw, there were people out there on the streets who saw Freddie Gray's death as nothing more than a great opportunity to score a few bottles of scotch and some prescription drugs from behind the counter of a local CVS drug store. They were abetted by scores of high school students who threw a sort of flash mob rave based on the movie, "The Purge." It is a film which portrays a future society that lets its citizens run completely amok for twelve hours once a year without fear of penalty.

Yeah, I know, but no one has ever accused high school kids, white, black, or brown of making great decisions when they get together in large numbers. As proof we could take a look at the exploits of the Oklahoma City John Marshall High School class of 1968 one fine spring day nearly half a century ago. At the time there were 500 of us, two of whom were African-American.

There will always be criminals and stupid people who hijack legitimate causes for their own profit and, or, adrenaline rush. If any good came out of this most recent nightmare it is that Mayor Rawlings-Blake erred on the side of tolerance. During the Ferguson riots the national media was focused on the indiscriminate violence perpetrated by overly aggressive Missouri authorities. Today we're talking about how cynical, callous and rotten the rioters in west Baltimore were.

Tragically, no matter how the media social and political analysts dissect and attempt to explain what happened yesterday in Baltimore City, or what the fools on the streets did, Freddie Gray is still dead. All of us need to figure out why he died, then, who, or what caused his death. Everything else, no matter what the cost, is a distraction from that single, most important, question.

Finding the answer to it and prosecuting those who could be responsible is known as justice. Burning down a pharmacy serving the community isn't.


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