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Ash writes: "The senseless killing of Freddie Gray sparked the Baltimore Riots of 2015, but the powder-keg now exploding there is an extension of an accumulative national outrage over homicidal police violence. Specifically the relentless killing by U.S. police of young black men."

Police move a protester back following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. (photo: Matt Rourke/AP)
Police move a protester back following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. (photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

Baltimore Explained

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

28 April 15


he senseless killing of Freddie Gray sparked the Baltimore Riots of 2015, but the powder-keg now exploding there is an extension of an accumulative national outrage over homicidal police violence. Specifically the relentless killing by U.S. police of young black men.

It’s about Freddie Gray, but it’s also about Michael Brown and Eric Garner, it’s about Tamir Rice and Walter Scott. It’s about the literally hundreds of Americans each year gunned down by police officers. It’s a national shame and an international disgrace, and the National Guard – in full military deployment mode – is on the streets of Baltimore now to make sure that the status quo is protected.

More than that, Baltimore is yet another early warning sign that the abandonment of education, the futility of low wage jobs, and the consolidation of wealth in the hands of a few powerful individuals is creating a new social desperation that can only be controlled at the point of a gun.

The people of Baltimore want what the Black Panthers wanted in 1970, an end to police violence and a chance at economic opportunity.

The City of Baltimore did a good job of public relations after the Freddie Gray incident. But it was too late. The professionalism displayed by city officals could not mask the brutality committed against Freddie Gray by the police. Yes, Freddie Gray should have received treatment before being loaded into a police van. But that’s not what broke his spine and crushed his larynx. Mindless, racist brutality by police did that.

The presence of fully militarized police and National Guardsmen on the streets of Baltimore is another vain attempt to maintain the facade of Absolute Authority. “We the system, and if necessary the police and the military, are in control, and we will do whatever it takes to remain in control.” At least in urban African American neighborhoods that is, but not at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada, or in Utah or Idaho, where heavily armed white residents openly defy federal law every day.

There is an epidemic of lethal police violence in America today. The states and local authorities are either unable or unwilling to stop the killing. Traditionally federal authority, the Department of Justice for the most part, has stepped in to defend civil rights. While outgoing attorney general Eric Holder and President Obama seem concerned, but they appear to have no stomach for the type of direct confrontation Johnson used in Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960s. Incoming attorney general Loretta Lynch hasn’t yet signaled how or if she will act. So far, however, the Justice Department during Obama’s tenure has lacked the resolve needed to confront militant U.S. police departments.

Right now repression is easier and more politically convenient than reform. But reform is the only thing that can bring peace and justice.

How many deaths will it take?

Marc Ash was formerly the founder and Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

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Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+62 # CAMUS1111 2015-04-28 13:52
"How many deaths will it take?"-- well, I am a cynic, but look and listen to that mayor--she strikes me as if she's being bullied by the commissioner and the police etc. I hesitate to say it but almost like a battered spouse. Why have there been no arrests, no info released, no nothing? How many books are being cooked? So, "How many deaths will it take?"--you can't count that high!
+33 # lsd 2015-04-28 18:02
Simply stop the war on drugs and voila most of the problem solved.
+33 # wrknight 2015-04-29 07:14
Quoting lsd:
Simply stop the war on drugs and voila most of the problem solved.

I and the majority of Americans agree. But the problem is that the war on drugs is heavily supported by two major industries in the U.S., namely the arms industry and the "criminal justice system" (includes, police, courts, prisons) both of which have very powerful lobbies in congress. And, unfortunately, there is no lobby for the American people.

Now that the prison industry is being privatized, we have more large corporations that can contribute cash to elections. The next step in privatization could well be the police and then the courts. Under corporate management they will have lots more cash to purchase elected officials.

Bottom line: we have lost control of our government. So ending the war on drugs, or any other stupid war we're involved in, has little or no chance of happening unless we, the people, take back our government.
+18 # evenstephen 2015-04-29 08:35
The "War on Drugs" is a tool of social control, pure and simple. Its implementation is terrorism, meant to intimidate the masses of people, especially of color, who are being abused by the system. It's the modern equivalent of the KKK.
It has to be ended, but the only way to do that is to take out the power structure that needs it as a weapon.
+11 # wrknight 2015-04-29 10:22
No argument there. And so are all the other senseless wars, e.g., the war on crime, the war on terrorism and the real hot wars, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and on and on. As soon as we get out of one war, we get into another, and now there are lunatics advocating we get into a war with Russia via the Ukraine.

Do you realize we are spending more money (constant year dollars adjusted for inflation) on war than we did at any other time in history except a couple of years in the middle of WWII. That includes the cold war, Korea and Viet Nam.

War, terrorism, surveillance, secrecy and police brutality are meant to instil fear in the public and a frightened public is easy to control.

The people in control have a good thing going. Why should they stop it? Unfortunately, we the people are not included in that. I go back to what I said above - we the people have lost control of our government. I wouldn't liken them to the KKK as it's far more than a racial thing. It's more like George Orwell's BIG BROTHER.
+13 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-04-29 08:42
No, that will not solve the problem of the total loss of any democracy in this nation. Those scum in Washington D.C. give absolutely NO CONCERN for the working people of this nation. Look at how they vote!! For war after war. For tax cuts for the very wealthy. For giving trillions of our tax dollars to the crooks on Wall St. who should be put in jail. The scum in D.C., with their pockets full of 'donations' (bribes) from AIPAC, vote endless military funds to the apartheid nation of Israel to kill the Palestinians. Now here comes TTP and the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.

It is way past time for us all to get out on the streets like the people in Baltimore are doing. We must stop the evil actions of our rotten government to start World War III and shove 'austerity' down our throats. How much are you willing to suffer before you finally come to the realization that our corrupt government MUST BE CHANGED?
+11 # harleysch 2015-04-29 09:04
The deeper problem is what Marc addressed briefly in the third paragraph of his article: the breakdown of the social safety net as a whole, under the assault by the upper 1%, to grab all the loot they can. The destruction of education, loss of jobs, assault on health care (don't give me any crap about how the ACA, the bailout of the insurance industry, has improved things for most people!), etc., have engendered a profound pessimism in a growing segment of the population, which is especially acute in urban, minority communities.

This is made worst by the constant harping of the neo-cons against government programs, so that a growing percentage of our population is viewed by the elites as "useless eaters".

Add to this the militarization of police forces, in a nation engaging in a seemingly endless series of wars, wars in which civilian populations are treated as "collateral damage", i.e., less than human!

This must be addressed from the top, starting with taking power away from the financial and corporate oligarchs who control both parties, both Houses of Congress, and the White House.

Nothing short of that kind of political revolution will provide hope for a better future to those beaten down, who have a legitimate reason to believe there is no hope.
+60 # DaveM 2015-04-28 21:55
Stop arming police with military weapons and providing them with paramilitary training. Bring back "To Protect And Serve"--those who have other agendas have no business wearing a badge. We need police. We do not need an occupying armed paramilitary force which regards "us" as "them".
+20 # RLF 2015-04-29 06:42
Stop using police as a revenue collection agency so that you don't have to raise taxes on the rich and corps. that are not only low taxed but cheating like crazy. Police collection agents so that you can continue to give businesses big sales tax and other tax breaks to move jobs into towns which then put the tax paying mom and pop shops out of business, leaving the area government destitute.
+22 # cordleycoit 2015-04-28 22:40
I have faith in our young people to find the peace officer solution and bring on a new era in protecting our youth and elders from senseless warring on police. Fighting cops for your life is one thing making the changes we must.Remember that the plains Indians had no word for warrior they used the word protector. We need protection from the many charlatans of finance, religion,educat ion and commerce as well as thug criminals and politicians.
+28 # Middlesworth 2015-04-28 23:30
Many are too young to remember Detroit and Los Angeles in the '60s. I covered the Detroit riots and my memory is that the reason for them was no different than now. The irony then, and now, is that the rioters are not destroying the homes of their oppressors, but their own.

Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
+7 # Rain17 2015-04-29 04:49
Well I would also guess that many of the businesses that have been destroyed are black-owned.
+10 # RLF 2015-04-29 06:43
Rioters would have been shot (thanks Obama for Ada) if they approached a rich neighborhood.
+23 # Rockster 2015-04-29 00:53
Aside from deep regret and embarrassment that our noble experiment of a nation is still so far away; my other powerful feeling is to follow Dr. King, Mandela and others to confront this evil in a totally nonviolent way. It's getting clearer and clearer that if we cannot learn peace it's going to get very ugly. As we learned in my youth( and promptly pretended to have forgotten ) This Is Class Warfare. It's manifested as race, but it's really about class and always has been. We must start telling the truth and letting our hypocrisy fall away.
+14 # Vegan_Girl 2015-04-29 06:32
You are right, I absolutely agree. I just want to mention that most of the time, the oppressors perpetrate the violence and then the media machine reports on the 'violent mob'. I was in Chicago in May 2012 in the protest against NATO. It was a peaceful, joyous event, with thousands and thousands there. At the end, state police surrounded a group (by chance I ended up outside of their circle) announced that this is an illegal gathering and they must disperse but did not allow anyone out. I left but I know what followed was a beating of peaceful protesters by state police. God forbid a huge anti-establishm ent demonstration would be reported to take place without violence. Then all the people watching from the streets and balconies would have joined next year...

What I am trying to say is that yes, yes, yes, we must learn and teach non-violent resistance. But also, take the news of violent rioting with a grain or salt. Or a pound of it.
-41 # sidsecular1 2015-04-29 02:23
Not to have a stronger law enforcement presence in Baltimore including the National Guard would be beyond disastrous. There weren't enough police as it was to cover the whole city. Enough disaster already occurred. The police showed remarkable restraint considering the damage to their vehicles and the physical attacks upon them. Whether they have military gear or not is superfluous here. I'm sure the last thing a police officer would want is to be painted as ulra-harsh on Blacks, knowing the consequences of being so painted by your ultra lib media. There is no evidence of what actually happened in the Freddie Gray incident, yet you jump to your preconceived conclusions.
+27 # 2015-04-29 05:21
Quoting sidsecular1:
Not to have a stronger law enforcement presence in Baltimore including the National Guard would be beyond disastrous. There weren't enough police as it was to cover the whole city. Enough disaster already occurred. The police showed remarkable restraint considering the damage to their vehicles and the physical attacks upon them. Whether they have military gear or not is superfluous here. I'm sure the last thing a police officer would want is to be painted as ulra-harsh on Blacks, knowing the consequences of being so painted by your ultra lib media. There is no evidence of what actually happened in the Freddie Gray incident, yet you jump to your preconceived conclusions.

So, you believe that injustice can be resolved by sufficient force. So, you believe that the violent death of a man is a mere "incident". So, you believe there is no evidence. A severed spine and a death after a week long coma is not enough for you. I fear for you, sidsecular1, and even more for the society your naive comments seek to uphold.
+17 # RLF 2015-04-29 06:49
The real violence is that which has been happening unabated by police officers and it has been on civilians not armed men. Just because it happens a little at a time doesn't mean it isn't worse than burning a few stores. The real violence is the Walton family having the same wealth as 40 million of the rioters! The real violence is the supreme court giving business the right to buy influence without giving them the requisite responsibilitie s. The slow motion violence of the rich in America will cause a riot and once it starts there is no stopping it!
+5 # Henry 2015-04-29 08:35

10,000 people from across the country peacefully protested in Baltimore in support of the seeking of justice of the death of Freddie Gray. Despite the fact that 100 of the 10,000 acted up and approximately 35 people were arrested after the peaceful protest, (that’s about 1%), much of the mainstream media used attention grabbing words in their headlines like ‘Protest Turns Destructive, (USA Today)’ ‘Scenes of Chaos In Baltimore… (NY Times), Dozens Arrested After Protest Turns Violent (WBAL TV). One website’s headlines read: 1,000 Black Rioters In Baltimore Smash Police Cars, Attack Motorists In Frenzied Protest.
+3 # pegasus4508 2015-04-29 20:52
I pity your ignorance. Please stop discussing a topic from news bits. Police deserve every bit of disrespect they have been given. They have earned it by beating, harassing and brutalizing black citizens in Baltimore for DECADES. There is plenty of "evidence" that police murdered Freddie Gray. Just as in the past 2 years, the Medical examiner has listed "homicide" on other murders by the BPD. Your blind defense serves no one. Since I live here, I can tell you that evidence is not what is needed. JUSTICE IS.
-14 # Rain17 2015-04-29 04:48
I understand that people are upset over Freddie Gray, but I'll say what I said when Ferguson burned.

Rioting is not going to change anything. In fact it will only confirm the stereotypes about the people who live there. It will also drive away businesses and the few jobs that were in those areas before the riots. Lastly the irony is that many of those local businesses are probably owned by blacks and minorities.

The rioters get no sympathy from me. Rioting isn't going to bring more jobs to those neighborhoods. No business is going to want to open in an area where there is a risk of it being destroyed in another riot.

Did those business owners kill Freddie Gray? Did those other people who are losing their property kill Freddie Gray? They had nothing to do with what happened and shouldn't suffer.
+13 # GyraSol 2015-04-29 05:36
I sorry that you don't seem to understand what you are seeing or how it came about. Perhaps reading some of the accounts of court awarded judgements against the Baltimore police in the last few years could help you to understand.
+7 # RLF 2015-04-29 06:50
You're right...the rioters should go to the best neighborhood in town and burn it to the ground to make the point that life is valuable and the houses and material crap isn't!
+4 # pegasus4508 2015-04-29 20:55
Your point? Were you paying attention BEFORE the riot? Hell to the NO. You only know about the story because of the riot. That says more about you than it does the rioters. Riots happen when power structures act like you - IGNORE what is going on. Break some shit and you get attention. That is the way this world works. Businesses, cars and homes have insurance. What do you think it is for?
+20 # Vegan_Girl 2015-04-29 06:21
I stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Baltimore. We need to all call for an end of police brutality and for the demilitarizatio n of police force.

A democracy, a true democracy is characterized by respect for human rights, respect for the rule of law, and policies that are influenced by public opinion and aimed to further the public interest. If you think we live in democracy, you are in denial.
+22 # turnoutthelights 2015-04-29 06:59
Looking at the military vehicles in Baltimore jolted me back to the Soviet invasion of Budapest in 1956 to put down the nascent Hungarian democracy. Unfortunately, American policy at home and abroad is more about repression of the symptoms of social frustration than it is about addressing the root causes.
+10 # tomtom 2015-04-29 08:07
The cause of the riots is the people's awareness that the police who have commited these horrendous crimes are continuously protected by the government. The majority of Americans know this and will no longer tolerating it. The police are not, honestly, monitoring themselves. If our "leaders" don't take actions on our behalf, it leaves us with one obvious option!
+7 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-04-29 08:48
The problem is a lot more than police treatment of the working people. Our whole rotten government treats working class people like garbage that needs to be gotten rid of. The police are only one indication of how bad things are in our nation today. The whole system is not functioning with any concern for the working class people. It is a class war and the rich are winning. Time to rise up and make changes.
+3 # Henry 2015-04-29 08:52
0 # Depressionborn 2015-05-01 21:34
Time to rise up and make changes?

Henry asked how?

We here do not have an answer. Maybe because We are still OK. If we don't watch news we could think the world is trouble free.

We have families with kids, good jobs, full churches, schools to be proud of and well behaved students. Sure, the news says something is wrong with banking, inner-city schools, once the best, are failing big time, media lies all the time and politicians steal. So we don't watch news anymore, the game is on.
+6 # Kootenay Coyote 2015-04-29 08:55
No justice = no peace: that’s always been true. Those who can act yet deny justice cannot hope for peace. Suppressing protest by violence only guarantees that much more bloody a final explosion. cf. France in 1789.
+4 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-04-29 11:35
The police don't attack white people (Bundy Ranch, etc.) since Branch Davidians didn't exactly go so well.
The "land of the free" has become a "police state". WAKE UP AMERICA. Take back "our" government.
Those who control the media, control the dialogue.
Pump up fear to justify a militarized police state
Constant cycle of problems
Prevents us from seeing corporate control of government
Corporate control of resources.
+5 # jdd 2015-04-29 11:54
We have created a system where many young black men have turned to crime. We ignore the lack of education, family structure and opportunities for respectable, decent paying jobs. Despite the optimism felt by so many in 2008, President Obama has been a total failure in this regard, as the situation has worsened. As in education, where we blame the teachers, we simply the the mess over to the police and say "you deal with it." Where is the leadership? Perhaps Sen. Warren and Gov. O'Malley are pointing in the right direction.
+3 # Bruinwaterjongen 2015-04-29 12:25
Living for a while in States and seeing this is littke wonder US is considered way down the list of UN's Happiest Countries in the World to live!

I am going back to either Japan or my birthplace Switzerland. Japan may also be down UNs' list, but Switzerland is either #3 or indeed #1!

What am I doing in this corporate 'New Amerika'?
0 # 2015-04-29 14:47
It's unfortunate that the only thing the political establishment in this country fears and respects is violence, which is why they use it at every opportunity to control us.
+1 # John Escher 2015-05-01 10:12
Hooray for the young man who told Giraldo Rivera and Faux News to get out of Baltimore since they were there only to report on black riots not black problems.

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