Reisterstown Rd.

Every so often the frustration of my hometown boils over.

I just read this update on the Boston Globe website:

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts wrapped up a news conference in which he said National Guard troops are now taking up positions in the city. He says they will be of use holding areas that have been cleared of rioters as police go through the affected areas of the city.
Batts also says at least 15 officers have been injured, six seriously whom he visited at the city’s major trauma hospital. ‘‘I told them how proud I was of them and how courageous they were,’’ Batt says.
He added that there have been a number of car fires and other fires in the streets and that law enforcement officers are still working to gain control over the situation.
The fires and riots erupted hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray, the black man who died of a mysterious spinal injury after being taken into police custody earlier this month

"Mysterious spinal injury" indeed.  Freddie Gray died of a severed spinal cord that nobody knows how he received inside a police van while being transported to lockup.  Freddie had just been arrested for, I kid you not, making eye contact with a police officer and then running.  Video taken by onlookers shows that Freddie did not resist arrest.

Between the arrest and his arrival at the lockup, he somehow acquired three broken vertebrae and a crushed larynx.  The Baltimore Police will conduct a thorough investigation, of course.  Meanwhile the six officers involved are "suspended with pay," which is probably not a great career enhancer but it still sounds to me like "vacation."

Obviously I am frustrated and upset by all this.  Baltimore is where I was born, and I have the experience of having lived there through the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.  Then, as now, militarized police and National Guard took the place of ordinary traffic on Reisterstown Rd., the main drag of my neighborhood.

I noticed, this time, that the media narrative began to shift away from a focus on "Freddie Gray and what killed him?" to "just how violent will the blacks' protests become?" right around the moment that police reported a phone threat by "gangs" to kill a police officer.  That was promptly, breathlessly, dutifully repeated on every network.  Well, that threat is of completely unknown provenance, and can just as easily be the work of an agent provocateur -- or just one rogue cop with a burner phone -- with the express goal of flipping the narrative and escalating the situation in the streets.  If so, well played.

And just watch: that, or the resultant escalation of violence, will somehow retro-justify the killing of Freddie Gray.

This article was updated on May 9, 2023

David F