On Monday night we saw Baltimore burning. There were seven police officers down with injuries including broken bones, with that number growing to 15 by the morning. Stores were looted and police cars and emergency vehicles were stoned and destroyed. A mall was being raided and the Governor declared a state of emergency. The level of violence and destruction quickly dwarfed some of the worst nights in Ferguson. But on Twitter, CNN analyst and expert commentator Sally Kohn had several key observations regarding what we were seeing. Here’s one of the leading items.
Looting a real shame. But FAR MORE shameful is pattern of police violence against black community! Perspective, people. #BaltimoreRising
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) April 27, 2015
Seriously? The hashtag you choose is #BaltimoreRising? This is “rising” in the opinion of someone who is on the payroll of CNN?
Apparently Sally won’t be alone in her sentiments. Everything that took place in these riots seemed to spawn responses from both the media and the government which were straight out of an Orwell novel. The Mayor herself was just trying to make space for people “to destroy.”
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake held a press conference Saturday alongside community and religious leaders and asked for peace as hundreds marched in Baltimore in honor of Freddie Gray.
But when one reporter asked to comment on how Baltimore police responded to the protestors she said she instructed officers to allow protestors to express themselves and that “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”…
“I made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech,” Rawlings-Blake said. “It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate.”
Both the city government and the media need to do a lot of soul searching once the city is brought back under control. The residents of Baltimore elected Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and they will have to deal with how well she is responding to the violence in the streets of her city. But the media surely has some responsibility as to how they cover these events also. Sally Kohn holds a regular perch on the nation’s foremost news network. This is “Baltimore Rising” in her mind?
At this point we still don’t know what happened to Freddie Gray in that van. Given enough time, the police and City Hall may be able to answer all those questions to the satisfaction of the residents. But relations between the police and the denizens of the city have been strained, if not fractured, for a long time. The crime rate there is one of the worst in the nation. We are seeing lawless destruction on the streets of a major city less than fifty miles from Washington, D.C. One thing is clear, though: this stopped being about Freddie Gray when the first store was broken into and looted. And as much as the National Action Network will try to deny it, this was not a case of “a few agitators” tarnishing the efforts of the peaceful protesters. There were brigades of vandals out there attacking the police, setting fires and emptying one store after another.
Baltimore has a lot of work in front of them if they’re going to pick up the pieces. And when that’s done, the media may want to take a look in the mirror as well.