Regarding Baltimore, the NYT says:
Hundreds of rifle-toting National Guard members began deploying here on Tuesday morning, lining one of the city’s main thoroughfares and taking up posts around a police station in western Baltimore that had been the scene of earlier protests.
From the start of the demonstration through Tuesday morning, 15 police officers were injured, 2 people were shot, both in the leg. And approximately 200 people were arrested. There is a night curfew. There are the predictable images of large groups of young black males, buildings on fire, up-armored cops and National Guard, and the shaking of jowls by media and politicians.
These stories are always depressingly similar: Police shoot a black guy. They obfuscate for several days. A protest turns violent, and some of those professing to be “victims” create victims of their own, mostly in their own neighborhoods. The police are happy to give them room to destroy property in black neighborhoods, but then draw the line when the crowd moves out of that prescribed area.
Something was bound to give in Baltimore. Check out this report from the Baltimore Sun, called “Undue Force“:
Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations [by the Baltimore police department].
According to state law, Baltimore cops cannot be sued for more than $200,000 for each “offense”. That statutory cap can be exceeded when there are multiple claims in a lawsuit, and if there is malice the cap may not apply. The largest settlement has been $500k. In total, the city has paid $5.7 million since January 2011, and that doesn’t count the $5.8 million spent by the city on legal fees to defend these claims against their police. Just a cost of doing business in Baltimore.
So, once the riot started the mayor and the governor called for calm. “Why can’t these people react non-violently?” Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic provides an answer:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.
Here is a series of tweets by Billmon: (edited by the Wrongologist)
…but the cops did not destroy the black industrial working class, or finance the slumlords, or redline poor neighborhoods. Police brutality isn’t the only reason that #BlackLivesMatter.
… And not being unlawfully killed is a pretty minimal standard for “mattering.”
…And so the policy “debate” becomes limited to: “Black men: Should we let the cops kill them or not?” Which is fucking sick. Or: “Should America have an incarceration rate that’s 10 times higher than the rest of developed world? Or just 5 times higher.”
We are witnessing a continuing trend in US policing: Violence against inanimate property equals violence against “the people”. It brings a disproportionate response, whether it is the Occupy movement, Ferguson, or Baltimore.
“Urban riots” always conjure up bad images and bad responses, like the riots in 1964 in Harlem and Philadelphia, and in Newark in 1967, all of which were ignited by allegations of police brutality. In Newark, Governor Richard J. Hughes (R) called up the National Guard. When they arrived, reports were coming in of black snipers roaming the city, and terrorists with dynamite and arms heading towards Newark. The result was 26 deaths and 725 wounded in Newark, but no snipers or terrorists were found.
Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R), channeling his inner Spiro Agnew, vowed to quell rioting by sending in 1,000 National Guard troops. From the Baltimore Sun:
Hogan said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a political ally of the new Republican governor, would sent 150 troopers plus additional resources to Baltimore.
Christie will never let a good crisis go to waste.
The ultimate outcome of Baltimore will predictably be calls for more law and ordering by the right, and more calls for inconsequential band aids by the left. Perhaps the policy debate ought to be broader than: “what will it take for police to stop killing black guys?”, although that would be a good start.
Police need to remember that since they have the authority and the power, they also have the responsibility to use both properly. It’s not the responsibility of the person they pull over, the person they want to question, or the person who is standing nearby, it’s THEIR responsibility.
Let’s face it, Americans live in a soft police state. Whites may not sense its severity or doom like urban black males, since their threat is to privacy. But the freedoms of most Americans have never been more threatened and violated by governments at the federal, state and local levels.
Here is Randy Newman singing his composition, “Baltimore“:
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