We All Should Be in Baltimore


I’ll acknowledge the hypocrisy up front. I have no plans to go to Baltimore to protest. I’m 58 and have a family to support.

But I wish there were a few million people more selfless than I.

Because somehow, some way, Black America, Brown America, and the portion of White America with a shred of decency, however large or small that portion may be, need to rise up and put an end to this insanity.

And make no mistake, this is insanity we’re dealing with. If you’re not sufficiently familiar with what likely happened to Freddie Gray, try googling “Baltimore” and “rough ride.” A rough ride is a practice the Baltimore police have employed for the better part of a decade. Several of their unlucky victims in the past now are paralyzed.

Here’s the Baltimore Sun on how it works:

Christine Abbott, a 27-year-old assistant librarian at the Johns Hopkins University, is suing city officers in federal court, alleging that she got such a ride in 2012. According to the suit, officers cuffed Abbott’s hands behind her back, threw her into a police van, left her unbuckled and “maniacally drove” her to the Northern District police station, “tossing [her] around the interior of the police van.”

“They were braking really short so that I would slam against the wall, and they were taking really wide, fast turns,” Abbott said in an interview that mirrored allegations in her lawsuit. “I couldn’t brace myself. I was terrified.”

The lawsuit states she suffered unspecified injuries from the arrest and the ride.

“You feel like a piece of cargo,” she added. “You don’t feel human.”

Abbott actually should consider herself lucky, at least luckier than Dondi Johnson and Jeffrey Alston:

Relatives of Dondi Johnson Sr., who was left a paraplegic after a 2005 police van ride, won a $7.4 million verdict against police officers. A year earlier, Jeffrey Alston was awarded $39 million by a jury after he became paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride. Others have also received payouts after filing lawsuits.

It’s not yet official that this is what happened to Freddie Gray, but what would be your bet? After all, he went into the police van handcuffed and able to walk, yet wound up dead with a broken neck.

What sort of society puts up with this?

I’ll go a step further. What sort of society puts up with the White morons who show “support” for the police after an event like this, like the drunk baseball fans who shouted “we don’t care” in response to protesters chanting “Black Lives Matter” outside an Orioles game?

And now we’re hearing about the riots, with many quoting MLK’s observation that riots are the “language of the unheard.”

Hard to disagree with MLK on that one, but what about the “heard”? Where are their voices? How could this happen right on the heels of Ferguson, New York and Cleveland, and just one week after North Charleston?

Could it be because the response, particular the White response, to Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and North Charleston was too muted to cow our racist local police departments?

The reality here is that police brutality is systemic and as long as its victims are Black, too few of us have been willing to rise up against it.

And if that doesn’t change, Baltimore is just the beginning of the unrest.

Yes, riots are the language of the unheard. And if the heard don’t begin to speak a bit louder about this insane system we have the temerity to describe as a system of justice, expect more riots.


  1. No need to go to Baltimore when we have plenty of injustice in our own backyard.

    Here’s a fun fact about the Maricopa County jail system: Did you know that there are two separate tiers of Tent City? One is the general population where they wear stripes and work on chain gangs and eat rotten food. The other is for DUIs. People convicted of drunk driving go to a separate set of tents that are nicer and cleaner, and where the guards are more polite. DUI “guests” get to wear their civilian clothes the whole time and are on work release 12 hours a day if they are sentenced to more than 48 years.

    Why do you suppose that is? Maybe because lots of white, affluent, professional type people (and even some celebrities) get behind the wheel of a car whilst loaded? Arpaio’s handlers are no dummies. They know that if some Scottsdale socialite got the real Tent City treatment there might be some hell to pay among her crowd. So they make sure to shield her from that and put her through what is for all intents and purposes a Scared Straight program for white people. Moral of the story is that even when white people (who lack some characteristic that marginalizes them, such as being poor or mentally ill) fuck up they have totally different encounters with law enforcement than other people do, which leads to the cops-can-do-no-wrong attitude. Why wouldn’t you have that attitude when the cops have never done you wrong?

    • Most of the people receiving DUI convictions are not white, affluent socialites. They tend to regular people from all walks of life. Most of them receive work release and it makes sense to segregate them from the rest of the prisoners who are not on work release. In fact, anyone on work release goes into these tents, and not just DUIs. The tents where they are housed are cleaner because they are used only half the day and the people housed there only show up to sleep. The guards are nicer because they are treated nicer by the inmates. There is a world of difference in the attitude between the work release inmates and the full time inmates.

      It isn’t some sort of conspiracy to suck up to anyone. The reason I know all this is one of my brothers was guest of the Sheriff for minor drug charged and he participated in the work release program. And while you refer to them as somewhat like luxury villas, he assured me he learned a valuable lesson from his stay there. He is not cut out for hard time. ;o)

      • Jesus Christ.

        I didn’t say that all DUI inmates were socialites but enough of them are…

        Oh fuck it. Not in the mood for contrarian mansplaining bullshit today.

        • Why do I get the feeling you carry a big grudge against men? And you certainly exude class envy. I am sorry life dealt you such a bad hand.

  2. While I understand you believe that the only real source of effective change is mass rallies and demonstrations on a nationwide basis, I am a little disappointed you would condone the looting, burning and general rioting that is going on in Baltimore.

    • Steve, I’m not condoning the rioting, but I’m not going to pretend I don’t get it either. As long as White America wants to insist what has happened to Blacks in cities and towns across America at the hands of our “justice” system reflects only the actions of “a few bad apples,” what’s happening in Baltimore will happen again and again and again.

      Why don’t you pick up a copy of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and read it, then re-read American Vendetta’s comment below and see if you rave about it as much the second time around?

      What’s happening in Baltimore has been, in my opinion, a long time coming. Blame the rioters if you want. I don’t.

  3. There are thousands of laws broken every day and thousands of arrests made with thousands of police making those arrests. What has happened with the incidents in Baltimore, Carolina, or even Maricopa County over the years or past year is wrong. However, the sensationalization of this in making all cops appear as racist and bad is as filthy as assuming all African American youth in Baltimore are violent rioters. Just as many that follow this blog would like certain leaders and politicians to step into the shoes of someone who is struggling with finding a job or obtaining health care, you should take a minute to step into an officers shoes. It is a thankless and highly stressful position that one takes and gives of themselves for the community. The long term physical and mental burden takes its toll. The post about mental illness here illustrates the difficulty that the majority of officers face each shift they work. Most people have absolutely no idea of what is is like for the cops in our community. I have seen outstanding individuals tolerate things that would have most citizens resort to violence to the extreme. There are people out there that cannot be dealt with in a logical or subdued manner. It does not matter what the background of the person being arrest is, a decision that has to be made in the heat of the moment for the safety of others is what they get paid to do. Try to bring someone down who won’t listen, who is violent, in some sort of peaceful way without hurting them. Give it a try because I guarantee that even a 10 year old will give most people trouble. When a man is walking down the street after an armed robbery with a gun to his chin I’d rather not have my police wait until he shoots at someone or kills someone to take him out. Sorry, my family or my community will not suffer for their erratic behavior, whatever the cause.

    This doesn’t mean we don’t hold our police accountable. They should be and certain incidents like Baltimore or the race relations with certain departments and the community should be addressed. I just think it is important that we all understand what a majority of or police deal with every day and how much of an outstanding job they do.

    • Well said! It is a job I could not do. It bothers me a lot that all Police Officers are being painted with the same brush as the bad ones. I would hate to think what this country would be like were it not for those singular individuals who are willing to put on the badge to serve and protect the majority of us from that small percentage that choose to live outside the law. Thank God we have them.

      • I think both of you missed my point, which is that while there are decent police, the fact is that due to the violence of the job it attracts a certain number of biased and brutal people. Those people are not being adequately screened out of the job. Those people are more than a few but less than most (5 to 30%) of the police, and those people are being protected by calls to understand what a terrible job it is. If police do not want to be defined by these terrible acts of brutality committed in their names by these officers then they need to figure out who they are, prosecute them, and quit hiring them. Until that happens all police will be painted with this brush, because it is not a tiny few who are brutal, even though it is not the entirety of the police who are brutal, it is a sizable proportion. And that HAS to be addressed.

        Yes a large number if the people police interact with are mentally ill, that does not forgive the police for lifetaking when better training would prevent it. Also too many perfectly innocent people of color are being murdured by police. These people doing the murders are not the majority of police, but they are too many and too pervasive and they get away with doing it over and over again and again. They need to be removed from police departments. The only way this will happen is with zero tolerance within police departments. If the only way for that to happen is for there to be mass protests then that is what will happen. If police clean up their act and rid their departments of these brutal people then there would be no need for mass protests.

        • All valid points, TS. But it could be even worse than that, if you look at the Justice Department findings from Ferguson. And how is it that the “rough ride” tactic survived for 10 years and multiple lawsuits in Baltimore if the problem is not more systemic?

          What if the “biased and brutal people” to whom you refer are actually being “screened in” to the job somehow (not necessarily intentionally)?

  4. “Rough ride” should be illegal period, it is completely and intentionally harmful. That being said, I am not convinced that what happened to Freddie Gray was not the result of his treatment by the police prior to being put into the van, i.e. Directly from rough treatment during arrest. In the video footage of him going being dragged into the van, his head is lolling to one side, appearing like he is unable to lift it, yet he is speaking, his body is totally limp, again like he is unable to move. I think he was paralyzed prior to entering the van. The van ride then worsened the injuries he already sustained and made it impossible to determine the cause. Either way the police in this case are directly responsible for his death.

    One thing that bothers me is that in police departments across the country there seems to be difficulty in hiring and recruiting people who are not a) racially biased (yes some black officers can be biased against black people) and b) prone to abusing detainees. This is not to say that all officers are biased and abusive but there are regularly reported stats of 70% of excessive force cases being attributed to anywhere from 5% to 30% of the police force in whatever city you look at. If that is the case then up to 30% of officers recruited are prone to using excessive force. The question is how to determine who those 30% are so that a police force can avoid hiring them in the first place?

    To further complicate matters at least one third of people who police regularly arrest are mentally ill. Mentally ill offenders are most likely to be schizophrenic. The victims of schizophrenia have delusions, hear voices, often have little contact with reality and are less likely to understand and follow police directives than non-schizophrenics. This same group are more likely to die at police hands. Obviously we have several issues coming together here. 1) A police force that cannot seem to screen out recruits who are racially biased and excessively violent. It is a job that attracts people who are like that. 2) a police force that is having to deal with mentally ill offenders and has no or little psychiatric training.

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