Riots in Baltimore, But Will Anything Change?

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Maddie Mota, Staff Writer

On April 19, 2015, Freddie Gray died of a severe spinal injury after being arrested by Baltimore police after a foot chase. According to officers, Gray was carrying a switchblade in his pocket at the time of the arrest. In a video recorded by a nearby bystander, police officials dragged Gray after he was handcuffed, ignoring the fact that he was hurt and limp. Gray was not breathing when he arrived at the police station. The Baltimore Police Department has acknowledged significant errors in how they handled Gray’s arrest. They noticed that Gray was not seat-belted after being arrested; Gray was not given medical attention despite the fact that he had requested it several times; and officers never called an ambulance, as they should have. The six officers involved in the arrest have been charged with crimes ranging from assault to manslaughter to murder, however they deny that they used force during the arrest.

Peaceful protests had sprung up all around Baltimore in response. Activists of all races, genders, and ages met up to protest the common issues of police brutality and the mistreatment of the black community. However, on Monday, April 27, protests turned into riots. Rioters burned down nearby buildings, including a senior home that was under construction and a CVS. A city-wide curfew was created to help stop the civil unrest. But are these riots justified in order to make a change?

According to The Police Violence Report for March 2015, 36 African American people were killed by police officers in March alone. That’s one person every 21 hours! There was a 71 percent increase of police killings of black people compared to the previous month. In March alone, 47 percent of African American people killed by police were unarmed and there was a four times higher chance of being killed by police for a black person compared to a white person. Police killings of people of color (POC) is at its highest peak since August 2014. According to Tumblr user ms-wrightt “…These riots show that black people are (angry)! And rightfully so, if each and every POC feels discriminated against.”

There are many opinions about these events. Some people think that these rioters and protesters are doing what they need to do in order to call attention to the wrongful acts of government officials and to show how much pain and sadness is plaguing their hearts. Other people think that these riots are stupid and these “stupid teenagers” should just go home. They believe that burning down their city is no way to show emotion. Sophomore Meena Sylvester says, “The riots are very unnecessary and pretty dumb because you’re destroying your own town to get peace, but you’re not actually making peace. It’s very hypocritical.”

Contrary to Sylvester’s beliefs, Madison Meinbresse, 10, is quoted as saying “I think that change is not achieved with peace. Change is only achieved with conflict, it happens all throughout history. When a bunch of white people riot over sports no one bats an eye. But this is someone’s life that ended!”

The media in itself is also playing a part as part of the issue. “Mainstream newscasts will always try to make the government officials look better. There are so many things they do not show you.” Meinbresse states. Junior Daveri Emhatsen says,“The media doesn’t show you everything that is going on. They just show you parts of it. The media takes these pictures or finds these pictures and they twist them to somehow make it seem like the black community is the enemy.”

Some people see these riots and ask why these people don’t just protest peacefully when in fact, protesters have been protesting peacefully for days. Over 10,000 people peacefully protested in downtown Baltimore, however, the media never covered this. They only covered the violence and the arrests of dozens of people. People always seem to look past the peaceful and helpful people involved in trying to make a change and just look at the people who are throwing rocks at windows.

Not all the protestors were there for the right reasons. Of course, if a CVS is open and no one is in there to stop you, some people would take advantage of the situation and take the basic necessities. “I don’t believe that the people taking advantage of the situation are justified, people trying to make a difference in the black community are. There are people making a bad name by destroying stuff, but there are people who are fighting for what they believe in,” says Gulet Isse, 10. “I believe that different areas require different levels and different types of reforms in order to make peace. In Baltimore, race is an issue. Racism has been around for hundreds of years and it is present in all of our communities and when people start to realize that there’s racism in their homes, they want to get rid of it. These people are reacting like this because they have tried asking peacefully and its not working. Actions speak louder than words, and if you can’t hear the words, you will definitely hear the actions.”

So, how do we fix these issues and make sure that something on this scale does not happen again? First off, police officials need to stop gunning down unarmed civilians. We cannot have anymore Mike Browns (age 18), Trayvon Martins (17), Freddie Grays (25), Tamir Rices (12), or Eric Garners (43). And if there is more bloodshed on the streets of America at the hands of a government official, we simply cannot let them get away with it. Police brutality has been going on for far too long.

Government teacher Mr. Motley says that in order to prevent these events from occurring again the future, a few things need to be done. “First, all citizens and government officials should communicate effectively. Second, local, state, and national government policies must be evaluated. Thirdly, basic respect for one another is the key.”

Our thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of Freddie Gray as well as the family and friends of the other 400 unarmed civilians murdered at the hands of police officers in the year 2014 alone. Let us all hope and work toward a better and more beautiful future for all American citizens regardless of race.