In praise of the Baltimore protesters . . . police . . . and civil authorities

0 dead, 98 injured, 235 arrests.  This appears to be the final tally of the Baltimore protests. Despite four centuries of provocation catalyzed by the depraved indifference of six Baltimore cops to the life of a young African-American man who was wrongfully arrested and then killed, black Baltimoreans acted with extraordinary restraint.

Yes, commercial properties were damaged and we saw repeated footage of two of them – a Target-anchored mall and a CVS.  But, the real story here is an impoverished community scarred by nearly 40% unemployment and ham-fisted, sometimes violent, policing coming together in solidarity and in peace.

Think 98 injured police seems high, so do I, but consider that during the four days of rioting in Los Angeles following the 1992 Rodney King verdict, 53 people were killed, thousands hurt, and over 11,000 arrested.  In two separate riots in Boston in 2004, one person was killed in each.  What caused the mayhem – home team victories in the Super Bowl and World Series.

To their lasting credit both the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post have posted many images and videos of the thousands of peaceful but passionate Baltimore protesters who should ultimately define the past week.  These provide an essential counterbalance to the sensationalism of CNN’s Monday night coverage and Fox’s 5-day race-baiting orgy.

The good people of Baltimore deserve praise and so do Baltimore’s finest.  Wisely heeding the counsel of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, they did not react to the sometimes intimidating crowds with water hoses, clubbings, teargas, or mass arrests.  Instead, they directed crowds as best they could away from violence and vandalism.

The work week that began so painfully with looting and vandalism ends on a note of hope.  State’s attorney Marilyn Mosby announced publicly that murder charges are being brought against the six officers responsible for killing Freddie Gray.  In a devastating recitation of the facts, Mosby left no doubt of the thoroughness of her investigation and the strength of her case.  Onlookers cheered the decision.

As peace descends on Baltimore, what next.  Here are three modest proposals. 1) We focus on bringing good jobs back to America from Asia, not on sending even more there, so that urban, suburban, and rural poor will have the opportunity to build a decent life for themselves and their families.  2) Our government spend time and money to redevelop inner city neighborhoods so millions aren’t living on streets characterized by boarded up buildings and weed-infested empty lots surrounded by razor wire.  3) Our war on drugs warriors declare final victory in the war on drugs and go home.

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