Several weeks ago, the death of a Baltimore resident at the hands of police prompted weeks of both rioting and peaceful protests. The resident, Freddie Gray, died while in police custody. Several officers have been charged for the responsibility of the death. The city and the country remain nervous that once again, our justice system will not favor black men, the most common victims of systemic police abuse.
Amidsts the frenzy of media coverage, some news outlets have made scathing criticisms of rioters. On one evening, several buildings were burned, including a nursing home, which was heavily covered by news sources. However, media outlets have neglected the peaceful protests that have been occurring and began several weeks before the riots.
Furthermore, the Baltimore police have been notably less forceful in their handling of the protests than other cities that experienced rioting following police abuse cases. This suggests that police departments are starting to understand the value of de-escalation and the incendiary effect of police militarization.
We should not forget that tensions have been simmering for some time as the media continues to cover Freddie Gray’s death. According to a report by Al Jazeera America, 127 Baltimore residents have been killed over the last 20 years by police officers. In general, Baltimore’s residents have experienced the harsh reality of a militarized police force. Some feel that police have a doctrinated preference of containing violent crime over building and maintaining safe communities. Over the last two decades, several hundred lawsuits have been filed against the Baltimore police department for excessive force and unlawful arrests.
As national media outlets focus on the violence of rioters and not the peaceful protests, the general public will be unable to get a full understanding of Baltimore’s situation with the current coverage. A complete understanding of the situation requires a full look at Baltimore’s past, which currently is not being discussed as much as the riots or Freddie Gray’s death.
Our hope is that, when the investigation is launched, it will be transparent in explaining the causes of Gray’s death and that justice will be served. Police abuse in the black community is currently a very controversial topic in the United States. Consumers of the media who want an educated, informed understanding of what is going on will need to delve beneath the surface of mainstream media coverage.