As I was planning this issue of Yonder, I spoke with some of the regular readers of my newsletter. Almost a week before this post, a friend asked me what I will write this week. I said that I would love to do something on Baltimore, on police violence in this country, on how this all started. And moreover, on racism and the country’s gun culture. “This will be very hard to write,” my friend pondered slowly. I agreed immediately. But I did not expect that my friend’s deep and melodic voice would stay with me while I read and thought about the problem.
One can‘t not have an emotional reaction, an opinion or even a political position on what is resurfacing in America. And yet, once you start digging into the problem, what seems obvious becomes complicated, what seems outrageous turns out to have some apparently logical and historic roots. It’s hard to understand. Not the fact that police violence should be stopped immediately, or that the U.S. police system should be reformed and civil rights respected. There is no doubt about that. But it is difficult to get a truly full picture of the situation that America finds itself in, risking new social explosion and chaos.
So instead of a full story, I am posting some links to readings that I found interesting and insightful. What surprised me most is that in almost every city where police violence and cold-blooded murders triggered protests and riots, there is unique social context. It is hard, if not impossible, to compare the situation in Ferguson to the one in Baltimore.
On the arrest of Freddie Gray on March 12, his injury and death caused by broken spine a week later while under arrest in police prison: “The Mysterious Death of Freddie Gray,” by David A. Graham
On the dynamic of the riots that exploded during the funeral of young Freddie Gray: “Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore Riots Didn’t Start the Way You Think,” by Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin
On violence of Baltimore police: “The Brutality of Police Culture in Baltimore,” by Freddie Friedersdorf
On the atmosphere of fear and hatred on the streets, written by a reporter who was brought up in Baltimore, on the street where the riots started : “Nonviolence as Compliance”, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Former editor-in-chief of the New York Times, Bill Keller’s, interview with David Simon is very powerful – a must read. The former chronicler of the Baltimore Sun is also a producer and writer of the famous HBO series, The Wire.
The prevalence of smartphones and handheld cameras in recent years has made it possible to capture police violence and trigger the social resistance. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently created an app that enables the owners of smart phones to more easily record police violating civil rights. Jon Wiener explained how the app works in an article for the Nation on Friday.
On how six police officers in Baltimore were charged with a range of crimes, including murder of Freddie Gray: “6 Baltimore Police Officers Charged in Freddie Gray Death”
By Alan Blinder and Richard Perez-Penamay
Last but not least, Baltimore by Randy Newman, who described similar crisis decades ago. Listen to his words about this desperate city as he saw it in the distant 1977 album, Little Criminals.