Obama has presided over the worst racial violence in a generationby Alexis Self / May 21, 2015 / Leave a comment
When people think of Baltimore, they mostly think of drugs, corruption and violence. The city’s reputation, largely made by the television series The Wire, has been sadly confirmed by the events of this spring.
I arrived in Baltimore with a friend the morning after Marilyn Mosby, state attorney for the city, had announced she would be prosecuting the six police officers involved in the arrest of a young African-American man, Freddie Gray, on a total of 28 charges. Gray was arrested on 12th April after he “caught the eye” of an officer, and was found to be in possession of a knife. He was handcuffed, shackled, placed in the back of a van and then allegedly subjected to a practice known locally as “rough riding.”
Rough riding involves officers using “erratic driving” to subdue a passenger. When Gray arrived at the West Baltimore police station, his spine was 80 per cent severed at the neck. He died from his injuries on 19th April, a week after his arrest. Protests, at first peaceful, turned violent on 25th April. Three days later, the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard.
Within an hour of hitting town, we’d acquired an unofficial tour guide. A local calling himself “The Hatman” gave us a potted history of Baltimore’s troubles as we walked to City Hall, the focal point of the week’s protests. According to him, a combination of drugs, corruption and institutional racism had plagued the city for decades. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the city’s Mayor, who is herself African-American, was already unpopular before the recent unrest, during which she praised the police for their restraint. “Nobody died during the riots,” she said. Her predecessor, Sheila Dixon, had been convicted of embezzlement after stealing gift cards meant for the poor just two years into her first term.
For decades, Baltimore held the title of America’s “heroin capital.” After a recent upsurge in heroin use, following a relative lull half a decade ago, government agencies estimate that…