The city’s police clarified Wednesday that their report on the details of the death of unarmed 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody would not be released on Friday as many expected, adding to mounting frustrations among the city’s residents that information about the murky incident is not forthcoming from authorities.
— Cassandra (@CassandraRules) April 29, 2015
The lead-up to the events in Baltimore over the last few nights is, at best, complicated. Gray’s death ignited pent-up frustrations about the way minorities are treated by US law enforcement. It’s hard to condone the violence, but it’s necessary to understand where it comes from: a sordid history of systemic prejudice, wherein black youths are inherently viewed as threatening, while white youths rioting after a soccer game are seen, simply, as rambunctious.
Mass riots rarely happen in a vacuum, after all. Something lights the tinderbox.
If a history of injustice can be partly – if not mostly – blamed for the riots, then Baltimore’s reaction to the demonstrations can also play a major role in whether the last outburst was the one that breaks the cyclical nature of inequality.
So far, Baltimore police may be off to a bad start. In an effort to crackdown on individuals which Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake called "thugs," the state’s governor, Larry Hogan, has put some fairly draconian measures in place.
Taxing the Poor to Protect the Rich
Over the last two days, Baltimore police have arrested hundreds. While 35 were taken into custody Tuesday night after the city’s week-long 10 pm curfew went into effect, 235 were arrested during Monday’s riots.
According to the Guardian, most of those individuals are being held without charge. While Maryland’s habeas corpus law allows for 24-hour detention without charge, Governor Hogan has suspended that safeguard, claiming it was "necessary to protect the public safety."
— Baltimore Police (@BaltimorePolice) April 29, 2015
Suspending laws meant to protect the citizenry against the dangers of a police-state is hardly the way to prevent chaos that was originally inspired by those same fears of law enforcement overreach.
Katie D’Adamo, a lawyer with the Office of the Public Defender, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that most of the adults arrested on Monday are being held in tiny cells.
Baltimore City Police Captain Eric Kowalcyzk also said as much during a Wednesday news conference, saying that 111 people have yet to be charged with a crime, though he also said that many of those may be released for the time being to be charged at a later date.
"While we may be in a state of crisis, what we do now, under the American system of justice, people who were arrested and have not been arraigned, have not been charged, are in fact innocent," said Cornell William Brooks, president of the NAACP. "The fact that we have 200 people who are sitting in legal limbo is concerning."
Even those who have been charged face unjust circumstances. The Guardian also states that the governor plans to retroactively discourage future riots by imposing heavy, unrealistic bail bonds against those who have been arrested.
One 19-year-old, for example, was charged with eight offenses relating to his participation in demonstrations on Saturday. His bail was set at $500,000, a high price to place on an already disenfranchised population. The 19-year-old was arrested after he was unable to pay.
A City Holds Its Breath
The likelihood of escalations during Wednesday demonstrations is still anybody’s guess. But after Monday’s riots and skirmishes following the curfew on Tuesday night, police and city officials aren’t taking any chances.
In an effort to curtail unnecessary crowds in the downtown area, the Baltimore Orioles have taken steps of their own. In a first for major league baseball, the Orioles played their game against the Chicago White Sox to an empty stadium.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 29, 2015
In the past, MLB games that coincided with riots were postponed to a later date. This was the first to be played to a crowd of zero, with the Orioles winning with a score of 8-2.
"It’s a very tight schedule and…when you know you’re going to have other conflicts like weather and unavoidable situations comes up, you try to avoid it," league historian John Thorn told ABC News.
Though unprecedented, fans could still watch the game for free on league’s website, and the decision will keep 30,000 people off the streets of the Inner Harbor.
— Dave Huddleston (@DaveHWSB) April 29, 2015
"After conversations with the Orioles and local officials, we believe that these decisions are in the best interests of fan safety and the deployment of City resources," league commissioner Rob Manfred said in statement.
Peaceful protests have continued throughout the day, as they have in days past since the death of Freddie Gray. Organizers hope that is how they will remain.