The Baltimore riots have been one of the main focuses of the media for about a month now. Sparked by the death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody, the riots display demands made by the inhabitants of Baltimore, as well as the entire United States. These demands include, but are not limited to, equal representation in the police force, and end to police brutality, and above all, justice. Depending upon how these riots are portrayed in the media however, it has become increasingly harder to actually see these demands being made through the hazy mist of violence and disorder that has been occurring in Baltimore. It appears that many have become too focused on the violent side, which eclipses the core efforts of these riots. I hope to give two separate accounts to this story, each supporting one of the two most prominent reactions to the riots: a call for peace, and a call for justice.
It is clear that one of the most, if not the most prominent features of these riots has been the violence and disorderly behavior. According to statistics from the Baltimore Sun newspaper, there have been at least 144 vehicle fires and 15 structural fires since the death of Gray, and 20 officers were injured on the night of April 20th alone. In lieu of these acts of retaliation, one must invoke the age-old saying: you can’t fight fire with fire. The ending result is always, without fail, a larger fire, which can be demonstrated by the increasing turmoil occurring in Baltimore. The outbreaks of violence and vandalism expose a different side of Baltimore, one that seems to value retaliation over true justice. Naturally, calls for peace have been issued in response to the violence, and since the violence makes up a large portion of the riots, this call has expanded to signify that peace can only be achieved by ending the riots. In this way, the disorderly and violent behaviors that have persisted throughout these riots almost invalidates the true reasons behind the protests. Almost.
It is essential that it is understood that what is being demonstrated by those riots is the pent up anger that has been fostered in the hearts of millions, from Baltimore and beyond. In the media there has been what seems like a continuous stream of instances of injustice. Coupled with a history of oppression and discrimination that stems back hundreds of years, one can see why many would be pushed to violence. In this way, we as a society can not justify the violence in Baltimore, but we should understand it. However, as we have seen historically by figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolence is the only route to take if one not only seeks justice, but also wants to get a point across. Violence allows opponents of the protests to become engulfed in the violence surrounding an issue, rather than considering the real purposes for the protests. To enact real change, the violent rioters of Baltimore, as well as all who wish to seek retaliation over progress, must channel their anger into nonviolent protests, the way that visionaries before them have done.