Did April Riots Bring May Murders?
Watching local news on WBALTV, it seems to be a given that the Freddie Gray protests and riots directly led to the increased murder rate in May 2015. The unstated argument is that police need to be allowed to crack down hard, and maybe even kill a few bad people here and there, to keep the good people safe. If they can’t, well, just look what happens.
In the eight years I have lived here, the murder rate always increases with the good weather, so while this May is bloodier than last May, it is not otherwise unusual. Mayor Rawlings-Blake has been touchingly urging someone to step forward with information about one little girl, but there have been, and always are several children killed in the Spring crossfire. Are black people killing each other because of Freddie Gray? Of course not. They are killing each other – and innocent bystanders, and children – over drugs.
Akim Reinhardt covers it in The Current Spike in Baltimore Violence:
In other words, what the May murders probably represent is a slight up tick in business as usual in the town we sometimes call Bodymore, Murderland a.k.a. Harm City a.k.a. the City that Bleeds a.k.a. Mob Town. The politicians feign righteous indignation whenever someone mentions these sobriquets, but the bloody truth is, no one from the outside gave them to us; Baltimore gave itself these nicknames, and we use them knowingly.
The drug war is likely the most important historical and structural factor explaining Baltimore’s juiced murder rate for May. Yet it has gone completely unmentioned in all of the national press reporting I’ve encountered.
The city is trying to figure out how to pay for the riots of last month, and presumably want no more riots. But after the Board of Public Works quietly resurrected the “youth jail” that had been shouted down years ago, commuters endured a morning of slow traffic on Interstate 95/395 into the city. In response, the mayor announced she would tolerate no more traffic stopping protests. Good luck with that.
Police leaders claim the rank and file officers are “confused.” They consider the DA that indicted the six officers accused of mishandling Freddie Gray to death as an enemy of the police – even though she comes from a family of police officers. Her serious indictments probably saved the Preakness, but now lawyers for the indicted six want a change of venue. Granting that change will probably lead to more protests. After that, the trial may take years.
An eventual verdict of guilt for serious offenses would send shock waves through police forces throughout the US. Retired NYPD officers with a group called POPPA have been sympathetically counseling Baltimore’s cops who feel that the public is against them. With a guilty verdict, I wouldn’t be surprised if the police find other retribution than the work slowdowns we’ve seen so far.
But change of venue and a predominantly not guilty verdict will almost certainly lead to more protests, and probably riots. The implication that May murders are the result of confused police tells me that the city is expecting not guilty. I’m betting that dedicated revolutionaries – like the anarchists that ran the Occupy movement – are waiting patiently.