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Editorial: Baltimore riots overshadow protest's message

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 29, 2015 5:00 AM

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The city of Baltimore entered a state of emergency after violence broke out in the streets on Monday afternoon. The situation is so severe that 500 National Guard troops joined the Baltimore police, with 2,000 more planned to deploy soon.

Rioters armed with sticks, rocks, bricks, and other debris have injured 15 officers. Fires engulfing buildings and vehicles are being reported across the city. A curfew has been implemented for 10 p.m. and will continue through out the week.

Peaceful protests on April 25 were the first to turn violent. The rioting has since become widespread. The protests were originally over the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. The family is imploring the outraged to stop the violence.

Unfortunately, this has much less to do with Gray than with decades of mistreatment, animosity, and tension between the citizens of Baltimore and their police force. The rioters’ violence is not justifiable but not unmotivated, either.

The United States has a long history of groups of people who feel disenfranchised rising up and using violent or destructive means in order to feel as though they are being heard or changing the systems that are treating them unfairly. This tradition is older than the States themselves. The Boston Tea Party was little more than joint private/public property destruction.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told reporters Monday, “People say they care about their community and want to be heard, but you can’t care about your community and do what they did.”

It seems that the people who did commit these acts had little regard for the residents of these neighborhoods, many of whom attempted to stop the riots and looting as they happened.

The violence is inexcusable. Just as innocent citizens don’t deserve to be harassed by the police, the police don’t deserve to be injured by these violent riots. The children of Baltimore don’t deserve the closing of their schools. Business owners of Baltimore don’t deserve to have their shelves looted and storefronts burned. And the people trying to protest peacefully don’t deserve to share a stage with these agitators.

It is a pity that what was previously a successful, widespread peaceful protest will be overlooked in history by the eruption of force. The issue of police brutality will be obscured in the public eye as many, in very justifiable fear, will turn to the police to use force and placate the situation.

And Rawlings-Blake did her best to ensure peaceful protests were possible. Her work with the police to protect the right to organize and protest is commendable. To see the tension and anger explode in such an infectious and devastating way is both unfortunate and upsetting. It’s indicative of the long-term resentment in the city, but it has led to the careless indulgence of destructive behavior and mob mentality.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes that the issue of police discrimination and brutality are of the utmost importance in this nation. That said, the destruction wrought in Baltimore cannot be tolerated.

The First Amendment is imperative to the democratic process, and is worth protecting. When a group feeling disenfranchised is desperate to make a change in the systems they live within, violence can appear to them a powerful and useful tool. Its implications are unfair to thousands of innocent civilians and officers alike. The DI Editorial Board hopes to see the violence come to an end soon and justice prevail — for both Gray’s family and for the victims of the rioting.


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