President Obama addresses the crisis in Baltimore
President Obama made his first statement today regarding the violent clashes between protestors and police that have taken place in Baltimore, Maryland. While the President acknowledged that America needs to do "some soul-searching" when it comes to issues like race, poverty and equality, he believes "there's no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday."
This statement followed the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Baltimore resident who died of a spinal injury after being taken into police custody on April 12th. The timeline of his arrest is incomplete and redacted. (Gray's friend and witness has said that the police denied him an inhaler, bent his legs backwards and, "had him folded up like he was a crab or a piece of origami.")
Peaceful protests calling for police reform turned violent following Gray's funeral on April 27th. A state of emergency has been declared after businesses and police vehicles were burned.
Obama echoed the Mayor of Baltimore's language and referred to the protestors as "a handful of criminals and thugs," emphasizing that most demonstrations were peaceful.
“This has been a slow-rolling crisis ... This isn’t new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new," the President stated, "If we really want to solve the problem, we could. It would require everybody to say this is important, this is significant, and that we just don't pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, when a young man is shot or when his spine is snapped."
What others have said:
"We're not going to have a repeat of last night. It's not going to happen tonight." -Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan
"It was only a matter of time before Baltimore exploded. In the more than three decades I have called this city home, Baltimore has been a combustible mix of poverty, crime, and hopelessness, uncomfortably juxtaposed against rich history, friendly people, venerable institutions and pockets of old-money affluence. The two Baltimores have mostly gone unreconciled. The violence that followed Freddie Gray’s funeral Monday, with roaming gangs looting stores and igniting fires, demands that something be done." -Michael A. Fletcher, The Washington Post
"If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore. Turn around. Go home. Please." - David Simon, creator of The Wire ("David Simon’s judgmental post about the Freddie Gray protests were the wrong message, at the wrong time, coming from the wrong person." -response from The Guardian)
"When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is 'correct' or 'wise,' any more than a forest fire can be 'correct' or 'wise.' Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community." - Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic