Her sign says it all. Photo: Harry Fear.
Whenever I hear about Baltimore — Maryland, that is, as there’s a Baltimore, Ontario not far from where I live — I can’t help but recall this Countee Cullen poem I first read in high school:
Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.
Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, ‘Nigger.’
I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.
The poem is called, simply, “Incident”.
Baltimore, it seems, is characterized by just such incidents. A few days ago, I’m pretty sure, certain Baltimoreans were saying that and other such things to a young black man named Freddie Gray, as they were beating him to a bloody pulp. Quite literally, too, as his spine was crushed in eight places.
Freddie Gray was buried just the other day, and the good people of Baltimore turned out in force to mourn. And to protest, too — peacefully, as good people do. And the protest stayed peaceful, according to The Real News (which is headquartered in Baltimore), until a gang showed up to cause trouble.
Now, this gang is feared throughout the city, but especially so in the black folks’ part of town. Their color is blue. Their badge is in the shape of a shield. You can never miss them coming, because they have flashers and sirens on all their cars. They are heavily armed and known for their violence.
And if your color is black or brown, you run from them on sight. Run like hell. Run like Freddie Gray. You run by instinct, because you know they mean you no good.
Sure, some say that if Freddie hadn’t run, if he hadn’t resisted, he’d still be alive today. But the black folks of Baltimore know the ugly truth about the Baltimore Police Department. They know that even if Freddie had just dropped to the ground, flat on his face with hands behind his back, waiting to be cuffed, they would probably still have kicked the shit out of him. Maybe he’d have lived, but he wouldn’t have come away unscathed. The BPD, the biggest, meanest gang in Baltimore, was out for blood, and they got it.
After all, gangs need to have their blood rites, do they not? Sure they do. And the BPD has sought to gain legitimacy with other big gangs all around the world. Why, they’ve even been to Israel, where a gang calling itself the IDF (colors: white and blue; insignia: six-pointed star) taught them and many others how to rough up rock-throwing little brown kids. And since the IDF has a decades-long history of gang-banging the Palestinians, they were a natural choice for the BPD to go to when it came time to hone their racial violence skills for the modern era. You could see just how much they learned when they turned out to suppress the peaceful protests following Freddie Gray’s funeral just the other day. They even threw rocks right back at those who tried to fend them off, those understandably angry that the cops wouldn’t even let them call for justice in peace.
Yes, the BPD learned a lot from the IDF on how to crash protests and turn them into “riots”. They learned a lot on how to find flimsy pretexts for violence, and even how to generate them if their victims failed to provide one as expected.
You say you don’t mind people protesting, as long as they do it peacefully? Well, neither do I. Only a fascist or a fool would mind! But here’s the rub: As long as police have been a force for protecting the interests of the most powerful, it’s been their habit to turn even the mildest of protests into a free-for-all. To goad people into fighting, then beat the shit out of them. Result: Rioting, looting, a veritable free-for-all. And inevitably, on the heels of such a clash, comes martial law, complete with the deployment of the army (or in the US, the National Guard). Curfews are imposed; armed gangs in green patrol the streets. And these gangs are even more fearsomely armed than the gangs in blue. They have tanks and machine guns, cannons and grenades.
Like I so often say: It’s never a riot till the cops show up. And it’s never a war until the army shows up.
If Baltimore looks like a war zone right now, that’s because it is. Two gangs are fighting for turf supremacy there. But the gangs aren’t black. They are not Crips and Bloods. They are the BPD and the National Guard, they are overwhelmingly white, and they are fighting not against each other, but side by side against a bunch of blacks, mostly young and powerless, with little or no means of self-defence. They are doing their damnedest, in this so-called post-racial era, to keep blacks down. And the best way to do that, it seems, is to keep the old lie of the violent gang-banging black man alive by galvanic reanimation.
The major media — another gang, this one with the colors of the various news channels — aids and abets them in this lie. They show only “rioters”, not peaceful protesters (who still vastly outnumber the looters and shop-burners). They make it look like Baltimore is under siege from a bunch of angry black kids, not from the gangs in blue and green. The mayor comes on to talk of “outside agitators”, and she’s right — there are plenty, but the agitators aren’t in the protests. They’re the gang in blue, whose members all live out of town, often even out of state. They have trained out of country. They have trained in a land of apartheid, to bring back apartheid in their own land.
Today it’s Baltimore. Yesterday it was Ferguson, Missouri. The day before, it was Sanford, Florida.
And in the last 50 years, it appears nothing has changed:
This is footage from the Watts “riots” in Los Angeles in 1965. It could just as easily be Baltimore…just the other day.