“When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.” Or, as it is more commonly stated, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. – Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion 1687
Sparked by the not so mysterious April 19th death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the Baltimore police, citizens of WestBaltimore and others took to the streets in yet another seemingly endless display of urban unrest. Reporters from mainstream media outlets such as CNN are unable to place the unrest in any substantive historical context. “I don’t remember seeing anything like this in the United States of America in a long time” – @wolfblitzer and CNN’s Don Lemon refuses to engage in any substantive analysis of the basis of the outrage in Baltimore. He prefers to simply state, “…the city is burning because someone in essence set it on fire.”
Let’s try to use what we do know to figure out what it is that we “don’t” know. A 25 year old Baltimore man named Freddie Gray made eye contact with a police officer and took off running. Gray was pursued by the police. There is no known video of the pursuit. There is video of a handcuffed Gray being lifted to his feet, seemingly unable to walk and screaming in pain. He is dragged by police to a van and placed into it by the police because it appears that he is unable to get into it under his own power. Within one hour of being in custody, Gray arrives at the police station in medical distress, unable to walk or talk. He later lapses into a coma and dies of his injuries a week later. The preliminary report is that Freddie Gray’s spinal cord was 80% severed and his voice box was crushed.
Many are asking “why did he run?” Maybe the question should be, “why did they pursue him?” When did it become illegal to look at a police officer and then take off running?
According to CNN, “Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters there are no excuses for the fact that Gray was not buckled in as he was transported to a police station.” That’s a fact, but it does not appear that failing to buckle Freddie Gray into his seat was the problem. The video indicates that Gray’s inability to use his legs and his inability to get into the van under his own power are evidence that his neck was broken during the take down and subsequent cuffing. As an eye witness says on the tape, “hey, that boy’s legs look broke…” His injuries are consistent with a knee being placed against the back of his neck with tremendous force as he laid on the ground and was being restrained. That is also consistent with police tactics and training.
Initially, people in Baltimore took to the streets with peaceful protest but those protest turned violent. When asked why she did not use a show of force much earlier in the protest, Mayor Rawlings-Blake said, “We also gave those who wish to destroy space to do that as well.” It is now apparent that Mayor Rawlings-Blake got what she allowed and much more. She finally called for and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan activated the National Guard.
So, the people who she allowed to “destroy space” are now the same people Mayor Rawlings-Blake is condemning as “thugs.” But this reaction in the streets should have been anticipated. Actually, it follows the natural laws of physics. Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “When one body (the police) exerts a force on a second body (the community), the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.” More simply put, when police officers treat a community that they are sworn to protect and serve as enemy combatants, the community will rebel. When a people see a police force that is supposed to protect and serve them turn into an occupying force, they will revolt.
This is not to in any way shape or form condone the rebellion, but before you can solve a problem you must understand and address its root cause. In his speech, “The Other America” Dr. King said, “…I am still committed to militant…non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view…But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society…These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard…”
When Baltimorean’s return home from their stint in the pre-school to prison pipeline with no skills and no vote; no one is listening. According to Business Insider, “Baltimore has lost nearly a third of its population since its peak of about 950,000 residents in the 1950s; an estimated 16,000 buildings are vacant or abandoned while more than 4,000 people are homeless” and no one is listening. When Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Victor White, III, et al are shot down, choked out or have their necks snapped in the street by the police; no one is listening. But a new Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s first priority is to “restore the morale of police forces” not use all of the power of her office to protect the citizens who have become their victims. She’s obviously not listening.
The rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore are no more un-American than Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 or Shay’s Rebellionin 1787. The issues are basically the same. As Howard Zinn writes in “A People’s History of the United States, “Were the Founding Fathers wise and just men trying to achieve a good balance…They certainly did not want an equal balance between slaves and masters, propertyless and property holders, Indians and white.” That’s what we have today.
The Baltimore Rebellion follows the natural laws of physics, Newton’s Third Law of Motion and it is the language of the unheard. Hey America, can you hear me now?