After hours of rioting earlier this week, the youth of Baltimore tried to reclaim their identity as peaceful people who opposed police brutality on April 29, as they marched arm-in-arm amid a heavy police and military presence in Baltimore, Erica L Green writes in the Baltimore Sun.
Baltimore schools CEO Gregory Thornton greeted students as they returned to school at Frederick Douglass High School, where the rioting may have begun following a police presence Monday and a closed public transit stop that serves some 5,000 students daily. The Sun reported that he was “completely caught off guard” by the decision to shut down the buses on Monday.
Students lamented that national coverage seemed to focus on the violence rather than on their message. On Wednesday, as students marched from Penn Station to City Hall or, separately, from Digital Harbor High School in Federal Hill to City Hall, they carried signs saying “Rights Not Fights” and “Voice Not Violence.” “We do have opinions,” the Sun quoted one Towson University student as saying. “We’re the ones getting murdered in the streets.”
Protests over police mistreatment of blacks also sprang up in other cities this week, such as Ferguson, Mo., Milwaukee, and New York. The New York protests, which resulted in the arrest of about 60 people, were said to be in support of protesters in Baltimore. Milwaukee and Ferguson each have police brutality issues of their own that were the most direct basis for protests there, but the protests in Baltimore no dboubt spurred those cities to action.
Credit in Baltimore goes to Gov Larry Hogan, who activated the National Guard for the first time, in an emergency not related to weather, since the 1968 protests over the assassination of Martin Luther King, as well as to an array of pastors, community leaders, and even gang members, who repeatedly went into the streets to calm crowds. They also helped law enforcement impose a curfew for a few nights after the riots.
As it is in many cities, a relationship between blacks and police that has been hardened by the passage of time may take a much longer time to soften. Students still struggle with that history and try to process it as well as they can. While that happens, students “need to advocate for themselves and have the world listen to them,” the Sun quoted one Baltimore city teacher as saying. “Right now, the world is dismissing them.”