These are wobbly thoughts. Emotional ones. Probably not all that enlightening.
Several years ago I moved down I-95 and a little up I-270 to Rockville. Writing-wise, I left the week to week activity of this site last Fall. I may no longer reside in Baltimore or write incessantly about the Orioles, but my heart will never leave that city. I spent several years rooming in Pigtown and over in Mount Vernon. I played softball throughout the city wherever there was a diamond on a lot. I spent much of my time at a field a block or so north of Mondawmin. And so, in my office along our Nation's Mall, I watched the CBS helicopter feed yesterday afternoon showing parts of the city with which I had some familiarity. I saw those streets quite abruptly turn into something heartbreaking.
A moderate size police force arrived in Mondawmin in response to concerns about a "purge". The "purge" meme is a reoccurring thing in social media and, to my knowledge, never resulted in any actual wrongdoing. However, the situation in Baltimore led the police to take it more seriously this time. After holding back for awhile, a line moved forward to a concentrated group and pushed forward into a side residential street. They made it a block and a half before resistance pushed them back with officers sustaining concussions and a broken shield as they were pelted with bricks, concrete, and rocks. At least one officer threw some rocks back in frustration.
A few moments later, the helicopter camera followed a group quickly making their way away from Mondawmin. Suddenly, they sprinted to somewhere off camera. By the time the camera caught up, you could see a police car on a small side road trying to do a three point turn. The group came up 10-20 feet away and pelted the car, breaking windows. They ran away when the cop emerged with his sidearm drawn. No shots were fired. The cop got back in his car and sped off.
As the night wore on, community leaders, some gang members, and just regular folks walked the streets trying to restore order in ways the police were unable to do. Their hard work appeared to be fruitful, but Baltimore is a large place and a great number of people were out in the streets and interested in being part of the mayhem. Convenience stores were looted. Businesses had newspaper boxes thrown through their windows. Several cars, stores, and a 15 MM senior center set to open in December were aflame. Police had to escort the firemen because passersby had knifed several fire hoses to prevent fires from being put out.
What I saw is my city and is not my city. Much of Baltimore is angry and poorly served by the government. Much of Baltimore was neglected for decades making that climb up incredibly difficult. It is a part of Baltimore I had little idea of before moving into the city, riding mass transit, and heading out to the city parks. It is a part of Baltimore that troubles me and continues to trouble me. It is a part of Baltimore for which I am without answers, without an approach. It is something I think about when I come into town to visit. It pains me.
The other part of Baltimore also shown through. The side proud of the city and insistent on trying to turn it all around. It is a part of Baltimore that makes me proud. It is a part of Baltimore that I hope finds a way to bring the forgotten, the under-served, the antagonized into opportunities that help build this city instead of treating them like cast aside wood in a forgotten tinderbox. It is a part of Baltimore that I hope finds ways of better incorporating law enforcement into the community.
Last night the tinderbox ignited. Last night we saw those who feel powerless find a horribly misguided way to feel powerful. Our hope lies in remaining strong and proud as Baltimore and insisting all citizens be treated as equals. All lives matter. All people have rights.