A Note to Those Trying To Justify the Baltimore Riots

Violence is like a weed – it does not die even in the greatest drought.” – Simon Wiesenthal

Unmitigated rage has been loosed from its cage once again—but this time in Baltimore. Stores have been looted and set on fire, police officers have been brutally injured, and the Governor has declared a state of emergency. It’s obvious to me that this savage behavior is deplorable, and one would think that this view would be the consensus among all who’ve seen what’s occurring in Baltimore. However, some are comparing the riots to the Boston Tea Party.

Those are just three among a sea of tweets preaching the same sermon. What it boils down to is justification. Those who are making comparisons between the Boston Tea Party and the Baltimore riots are attempting to justify the violence that is occurring in Baltimore. This comparison, however, is flawed, and once explained, irrelevant.

First, let’s go over what’s occurring in Baltimore, and what triggered it.

Freddie Gray was arrested on April 12th, and loaded into a police van. What followed is an unraveling mystery. Allegedly, Gray asked for an inhaler, and complained that he was having trouble breathing several times, but his requests were ignored.

According to Baltimore police, after Gray was placed in leg shackles for acting “irate,” he was not properly secured in the police van; his seatbelt was not fastened for him.

Approximately 45 minutes later, paramedics were called, and Gray was taken to the hospital, where he fell into a coma, and died one week later. The alleged cause of death is a catastrophic spinal chord injury.

The six officers who were involved have been suspended—five of whom have already given statements. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts have assured the press that they are acting expeditiously and will turn over the results of the investigation to prosecutors on May first.

As far as can be seen—as we are not mind-readers—Rawlings-Blake and Batts are doing everything they can to get to the truth, and the investigation has been thorough, as well as fast-moving.

What is to be gained by rioting—aside from free toilet paper and a new HDTV? These six officers may have acted negligently, or even criminally, and the process through which the truth will be revealed is in motion. So why riot? The answer is simple, and disturbing. Rage is at the heart of these riots; rage at perceived racial injustice.

Due process is being followed, and there is no confirmation that the actions taken by the officers had any racial component, so once again, why riot? Moreover, why loot, and destroy the property of those who have no connection to the crime? Why set fire to businesses and civilian cars? Why set fire to the cars of police officers who had no involvement in this incident? Why attack police officers who are merely trying to keep the peace?

According to CBS Baltimore:

“…the hurt officers suffered injuries from flying debris in the melee as rioters began attacking them unprovoked. At least one was knocked unconscious. Six officers remained hospitalized Monday night at Shock Trauma in serious condition.”

Yeah, that sure is noble. You guys have really honored the memory of Freddie Gray. The rioters in Baltimore have no moral compass; they have no sense of boundaries; they are savage, and they represent the worst of us. They are not—let me repeat that—not justified.

Let’s check out the attempted justification though.

The Boston Tea Party was instrumental in the formation of our country, however, there were those who condemned it. In 1774, George Washington himself wrote of it:

“The cause of Boston…ever will be considered as the cause of America (not that we approve their conduct in destroying the Tea).”

Benjamin L. Carp, associate history professor at Tufts wrote for the Wall Street Journal:

“The Revolutionary movement achieved a great deal in its time, but it was hardly without flaws. Today the U.S. is a society that reveres democracy as well as law and order. The acts that the 18th-century Sons of Liberty were willing to commit or countenance ought to give us pause today.

Less than two years after the Boston Tea Party, many of the tea destroyers were already taking up arms to defend the American colonies from Parliament’s attempt to strip them of their rights. Their struggle dearly purchased the rights and privileges that we enjoy today. The least we can do, in return, is to get their story straight.”

History is filled to the brim with acts that, while considered positive markers in the grand scheme of things, weren’t always the most respectable. To invoke such moments as justification for burning down a CVS and brutally wounding police officers doesn’t really fly, especially when the injustice in question is being handled with great care and due process–as has been shown.

This is absolute thuggery, regardless of race. Rioters of all races who participate in these atrocious acts are not justified because of what some men did 240 years ago. To make such comparisons is juvenile, and it shows a lack of nuanced understanding.

A note to those who would support the Baltimore riots:

If you believe the Boston Tea Party and the Baltimore riots are comparable—and therefore the Baltimore riots are justified—I urge you to go to Baltimore, find the businesses that have been looted, and burned, look the owners directly in the eye, and tell them that it was justified. Also, find the cops in the hospitals—you know, the ones who didn’t do anything wrong, the ones who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving you—and tell them that their suffering is all good because the Boston Tea Party is often spoken of positively in relation to the formation of the United States.

Go ahead. You were brave enough to Tweet about it.