There was rioting in Baltimore Saturday night. Demonstrators protesting the death of Freddie Gray broke windows, smashed storefronts, threw rocks, and vandalized cars. Gray died from spinal injuries a week after being arrested by police, and his funeral is today. The Baltimore protests follow protests last year in Ferguson, Missouri.
Gray’s death, the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police, and other recent incidents involving African-Americans and police have raised tensions in our urban communities. One incident follows on the heels of another, and the barrage seems to be having a cascading effect. Many African-Americans feel that they are being racially targeted and, at times, brutally mistreated by the police, and the police in turn feel that they are under siege and unfairly maligned for a handful of incidents out of thousands of uneventful apprehensions and arrests.
Those of us who lived during the ’60s remember summers where rioting and violent clashes with police seemed to be routine and block after block of inner cities in America were looted, vandalized, and left gutted and smoking by arson. Many neighborhoods that were destroyed never recovered and are still haunted ruins even now, decades later. The ’60s were an especially turbulent time for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean what happened then could never happen now. Simple protests can turn into riots when people feel sufficiently desperate and hopeless.
At this point, many of us are holding our breath and hoping that we can avoid another high-profile incident that might prove to be the tipping point. Having lived through the ’60s, I have no desire to see another long, hot summer.