There’s no way to set everything down as it goes by in the fast-moving situation in Baltimore. Here is what seems to be important. In no particular order.
Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland has declared a state of emergency and called up the National Guard. Obama had asked him to “exercise restraint” earlier.
Hogan, “glad the Mayor finely called me” re National Guard. Definitely hinting at being dismayed by her delay.
— Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) April 28, 2015
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) April 28, 2015
Obama asked Hogan ‘to exercise restraint’ — Hogan agreed but said he didn’t intend to let ‘thugs’ rampage — Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) April 28, 2015
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has announced a curfew, which will begin Tuesday night.
Virtually everyone thinks this is insane: the curfew should start tonight, because the situation in Baltimore is all but out of control. Looters are not just attacking stores now; they’re invading homes. Rioters are rampaging through the streets, held in check to some extent geographically by phalanxes of police in riot gear. But the rioters and looters are able to pillage and destroy with no pushback from the police. The police are apparently just trying to keep them penned up.
— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 28, 2015
At least 15 police officers have sustained injuries so far, under attack by rioters with bricks, pieces of concrete, and metal objects torn out of buildings. One of the officers is reported to be “unresponsive” at this point, perhaps in a coma. A cameraman was pummeled in the face earlier today; in the last couple of hours, Leland Vittert on Fox has mentioned two reporters being attacked in the area where he’s positioned.
Megyn Kelley said about half an hour ago that there are four major fires burning in the area of the riots and looting. It looks to me like there is no hope of enforcing a curfew tonight, because the police are outnumbered, and the National Guard isn’t deployed yet. Leland Vittert observed just seconds ago that the police have steadily retreated – their phalanx intact, but their position changed – over the last several hours. This appears to be because of a prior decision by city authorities not to allow a confrontation to develop. They’d rather let small business people lose their property and livelihoods than have the police counter the looting and violence forcefully. Basically, in that regard, it’s Ferguson redux.
It’s provisionally positive that the governor has at least gotten off the dime and called up the National Guard. We’ll see if that works out any better than it did in Ferguson. The leadership has been unimpressive so far. (Starting, frankly, with the apparent lack of action by the Baltimore police and district attorney on the suspicious death of Freddie Gray.) Fox and a number of conservative media outlets have reported that Malik Shabazz, the leader of the New Black Panther Party, is coordinating some of the violent activity. That’s not surprising, and it’s fully credible, but it’s also important to note that a whole lot of what we’re seeing is in fact indigenously generated. Watch for longer than a few minutes, and it becomes clear that the perpetrators we’re seeing are not under the direction of political agitators. If we start seeing seriously organized confrontations with the police, the Malik Shabazz factor will be one thing to consider. But there’s also the report that the big Baltimore gangs have reportedly declared a unified war on the police, something that came out just this afternoon (Monday). That, of course, could also be contributing to the decision to keep the police on the defensive. Obama and Loretta Lynch, his new attorney general, met today for the first time, and Obama excluded the media from the meeting. That’s not a good sign. Obama’s Justice Department has been a counterproductive and even vicious influence in situations of unrest around the country. There is no reason to hope things will be different under Lynch. A couple of slices of reality from the awful events unfolding in Baltimore. One comes from this tweet showing a man who’s been defending his store today, armed only with a machete.
Another is this melancholy development: businesses putting up signs that identify them as “black-owned,” presumably to try to deflect the looters to businesses owned by people of other races. No word on how well it’s working.
Not all the news is bad. A couple of videos have gone viral in the last few hours. One shows a mother hauling her teenage son away from a pack of looters, slapping him upside the head and chasing him off. (Language)
Posted by Tommy Bee on Monday, April 27, 2015
The other shows a black man intervening between violent thugs and the police – and it’s clear he’s on the side of civilization.
— k (@curlydork) April 28, 2015
One of the chief concerns we should have is that, while there clearly is a problem in our cities, that problem is not representative of America, and it’s not representative of black people. The country does not need to be put under anyone’s jackboot to settle the people down. This isn’t “the people.” It’s a small element of mostly young males, running rampant under bad leadership. That’s actually the story of their lives. But it’s not the story of everyone’s, nor is it everyone else’s fault.
This kind of violence must not be used as a pretext for overriding the people’s rights and self-government. Manifestly, there are still plenty of Americans of all races who are capable of self-discipline and character.