Baltimore burning

by our American Affairs correspondent

BALTIMORE is ablaze as rage and anger over the death of a young black man in police custody erupted on the streets of the American city. The mayor, who condemned the rioters as “thugs” has ordered a week-long curfew and thousands of heavily armed troops are on the streets to enforce it.

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs against protesters who torched over 100 cars and set 19 buildings ablaze during the fighting that followed the funeral of Freddie Grey on Monday.

Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, called in the National Guard in an attempt to quell protests demanding justice for Grey who died on 19th April after suffering unexplained injuries to his spinal cord in police detention and spending a week in a coma. He was arrested for “catching the eye” of a police officer and running away. Six police officers have now been suspended.

Lamont Lilly was there Monday night. In Workers World he said:

“We could smell the teargas a mile away. Thick clouds of burning smoke spread citywide. The police, the tanks, the helicopters, all present and fully armoured. From the moment I stepped off the train, I could feel resistance in the air. At approximately 5 pm, it was straight from the station to the streets, live.

“When you take your time and walk by foot, the intense degree of poverty completely paralyses you. It shocked me, and I’m from the hood. The absurd amount of boarded homes is astounding. The makeshift neighbourhoods, comprised of trash, forgotten debris and the countless number of dilapidated buildings, are an absolute travesty in this, the richest country on the planet.

“The lack of grocery stores, playgrounds and recreation facilities is apparent. The community’s once beloved primary school was closed last year. The wasting away of Black bodies, good people and buried hope. The emphasis on protecting property over suffering people. While Freddie Grey was laid to rest today, these are the images that remain.

“For those who aren’t poor or never have been, tonight is 27th April the end of the month, which for many people means that food stamps and Electronic Benefit Transfers have run out. At least tonight, poor folks can eat well. Thankfully, the rice and pork chops were sponsored by the people, their courage and the Baltimore Rebellion.

“For those who were glued to the corporate media were unfortunately force-fed a slew of lies, stereotypes and propped up images — a ruling-class narrative that intentionally did not capture the spirit of strength, unity, resistance and perseverance of those in rebellion.

“Truth is, we didn’t see any hoodlums and thugs tonight. We didn’t see any thieves, looters or rioters. All we saw were liberators — parents, workers and youth who heroically chose to liberate the bare necessities denied to them for months, years and several decades now.

“So what if people were taking some damn medicine? Pharmaceutical companies are making billions off the poor, and could not care less about them. Yes, poor people were taking diapers and toilet tissue, tube socks and boxes of cereal; these are the basic needs they’ve been denied. I don’t blame them for taking fresh food, new shoes, clothing and water. These are the basic needs capitalism refuses to provide.

“After needs, wants and desires were also met. Contrary to popular belief, poor people like televisions, too, just like rich folks do. Think about it; home appliances and laptops surround you every day, yet you have no means to acquire any of these things. You see them on billboards and watch them advertised on commercials, but for you — no! You get nothing. So when human need is denied by brick walls, two-inch glass windows and security cameras, something has to give, and I can assure you, it will not be the oppressed!

“What people saw tonight on the big-business-owned TV news were the youth and families who US capitalism has thrown away. You can’t deny jobs, justice and self-respect and not expect rebellion...

“... This is the underclass reclaiming their human existence from a country that denies them the right to breathe, the right to live without police occupying their front step.

“We weren’t thugs and hoodlums tonight; none of us were. We were tired of being tired. The oppressed have spoken in their own language tonight, loud and clear. The question is: Will you hear us and join the fight?”