Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 28, 2015

Baltimore stories

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 28, 2015

Baltimore Riot

Photo: Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun, near Pennsylvania and North Avenue on 4/27.

The following is a long excerpt from this morning’s Baltimore Sun, combining reports gathered since yesterday afternoon.  Unlike most other media coverage I am seeing or hearing, this report fits the Baltimore I know: a place of multiple, simultaneous, proximate, contradictory realities.   If homeland security has any value to offer society, I perceive it will emerge from cultivating a strategic competence that extends beyond each of the legacy professions and can accommodate the tensions outlined in this story.


 It started Monday morning with word on social media of a “purge” — a reference to a movie in which crime is made legal. It was to begin at 3 p.m. at Mondawmin Mall, then venture down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Inner Harbor.

With tensions in the city running high on the day of Freddie Gray’s funeral, police began alerting local businesses and mobilizing officers.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore was one of the first institutions to acknowledge law enforcement concerns. With exams about to begin, school officials abruptly canceled classes “on recommendation of the BPD.”

T. Rowe Price sent employees home; Lexington Market closed early. One by one, other businesses shut down.

When 3 p.m. came, 75 to 100 students heading to Mondawmin Mall were greeted by dozens of police officers in riot gear. The mall is a transportation hub for students from several nearby schools.

The students began pelting officers with water bottles and rocks. Bricks met shields. Glass shattered up and down Gwynns Falls Parkway. Officers sprayed Mace. Confrontations bled into side streets, where officers threw bricks back. A heavily armored Bearcat tactical vehicle rolled through the neighborhood.

One officer, bloodied in the melee, was carried through Westbury Avenue by his comrades. Police used tear gas to move crowds down the street.

Vaughn DeVaughn, a city teacher, watched the scene.

“This is about anger and frustration and them not knowing how to express it,” he said. “Everyone out here looks under the age of 25. I’m out here for them.”

Some said the presence of the police antagonized the neighborhood.

“The thing is if the cops never came up here, they weren’t going to [mess] up Mondawmin,” said a young woman who was watching the clash. ” What are they going to [mess] up Mondawmin for? They shop here. This is their home.”

Karl Anderson, who works at a community center in the Mondawmin neighborhood, said he believed students misunderstood what it looks like to fight for civil rights.

“This is going to be their history,” Anderson said. “Not the Rosa Parks, the Martin Luther Kings.’

“They don’t understand that.”

Sandra Almond-Cooper, president of the Mondawmin Neighborhood Improvement Association, said it wasn’t the first confrontation between these students and police.

“These kids are just angry,” Almond-Cooper said. “These are the same kids they pull up on the corner for no reason.”

The crowds at Mondawmin were thinning when police tweeted that a police officer had been assaulted at the busy intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues.

A line of officers looked south as smoke rippled into the sky. Two Maryland Transit Administration vehicles had been set on fire. People were tearing a city police vehicle apart.

People took turns standing on the roof, taking selfies. A group of men located a crowbar and pried open the trunk, where police store equipment.

A CVS store and a check-cashing store were breached. Then, a mom-and-pop grocery store. People walked away with garbage bags full of supplies: diapers, bleach, snack foods, prescription drugs.

Next door, another business remained intact. A man stood in the locked vestibule wielding a shotgun.

A group of men who said they were members of the Crips — they wore blue bandannas and blue shirts — stood on the periphery and denounced the looting.

“This is our hood, and we can’t control it right now,” one of the men said.

But another bystander, who said his name was Antwion Robinson, 26, said the outburst had been building.

“They are killing us,” Robinson said. “They are actually killing us, and then they make this seem like we’re out of control. But they’re killing our neighbors and brothers. We’re just supposed to sit back and take that?”

As Robinson spoke, a man walked by.

“Don’t do anything without your face covered,” he said.

Tyrone Parker, 64, watched the mayhem. He said police broke his arm two years ago, but he didn’t approve of what he was seeing.

“They’re [messing] the whole neighborhood up,” he said.

Traffic continued along North Avenue. Sometimes, motorists pulled over to collect items looted from stores, then took off.

As police vehicles screamed through, people threw items that exploded on their windshields. One unmarked police vehicle wobbled back and forth, and nearly fishtailed out of control.

Crowds moved downtown, wandering through Mount Vernon and toward the Inner Harbor, smashing windows along the way.

At least nine businesses were breached by a group of men along Centre Street in Mount Vernon and Eutaw Street nearby.


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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 28, 2015 @ 8:42 am

Based om my observations from these events on TV Baltimore has confirmed that almost no Law Enforcement entity including the National Guard is properly trained and equipped for riots and civil disorder.

I have commented on this very blog numerous times on this issue.

And worst of all the federal establishment including the relatively new DHS has no clue as to its role in riots and civil disorders. As many on this blog know I personally wrote the AG before 9/11/01 [no response received] on issues related to riots and civil disorders. If you did not see the CDC approved movie CONTAGION with Matt Damon please do so and comment on its strengths and weaknesses.

THERE IS NOT A SINGLE OFFICIAL IN DHS THAT COULD BRIEF ON RIOTS AND CIVIL DISORDERS POLICY OR OPERATIONS. And although the LA riots were a declared Presidential disaster in 1992 they were declared based on FIRE not riots.


Comment by Donald Quixote

April 28, 2015 @ 9:42 am

Although DHS has the apparent responsibility for everything in the country under the undefined term “homeland security”, when were they tasked to enforce local and state laws? I am unsure that DHS should be experts in the execution of local policing to address limited riots and civil disorder. Federalism can work sometimes. However, this does not alleviate the serious consequences of not having a common definition of homeland security or the enterprise

Comment by Mike Mealer

April 28, 2015 @ 11:02 am

“People took turns standing on the roof, taking selfies.”

“The kids are acting up because there’s no one to hold them accountable,” said Anthony Cheng, who lives on the block.

“Don’t do anything without your face covered,” he said.

Narcissism, self-indulgence, and anonymity. The nature of the internet comes to life.

Comment by Donald Quixote

April 28, 2015 @ 12:07 pm

Randy Newman’s 1977 song Baltimore is still relevant today.


Comment by Vicki Campbell

April 29, 2015 @ 7:03 pm

This post from the Baltimore Sun leaves out some very important things. It doesn’t inform the reader or public properly about how the riot on Monday was actually provoked by the police. It doesn’t begin to articulate the actual concerns and complaints behind the larger anger and unrest, which is about considerably more than any one man’s death at the hands of the police (however bad that certainly is). It is light years from even beginning to frame the “looting” and “violence” by a mere handful of protesters within the larger context of what a great many are calling the far more threatening and deadlier “structural looting” and overall “structural violence” Black Americans have been subjected to in the U.S. for literally centuries. And it is an equally long way from identifying the fundamentally paramilitary nature of the bulk of Baltimore Police force’s interactions and presence, with the now massive military-style display of guns, gargantuan vehicles and other war equipment that was designed for the purpose of the total domination and obliterating of enemies on the battlefield, not civilian protection and policing.

Below is an Op-ed from The Nation magazine, the oldest, continuously publishing magazine in the U.S., and one of the best for investigative news and analysis, that I found thought-provoking and useful to read:

On the Baltimore Uprising: Toward a New “Broken Windows” Theory
Tuesday, 28 April 2015 00:00
By Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation | Op-Ed

Whenever there is an uprising in an American city, as we’ve seen in Baltimore over the past few days in response to the police-involved death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, there always emerges a chorus of elected officials, pundits, and other public figures that forcefully condemn “violent protests.” They offer their unconditional support for “legitimate” or “peaceful” protests, but describe those who break windows and set fires as thugs, criminals, or animals. And eventually someone invokes the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, reminding us that non-violence brought down Jim Crow segregation and won voting rights.

There’s something that needs to be cleared up: the Civil Rights movement was not successful because the quiet dignity of non-violent protests appealed to the morality of the white public. Non-violent direct action, a staple employed by many organizations during the Civil Rights movement, was and is a much more sophisticated tactic. Organizers found success when non-violent protests were able to provoke white violence, either by ordinary citizens or police, and images of that brutality were transmitted across the country and the rest of the world. The pictures of bloodied bodies standing in non-violent defiance of the law horrified people at home and proved embarrassing for the country in a global context.

So anyone who calls for protestors to remain “peaceful,” like the Civil Rights activists of old, must answer this question: what actions should be taken when America refuses to be ashamed? Images of black death are proliferating beyond our capacity to tell each story, yet there remains no tipping point in sight—no moment when white people in America will say, “Enough.” And no amount of international outrage diminishes the US’s reputation to the point of challenging its status as a hegemonic superpower.

What change will a “peaceful” protest spark if a “peaceful” protest is so easy to ignore?

It’s not only ahistorical to suggest that “riots” have never been useful in the quest for social justice, it is impractical to believe that the exact same tactics of movements past can be applied today. The politics or our time are different, so must be our social justice movements.

Does that mean “riots” are the answer? No one knows. If the anger of a people denied humanity and democracy is continually dismissed as lawlessness, perhaps these uprisings will prove only destructive. But if the people with the ability to change the system that produced this anger will only listen to the sound of shattering glass, then maybe this is the solution.

Either way, condemnation without understanding will only feed the current rage. If the elected officials, pundits, and other public figures are actually concerned about torn up buildings and burned out cars, they’d do better to pay less attention to King’s tactic of non-violence and more to his message of justice.

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