When Lawbreakers Takeover Peaceful Protests

By Harry M. Covert

[Editor’s Note: This column was written Monday before the looting and burning devastated Baltimore and prior to the mayor and governor instituting emergency procedures.]
Baltimore Burning

Baltimore Burning

The tragedy that’s continued to unfold in Baltimore truly affects all segments of Maryland life and most all communities, large and small. There have been no easy answers to Freddie Gray’s death two weeks ago, and the city’s political and police officials have gone to the nth degree to salve the matter.

It was heard loud and clear, probably thousands of times, that protesters were exercising their constitutional rights. Early on Saturday there seemed to be peaceful remonstrations at City Hall and police headquarters.

Things changed during the evening. It didn’t take long for lots of people to break the law. They started smashing police car windshields, scaring the daylights out of motorists, and the police used extreme patience dealing with the ne’er-do-wells. Television watchers could see the “juveniles,” as described by a TV reporter, smash in a plate glass window at the Galleria.

I haven’t attempted to look into a crystal ball and see just what facts we’re going to learn from Freddie Gray’s arrest on April 12, and a fatal ride in the police wagon where he may have suffered his lethal spinal injuries.

At this point Baltimore police, as of Monday, have received intelligence that three gangs are planning attempts to kill police. What?

No matter what police officials have said about their investigations, no matter how they went beyond their call of duty to put up with protesters blocking streets and attempted to disrupt the Orioles home game, there is no excuse for such threats.

When the crowd got unruly and law breakers emerged, Freddie Gray’s family asked protesters to remain peaceful. Naturally, some out-of-town professional talkers and agitators made the scene. The rest of this week will be interesting.

Did Police Patience Lead to Indiscriminate Rampages?

Citizens all over are indeed concerned about the Baltimore situation. State police and mounted troopers were on duty alongside other law enforcement agencies to help.

Frederick County’s Sheriff’s Office was prepared. Its mobile field force was ready, equipped and on standby if needed to supplement Baltimore’s agencies.

It was a powerful performance of patience by law enforcement not to create a situation seen in Ferguson, MO.

Lots of citizens are fearful “that this later tragic incident is about to boil over into something even more tragic. There have been too many examples of unfair treatment in recent months.” This came in response to our “Pain in Baltimore” column in this space last Thursday.

No doubt “something is about to snap,” a correspondent wrote. Hopefully, calmer heads will prevail. Baltimore’s mayor and the police commissioner have used positive talk in finding answers to the puzzling and tragic events.

One reader wrote: “Crime is a risky business. I have no sympathy for multiple repeat offenders (career criminals) who are caught in the midst of a crime or who run away from the cops. If they don’t want to risk life and limb, they should get a normal job and obey the laws. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time the cops will leave law-abiding citizens alone … or else help them out.”

Let’s hope the Baltimore situation is solved properly and soon. The reason is simple. Other communities in Frederick County and the rest of the state don’t want and don’t need to suffer from similar instances.

Everybody is watching official and unofficial Baltimore. By the way, police did have to arrest some 60 malefactors Saturday night. Oriole fans managed to leave Camden Yards safely.

One more thing. The police are taking seriously the threats made public on Monday. They should.◄◄◄◄◄