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President Obama on Baltimore Uprising: 'No Excuse for ... Violence'

The Guardian video still

The Guardian video still

President Obama addressed the ongoing unrest in Baltimore on Tuesday, admonishing demonstrators for changing the tone of the protests Monday, as he saw it, and characterizing the shift as one toward “senseless violence.”

“There’s no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday,” the president said during a joint press conference at the White House with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, adding that it “distracted from multiple days of peaceful protest … that were constructive. And frankly, they didn’t get much attention.”

That last bit was a tip to the U.S. mainstream media, it would appear.

Unrest broke out in Baltimore on Monday after the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody three weeks ago, prompting Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency.

According to The Guardian, at least 27 people have been arrested and the U.S. National Guard confronted people on the streets with armored vehicles.

Troubling questions still remain surrounding the details of Gray’s death. The incident occurred when he made eye contact with a police officer and then ran. Baltimore police officers then apprehended him, found a knife on him and injured him to the point that, according to witnesses, he screamed in pain.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts admitted to reporters that the police did not provide timely medical care, although there were multiple instances in which Gray clearly needed medical attention. Batts also said that Gray was not properly buckled into the police van.

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic wrote a piece, which went viral, about the systemic issues that have come to the fore in Baltimore in the aftermath of Gray’s death:

The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray’s death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted. (“The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”) There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green. (“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.”) There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. (“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face.”)

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.

Here is a link to The Guardian’s live timeline of incidents.

Below is a video of the scene in Baltimore, including footage of Gov. Hogan:

Donald Kaufman
Correspondent
Donald Kaufman began contributing to Truthdig in 2013. He has reported from many locations, including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and North Dakota, where he covered the confrontations over the Dakota Access…
Donald Kaufman

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