The Key Question in Baltimore

Baltimore Riots

It is to be expected that the media today would be discussing the violence in Baltimore, and questioning its justification, but hopefully this does not lead people to forget the underlying question, as posed by Ta-Nahisi Coates:

These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

Plus, as was commonly discussed when Ferguson dominated the news, it is far too common for black men to be killed either when being apprehended by the police or when in custody.

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  1. 1
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    Gray ran because he is an habitual criminal. Police pursued because fleeing police, especially in a high crime neighborhood, is suspicious and so cops do that. Yes, flight is reasonable grounds for pursuit, subdual, and detention. 
    At this writing, it’s looking like Gray died because he bashed his head against a bolt inside the van, breaking his neck, either because he was trying to injure himself, perhaps out of frustrated rage, or because the vehicle was being driven erratically and, not being strapped into his seat, he was bouncing around violently.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    That ignores the underlying problem. Flight is also a reasonable reaction to encountering police when one has already been arrested without being found guilty on many occasions. His death has been ruled a homicide. Two police officers have been charged with multiple crimes, including one charged with second-degree murder and one charged with manslaughter.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Correction. The first news bulletin I received on my phone said two officers were charged but a full news report states six officers have been charged. The report also states there was not probable cause for arrest.

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