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Students voice opinions about Baltimore riots
Photo by: This picture shows just how dangerous the situation in Baltimore was, as many policemen had to use protective gear to stay safe.

On April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray was arrested on the 1700 block of Presbury Street.  The only evidence of Gray committing a crime was the way he made ‘eye contact’ with the police and ran in the other direction.  Once he had surrendered, the policemen found only a pocket-knife on Gray’s person.  They waited until the police van arrived before placing Gray in the back, without properly placing him in a seatbelt.

Gray was known to have suffered a severe neck injury from being handcuffed by his hands and feet while being forced to lay on his stomach on the floor of the van.  During the few times the van stopped and the policemen checked on the prisoners, Gray asked multiple times for medical assistance and received none.  Gray said that he couldn’t breathe and even asked for an inhaler.  Even when Gray was found unresponsive in the back of the van, a medic was not called until they brought Gray to the Western District police station where he reportedly stopped breathing completely.

A week later, on April 19, Gray died from his spine and neck injuries.

On April 27, the day of Gray’s funeral, Baltimore riots began to form.  Apparently, the riots started after a ‘flier’ from a local high school stated that there was going to be a ‘purge.’  The reference came from the 2013 film, ‘The Purge,’ where it was a lawless country for twenty-four hours.  Soon, crowds of people were grouped on the streets of Baltimore; they were seen being openly rude to police and journalists, actually throwing bottles at them.  There were even fires being set in parts of the city, massive clouds of smoke clouding the air.  A local CVS drug store also went up into flames, and the Orioles Monday night game had been postponed due to the state of the city.

Later that night, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and the National Guard along with 5,000 law enforcement officials were called in to the city.  Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake set a city-wide nightly curfew would be put into place starting on the following Tuesday that last from 10 p.m to 5 a.m.

The city was in such a state of chaos that 300 state policemen from Pennsylvania even had to travel to attempt to get the riots to simmer down.  The state police were taken from various stations across the state, and Pennsylvania was reimbursed for their man-power.  This was not the first time PA state police were sent out-of-state to assist another state.  In 2012, the state police traveled to New Jersey to help clean up after Hurricane Sandy.

The riots lasted from April 29 to May 3, with the National Guard completely withdrawing on May 4.  People of different ages, genders and races came together to clean up the streets of Baltimore–the only evidence, besides the memories in peoples’ hearts of what happened to the city just days before, was wiped away completely.

Basically, Freddie Gray’s death was the last straw for a lot of people out there who think the justice system is unfairly racist, which was why the riots had such big numbers.  On the other hand, some people just believe that the police think they’re above the law and think they can do anything they want to.

Some students just think racism in general is the problem.

“Racism is the problem because at the end of the day it’s what is getting people killed,” eighth grader Carson Weyandt said.

“I think racism is still a problem because police are still shooting people of different races and people are still getting treated differently,” seventh grader Nadiali Dorsey said.

It’s even such a big problem that students have even seen racism in school.

“People call each other the word that I’m not going to say, and I even know this kid who just says that word all the time–like he’s actually racist,” Weyandt said.

Though, they are some people who believe in the opposite opinion.

“I don’t believe racism is even the issue here; I believe the Baltimore policemen would have done the same thing to a white man.  It’s just the police officers themselves.  Also, many people believe the police and the court system are being racist, but in fact, there were actually two cops a part of Freddie Gray’s arrest they were African American and there were judges that were also African American.  How can you call this racist, if some of them were the same race as Gray,” ninth grader Mason Ford said.

A lot of students believe that neither of the sides, the rioters and the policemen, were correct in playing the parts they did in this situation.

“I think it was wrong in the police to injure Gray that far, but he did have injuries prior to when he got arrested; he was in a car accident a week before, and there are also reports saying he injured himself in the back of the van just to have more evidence against the cops.  So, the cops weren’t right in beating him, but the rioters weren’t right in rioting,” Ford said.

“In my opinion, I think the cops were wrong to actually hurt the man and do that, but I don’t think all the people should have rioted in that way,” seventh grader Kreston Westin said.

“I think they were both wrong in their own ways;  the rioters didn’t have to riot, but I also don’t think the policemen had to do what they did either,” Dorsey said.

On the other side of the argument, some students actually believe the policemen were right to handle the situation as they did.

“I don’t believe it was right for the people of Baltimore to react the way they did because the cops did it because the guy was obviously doing something wrong,” eighth grader Jordan Wagner said.

“I think the police did what was right in handling the situation and everything.  I don’t think the riots should have happened,” seventh grader Caroline Danson said.

“Though I still believe policemen aren’t the problem, I do think it was wrong for those couple policemen to handle the situation the way that they did,” ninth grader Austin White said.

Even though the students have various opinions on the Baltimore part of the situation, most of them agree on how positive it was of Pennsylvania to send policemen to help out.

“I didn’t know about the PA police officers, but I think it was good that we did that because everything in Baltimore got so out-of-hand and they needed the back-up,” Westin said.

“I think it’s a good thing that we help our neighboring states,” Danson said.

“I think it’s good that we sent people over to aid Maryland because I believe they’d do the same for us if it happened here,” Dorsey said.

Although, a few students feel the opposite.

“No, I didn’t know about police officers, but I don’t think it was a good thing that they went there.  There are probably things that need to be done in our state that were being put on hold because we sent our cops elsewhere,” White said.

Many students were also surprised in just how quick the riots were broken up.

“I was surprised that they died down, but I feel like they’re going to go back up because it’s only a matter of time until something else happens that upsets people,” ninth grader Madison McMullen said.

“Yeah, I was a little surprised when they died down because you’d think there would be more conflict due to the reason they’re rioting,” White said.

“Yes, I was actually surprised that they got them to stop that fast–it looked like it was getting worse down there, so I thought it’d take longer to clean-up,” Westin said.

“Yes, I was shocked because I thought it would have taken longer to die down because it was such a big chaotic thing to begin with,” Dorsey said.

Others feel differently.

“No, I wasn’t surprised when the riots died down because there were so many people trying to get it under control, that in a matter of time they had to stop rioting,” Danson said.

“No, I wasn’t surprised because I knew they were going to stop sooner or later after they destroyed everything in the city,” Ford said.

The main job of the justice system is bringing equal punishment and protecting the citizens of the United States.  Ford thinks Americans have strayed from this concept, and have ended up turning away from their protectors instead of embracing them.

“You’re supposed to trust your police with protecting your city, not rebel against them,” Ford said.


[Westin shares his opinion about Baltimore Riots]


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