Article-J-West Baltimore Violence-Monday--MTA Police vehicles left unattended were burned--Photo2

(AFRO Photos by Anderson Ward)

The car had been burning on Ocala Ave. for almost an hour, not far from Mondawmin Mall where violent exchanges between youth and police officers had begun earlier in the day. Young men stood nearby, seemingly amused by what was happening and the failure of authorities to arrive. A police car drove by on Reisterstown Road, officers peering down Ocala, scouting the scene, then quickly driving off.

“People are just frustrated and fed up,” said Jana Jenkins as she watched the car burn from inside her own vehicle, parked on Reisterstown.

“This isn’t the right way to do it, but they’ve got to get some justice,” said Jackie Jenkins, seated in the same car.

Article-J-West Baltimore Violence-CVS At North Ave. and Pennsylvania Ave--Photo3

(AFRO Photos by Anderson Ward)

Many residents watched in frustration as groups of young men clashed with officers near Mondawmin and tore open and looted businesses along North Ave on April 27, just hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray, the West Baltimore man whose death in police custody eventually led to this unrest. But while many did not approve of the mayhem, they also felt this was the inevitable response of young men to a city that has ignored the plight of poor Blacks for far too long, and that had failed to curb abusive police practices against its residents in any meaningful way.

“How does this get justice?” asked one frustrated bystander as he walked past the northwest corner of the intersection at W. North and N. Fulton Avenues where young men were looting corner stores and pouring out of them with liquor bottles looted from inside.  “How does stealing drinks and stealing hair get justice?”

Article-J-West Baltimore Violence-Burned out car on Westwood Ave.--Photo9

(AFRO Photos by Anderson Ward)

A black BMW sat in the middle of the North and Fulton intersection, its front passenger side having been struck by another vehicle earlier in the day, and with youth now using it as a prop for their selfies and photos with friends.

It had been over two weeks since Gilmor Homes resident Freddie Gray had suffered fatal injuries while being taken into custody by Baltimore police. With little information about what exactly happened to Gray, and with no arrests or indictments against the officers involved, many in the city had had enough.

Article-J-West Baltimore Violence Monday--Photo1

(AFRO Photos by Anderson Ward)

“For the most part, these young teens that are doing a lot of this mischief are all misguided youth,” said David Stockton as he watched the looting that was unfolding.  “A lot of them now have gotten to the liquor store, now they’re drunk. It’s not a good representation of what’s the true cause, or true meaning of this event. Don’t let this one incident, or our anger, be the representation of who we are or what we stand for.”

Many of those who watched often expressed regret over the rioting, and older men did their best to keep things as safe as possible for those present. They did not challenge the younger men for their destruction of property, perceiving it perhaps as a necessary escape valve for life-long tensions, but stepped in whenever it appeared someone might cross a line into interpersonal violence.

Article-J-West Baltimore Violence-Baltimore Police at Pennsylvania Ave.--Photo8

(AFRO Photos by Anderson Ward)

At one point, what appeared to be a SWAT team from Anne Arundel County arrived in an armored vehicle to rescue a store owner trapped inside his business that by then had been thoroughly looted. Officers jumped out of the vehicle and aimed their weapons, some of them appearing to be nonlethal, at the crowds on the various corners of the intersection.

A group of older men formed a large circle in the middle of the intersection and held hands, protecting both looters and bystanders from the menacing weapons trained on them as police rushed a man into the armored vehicle and then sped off.

Men also stood in front of some businesses along W. North Ave. to let potential looters know that they were Black-owned, a fact that seems to have made a difference at this point in the early evening (around 7 p.m.).

Article-J-West Baltimore Violence-Fire trucks standing by to prevent the fire from spreading-Photo10

(AFRO Photos by Anderson Ward)

And while many disapproved of their own community being torn apart, and expressed frustration that the regular killings of young Black men in the city do not receive a similar reaction, some also saw this as a last resort for a community whose voices are rarely acknowledged, let alone heard.

“ makes a statement,” said Taharka Bey. “It says that we’re no longer taking you (police) breaking our back. We’re no longer taking you pulling my pants down in the middle of the alley. We’re no longer going for, that you’re going to take me and humiliate me every day. Now this is disorganized, but what it does is it sends a message that we’re tired, we’re fed up, and we’re not walking with a sign no more. This is our sign now.”