From left: WPGC’s Lewis Joyner Jr.; Raiven Green; Paige Seabrooks; Tyler Seabrooks. (AFRO Photo/Ariel Medley)
The impact of a week of violent riots and community protesting over the mysterious death of Freddie Gray while in police custody reached far beyond the borders of Baltimore City.
In Laurel, Md., students of Laurel High School spoke with Laurel community youth leader and WPGC radio station DJ Lewis Joyner Jr. at a local restaurant about their thoughts on the violence and their fears of wider unrest.
“I’ve never seen violence like that,” said Tyler Seabrooks, 16, a junior at Laurel High school, “and I don’t want to see it come here.”
Fellow junior and classmate Raiven Green, 16, expressed her feelings on the rioting after watching many hours of news coverage.
“It’s ok to protest, but not a riot,” she said. “A riot won’t prove anything.”
Seabrooks’ sister Paige, 15, a freshman at Laurel High School, agreed.
“The more riots there are the more taxes will go up for everyone,” she said.
“It reminded me of the riots we had in Washington, D.C. after Martin Luther King’s assassination and I see the same type of actions now,” said Joyner. “The youth wanted action, but they were not organized or educated on how to go about expressing their frustration, and so they hurt their very own neighborhood.”
The group discussed the images they saw on the news and the videos they watched on various social media sites, including the viral clip of Toya Graham, a mother who beat her son in public after discovering his involvement in the rioting activity on April 27.
“You saw that mother who found her son out there?!” Seabrooks said. “I feel that a lot more parents should do that.”
“We don’t know all the details on ,” said Joyner. “We don’t know if he was an angel or not, but his death was not right.”
Laurel High School is a mere 24 miles south of Baltimore City, and many of the students are originally from the very neighborhoods where the April 27 violence took place.
“Many of the kids at our school are divided on the situation,” Green said. “Yeah, our principal made an announcement about the riots on the intercom, and some of our teachers spoke to their classes about it, but some of the students from Baltimore feel that the adults, the teachers, are one-sided.”
Some students were worried that the riots in Baltimore will be seen as random acts of violence, and not a desperate response to more than three years of civilian murders at the hands of police officers nationwide.
“No one wants riots coming here,” said Paige, “and I think we just need good mentors to talk to about it so nothing gets started here.”
“Baltimore is not a bad place,” Green said. “I don’t know what happened but it just got really out of control.”
As the fires smolder in Baltimore, and the streets returned to a sense of normality, the bigger question is what to do next.
“I don’t know,” said Seabrooks. “These killings, they’re so common now. I’m not surprised if another person gets killed like this again. And really, we’re all just getting immune to it.”