Baltimore is showing the nation how to peacefully protest the police killing of George Floyd.
Whereas protests over Floyd’s death in other cities throughout the nation have resulted in large-scale looting and contentious encounters with police-Baltimore has thus far largely avoided major incidents of violence and when incidents were about to erupt, Baltimore residents worked with police to calm the streets.
Some say that is because of the death of Freddie Gray five years ago and the riots that followed are still fresh in the minds of the city’s residents. Gray died while in the custody of Baltimore City Police in 2015.
Floyd, a 48-year-old black man, died on May 25. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Floyd’s death. Chuavin was fired from the department prior to the charges being filed. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the incident to determine if federal charges should also be filed. Three other officers who were at the scene and did nothing to stop Chuavin also were charged Wednesday. Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, who helped restrain Floyd, and Tou Thao, who stood near the others, were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
“The experience with the riots after the Freddie Gray incident are still kind of fresh in people’s minds,” Albert Wynn, a Democrat, who served in Congress from 1993-08, told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“The enduring legacy of [late-Rep.] Elijah Cummings is still fresh in people’s minds. And I like to think that those two factors put in a row-and people just kind of heard a voice of calm and said: ‘Look, we have to do this,’ but destroying our own community does not benefit anyone.”
Howard County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Leonardo McClarty agreed.
“I believe that Baltimore’s protest have been peaceful because as a region, we continue to see the devastating impacts from Freddie Gray unrest just some 5 years ago,” he said. “While the frustration, anger, resentment, and hurt are all justifiable emotions, the physical damage to structures and businesses have long term impacts.”
Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Harrington attributed Baltimore’s largely peaceful protests to the astuteness of the city’s political leadership.
“There seems to be a higher comfort level with the leadership,” he said. “When you happen to have a states’ attorney who is very vocal around police brutality and has not shied away from that. And the people have seen that she’s taken political risk in doing that. Where you have a council that is clearly been very vocal around this. I think there may be a higher level of confidence that people are going to be heard.”
Karen DeWitt, who has worked for various national publications, including the New York Times and Washington Post, attributed the largely peaceful protests to the diverse composition of the participants. DeWitt relayed that she lives on East Baltimore Street, which has been at the front and center of the protests over the past few days.
“I would say a lot of that has to do with the diversity of the crowd,” she said. It has to do with that. I mean, 2015, Freddie Gray-it happened in a black neighborhood and it lit up black neighborhoods. But I think a lot of other Americans now see themselves reflected in this. They see the militarization of the police. And that has been going on for the last five years.”
Gov. Larry Hogan applauded Baltimore’s peaceful protests during a radio interview on Tuesday.
“I was proud of the city last night, and I think maybe they started to show how real, positive change can happen, and we’ve just got to continue to work together, continue to focus on how we can make improvements,” Hogan told WBAL’s “The C4 Show.” I think Baltimore City certainly has more than its fair share of problems, and the state has things that we’re dealing with. I think we showed a strong, compassionate, fairly united community that was better than what we saw in a lot of cities across the country.”
The governor also tweeted his praise.
Yesterday, Baltimore set an example for our nation. Thousands of young people and community leaders expressed their frustrations peacefully, while working with police to stand up to a handful of extremists with a violent agenda. This is how real, positive change happens.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) June 2, 2020