The Great American Traveling Riot Circus

To entertain the citizens of Rome, circular arenas – circuses -- were built to house staged events of various sorts, including the slaughter of Christians. After Rome fell, itinerant performers took their shows on the road offering somewhat less grand, but still popular, entertainments.

In the United States for the past few years the traveling inner city riots seem to be playing the same role with their own stock characters.

There are the young men who died in the course of criminal acts, portrayed at first by the media as innocent children who later turn out to have extensive rap sheets; the cops brought to the scene for gladiatorial type contests with stone throwing mobs; the press chasing, and sometimes by their presence and words, encouraging the staged battles; and an army of pundits seeing in the chaos whatever visions they project onto it. In the rear of the tent organizing the events are leftwing agitators, Black Muslims, and anarchists who show up with preprinted T-shirts and placards and plaintiffs’ counsels and race baiters stirring the pot for their share of whatever settlements they can get for representing the aggrieved family (who generally seem not to have paid much attention to the deceased when he lived). The referees are local officials too often swayed by the mob's call for blood. Instead of Christians, the sacrifices are small merchants, often Korean or Jewish, who eke out meager livings providing services to the underserved poor and the decent citizens of those communities whose lives are upended and slim resources diminished. Another sacrifice is the weakening of the communal bonds of trust and respect for law that make America work and the increased likelihood of ever more urban violence.

Like the Brown, Martin, and Garner riots before them, the Baltimore riots follow this program.

A)  The Dead Man

Freddie Gray was arrested after he made eye contact with some cops on bikes, fled, and was alleged to have a switchblade in his possession. He was the son of a single mother who had been an addict and had recently received a settlement as a result of a lawsuit claiming he’d been poisoned by lead paint in one of the apartments in which he lived as a child. He had an extensive rap sheet.

The arrest record was probably even more extensive, as Andrew Branca notes.

Andrew Branca:

Freddie Gray had an extensive criminal record, and this was well known to police officers in the community.  He was, in short, known to engage in unlawful criminal activity with a frequency that would in any other context be considered evidence of a notable work ethic. He had at least 18 arrests in the ~8 years between 2007 and his death in 2015 -- and it is worth keeping in mind that the only reason his arrest record here begins in only in 2007 is that prior arrests would be sealed as juvenile records.

It is also notable that although Gray’s early arrests were apparently confined to drug offenses, in later years he began to be charged with acts of violence, including several charges on differing dates of second-degree assault, as well as burglary.

In addition, the neighborhood where the arrest occurred is known more generally for being a high-crime area, and so the police would be expected to be particularly attuned for indications of criminal conduct.

In this context the police observe well-known criminal Gray acting in a manner that they perceive as noteworthy. The police begin to approach Gray, a form of police conduct that requires no particular legal justification at least until an actual interaction has begun. Observing the police approach, Gray substantially increases the suspiciousness of his conduct by fleeing the officers. 

Stopping him under those circumstances and frisking him was, as Branca explains, perfectly legal. The pocketknife they found on him was apparently illegal in Baltimore and he was arrested.

After his arrest he was handcuffed, shackled and placed in a police van, which made several stops before it arrived at the station. At some point in the trip he was found on the floor of the van and died soon after. We do not have access to the autopsy report. We do not know if the district attorney did either before she pressed charges against the officers who arrested and transported him. It has been reported that he died of a severe spinal injury. Whether it was self-inflicted or the result of a “rough ride” in which he’d not been wearing a seatbelt, we do not know. Another passenger in the van, although out of sight, was reported to have claimed he heard Gray pounding his head against the wall of the van, but without the autopsy report we do not have a means of testing this.

B)  The Cops

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby charged six cops in connection with Gray’s death.

Three are white; three are black. One of the black cops, a sergeant, is a woman. (So much for the usual claim that a more diverse police force would prevent such things or that racism explains the events.)

Ms. Mosby’s biggest campaign contributor in what was essentially an uncontested election is the lawyer for the Gray family. Her husband is a member of the Baltimore City Council who represents the district where the rioting occurred and who encouraged the rioting

The weakest of the charges seem to involve the bike patrol, which arrested Gray, as Branca explained above. The bike patrol consisted of Lt. Bryan Rice, Garrett Miller, and Edward Nero, all three of whom are white.

Rice was the first officer to make eye contact with Gray while on bike patrol, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said. Rice then chased Gray, calling for backup on his police radio. Mosby said Rice failed to establish probable cause for Gray’s arrest.

The lieutenant helped load Gray onto a police wagon, then he ordered the driver to stop the vehicle so he and other officers could remove Gray, handcuff him and place leg shackles on his ankles.

Rice, whose bail was set at $350,000, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.


Officer Garrett E. Miller is charged with second-degree ­assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment. Miller, 26, has been on the force since 2012. Miller was on bike patrol with Rice and Nero when they apprehended Gray, according to the prosecutor. Miller helped load Gray into a police wagon and failed to restrain him with a seat belt.


Officer Edward M. Nero, 29, who joined the force in 2012, was on bike patrol with Rice and another officer when they chased Gray. Nero handcuffed Gray and held him down until the police wagon arrived, Mosby said. Nero, who is white, is charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

The remaining officers are all black, and all were in contact with Gray after he was arrested and placed in the van.

They are Caesar Goodson, Jr., William Porter and Sgt. Alicia D. White. As the Washington Post described the charges against them:

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr “drove the van that transported Gray to jail.

Goodson, whose bail was set at $350,000, is the only officer in the group facing a murder charge. He is charged with ­second-degree depraved-heart murder, a charge used when a suspect is accused of reckless disregard for another person’s life, in addition to involuntary manslaughter, second-degree ­assault, manslaughter by vehicle and misconduct in office. Officer William G. Porter [snip] became involved in Gray’s arrest after Goodson requested backup as he was driving to central booking, Mosby said. Porter, whose bail was set at $350,000, faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Porter, who is black, checked on Gray and asked him whether he needed medical assistance. When Gray said he could not breathe, Porter helped him off the van floor and onto a bench. The officer failed to restrain Gray with a seat belt, Mosby said. Nor did Porter call for medical help, despite Gray’s request.


Sgt. Alicia D. White, 30, joined the force in 2010. She was dispatched to investigate two citizens’ complaints about Gray’s arrest. At one point, according to Mosby, she “spoke to the back of his head, ”even though Gray was unresponsive.

The prosecutor said White made no effort to assess Gray’s condition despite having been told he needed medical assistance. White, whose bail was set at $350,000, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, ­second-degree assault and misconduct in office.”

That’s it. An arrest that seems on its face to be perfectly legal, followed by a perfectly ordinary trip to the station house and a death whose cause to the public is still unclear, but seems at best to be the result of some inattentiveness to the physical distress of the man in custody and a failure to secure him with a seat belt, a new policy which we are uncertain had been timely conveyed to the charged officers.

There can be more to this that we are unaware of, but in essence the case brings to mind the incident involving Eric Garner last July in New York, where officer Daniel Pantaleo arrested  Garner who he’d wrestled to the ground after he resisted. Garner complained he couldn’t breathe, lost consciousness and neither the officers nor the EMT performed CPR on him. A grand jury refused to indict Pantaleo and nationwide protests and rallies followed.

From what is publicly available I have to agree with those commentators like Charles Krauthammer who believe these charges were filed to appease the mob and Professor Alan Dershowitz who thinks the cases are without merit.

Alan Dershowitz really went after Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby today for charging the six cops involved in the death of Freddie Gray, saying it was entirely based on politics and “crowd control.”

Dershowitz lamented that “this is a very sad day for justice” and told Steve Malzberg that Mosby acted out of a “desire to prevent riots.” It will be “virtually impossible,” he predicted, for the six officers involved to get a fair trial.

And as for murder charges, Dershowitz said there’s “no plausible, hypothetical, conceivable case for murder” and “this is a show trial.” He predicted that Mosby might get removed as prosecutor and Baltimore citizens may get upset if and/or when they “move to a place with a different demographic.”

He concluded that it’s “unlikely they’ll get any convictions in this case” and if they do they’ll likely “be reversed on appeal.”

The police union is incensed at the Mosby charges.

What happens outside the criminal courtrooms is even more significant to me. Al Sharpton, MSNBC’s designated race pimp who has not paid the millions of dollars in back taxes he owes and yet is a regular White House visitor, claims he’s going to lead a march on Washington. Should he carry through on his threat, I hope law enforcement officials and honest citizens line the road demonstrating opposition to this effort to demonize those who are doing their job to enforce order in the urban jungles which people like Sharpton make ever more intolerable and lawless.

C) The Press

As for the press, online I read daily of young black men brutally assaulting whites who cross their path. Like this.

You don’t find these stories in the New York Times or the Washington Post as a rule. These stories suggest to me that the false narrative of hostile whites attacking innocent blacks is distorting the selective news that reaches the ill-informed, badly educated, and largely uncivilized ghetto dwelling thugs, enraging them into such behavior which the media have justified by such lies. And feeding into liberal insistence that such conduct was warranted.

D) The Pundits

No less revolting is the attitude of those largely untouched by these violent outbursts, a white liberal racism that encourages more of it. As black author Chloe Simone Valdary so ably argues (in a video apparently available only on Facebook) treating blacks as children who need not be held to the same standards everyone else is held to, is racist. And the explanations the apologists offer are false. In the Brown case in Ferguson, for example, white liberals justified the thievery as the acts of those who had no other choice in a community where all the officials and most of law enforcement were white. In fact, they had a perfectly available choice: the ballot box. Activists rushed to Missouri to register new voters. Hardly any signed up. Nevertheless, an election for local officials was held. The number of blacks on the city council was trebled, though how much change this will involve remains to be seen, All the officials remain Democrats. 

And the Democrats rule the urban cesspools and have for decades.

No Republican, and certainly no conservative, has left so much as a thumbprint on the public institutions of Baltimore in a generation. Baltimore’s police department is, like Detroit’s economy and Atlanta’s schools, the product of the progressive wing of the Democratic party enabled in no small part by black identity politics. This is entirely a left-wing project, and a Democratic-party project.”

As Glenn Reynolds observes: Ruin follows them wherever they go -- but hey, so do splendid opportunities for graft, so what do they care?" 

The appeasing liberals never can see the inconsistency of their views. These are the same people who on one hand are for keeping guns from law-abiding citizens while supporting elected officials like Baltimore’s mayor who issue stand down orders to law enforcement, making the lawlessness sure to spread unchecked.

In the Trayvon Martin case the press stirred the pot by making it seem as if Martin’s death was caused by racism. When it turned out that George Zimmerman was Hispanic with a black grandparent, they created a journalistic neologism, “white Hispanic.” When those law officers charged in Baltimore with the most serious offenses now revealed as black, one wonders how this can be fashioned into a racial incident though Salon’s Joan Walsh absurdly tried on twitter: “And there is no debate that tragically, black police officers often absorb the attitudes of their colleagues.”

What also deserves mention is that in the face of all of this, many black Baltimoreans in the riot area turned out to try to prevent the looting and to stand as shield between the cops and the rioters. Bless the peacemakers. Bless those who play by the rules and trust fact over emotion. Without them we will all live in chaos, violence and want.

What also must be asked, is how much of the president’s and former Attorney General Eric Holder’s and Sharpton’s, conduct  and speech are part and parcel of Obama’s new push for federalizing local law enforcement? There is already a move already underway in the COPS program and the Department of Justice’s interference with local police in Ferguson, Missouri and Sanford, Florida. In my view, this a plan fraught with danger, signaling yet another totalitarian power grab for political advantage. 

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