It’s embarrassing to admit but my knowledge prior to the outbreak of the Baltimore Rebellion was limited more-or-less what I gained from watching The Wire. Like thousands of others, I have been profoundly inspired by the growing rebellion against racism and police terror, Baltimore being another eruption in a growing continuum of uprisings over the past several years. I wanted to see what was happening in Baltimore for myself and went down on Saturday with several comrades.
The Friday announcement that the six officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray filled me with emotion. While small relative to the scale of the violence human suffering imposed by the police, the indictments constitute a welcome victory.
In that vein, the rally and march on Saturday from City Hall to Sandtown felt like a victory march. Tens of thousands demonstrated with a sense of confidence that I have not ever seen before. Most of the people I spoke with argued that the rebellion had secured the indictments of the six officers who murdered Freddie Gray, against the claims of the self-styled “practical” politics of establishment officials and their apparatchiks in the non-profit sector that protest should be polite and mediated through the proper channels. There was just as much recognition, however, that there is still a long campaign ahead through the trial — not to mention the continued curfew and National Guard occupation (the curfew has since been lifted and the National Guard has reportedly begun to withdraw).
As we marched, I was captivated by the familiar landscape. Large grassy fields spread across the neighborhoods outside the city center, marked throughout with abandoned and boarded up houses, apartment buildings, and storefronts. It reminded me very much of Detroit.
Seeing tens of thousands of people confidently march through such a space was moving for me. I hadn’t consciously thought it before, but I realized during the march that I had never fully expected to see anything like this. While I routinely argued against the assumption that such mass mobilizations are no longer on the agenda in a so-called “post-industrial” cities like Detroit and Baltimore, I had taken the core premises of the position for granted. Naturally, these assumptions are not entirely foolish or without important kernels of truth: a rebellion requires both people and resources that such cities and spaces usually lack. What’s been happening in Baltimore, however, proves that the matter is much more complex.
There’s a lot more to reflect on with regard to the significance of the Baltimore Rebellion and there have been plenty of people more well suited than myself who have done the work to begin that discussion. So I’ll sign off here and share some photos that I took from Saturday’s demonstration.