The 2020 riots, looking back

by J. Pharoah Doss
For New Pittsburgh Courier

After the Baltimore riots in 2015, I wrote a piece called: “Baltimore: When the future looks back.” I stated the following…

Imagine. In 2020 a headline reads —Baltimore: Its impact five years later. The article retells the story: Black man died in police custody (Freddie Gray), police were suspended, there was an investigation, riots broke out, the investigation was completed, the police officers were charged with felonies, and the people of Baltimore cheered.

Then the article described the past five days in 2020 after another Black man was killed by the police in an American city. Riots erupted during the course of a police probe to determine whether or not to indict the officers involved. After several clashes between protesters/rioters and the police, gunfire was exchanged. The result: protesters/rioters and police officers were dead, a state of emergency was declared, and the National Guard entered to enforce a curfew.

Then the article posed a question: How did we get to such violence in 2020? The article pointed out two forgotten factors from the 2015 Baltimore riots.

1). Similar to the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Mo., the Baltimore riots erupted before the police completed their investigation and before the public knew what really happened to the victim. Protesters in different cities showed solidarity with the protesters in Baltimore. The rallying cry, as usual, was “No Justice, No Peace.” In record time, Marilyn Mosby, the Black state’s attorney, held a press conference to announce she was charging the officers, but when she opened the press conference, she announced, “To the people of Baltimore and demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘No Justice, No Peace.’”

Mosby may have been playing to the crowd, but her statement justified rioting as a form of political pressure. The popularizing of the slogan “No Justice, No Peace” can be traced back to racial tension in New York City during the 1980s. A local New York activist told The New York Times, after he was asked what the slogan meant, “No peace for all you who dare kill our children … We are going to make for one long, hot summer out here … Get ready for a new Black in this city!”

In this case, a new movement: Black Lives Matter.

2). During the Baltimore riots there was national news coverage of a CVS store that was looted and burned. The actions of the looters were harshly criticized, but a Black website responded with an editorial called: Not Looters, Liberators: Baltimore Rebels. The editorial said, “So what, people were taking medicine!

Pharmaceutical companies are making millions off the poor and could care less about them … I don’t blame them for taking fresh food, new shoes, clothing, and water. These are the basic needs capitalism refuses to provide.” The editorial might as well have said the death of Freddie Gray was used to start a revolt against the power structure.

The 2020 George Floyd riots didn’t quite match my 2015 forecast, but the reaction to the police killing of George Floyd by the protesters/rioters and Corporate America was deeply influenced by the two factors I mentioned.

1). After the killing of George Floyd there was universal condemnation of the police officers involved. That was the first time that occurred in 21st century America. Based on that fact alone, no riots should have occurred. But why let a police killing of an unarmed Black man go to waste? Especially, after Marilyn Mosby legitimized rioting as a political means to an end.

2). Corporate America was aware of the fact that the riots were a revolt against capitalism and not just rage against police brutality. Therefore, Corporate America decided to make financial contributions to social justice causes in an effort to pacify the resistance. George Floyd was killed in May and by June, Corporate America pledged $1.6 billion.

Incidentally, that August, a book was published called: “In Defense of Looting.” The book was described as “a fresh argument for rioting and looting as our most powerful tools for dismantling White supremacy.”

The book should have been subtitled: “When Rioting Becomes a Racket.”

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