clock menu more-arrow no yes

The important thing everyone calling for nonviolence in Baltimore fails to say

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty

As violent protests broke out in Baltimore on Monday, resulting in some destroyed businesses and at least 15 injured police officers, longtime Baltimore reporter and creator of The Wire David Simon put up a blog post calling for peace. In the post, Simon tried to separate the ostensible cause of the protests — the death of Freddie Gray in police custody earlier this month — and the violence that's arisen as the civil unrest has continued through this week:

There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today. But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man's memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.

But later Monday, another native son of Baltimore, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, wrote a persuasive response to anyone who calls for protesters to be "nonviolent" without connecting it directly to the death of Gray or the allegations of brutality against other African-American residents by Baltimore police officers. The post is worth reading in full, because Coates is one of America's best living social critics. But this paragraph in particular, while it's not an explicit response to Simon, is certainly a persuasive response to arguments like Simon's:

The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray's death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray's death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted ("The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.") There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green ("Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.") There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. ("They slammed me down on my face," Brown added, her voice cracking. "The skin was gone on my face. ...")

Watch: Why recording police is so important