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The rioting in Baltimore – Not unexpected, but not beneficial to anyone

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Freddie Gray’s death in police custody — regardless of what really led to his death (even his captors are entitled to the presumption of innocence as to any criminal investigation and prosecution) — naturally led to widespread protests, which by now have spread well beyond Baltimore. The rioting, though, is inexcusable.

Police misconduct, from severe to less severe will continue until the entire criminal justice system is overhauled.

Rather than rehashing what already has been said about the rioting that sadly arose in Baltimore beginning this past weekend, I point out the following:

– I worked in Baltimore from 1993-96 near the Myerhoff symphony hall. Baltimore is a one-of-a-kind fascinating city to visit and know, in all its neighborhoods, from the impoverished sections to the wealthy sections.

– Maryland has an ugly racial segregationist history going right into the 1960’s.

– Fellow criminal defense lawyer Jamison Koehler moved around a year ago from Northern Virginia to a well-to-do neighborhood in Baltimore up the street from where I worked, that borders on more ordinary parts of the city. He has emphasized that the rioting has been limited in geography and extent. He participated in a peaceful demonstration over Freddie Gray’s death.

– A Northern Virginia African-American lawyer in his mid-thirties — who is always among the best-dressed, best-groomed, and best-looking men in any courthouse, and looks as professional as any man might look (and that should not even matter, of course) — recently posted on Facebook that he continues experiencing plenty of racism and tries to channel his energies into positive change, for instance through his defense of indigent clients. The stories continue being told by African-American men of all socioeconomic backgrounds about harassment by police and about taxicabs that pass them even when dressed in suits in wealthier parts of town. A few years ago in Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, I saw a taxicab clearly bypass a black woman  to pick up two white women. His window was open, and I insisted that he let off his passengers to drive the woman he had blatantly passed. The cabdriver, who was also black (underlining that same-race discrimination happens, among all races), pleadingly tried to "shush" me, and continued keeping his fares in the car.

– By order of Baltimore City’s mayor, a 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew has been imposed. Curfews raise major civil liberties issues, no matter how effective they are or not. This curfew certainly will discourage tourists and same-day visitors to the city.

– Was it really necessary for fans to have been barred from this evening’s Baltimore Oriole’s game as a result of the rioting?

It goes without saying that the peacefully productive demonstrations are beneficial, but the rioting serves no purpose other than being an expression of frustration and anger that police misconduct, racism and impoverishment have remained so severe. The rioting has apparently been mainly happening in the more depressed areas of Baltimore, which is just shooting the neighborhood residents in the foot.