The protests in downtown Baltimore following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray have sparked discussion on campus between students and through social media.
College sophomore and Baltimore native Jack Cook does not condone the use of violence, but understands why it has broken out.
“Violence is never justified,” Cook said. “These protests come from decades and decades of problems within Baltimore and Freddie Gray was merely the fuse.”
On Saturday, West Baltimore residents organized protests against police brutality in honor of Gray. According to CNN reports, these protests turned violent as residents began to hurl rocks and other objects at police in riot gear.
Although the exact reason for Gray’s death has not been released, members of the Baltimore community speculate that Gray was brutalized while in police custody. Gray was taken into custody April 12 for possession of a switch blade, and died April 19 from spinal cord injuries.
In addition, Cook points out that there has been an uneven focus on only the violent aspects of the protests.
“I also believe the national attention is on the riots, not the protests. There have been peaceful protests going on for weeks in Baltimore, ever since the Michael Brown case,” he said.
Monday night, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared a state of emergency and all major public institutions have been temporarily shut down including public schools. In addition Johns Hopkins University is temporarily shut down as of Tuesday night.
Baltimore native and Wharton freshman Kayvon Asemani expressed a similar point of view. “The only element of this story that is more shameful than the riots is the way the media has mishandled its incredible platform,” he said.
Social media around campus has been buzzing in response to the events with many users posting racially charged comments.
Whatsgoodly, an app that allows users to anonymously post polls, has also reflected the controversy. On a poll titled “Black People Nowadays,” 64 percent of respondents agreed to the option “are always disproportionally angry,” compared to 36 percent for “level headed and rational” as of Monday night.
Campus group Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation have also dedicated their resources to aiding the situation in Baltimore.
“In the wake of the youth driven Baltimore uprise SOUL will be collecting donations to help feed the youth who will not be able to get free or reduced lunch due to the schools being closed down tomorrow,” the group wrote on their Facebook page.
While Asemani believes that the media incorrectly portrays the situation, he still does not see the outbreak of violence as the answer. “Our focus on the severity of this social issue and the frustration built inside of us are all justified,” he wrote in a statement, “but our response to these sentiments through the destruction of our community resulted in a net loss not only for Baltimore, but for our society as a whole.”
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