Fans of seminal docu-drama The Wire will know all about Baltimore, and will understand that the riots there aren’t ‘just’ a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray. As Nina Simone said, It’s Hard Just to Live there, and the Baltimore coppers have a long history of violence against a citizenry that has never gotten ahead. ‘This is the straw that broke the camel’s back’ is an awful turn of phrase in this context, but in the US those straws just keep coming.
50 years ago, in Harlem, Watts and Newark, they used to say the cops were an occupying force; hard to disbelieve that when you see today’s american copper, dressed in military hand-me-downs, surplus from some middle-eastern occupation. It kinda looks like they’re dressed for violence. Like they’re getting ready to shoot someone, in the back maybe, and then plant a tazer on the body.
If there’s a sunny side to this militarised police-surveillance state it’s that the All Seeing Eye is also catching out the cops. We all know the pigs who killed Freddie would not have been charged if people had not filmed them. But we also know it ain’t enough: the beating of Rodney King was taped, cops were charged; and those cops got off.
But we also know that having a camera in everyone’s pocket means more people get to see the truth that the old one-way media is still desperately trying to hide from us: that “riots are the language of the unheard”, that breaking a window is not worse than breaking someone’s back. And that in this unjust world there’s still alot of glass that needs breaking.