Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, are expressing solidarity with the people of Baltimore in the aftermath of this week’s violence.
Many demonstrators see the African-American communities of both cities as united by the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.
Ronald Hampton, a retired D.C. police officer, says unemployment, inadequate housing, lack of political power, low-quality schools and stifled economic opportunities have created similar atmospheres of despair and resentment in both cities.
“The community where Freddie lived was experiencing the same kinds of conditions as the people in Ferguson,” he said in an interview with Yahoo News. “Our communities have been victimized.”
Hampton, who serves on the board of the National Police Accountability Project, also says greater transparency in both police departments is needed; he wants the cops who arrested Gray on April 12 to be indicted, found guilty and imprisoned for the young man’s death seven days later from a spinal cord injury.
“I have the utmost respect for the law, but I don’t have any respect for police officers that violate the law,” he said.
Robert Kane, head of Criminology and Justice Studies at Drexel University in Philadelphia, agrees that Baltimore and Ferguson have a great deal in common despite their difference in size. Ferguson, in St. Louis County, has a population of 21,111; whereas Baltimore, the largest city in Maryland, has a population of 622,104.
“Both places tend to be characterized by a fair amount of what we would think of as disadvantaged inner-city African-American communities,” Kane told Yahoo News.
Social media, he points out, accounts for how quickly demonstrators in Ferguson were able to rally in support of Baltimore.
The cross-country outrage we have seen over a string of deaths at the hands of law enforcement (or aspiring law enforcement) since the killing of Trayvon Martin in February 2012 might not have been possible 15 to 20 years ago, he suggested.
“Mass communication can make a very large country feel small,” Kane said. “People in Ferguson can feel right at home in Baltimore because they are seeing what happened more or less in their city less than a year ago.”
Activists and protesters have taken to Twitter using the hashtags #Ferguson2Baltimore and #BaltimoreUprising to document their actions or express support.
National Guard troops and police patrolled the streets of Baltimore on Wednesday as protesters waited for the official account of Gray’s death.
On Tuesday night, protesters in Ferguson gathered near the site where then-officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown in August 2014; the protest ultimately ended in more violence.
Police arrested at least five people after chaos broke out: Three people were shot, cop cars were vandalized, a portable restroom and trashcans were burned and a gas station was looted, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
This marks the third time the Dellwood Mobil Mart gas station was burglarized since Brown’s death.
“This community is trying to move forward, and there are people who are just set on violence,” acting Ferguson Police Chief Al Eickhoff said, according to the local paper. “[The perpetrators] were not protesters; they were just a criminal element set on undoing all that this community has done to move forward.”
On Wednesday morning, Hillary Clinton addressed the turmoil in Baltimore at Columbia University in New York City.
The Democratic presidential candidate argues the recent tragedies should galvanize the nation to restore balance to our criminal justice system.
“The patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable,” Clinton said. “We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America.”