Thousands of people chanted and waved signs as they marched from West Baltimore toward City Hall Saturday afternoon, in a mostly peaceful demonstration to protest the alleged mistreatment and death of Freddie Gray and demand increased police accountability. Gray, 25, was arrested by Baltimore police on April 12, and sustained severe injuries of unknown origin and then died one week later.
Toward the end of the protest route a few hours later, the dispersing crowd turned violent. Police cars were vandalized with trashcans to cheers from the crowd, business’ windows were broken and cars stuck in traffic were damaged.
“We have seen the vast majority of the protesting [and it] has been incredibly peaceful,” said Molly Amster, 31, Baltimore director of Jews United for Justice, who participated in city protests all week long. “It’s fraught with anguish and anger that is justified. But I’m surprised and frustrated by the portrayal of the protesters in the media. It continues to stigmatize and perpetuate the portrayal of people of color in the media.”
“I think that the ongoing terrorism of black communities, Sandtown in particular, the most policed neighborhood in Baltimore, that’s not something that we as white people, the vast majority of the Jewish community, don’t experience that,” said Amster of the West Baltimore neighborhood and home of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, which is approximately 99 percent African American. “But I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to say what’s an appropriate way to demonstrate their rage and anger at the system that is oppressing them.”
Rabbi Ariel Fishman, his wife and their son walked back from Lloyd Street Synagogue Saturday mid-afternoon to Judaic Heritage, near University of Maryland Baltimore, where he is director.
“We decided to walk down Lombard thinking we’d be off the main Pratt Street protest traffic but still saw tons of people pouring out,” he said, noting that some wore anonymous Guy Fawkes masks. “It didn’t feel unsafe, but there were a lot of people moving out of that area.”
“Some of the people had a pain and sadness on their faces,” said Fishman. “I always think of what MLK said, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’ And that resonates with Jewish ethics, to love all people, love all creation. It’s a concept that has a firm hold in Jewish tradition.”