​Baltimore: Violent demonstrations or demonstrations against violence and injustice?

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia
Demonstrators run by a damaged Baltimore police vehicle during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
Successive US governments have tried to refashion the world in America’s image. Meanwhile, they’ve ignored the domestic race issue, which has now exploded again.

I know what the anti-RT brigade in the corporate media are expecting here. They imagine I’ll take great satisfaction from current events in Baltimore. No, I don’t. There’s nothing good about watching a nation or city fragment along ethnic or racial lines.

READ MORE: Baltimore riot: Police vs protesters LIVE UPDATES

Just as there’s no joy in Ukraine’s current predicament, where the State Department stoked festering ethnic tensions and destroyed a country. Nor was there anything positive about the civil war that raged in Ireland’s north-east corner when I was growing up a couple of hundred miles south.

Throughout history, countries and empires have waged war. Sadly, it continues today, both overtly and covertly. However, no international conflict ever leaves behind the bitterness that lingers after a Civil War or matches the ferocity of contemporaneous feeling when a tribe splits. In America and Europe, there are still exiled White Russian families who won’t talk to those they consider ‘Reds’ and Irish Catholics in Boston who wouldn’t date a Protestant. Of course, it’s boneheaded, but it happens.

They put a man on the moon

Back in 1963, Communists luxuriated in the Birmingham, Alabama troubles which erupted in April of that year. They predicted the collapse of the US, driven by racial and sociological strife. The 60’s tensions eventually helped lead to the Civil Rights Act of July 1964. However, in the 15 months between the 2 events, America had lost charismatic President Jack Kennedy. By the end of the decade, the equally magnetic Martin Luther King Jr. would also be dead. So too, the late President’s brother Bobby.

Yet, the USA did not crumple. Instead, in 1969 it put a man on the moon. A great country survived a great crisis by reaching for greatness and achieving it. Today things are more complicated but there’s also no chance of the country conking out. Rather, the real danger to Washington is the continued loss of US moral authority. A country that can’t control its own cities is hardly one to aspire to follow. Especially when Baltimore is a mere 38 miles from the White House itself.

Today, the politicians certainly have less integrity and ability but African Americans are not discriminated against to the same extent as in the 60's. In fact, at least on the surface, they’ve never had it so good. A black President and also, since Monday, a black Attorney General in the shape of Loretta Lynch. The question, however, is whether this is just window dressing.

From Birmingham to Baltimore

We see – almost exclusively white – media commentators lambasting the Baltimore activists for not remaining peaceful. Amid a near-enough total mainstream media blackout of the real action on the ground , viewers are fed a narrative of authorities good, protesters bad. We hear constant lectures about the constitution and property rights from public officials. What we don’t hear much of are the reasons why so many angry people are smashing up the streets of Baltimore.

What needs to be discussed is whether the Baltimore crisis is actually about violent demonstrations or is it about demonstrations against violence and injustice? Assuming it’s the latter, if the huge government show of martial force stabilizes the situation, it will be akin to placing an adhesive band aid on a seeping laceration. It might stem the flow for an instant, but the pressure will soon see it break-out again.

Who is the ‘real’ Obama?

Let’s be clear here. The ruckus in Baltimore is a result of the conditions the African American population is forced into in Maryland and all around the country. Institutionalized racism hasn’t gone away in the US. On the contrary, outside of a few cosmopolitan cities, it’s as bad as, if not worse than, ever. Just as Moscow is not Russia, tolerant Manhattan is not America. Megalopolises in huge countries have a habit of masking the real soul of the nation.

Only last week, nearly the entire police force of a Midwestern town quit after the residents elected the town’s first ever black female mayor. They cited “safety concerns.” Now, if a Serbian town rejected a Croatian mayor, for example, the State Department would be chomping at the bit like a Doberman who just discovered the pleasures of fillet steak. Yet, the US mainstream media has showed little interest in Tyrus Byrd’s story. Parma happens to be in Missouri, a state which witnessed race riots in the small city of Ferguson last year.

The reaction of national authorities to the recent upheaval has been quite un-American. Over the winter, the sight of special forces training in cities became increasingly familiar.

All this has happened on the watch of Barack Obama, America’s first black President. Perhaps, if he spent less time indulging neocons as they attempt to destabilize the planet and more time worrying about his legacy at home, the world would be a better place.

When seeking election in 2008, Obama delivered a Berlin speech which looks ever-more bizarre with the passage of time. It was a comical attempt to copy the previous President to have emerged from a minority, in Kennedy's case Irish Catholic. An apathetic Berlin closed its ears but the city remains in love with JFK.

I was in Berlin that day. In the Tiergarten. I remember being reminded of Lloyd Bentsen who told Dan Quayle: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.” Despite the hype, nobody expected the then-candidate to be another JFK. Nevertheless, was it too much to have hoped he’d be Barack Obama? The real Obama has one last chance to prove he still exists, if he ever did.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.