The Mystery Men Behind the Baltimore Riots
by Jason Simpkins, Outsider Club As many of you probably know, The Outsider Club office is in Baltimore. So the recent events are pretty palpable for all of us here. I passed two armored personnel carriers on my way in to work today. When I got to the office, the cafe was closed and the office building was locked down. Suffice to say I’ve got a lot of thoughts and feelings about what’s going on, but I think it’s best to address them piece by piece, rather than all at once. And what I want to talk about today are the “outside elements” that are reportedly holding our city hostage. It’s a common trope being trotted out by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. When the first episodes of violence broke out on Sunday, the mayor had this to say: “Many people who weren’t from our community were, in essence, trying to hijack the very raw emotions of some of those who live in Baltimore and were expressing anger over the death of Mr. Gray. People from the outside were inciting some of the ‘shut this city down’ sort of messaging, and then just left.” Problem is, that’s just not true. An Inside Job Of the 35 people that were arrested Sunday, just three were from outside of Baltimore. Last I checked, 27 more people were arrested on Monday, every one of them a Baltimore resident. But that hasn’t changed the spin coming from the mayor’s office. From the Baltimore Sun: “While the vast majority of arrests reflect local residency, the total number of arrests does not account for every incident of criminal activity,” police said. “The Baltimore Police Department believes that outside agitators continue to be the instigators behind acts of violence and destruction.” So, despite all evidence to the contrary, the city continues to stick to this stubborn lie. And why? To be divisive, that’s all. City Hall knows that Baltimore residents are more likely to side with their own neighbors than with the police. (The same police that have oppressed and brutalized many of them for years, and who were certainly responsible for killing Freddie Gray.) So they conjure up this phony villain, this outsider bogey-man, to try and win back public support and shift blame away from themselves. It’s deception and manipulation of the public, pure and simple. And the media is all-too-willing to take part. I haven’t once heard a single reporter call bullshit in all the times that the mayor and city officials have pointed their fingers at “outsiders.” Who are these outsiders exactly? Where did they come from? What’s their objective? How many are there? None of these questions are ever asked, much less answered. And the reason is – they don’t exist. The Time Traveling Agitator This isn’t a new phenomenon. You wouldn’t believe how busy these “outside agitators” have been. When Ferguson went up in flames last year, who was at fault?
Was it the police, who in 2013 issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses in a city whose population is 21,135?
Was it the city itself, which got 25% of its revenue from tickets and court fees?
Was it Darren Wilson who shot and killed an unarmed black man?
Was it Ferguson residents, who were finally brought to their breaking point by years of oppression and mistreatment at the hands of overbearing law enforcement?
No. According to Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, it was “outside agitators.”
Asked by Sean Hannity whether he thought the Ferguson riots were being perpetrated by “a community angry at what happened,” Jackson responded: “No, it’s a lot of outside agitators that are causing the violence.”
The mysterious outsider strikes again.
Shockingly, he’s actually been around since the 1960s…
Back in 1964, faced with bombings, lynchings, and protests against segregation, Alabama Governor George Wallace had this to say:
“We have never had a problem in the South except in a few very isolated instances and these have been the result of outside agitators.”
Birmingham Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor blamed the same outside forces, except he had a name and a face to attach to them.
“The city of Birmingham has been under siege from outside agitators led by Martin Luther King,” Connor said in 1963. “This bunch has done what they wanted to do, stir up trouble among whites and negro citizens … What we need is for the president to show sincerity in wanting peace in Birmingham and get the outside agitators to leave us alone, and let us work out our problems locally.”
Right. It wasn’t segregation. It wasn’t Jim Crow. It wasn’t a century and a half of systemic injustice, it was those damn outsiders.
Now, they’re here in Baltimore.
A Breeding Ground for Insurrection Outsiders
All things considered, I can’t say I’m surprised at the sudden influx of mysterious “outsiders.” These elements tend to gravitate towards certain areas.
To cities like Baltimore…
Which have been sued by the NAACP and ACLU for “zero-tolerance policing.”
Where more than 100 cases of police brutality have won a total of $6 million in settlements for victims since 2011.
Which have a 20% unemployment rate.
Where more than half the households make less than $25,000 a year.
Where 25% of kids age 10-17 have been arrested.
And to countries like the United States…
Where the arrest rate for blacks is 10-times higher than non-blacks.
Where you’re 55 times more likely to get killed by a cop than you are a terrorist.
Where $40 billion worth of equipment (including assault rifles, grenade launchers, body armor and mine-resistant vehicles) has been transferred from the military to local police departments since 9/11.
You’d think that much firepower would be enough to keep outsiders at bay. But ask any city official and they’ll tell you, it’s not nearly enough.