Eyewitness Baltimore: Liberators, not looters

Youth demand justice for Freddie Grey in Baltimore, April 21.WW photo: Colleen Davidson

Youth demand justice for Freddie Grey in Baltimore, April 21.
WW photo: Colleen Davidson

Baltimore, April 27 — We could smell the teargas a mile away. Thick clouds of burning smoke spread citywide. The police, the tanks, the helicopters, all present and fully armored. From the moment I stepped off the train, I could feel resistance in the air. At approximately 5 p.m., it was straight from the station to the streets, live.

When you take your time and walk by foot, the intense degree of poverty completely paralyzes you. It shocked me, and I’m from the hood. The absurd amount of boarded homes is astounding. The makeshift neighborhoods, comprised of trash, forgotten debris and the countless number of dilapidated buildings, are an absolute travesty in this, the richest country on the planet.

The lack of grocery stores, playgrounds and recreation facilities is apparent. The community’s once beloved primary school was closed last year. The wasting away of Black bodies, good people and buried hope. The emphasis on protecting property over suffering people. While Freddie Grey (aka Gray) was laid to rest today, these are the images that remain.

For those who aren’t poor or never have been, tonight is April 27, the end of the month, which for many people means that food stamps and Electronic Benefit Transfers have run out. At least tonight, poor folks can eat well. Thankfully, the rice and pork chops were sponsored by the people, their courage and the Baltimore Rebellion.

For those who were glued to the corporate media — CNN, FOX News and CBS — you were unfortunately force-fed a slew of lies, stereotypes and propped up images — a ruling-class narrative that intentionally did not capture the spirit of strength, unity, resistance and perseverance of those in rebellion.

Truth is, we didn’t see any hoodlums and thugs tonight. We didn’t see any thieves, looters or rioters. All we saw were liberators — parents, workers and youth who heroically chose to liberate the bare necessities denied to them for months, years and several decades now.

The oppressed have spoken

So what if people were taking some damn medicine?! Pharmaceutical companies are making billions off the poor, and could not care less about them. Yes, poor people were taking diapers and toilet tissue, tube socks and boxes of cereal; these are the basic needs they’ve been denied. I don’t blame them for taking fresh food, new shoes, clothing and water. These are the basic needs capitalism refuses to provide.

After needs, wants and desires were also met. Contrary to popular belief, poor people like televisions, too, just like rich folks do. Think about it; home appliances and laptops surround you every day, yet you have no means to acquire any of these things. You see them on billboards and watch them advertised on commercials, but for you — no! You get nothing. So when human need is denied by brick walls, two-inch glass windows and security cameras, something has to give, and I can assure you, it will not be the oppressed!

What people saw tonight on the big-business-owned TV news were the youth and families who U.S. capitalism has thrown away. You can’t deny jobs, justice and self-respect and not expect rebellion. The Black masses are burning tonight because Amerikkka has burned them — us — for centuries now.

This is bigger than Freddie Grey, Walter Scott and Rekia Boyd, much bigger than Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., put together. This is the underclass reclaiming their human existence from a country that denies them the right to breathe, the right to live without police occupying their front step.

We weren’t thugs and hoodlums tonight; none of us were. We were tired of being tired.

The oppressed have spoken in their own language tonight, loud and clear. The question is: Will you hear us and join the fight?

Lamont Lilly is a contributing editor at the Triangle Free Press and frequent contributor to Truthout, Dissident Voice, The Durham News and Black Youth Project. He is currently a visiting organizer with the Baltimore branch of Workers World Party.