Baltimore Riots: NAACP Denounces Violence, Launches Satellite Office

In the context of violence and looting that shook the very core of Maryland's largest city, NAACP leaders are working both to address the community's current concerns about police accountability along with other issues that have been lingering with Baltimore residents for years.

The images that flooded television screens throughout the afternoon and evening Monday left many stunned and concerned about one of the country’s most iconic cities.

Like Ferguson, Missouri, North Charleston, South Carolina, and Sanford, Florida, before it, Baltimore has found itself caught in the public outrage after the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of an authority figure.

The NAACP, which took an active role in each of those prior incidents, seeks to help Baltimore cope with the aftermath of the rioting and unrest following Monday’s funeral for Freddie Gray, who died of a spinal injury received while in police custody. The group began its response by opening a satellite office in the city’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood.

The national NAACP is stepping up in a big way and this may be a model for our branches around the country.

Rioting Monday led to 235 arrests and 159 separate fires, forcing Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency and call for a heavy National Guard presence in the city on Tuesday.

While the violence may have erupted after Gray’s funeral, many saw a deeper root cause at play.

“It was only a matter of time before Baltimore exploded,” Washington Post correspondent Michael A. Fletcher wrote on Tuesday morning.

NAACP leaders, while highlighting the police brutality and allegations of racial profiling that led to Monday’s violence, also have denounced the rioting itself.

“This problem won’t be solved with Molotov cocktails,” NAACP President Cornell William Brooks told CBS News on Tuesday. “Burning businesses and homes and buildings in your own community is like putting a gun to your own head.”

The group also plans to take its response beyond the short term and take on some of the broader issues facing the city’s black community. And the lessons it learns as it assists Charm City could prove important for the organization down the road, according to Baltimore City NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston.

“We have always been committed to taking the NAACP to the heart of the community. In the last several weeks we’ve heard from people who say they need direct access to us and need help around expungement, police arrests, substandard housing, poor education and massive unemployment,” Hill-Aston said in comments to The Baltimore Sun. “The national NAACP is stepping up in a big way and this may be a model for our branches around the country.”

The organization called out, in particular, the practice of “rough riding,” in which officers hold individuals in a police car for short periods of time, in the hopes that the person will offer information to investigators.

The group also says that other fundamental concerns, like workforce development, will be part of the work of the satellite office.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, center, announcing the opening of the Baltimore satellite office. (Handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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