Meghann Victoria Harris, a teacher in the Baltimore school system, described on Facebook the moments leading up to Monday afternoon's unrest in that city. She led students into the transit hub at Mondawmin, hoping to get them home, but the system had been shut down.
It looked as if there were hundreds of cops. So, me, personally, if I were a Douglas student that just got trapped in the middle of a minefield BY cops without any way to get home and completely in harm's way, I'd be ready to pop off, too.
Harris' post spread rapidly on Twitter. That was in part because it echoed a broader theme on social media as tension continued into the night: The police were to blame -- not only for the death of Freddie Gray that spurred the overall tension, but also for Monday's escalation.
In part, that distrust of the police in Baltimore stems from the department's earned reputation. A Baltimore Sun investigation found 100 instances over four years in which people won settlements against the department for brutality or civil rights violations. And in part, the willingness to assume the police are to blame certainly follows from distrust of police in general.
In December, the Post's Scott Clement looked at polling on attitudes toward the police. Whites are far more likely than blacks to believe that local police treat black and white residents equally. It showed 52 percent of whites had a "great deal" of confidence that the treatment was equal. Another 26 percent had a "fair amount" of confidence. Among blacks, only 12 percent had a "great deal" of confidence, according to national polling from NBC News/Marist. And Baltimore is more than 60 percent black.
A Gallup survey the same month found that confidence in police overall was much lower among blacks -- particularly among urban blacks, only a quarter of whom said they had a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in the police.
When violence breaks out, then, it's little surprise that the immediate cause is itself contentious. Baltimore police certainly deserve blame for the overarching tension, given that Gray died in their custody. That stories like Harris's traveled quickly shouldn't be a surprise either; confidence in the police to do the right thing is by no means universal.