the protest in Baltimore did last night. The more peaceful aspects of the conflict get underplayed (well, mostly). Following a lead about possible gang violence, the Baltimore police stopped mass transit while schools were being let out, leaving a lot of young people on the street, with not-unpredictable results.
It's a dumb game though, trying to point out why things went the way they did. Baltimore's protest, like Ferguson before it, and others, is triggered as much by the past as by the latest injustice. Freddie Gray was arrested because he had a knife on him, which isn't in itself a crime. After being placed in the police van, he wasn't belted in and did not get prompt medical care when he expressed a need for it. His neck was broken and his voice box crushed. It looks like he very probably was the recipient of what is sometimes called a "joyride", a "nickel ride", or a "rough ride"--a kind of nasty way of letting police brutality happen "accidentally on purpose". (As opposed to "on purpose-on purpose" which has also been a problem.) And by the numbers, this neighborhood was in trouble.
I'm not one to condone violence or property destruction, but the problem is, there are only so many ways to get the attention of people who have become indifferent to the mass problems of an area. What happened here was like a primal scream--the gangs were even asking for peace. The Nation of Islam were looking for calm.
I don't think fires work. I don't think a lot of people see this kind of protest sympathetically. I feel like it hardens the minds of exactly the people who would already be unsympathetic. But looking at the big picture, if people can't see what those fires mean this time, they still won't understand what they mean the next time or the next. And there will be a next time.
(As an aside: that's why when "libertarian" Rand Paul wants to talk about "lack of fathers" and morals, I think it sobers me up on the question of whether he really understands civil rights or minority outreach. I don't think so. Or maybe he needs to recognize how epidemic that "moral" issue of violence can be, and how close to home the need for fathers is. This is about whether the government is doing right by the citizens it serves or just doing harm. This isn't about some crowd-pleasing moralizing.)