“What is the cause of this unrest” in Baltimore?
Fox News' attempt to tackle this question dismissed the role that anger over police brutality played in sparking the protests and riots that broke out following the funeral of Freddie Gray -- a black man who died of severe, unexplained spinal cord injuries obtained while in police custody. Instead, the network blamed the unrest on “parental neglect” and “hip hop culture,” among other factors.
The April 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now highlighted growing violence in Baltimore, and host Jon Scott asked network political analyst Juan Williams for his thoughts on what sparked the unrest: “Is there any one cause? Is it a collaboration of poverty and parental neglect?”
Williams blamed “family breakdown” as the “core part” of the Baltimore protests, adding that high unemployment, drug culture, and “dysfunctional behavior” also contributed. Some mistakenly blame frustration over police brutality for the unrest, Williams suggested, arguing that in fact the problem is a society “asking police to do things they're not trained to do”:
WILLIAMS: What you have here is a situation where, I think, you have poor people, who feel that they have a grievance -- a difficult situation across our country in terms of how police deal with the dysfunction that is in this neighborhood, but deal with it in every community in America. We are asking our police to go in and to deal with people who are extremely violent, disorganized, families in chaos, and say to the police, you're our front lines. And when the police fail in handling the situation, then we say, it's a matter of police brutality. I think it's a matter of society, often times, asking police to do things they're not trained to do.
Baltimore, of course, has a marked history of police brutality -- As The Baltimore Sun documented in a searing 2014 report:
Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.
Mistrust of cops in Baltimore has been “long-simmering.” A similar riot broke out in the city in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Since then, racial tension and inequity has resulted in “a troubled history between the police force and its residents.”
Others like The New York Times trace the "broken relationship" between Baltimore residents and the Baltimore Police Department back to 1980, when the NAACP called for a federal investigation into police brutality. The tensions continued into the past decade “with a crime-fighting strategy known as 'zero-tolerance policing' that led to mass arrests.” The Times noted how city leaders have attempted to reform the police department “that has a history of aggressive, sometimes brutal, treatment of black men,” a history, “which helps explain the long-simmering anger that boiled over” with the death of Freddie Gray.