Talia Balakirsky, a freshman majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
The riots that have broken out over the last few days in Baltimore over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray have quickly spiraled out of control.
These protests have become so violent that Larry Hogan, Maryland’s governor, has established a 10 p.m. curfew for all residents of Maryland, declared a state of emergency and brought in thousands of National Guard troops.
But for me, this isn’t a new story. Throughout the time that I lived in Baltimore, there were always problems and conflicts – whether it was the high crime rate or the growing number of people living in poverty. From all of the issues that have been piling up over the past years, a riot of this magnitude was perhaps inevitable.
For years there has been a clear tension between the Baltimore police and the community. With so many similar situations occurring nationwide that are connected to alleged police brutality, it would almost be odd if something similar didn’t happen in Baltimore.
As a native Baltimorean, these riots have broken my heart. With finals starting and the semester coming to an end, I couldn’t find the time to go back to Baltimore to help. Having to watch these protests from afar and being unable to help restore peace to the city has truly been tough. If I were in Baltimore, I would likely be helping clean up from the riots or ensuring that my family is safe.
Baltimore has always reminded me of such an active, lively place. The Inner Harbor is usually packed with tourists or locals looking at ships anchored nearby or enjoying the restaurants. Living in Baltimore also gave me the opportunity to experience the diversity that the city has to offer.
It’s upsetting, though, that violent protests have become the norm. As a result, many residents of Baltimore and the surrounding area have to work around the rules put in place thanks to the riot.
For example, my grandmother lives about four miles outside of the city and told me that she had to completely alter her schedule. She works as a teacher at a local college and has to run all of her errands either before she begins teaching for the day or quickly after she’s done because many stores have been closing at 7 p.m. so all employees can get home before curfew. It hasn’t been easy for her.
But despite all the violence, I’ve noticed that my family and friends who have witnessed the riots are standing together in solidarity. Many have taken to Facebook and Twitter to express their anger about the violence but, more overwhelmingly, have expressed the pride they feel in being able to call themselves Baltimoreans – even during this tough time. Many have uploaded pictures to social media that read, “Baltimore: the greatest city in America.”
Yesterday, hundreds of Baltimoreans participated in peaceful demonstrations throughout the city and hundreds more worked to clean up the streets – and I’m so proud of that. And today, the Baltimore Police Department announced that no arrests or injuries were reported during the latest protests.
Riots like the ones we’ve seen in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo. can give a city and its people a bad reputation. We often forget that while the people who have participated in the riots may shed a negative light on Baltimore, their actions are not a reflection of the entire community.
The residents who have cleaned up behind their fellow Baltimoreans, offered water to the National Guard troops who were working to keep order in the city or joined a peaceful protest are the residents who represent the true Baltimore.
Yes, these riots may leave the city and its people scarred and yes, we will have to work together to rebuild. But I doubt anyone will end up feeling any less proud to call themselves a Baltimorean.