In September of 2009, the City of Pittsburgh hosted the G20 Summit. While there were some minor incidents during the event, thanks to intelligent planning, there were minimal arrests and comparably few commercial properties that suffered physical damage. Of course, Pittsburgh had the advantage of local, state, and federal security through law enforcement, Secret Service, and military personnel. They also had the advantage of months to plan. However, as Baltimore burns tonight in the wake of the Freddie Gray’s funeral, there is really no excuse for the situation at hand.
First, no one was surprised at the rioting we are seeing now. There have been protests since Gray’s death, and after the riots in Ferguson, MO, it was insane to assume that there would be peace in Baltimore tonight without intervention by authorities. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake even stated publicly that she intended to give protesters space to “destroy” if they chose to do so, and they have taken her at her word.
Second, since we’ve seen violence in other cities in the wake of situations like Gray’s death, it’s unrealistic to assume that if Rawlings-Blake had requested the assistance of state and federal authorities to prevent violence in Baltimore tonight, she would have been refused. On the contrary, it’s likely that she would have had an obvious show of force on the ground before the funeral, and in the hours afterward.
As for what Baltimore could learn from Pittsburgh, the G20 Summit arguably went as smoothly as it did because the city took on an appearance of a police state for the duration of that event. While some might try to argue that it may have been worse if there were police and military personnel on the ground in Baltimore today, the more likely result would have been simple peaceful protests, without violence.
Rightfully so, there are calls on social media for the resignation of Mayor Rawlings-Blake. Not only did she fail to implement a proven security plan – like Pittsburgh implemented in 2009 – but she also literally told the public that she would allow violence and destruction on her streets. The law-abiding citizens of Baltimore are not hard to find. They are talking to the media, and asking why the police are not acting to stop the violence. Later, they may ask why it had to start in the first place. One thing is certain – destroying property and attacking police and civilians will never resolve the issues that resulted in the death of Freddie Gray. Given the response to the situation in Baltimore now, it’s not likely that there will ever be a resolution to that issue, until the city finds real leaders.