Baltimore: A tale of two riots

Comparing Baltimore riots from Super Bowl win & Freddie Gray protests
An exercise in collective memory

On Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, the Baltimore Ravens won the NFL Super Bowl game against the San Francisco 49ers. Fans went wild and took to the streets of Baltimore in “celebrations” and “victory riots.” They were called “rowdy fans” who took “their celebrations too far” by local Baltimore CBS news. They were not called thugs and they were not called criminals.

On Sunday April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested by Baltimore police and sustained a spinal cord injury while in custody. He was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center to receive care where he went into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and had surgery. His spine was 80% severed at the neck.

Freddie died one week later on April 19.

People took to the streets to protest peacefully. Within days, peaceful protests turned violent and led to riots. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the rioters “thugs.” News media and other officials followed suit and called them “criminals” and focused on the destruction of property.

This post is not in defense of the riots or the people causing them.

Destroying a community does not honor the life of the young man at the center of events. It does not honor the requests of Freddie Gray’s family who have pleaded for peace.

This post is about collective memory. It’s about how society chooses to remember two very similar events. Without the captions, the set of photos below are oddly similar. One set of photos shows people creating chaos because of a sporting event, the other shows people creating chaos because of frustrations against police who have systematically used unnecessary force against civilians.

Take a good look and you be the judge.

L: 2013: A woman on top of a vandalized car while celebrating Super Bowl win.

R: 2015: Young men on top of a vandalized police vehicle during civil unrest.

(L-R: Feb. 3, 2013, Luis Magana/AP, April 27, 2015, Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

L: 2013: Police on horses trying to control a street blocked off by Super Bowl fans.

R: 2015: Police on horses trying to control a street blocked off by protestors.

(L-R: Feb. 3, 2013, Luis Magana/AP, April 25, 2015, Alex Wong/Getty)

L: 2013: Police push back Baltimore Ravens fans who have taken to the streets.

R: 2015: Police push back Freddie Gray protestors who have taken to the streets.

(L-R: Feb. 3, 2013, Luis Magana/AP, April 25, 2015, Alex Wong/Getty)

L: 2013: Police clash with fans in the streets.

R: 2015: Police clash with protestors in the streets.

(L-R: Feb. 3, 2013, Luis Magana/AP, April 27, 2015, Drew Angerer/Getty)

L: 2013: Hundreds of Baltimore Ravens fans celebrate and block streets after Super Bowl win.

R: 2015: Hundreds of Freddie Gray supporters gather outside city hall to protest.

(L-R: Feb. 3, 2013, Patrick Smith/Getty, April 25, 2015, Mark Makela/Getty)

L: 2013: A couple shares an embrace in the street during Super Bowl celebrations.

R: 2015: A couple shares an embrace in the street during civil unrest.

(L-R: Feb. 3, 2013, Patrick Smith/Getty, April 28, 2015 Mark Makela/Getty)