Matthew Vadum: Baltimore Burns While Obama Plots

Baltimore is burning because community organizers and various thugs are tearing the city apart in the aftermath of the strange death of a young black man who was in the custody of police — and President Obama is trying to make things worse.

In an incredible non-coincidence the rioting follows a weekend rally by the Occupy Wall Street-like Baltimore Peoples Assembly. There also was a first wave of rioting over the weekend. Outside activists have been flooding into Baltimore, according to reports. Police and civilians have been injured. A CVS store was looted and set on fire. Rioters chopped up fire hoses to prevent firefighters from doing their job. Criminal gangs have declared open season on cops. Rioters have been throwing cinder blocks, bricks, and other objects at police. And there aren’t enough cops to go around. Baltimore police are begging police officers in other states to come to Baltimore to help out. Schools are closed Tuesday.

Baltimore is now a war zone. Understandably, the Baltimore Orioles announced on Twitter at 6:20 last night that the game with the Chicago White Sox scheduled for 7:05 had been postponed. After Democrats dawdled, Maryland’s new Republican Gov. Larry Hogan acted last night, activating the Maryland National Guard in an attempt to restore order. Sensing things were getting out of hand fast, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D), said Monday that as of Tuesday evening she will impose a one-week curfew lasting from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. It’s not clear why the curfew wasn’t to take effect last night while parts of the city were burning.

The looters and rioters have seized on a pretext. They are exploiting the case of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was arrested the morning of April 12 in West Baltimore. At that time he was reportedly having difficulty walking. About 30 minutes later when he arrived at a police station, he was reportedly unable to breathe or talk. Somehow he suffered severe injuries to his spine but nobody can say why. He was admitted to hospital and a week later he was dead. Gray was laid to rest yesterday, an event that some took as a green-light to riot.

Gray’s death may be a genuine case of police malfeasance. Eventually investigators will figure out what happened to Gray and we can only hope justice will be done.

Pundits are weighing in on the unfolding events in Baltimore.

On last night’s “John Batchelor Show,” National Review‘s national-affairs columnist John Fund bemoaned “a level of incompetence we haven’t seen since” then-Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) botched the state’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On Fox News Channel, Charles Krauthammer said, “There’s a total failure of leadership here. People can look at the scenes and they know that there’s a city out of control on the ground. But it’s also out of control at the level of governance.”

In the meantime, you can bet this year’s harvest of Chesapeake Bay crabs that the Obama White House is now in overdrive trying to capitalize on Gray’s death. President Obama has single-mindedly pushed hard again and again and again to reduce the country he hates to warring racial factions. This is a crisis he cannot afford to waste. His pen and phone are ready for action.

America’s ambulance-chasing, race-baiting, chief executive is doing his best to make the situation in Maryland’s largest city much more unpleasant than it is now. Predictably, Obama will deplore the violence in Baltimore and then out of the other side of his mouth condone it by saying he understands the anger of the mob that is ripping the city to pieces.

We know Obama is doing these things because after Eric Holder’s dreary ideological twin, Loretta Lynch, was sworn in as U.S. attorney general yesterday, she acknowledgedthat the Department of Justice’s Alinskyite shock troops are already goose-stepping the dangerous streets of Baltimore.

As she regurgitated the obligatory politically correct recitals, Lynch played the Gandhi card. She perfunctorily shared her hope that the protestors that the media persists in labeling “mostly peaceful” would play nice. She condemned “the senseless acts of violence.”

“As our investigative process continues,” she said in a statement, “I strongly urge every member of the Baltimore community to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.”

Alarm bells should have gone off in the heads of patriotic Americans when Lynch admitted that the Justice Department’s infamous Community Relations Service (CRS) “has already been on the ground, and they are sending additional resources as they continue to work with all parties to reduce tensions and promote the safety of the community.”

And what might those “additional resources” consist of? Al Sharpton’s favorite electronic gadget, the bullhorn, is bound to be part of the aid package from Washington.

This is what CRS does. Three years ago CRS dragged an innocent man through the muck and into court.

In February 2012, after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death during a physical confrontation with neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, the Obama administration deployed government-paid community organizers to Sanford, Florida.

CRS’s mission was to foment racial tensions. It succeeded.

For a month and a half after Martin’s death, local police declined to press charges against Zimmerman, who was ultimately acquitted, because they believed the criminal case against him was tissue-thin.

But CRS burned through thousands of dollars helping to plan marches at which its organizers exacerbated racial tensions and loudly demanded that Zimmerman be prosecuted — and he was.

In theory CRS employees are supposed to try to defuse combustible situations in communities but in reality they pour gasoline on raging fires by engaging in political advocacy. It’s never advocacy for conservative causes or positions.

As a result of a Freedom of Information Act request, Judicial Watch discovered that CRS employees were involved in “marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain”; providing “support for protest deployment in Florida”; rendering “technical assistance to the City of Sanford, event organizers, and law enforcement agencies for the march and rally on March 31”; and providing “technical assistance, conciliation, and onsite mediation during demonstrations planned in Sanford.”

In April 2012, CRS “set up a meeting between the local NAACP and elected officials that led to the temporary resignation of police chief Bill Lee, according to Turner Clayton, Seminole County chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,” government documents state.

This odious government-subsidized rabble-rousing is nothing new. For a half century, the Left has been using taxpayer dollars to fund efforts to advance radical, subversive causes in the United States. Changes in federal social policy in the mid-1960s helped to lay the groundwork for this insidious leftist astro-turfing. Guided by the doomed-from-the-start War on Poverty, since 1965 the federal government has been giving taxpayer money to liberal and radical groups to help them agitate against the status quo.

In the Zimmerman case, the Obama administration got rid of the middleman and in-sourced the work instead of doling out grants to left-wing street protest groups. Field agents for CRS also assisted the Occupy Wall Street and anarchist activists outside the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Again, this is what the leftist agitators of the Community Relations Service do and we can only wonder what they are doing on the ground in Baltimore.

It needs to be pointed out that it is not at all clear why Gray was arrested. David A. Graham provides a useful summary of the facts at the Atlantic‘s website. Graham wrote that:

“an officer made eye contact with Gray, and he took off running, so they pursued him. Though he’d had scrapes with the law before, there’s no indication he was wanted at the time. And though he was found with a switchblade, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, ‘We know that having a knife is not necessarily a crime.'”

Gray did not resist arrest and officers say they did not use force, a claim that seems to be backed up video footage shot by witnesses. The young man apparently howled with pain and seemed to have been injured as he was dragged to a police van.

Off-camera a voice can be heard saying, “His leg broke and y’all dragging him like that!” Gray, who was asthmatic, requested his inhaler but it wasn’t given to him.

“Yet it’s not the leg or the asthma that killed him,” Graham observed.

“Instead, it was a grave injury to his spinal cord. Gray’s family said he was treated for three fractured vertebrae and a crushed voice box, the sorts of injuries that doctors say are usually caused by serious car accidents. The van made at least two stops before reaching the police station, but there’s no footage to say what happened during the journey or at those stops.”

Needless to say, at this point things don’t look good for the Baltimore City police department.

For a multitude of reasons, left-wing city officials don’t like putting down riots. They know that social justice enthusiasts like rioters are an important voting bloc in the Democratic Party. They don’t like interfering with the spontaneous outbreaks of redistribution –for example, the smash-and-grab appropriation of consumer electronics– that looters effectuate.

Is this hyperbole? After rioting started on Saturday, Mayor Rawlings-Blakeconsoled violent activists and even encouraged more rioting.

“I made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech,” the mayor said.

“It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate.” [emphasis added]

Radical left-wingers must be comforted knowing that Rawlings-Blake has their back.

And she isn’t some fringe figure among her fellow Democrats. She is currently secretary of the Democratic National Committee and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Her views are more or less mainstream in her party. The idea of leaving rioters alone is part of the Left’s catechism.

Marylander James Simpson, who chronicles the insanity of the Left, observesin a blistering column that the mayor is the author of her own misfortune. The mayor must be under the illusion that rioting is a constitutionally protected form of political speech.

He writes:

“Under orders, police held back and did nothing while rioters engaged in repeated acts of violence, including smashing car windows, destroying police cars and attacking individuals and private businesses … This was the mayor’s idea of respecting the rioters’ First Amendment rights.”

“Predictably, they took her encouragement as opportunity for even more violence and widespread looting,” Simpson writes. “The city is burning and the governor has declared a state of emergency. Now she is calling those very same people, thugs.”

Simpson is right. Rawlings-Blake did an unexpected about-face as the situation grew more grave in Baltimore. She suddenly labeled the rioters “thugs” and said they “only want to incite violence and destroy our city.”

Despite her epiphany, Rawlings-Blake “personifies the mindless, entitlement mentality that has ruined inner cities throughout the U.S. The wild, defiant and often violent behavior of criminals in this city is enabled and encouraged by an attitude always looking to blame someone else.”

Standing down the police in the face of civil unrest has become standard operating procedure for left-wing government officials.

After race riots erupted in cities across America following the April 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Washington, D.C. mayor Walter Washington refused to use force to restore order in his city. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and others pressed the mayor to authorize police to shoot looters on sight but Mayor Washington stubbornly refused to do his duty.

A strong argument can be made that Washington betrayed his constituents by failing to take necessary steps to restore order and protect human life and property. He wandered the streets and, in his own words, “urged angry young people to go home.” His outreach efforts may have caused some to drop their baseball bats, but by wimping out, Washington condemned large stretches of the nation’s capital to decades of purgatory. Some burnt out neighborhoods took 30 years to recover; some neighborhoods still haven’t.

Riots, of course, are nothing new for Baltimore.

The Pratt Street Riot of April 19, 1861 took place not too far from the current disturbances. The state song, “Maryland, My Maryland,” refers to “the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore,” which at least in the earliest days of the Civil War was a hotbed of Confederate sympathizers. Secession supporters and federal troops skirmished all day and in the end four soldiers and a dozen civilians lay dead.

This is the same Baltimore that leftist Martin O’Malley neglected when he was mayor from 1999 to 2007. O’Malley is the egomaniacal guitar-playing, bulging-biceped man who has carefully cultivated an image as one of the cool guys that you’d have to be a major-league grouch to dislike. Citing dubious figures, O’Malley claimed to be responsible for making big-time inroads on his city’s crime rates.

Now after spending eight long, truly awful tax-and-spend years in the governor’s mansion in Annapolis, O’Malley is considering challenging Hillary Clinton as she seeks the White House. Maryland lawyer Richard J. Douglas argues that O’Malley made a mess of Maryland.

“Taxpayers abandoned his state in droves during his tenure as governor, but that’s not dampening the presidential aspirations of Martin O’Malley,” writes Douglas. “In 2014, his final year in office as governor, Maryland had the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation. Now he wants to ride this embarrassing record to the White House.”

O’Malley won’t be able to become president if Americans manage to connect the current troubles in Baltimore to the failed left-wing ideas, including the shameless race-baiting, he embraces.

And so the suffering of the people of Baltimore may serve as a national civics lesson.

If Barack Obama and his ilk get their way, Baltimore may become a cautionary tale for the ages.