Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
How do you assess the depth and seriousness of a problem in any American city? It is when a major league baseball match is canceled, postponed or played with no spectators. This is what happened to Baltimore Orioles-Chicago White Sox game, which was scheduled in Baltimore. Now, what is happening in the beautiful American city of Baltimore? Isn’t it the biggest city in one of the richest American states? A quarter of the population in the city of Baltimore is employed in the science and health care sector, which reflects the high education standard of the city. Baltimore is the place of John Hopkins, one of the world’s best hospitals and universities. It is also the center of many sports facilities and many tourist attractions too. The city of Maryland is the closest major city to the most famous naval academy in the world. Also it is close to the place that American presidents spend their leisure time and meet other world’s leaders at Camp David. The city of Baltimore has a lot to offer and could be the next hub for the millions of international tourists visiting Washington D.C., which is only about 30 miles away. The inner harbor of Baltimore is a place where you would find any kind of recreational activities for all ages. With all these beautiful and income generating economic, sports, social, agricultural and industrial activities, the city of Baltimore ideally should have no social divide. But, ironically, there are some streets in which one heaves a huge sigh of relief by spotting a policeman or a police vehicle. Some of the streets are not hospitable, especially at night. But what had happened this time to trigger such violent protests? As per media reports, there had been a routine encounter between police and young men from the inner city. A young man had an eye contact with a policeman and he ran away. He was followed and was arrested because he had a switchblade in this possession. Few days after his arrest, he died due to an injury to his spine. This report apparently shook the city. Tensions ran so high that the state governor had to declare an emergency and the National Guard was called in. In the US, when the National Guard is called in during disturbances, then this means that it is the last resort to restore order. What ignited the riots? Is it the police brutality or the social divide? Many people think it is the social divide. The American people still did not forget what had happened in the city of St. Louis, Missouri. But, why did the city fail to close the gap of the ever-widening social divide? It is true that some police officials committed mistakes yet he American police force is considered the best trained, most disciplined, most professional and most equipped in the world. The American police force is actually faced with a very open and free society, which is usually more difficult to control. It is true that the police in America or any other place should not use excessive force, but many policemen and women are constantly facing threats that are very unpredictable. But, when there is rioting or protests, then there is no excuse whatsoever for anyone to destroy public property. We have seen the protests in Baltimore, many of the protesters are just protesting not for the sake of the dead man but for the sake of destruction and looting. The world is, however, watching how the Baltimore administration is handling the riots. It is very important for the American media to remain cautious while reporting about protests in other countries. We have seen many unfair reports in the American media about others. But, at the end of the day, there is a difference between protesting and rioting and destructions. And there are many lessons that not only Americans can learn from the chaos in Baltimore. The most important lesson is that no country is immune from unrest due to social divide among its people. Social equality, eradication of poverty, good education and respecting others is the only way to close the gap of social divide. Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. The Lessons of Baltimore reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.