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Essay: Law & Order in Baltimore

The wrath of young black men rained down on the Baltimore police yesterday. Comfortable in our homes we watched and wondered how this could happen.
Image: Members of community hold hands in front of police officers in riot gear outside recently looted and burned CVS store in Baltimore
Members of the community hold hands in front of police officers in riot gear outside a recently looted and burned CVS store in Baltimore, Maryland, United States April 28, 2015. The day after rioters tore through Baltimore, the city's mayor was criticized on Tuesday for a slow police response to some of the worst U.S. urban unrest in years after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said he had called Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake repeatedly Monday but that she held off calling in the National Guard until three hours after violence first erupted. REUTERS/Jim BourgJIM BOURG / Reuters
/ Source: NBC News
Daquan Green, age 17, sits on the curb while riot police stand guard near the CVS pharmacy that was set on fire yesterday during rioting after the funeral of Freddie Gray, on April 28, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody.Andrew Burton / Getty Images

The wrath of young black men rained down on the Baltimore police yesterday. Stunning in its bold, reckless disregard for authority.

Comfortable in our homes and offices we watched and wondered how this could happen. There had been days of peaceful protests in this proud old place. A response to yet another story of a citizen whose life came to an untimely end at the hands of police.

Were the riots a response to this and other examples of police departments becoming a law unto themselves?

Not entirely. Those incidents are the matches that light the fires.

The burning. The looting. The rage. It's about young men who have little to gain and nothing to lose. Men who feel they have been dealt out of the American promise. There is a failure here. Of schools, of policies, of politics. Of promises unkept.

There is a lesson to be learned through the screams and the sirens. The problem isn't theirs. It's ours.

A protester stands on a stool by looted businesses on North Avenue and Fulton Street during a protest for the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 27 April 2015. Gray died of spinal cord injuries on 19 April while in police custody; the US Justice Department announced that they are launching their own investigation into the case.NOAH SCIALOM / EPA

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