Baltimore Riots Explained: How To Start A Riot

Baltimore Riots – what’s going on? Remember when we reported that people were majorly unhappy about police related deaths of black men in America and were causing riots in protest?  Well, it just got a whole lot worse.


What’s The Story?


Freddie Gray was a 25 year old black American. On 12th April 2015 he was arrested in Baltimore, Maryland. One week after being arrested, he died from serious injuries to his spinal cord. We don’t know what caused these injuries. Now protests over his death have turned violent and Baltimore has declared a state of emergency.

As Scenes of Reason described this is not just happening in Baltimore

Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Oscar Grant III are just some of the many black males killed by white police officers throughout various states across America. Each of their deaths have triggered protests and in some cases, riots.

And it’s happened here in the UK as well. Remember the London riots in 2011?

29 year old Mark Duggan was shot by the cops. A peaceful protest turned riots spread across the city, and looting also occurred in other cities such as Manchester and Birmingham.




Riot Step 1: Use excessive force, arrest and or shoot people for an unclear reason


It’s not clear why Freddie Gray was chased by the police, and it’s also NOT KNOWN why he ran away from them.

In South Carolina earlier this year Walter Scott was shot in the back – he was originally pulled over for having a broken headlight on his car. Footage showed he was unarmed and running away.

Cleveland 2014: 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot within two seconds of police arriving. Police were responding to reports of a youth with a gun described as “probably fake”. It was a fake.

New York 2014: Mobile Phone footage captures the moment Eric Garner was put into choke hold by cops. Garner is heard to say “I can’t breathe” repeatedly. He later died in hospital.


Eric Garner is put into a choke-hold leading to protests similar to the Baltimore Riots

The moment Eric Garner was put into a chokehold. Like the Baltimore Riots, the aggression towards black males by the police has sparked protests


Missouri 2014: Despite being unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer.

California 2009: 22 year old Oscar Grant III was shot by a white police officer whilst being restrained by other officers.
Is it just about race? Is the problem the excessive force used by the police? Some people seem to think the two are linked.



Baltimore Riots Step 2: Get caught on camera doing something you shouldn’t


Baltimore Riots: It’s not known how Freddie Gray sustained the spinal injuries which lead to his death. Video footage shows Gray crying out in pain as he is put into the van by police. Investigators are still trying to work out what happened in the 45 minutes between Gray last being seen and his arrest.

In the cases of Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Oscar Grant III footage from mobile phones, CCTV and police dashboard cameras often contradicted the police’s official version of events:

Every time this happens it adds to a sense of growing anger at the authorities who are accused of corruption.



Riot Step 3: Protect your own and shift the blame


Baltimore Riots: 6 police officers HAVE been suspended…… but on full pay. The Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has said he won’t resign over the incident. I guess they don’t feel responsible then…

In the case of Eric Garner and Michael Brown the police officers involved were not charged.

Similarly in 2011 in the UK: the officers involved in the shooting of Mark Duggan (the incident said to have sparked the London riots) were not charged.





Baltimore Riots Step 4: Declare an emergency and mobilize the army

Tear Gas is unleashed on protesters

A protester kneels as tear gas is used on rioters in the Missouri and Baltimore Riots

Baltimore Riots: Over the weekend a protest demanding answers began peacefully then turned ugly. It’s not clear where the violence started but it continued yesterday: 34 people were arrested, and at least 15 police officers have been injured.

Baltimore has now declared a state of emergency. A week-long curfew has been announced and schools will remain closed today.

In the UK, 2011: More than 3,000 people were arrested. At various points the use of water cannons and rubber bullets were discussed.

It’s naive to think that the police aren’t going to enforce law and order. However bringing more troops in and enforcing curfews does tend to rile people.



Riot Step 5: Use the Media to divide people


Newspaper Headline: We'll shoot the looters

A UK newspaper shows how incidents such as the Baltimore Riots are spun by the press

Use newspapers and press conferences to spin your version of events.

Analysis has shown that the amount of coverage given to black suspects on New York TV stations was higher than the amount of black people actually arrested for those crimes.

South Carolina 2015: Before the release of the video showing the killing of Walter Scott the press reports accepted the facts in the police report.

London, 2011: The Media played a large part in the events of 2011. Duggan was initially reported to be armed, and involved in drug dealing and gang related violence. All these claims are now disputed.


Then when the riots broke the press went to town: “Rule of the Mob” (The Daily Telegraph), “Mob Rule” (The Independent), “Mobs rule as police surrenders the streets” (The Times) were some of the headlines. Very helpful…

Whilst it’s not cool to use someone’s death as an excuse to nick a TV it’s been argued that media coverage made the situations like the Baltimore Riots a whole lot worse.



Riot Step 6: Use technology to organise


Mobile phones have played a part in the Baltimore Riots

Phones and Social Media were used to record events which led to the riots in Baltimore and London

In many cases the use of cameras in mobile phones has been key to challenging the authorities version of events. In Missouri 2014, Social media was used to display anger. Many people filmed the police as an act of defiance.



Social Media is now becoming the norm when it comes to organising events. And riots are no different.



London 2011: The original peaceful protest over Mark Duggan’s death was organised via Facebook. Then the Hackney Carnival was cancelled after posts on Twitter indicated there would be violence.
But most importantly Blackberry Messenger was used to co-ordinate the riots. A post on Messenger shown to The Guardian newspaper encouraged people to start looting shops.



So there you have it: Six steps to cause a riot. We don’t think rioting is cool, but people are obviously unhappy about something…

How do we stop this from happening? It’s a question becoming more and more urgent. Scenes of Reason hopes the next post we get to write is “How to prevent a riot (peacefully)”


Things we still want to know:


What is the ratio of white /black men killed in the USA?

It is reported that the US has had the most ethnic minority riots historically. Why?


Let us know what you think below.