For the second time in less than a year, an American city was transformed into a hypermilitarized police state to subdue growing resistance to anti-Black police violence.
Eight months ago, paramilitary forces barreled down the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, following the gruesome police killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown.
Last week, martial law was imposed on the people of Baltimore, Maryland, in yet another crackdown aimed at crushing the Black Lives Matter uprising, galvanized this time by the police murder of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man whose spinal cord was severed while in police custody.
It was an occupation in the truest sense of the term. However, for Baltimore’s poor Black neighborhoods, it was a hypermilitarized version of the lower intensity occupation they are subjected to on a regular basis.
Protests demanding justice for Gray had been largely peaceful, until heavy-handed police tactics against Baltimore high school students on 27 April incited a riot.
Some young people responded by throwing bottles and rocks at police, prompting comparisons to Palestine, where children often toss stones at Israeli occupation forces as a means of resistance and self-defense.
Windows of police cruisers were smashed, stores were looted and a CVS store was set ablaze, throwing white America into a panicked frenzy that seemed to prioritize broken windows over broken spines, as one activist put it.
Within hours of the riots, Baltimore city officials declared a state of emergency and instituted a 10pm curfew.
Practically overnight, Baltimore morphed into a heavily militarized police state with machine-like efficiency, demonstrating America’s frightening capacity to successfully implement martial law in a major US city in a matter of hours.
By Tuesday, 3,000 National Guard troops were deployed to Baltimore.
With assault rifles in hand, bored US soldiers in official military combat attire roamed the streets of downtown Baltimore, patrolling the National Aquarium, as well as the outlets of Forever 21, Cheesecake Factory and Barnes & Noble that dot the trendy and polished Inner Harbor.
Serious overkill at the #Baltimore harbor. The aquarium is safe!