One of the twisted things about the two-days-and-counting Baltimore lockdown is that this city is now probably a safer place to be a black person than it is during a normal day. Reporters are everywhere, every incident brings another question for beleaguered Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and still-in-rehearsal Governor Larry Hogan, and angry citizens are marching, shouting, and issuing demands with the strength of numbers. Contrast that with any normal day, when being poor and black and beaten by Baltimore Police happens in the privacy of any given alley or squad car, and is newsworthy only to those to whom it happens.
The normal Baltimore Police routine of jacking up black folks with impunity and anonymity will have to wait until the media crowds go back home. Right now there is a script to be followed.
With that in mind, here are my margin notes on the first section of a Baltimore Sun story that ran online in the early hours of Thursday. The indented gray text is the Sun. The flush-left blue text is mine.
As masses of mostly peaceful demonstrators marched on City Hall, officials on Wednesday began their own offensive to prevent violence from flaring again Friday, when police are expected to turn their investigation into the death of Freddie Gray over to prosecutors.
This was PR damage control for the mayor's and police commissioner's powerlessness to stem the BPD's long-standing culture of brutality in poor black communities, which is what caused the uprising in the first place, and for the sheer ineptness of the mayor in trying to display both her own caring and the city's progress in the Freddie Gray case.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and others tried to tamp down mistaken expectations that the public will be told Friday how Gray, 25, suffered a severed spinal cord and crushed voicebox while in police custody.
The city succeeded in letting us all know that an investigation would report its findings on Friday -- but not in making people aware that they might remain secret. There are good prosecutorial reasons for keeping such information under wraps. But my guess is that during the explosive onset of the uprising the city talked up the coming report to try to quell rage without thinking much about how secrecy might play out later.
On a relatively subdued day, when the Orioles resumed play but in an empty Camden Yards and police and National Guard troops remained in force on city streets, city officials and lawyers for Gray's family worked to explain what to expect in the coming days.
The absurdity of a major-league baseball contest played out in a completely empty stadium is like something from a dystopian novel about a post-apocalyptic city that has outlawed the word "irony."
They stressed that the police findings would not be released to the public, and State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby would not announce whether she would file criminal charges against the officers involved in the arrest.
Can't blame the State's Attorney for this one.
"People misunderstood [Friday] to mean something else," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said outside New Shiloh Baptist Church, where she met privately with Gray family lawyers and community leaders to discuss how to prepare for what Friday might bring.
"Misunderstood" is one word for it. What is saddest here is that the Gray family is caught in a public drama that goes against their wishes but that has become much bigger than their loved one.
Attorney Hassan Murphy said Gray's relatives are "all terribly concerned" that those expecting a major break in the case could allow their disappointment to explode in anger.
At this point, I doubt that even the family's heartbreak over these events will sway the public here. When the uprising subsides it will not be because the family requested it.
"We don't want a repeat of Monday," Murphy said, when gangs of mostly young people rioted, looted businesses and set fires.
Problem is, some people do, and the accrued community anger goes back decades.
For the rest of the Sun story, including what Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Hillary Clinton, and tone-deaf Maryland Governor Hogan had to say ("We want things to get back to normal"), go here.