An afternoon and night of intense rioting in Baltimore has changed the focus from Freddie Gray's death to the violence and chaos displayed in the last 24 hours. As the dust continues to settle, it's important to take a step back and remember the larger picture, not just relating to the police's handling of Gray's arrest but Baltimore's impoverished living environment, that has helped spawn such explosive rioting. It's easy to judge the rioters' actions from afar, but on Twitter, local residents describe what it's really like to live in Baltimore right now.
Long before Gray's death and the protests that followed, the 25-year-old's neighborhood, Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park, has been riddled with poverty, unemployment, and crime. According to the Justice Policy Institute's February 2015 report, the neighborhood's median household income is $24,000, more than 50 percent of the population (ages 16-64) are unemployed, and the violent crime rate is 23 per 1,000 residents. Knowing these circumstances, it's not difficult to see how an incident like Gray's death could easily set off an already troubled community.
Now that the national spotlight is fixed on Baltimore and people from all over are spouting their opinions on the rioting, it's easy to forget that for those who are actually living it, a heated collective discourse can only do so much. The environment was fraught to begin with and will continue to be long after the protests die down. But one glimmer of hope, as seen through the tweets of Baltimore residents, is how the violence has also strengthened a community's message of peace.