When Freddie Gray was arrested by Baltimore police two weeks ago for no lawful reason and then died of a broken neck and crushed windpipe sustained while in police custody, and no one was charged with a crime, the tone deaf leadership of Baltimore’s government ought to have anticipated the public reaction.
For generations the residents of inner-city Baltimore have grown dependent on the government. The government of that once great city and of the State of Maryland have kept large numbers of folks in Baltimore in near poverty by offering dependence in return for votes -- not personal or economic freedom, not even safety; just dependence.
That lamentable state of affairs has been looking for a tipping point; and in the unexplained death of Freddie Gray it found one. Many peacefully took to the streets to demand accountability by the government that promised it could take care of them. How did Freddie die? Who killed him? Why has no one been charged in his death? These are all legitimate questions that the government has been unwilling or unable to answer.
At a deeper level, even those dependent upon the government need to know whether a culture exists in the Baltimore Police Department where any cops could think that whatever they did to Freddie, that resulted in his death, could be acceptable in American society. How could they not have known that while in their custody his life and safety were legally in their hands? How is it possible that they may have administered some crude, legally undeserved, lethal, ad hoc punishment to him?
Watching all this unfold on set with my Fox News colleagues Megyn Kelly and Shepard Smith late last night, I was moved by the anger and distrust that so many decent folks in the inner-city appear to have for the city government. Watching also were apparently those whose political agendas are furthered by the wanton destruction caused by the mobs, and enabled by police who inexplicably must have been ordered to do nothing to stop the lawlessness. And the mobs must have been watching as well because the longer the police did nothing the more looting and burning we all witnessed.
The Constitution protects free speech, and even gives it breathing room. It protects hateful speech. It protects provocative speech. But it does not protect threats to innocent life and destruction of property in the name of free speech. Looting and rioting not only destroy dreams and property and ruin neighborhoods for generations, they impair the ability of those with legitimate concerns about the government to be heard.
Baltimore needs leadership that serves the people by protecting their lives, their rights, their freedoms, and their property. The people need to break their cycle of dependence. The cops who kill and the rioters who destroy need to be identified and prosecuted. And Freddie Gray needs to rest in peace.
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.