David Simon is synonymous with Baltimore. The native son and former Baltimore Sun journalist drew nuanced portraits of the city, its problems and its people in the book that inspired NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Streets,” and as the creator/exec producer of HBO’s “The Corner” and “The Wire.”
So it was no surprise that Simon would weigh in with a post on his blog, the Audacity of Despair, after Baltimore erupted with rioting. The unrest came on the heels of Monday’s funeral for 25-year-old Freddie Gray, an African-American who died April 19 while in police custody from a spinal cord injury. Baltimore was a tinder box as Gray added to the string of deaths of black men in recent months at the hands of police.
The violence in the streets began with rock- and bottle-throwing at police over the weekend and accelerated into fires, looting and deeper destruction after Gray’s funeral. As of Tuesday morning, 15 police officers had been injured — six of them seriously — and at least two people had been injured by gunshots in incidents not involving police, according to the New York Times.
In his post titled “Baltimore,” Simon acknowledged the injustice of Gray’s death but urged rioters to put down their bricks.
But now — in this moment — the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease. There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today. But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.
If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore. Turn around. Go home. Please.
As of Tuesday morning, the post had generated more than 400 comments. Simon appears to have spent a sleepless night engaging with many of the responses, with a steady stream of replies posted from Monday night through the wee hours and into Tuesday morning.
The discussion mostly focused on Baltimore and police brutality concerns, but veered off at times — as conversations at 3 a.m. often do — into Israeli-Arab politics, Netanyahu’s Palestinian policies, the legacy of nonviolent protest and Simon’s inability to write poetry, among other topics.
One commenter actually suggested bringing back segregation to ease racial tension. To which Simon replied: “You f—— bring it back. I don’t want to live around white people with opinions like the one you just offered.”
Some of the back-and-forth was contentious, as Internet conversations often are. A few accused Simon of hypocrisy and profiting by exploiting Baltimore’s ills in his books and TV shows. A commenter identified as “Ricardo” called him a “hypo libo.” Which brought this reply from Simon, at 12: 11 a.m. ET:
Ricardo, brother. Things you don’t know:
1. What I do with my money.
2. What causes I support.
3. Where I live.
4. What and who I care about, personally.
5. What I commit my resources to in hopes of change.
Things I am now certain about you:
1. Your substantive arguments being weak, you’ve reached for gutless, ass-ignorant ad hominem. It is too exhausting for me to argue ideas, so maybe I can shut up my adversary by categorizing him quickly, stupidly, and without a fact in hand other than my own imagined stereotypes.
2. Alone so far this evening, you’re not worth any more typing.