Riots in Baltimore

Fierce rioting broke out on Monday in the US city of Baltimore after the funeral of the young African-American Freddie Gray, who died of injuries he apparently suffered in police custody. Commentators write that inequality and hopelessness are generating violence in the US, but praise the resulting debate on racism and discrimination.

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Sme (SK) /

Rebellion of the hopeless

The riots in Baltimore were sparked by the death of a young black man, but the underlying causes are inequality and hopelessness, the liberal daily Sme comments: "The clashes have their roots in the American system that serves very few people at the expense of many. Originally Baltimore was a predominantly white industrial city that focused on shipbuilding, steel and cars, and also offered good pay for less qualified workers. Today poorly-paid jobs in the service sector dominate. Half the people in the black neighbourhoods live below the poverty line. The violence there is four times as high as the American average. ... The rebellion of the hopeless is not aimed at the police or the whites as such. Rather, it targets the system that creates an inequality from which there is practically no escape."

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Obama made racism debate possible

Police brutality against blacks has been the subject of public debate in the US for months now. It is Barack Obama who has made this debate possible in the first place, the state-run daily Wiener Zeitung comments: "When in 2012 an unarmed teenager named Trayvon Martin was shot dead in Florida, Obama said: 'If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.' Less than a month ago, in Selma, Alabama, he recalled the civil rights marches of 50 years ago. … 'Our march is not yet ended, but we're getting closer', he said back then. It's no coincidence that all the police brutality and injustices against blacks are now the subject of a broad debate. Obama has created the space for this kind of debate. … In many hearts the hope is burning that nothing will ever be the same again for African-Americans after Obama's presidency."

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Immature US state provokes violence

An over-aggressive state authority which has its roots in the history of the US is one of the causes for the violence in Baltimore, the liberal business daily Handelsblatt argues: "State authority was very loosely defined and seldom applied [after the country's colonisation]. If it was evoked at all, then only in very serious cases: murder, epidemics, war. As a result the actions of the police, the mayors or the president were correspondingly direct and stringent, and great value was placed on the idea of deterrence. … This tradition explains the immaturity of the state institutions. They are less developed than in Europe. … The American understanding of the state is chaotic because it is an ad hoc concept which is still being tried out, rejected and revised. The process is a lengthy one and is trying the patience of both the observers and those directly affected. But if you take a look at the racism that was prevalent in the US right up to the 1960s, you'll see: America will do it better in the end."