Differing Portrayals of Waco, Baltimore Spur Reflection, WTFs

Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The prevailing images of protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, over police killings of black men were of police in riot gear, handcuffed protesters, tear gas and mass arrests. The main images of a fatal gun battle between armed bikers and police in Waco, Texas, also showed mass arrests — carried out by nonchalant-looking officers sitting around calm bikers on cellphones.

The firefight in Waco is raising questions about perceptions and portrayals of crime in America, considering the vehement reaction that the earlier protests got from police, politicians and some members of the public.

Unlike in Ferguson and Baltimore, where protests went on for days, there was no live news coverage of the Waco shootout. And yet the incident at a Texas restaurant hasn’t been used as a bridge to discuss other issues about families, poverty and crime, media critics, columnists and civil rights activists say.

They complain that there appears to be little societal concern about the gunplay at a restaurant in Texas, whereas politicians — including President Barack Obama — described violent looters in Baltimore as “thugs,” and the media devoted hours of television and radio airtime to dissecting social ills that affect the black community.

On Twitter, #wacothugs and #whiteonwhitecrime were trending, with columnists around the nation debating the differences. “So the mainstream media refuses to talk (hashtag)WacoThugs, huh? No panel discussion on their childhood? Fatherless homes?” radio and TV commentator Roland Martin said on Facebook. The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates tweeted sarcastically, “Why won’t America’s biker gangs be more like Dr. Martin Luther King?”

The shootout at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco left nine people dead and 18 injured. About 170 bikers have been charged with engaging in organized crime, with bond at $1 million for each suspect. Mug shots show an array of suspects: white, Hispanic, a white woman and a man who looked black.

Police said the fight started because a vehicle rolled over a man’s foot. That caused a dispute that continued inside the restaurant, where fighting and then shooting began, before the violence spilled back outside, they said. Police said Wednesday about 1,000 weapons were recovered from the scene, but later revised that to 318 “and still counting,” including an AK-47 assault rifle, handguns, knives, brass knuckles, clubs and chains.

Officials said the nine dead were Bandidos and Cossacks members, ranging in age from 27 to 65. Preliminary autopsy results showed all nine were killed by gunshots. Police have acknowledged firing on armed bikers, but it was unclear how many of the dead were shot by gang members and how many were shot by officers.

There were no deaths during the Baltimore and Ferguson protests, yet people immediately stereotyped all of the protesters as criminals, said Nicole Lee, a human rights lawyer who worked with protesters in both cities.

“Nine people were killed in Waco, and yet you have not heard the level of disgust and dismay as you did over fires burning in Ferguson and in Baltimore,” Lee said. “One of the things the protesters always said was that while many of them disagreed with the property destruction, that you can rebuild property. But you can’t bring back people, and yet you’re not hearing an equal amount of disgust from the media and from people over what happened in Waco.”

Civil rights attorney Charles F. Coleman Jr. said only minority communities get blamed for violence, while no one blames white families or white communities for fatal violence by white men, characterizing such events instead as “isolated incidents.”

Coleman noted that protests, some violent, that flared up around the police killings of black men, most of which involved an overwhelmingly black crowd, were called “riots” while college and professional sports championship celebrations and losses that turned violent, most of which involved an overwhelmingly white crowd, are not.

“But when you look at Ferguson, or you look at a Baltimore, when you look at these sorts of incidents, we have a tendency vis-a-vis the media to actually question why it happened to the victim, and we go further and then we impute liability on the entire community and sort of do this systematic victim blaming of black America,” he said.

Texas Monthly’s Dan Solomon wrote Monday in a column that comparing Waco with Baltimore or Ferguson “was probably not an apples-to-apples situation.”

“But it’s nonetheless difficult to imagine that if a shoot-out involving dozens of young black men that ended with nearly 30 casualties had happened in a strip mall in Waco, it would be perceived as an isolated incident involving only the people who drew their guns — or that police would be chatting and friendly with people in the area in gang attire afterward,” Solomon wrote.

___

Jesse J. Holland covers race, ethnicity and demographics for The Associated Press. Contact him at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland

Latest News

Notable Replies

  1. Texas violence is kinda peaceful looking, isn’t it? Must be the Sharia Law down there.

  2. Well, of course. There were plenty of peacemakers on the scene:

    Police said Wednesday about 1,000 weapons were recovered from the scene, but later revised that to 318 “and still counting,” including an AK-47 assault rifle, handguns, knives, brass knuckles, clubs and chains.

    Another couple hundred firearms and those boys would have been baking pies together to sell for charity.

  3. You may be a felonious scumbag, but if you are a WHITE  felonious scumbag, you are still eligible for valet treatment by the cops. The nice thing about white privilege is that you never have to think about it (if you are white).

  4. Given the respect and deference the police are giving heavily armed bikers it could be argued that the black community has to be heavily armed as well.

  5. “Nine people were killed in Waco, and yet you have not heard the level of disgust and dismay as you did over fires burning in Ferguson and in Baltimore,” Lee said.

    Why would I be surprised, disgusted or dismayed if heavily-armed gang members killed each other?

Continue the discussion at forums.talkingpointsmemo.com

42 more replies

Participants

Avatar for gpparker Avatar for amherstma Avatar for mmurdoch Avatar for tweetivism Avatar for meri Avatar for ncsteve Avatar for liberaljesus Avatar for wombat Avatar for mrcomments Avatar for chuck_voellinger Avatar for sherlock1 Avatar for grandpoobah Avatar for taters Avatar for tecmage Avatar for gr Avatar for richardinsanjo Avatar for jeffrey Avatar for natedogg265 Avatar for twowolves Avatar for dickweed Avatar for ronbyers Avatar for pine Avatar for srumbalski Avatar for mlbx2

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: