Debating the Chaos–Is rioting ever acceptable?

By Adnan Hadzalic (Sophomore)

A man stands on top of a burning newspaper stand in San Francisco's Mission district  after the San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals in the World Series on October 29, 2014.
A man stands on top of a burning newspaper stand in San Francisco’s Mission district after the San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals in the World Series on October 29, 2014.

Riots have been the topic of conversation these pasts couple of days as the world looks at Baltimore, Maryland. The images of buildings and cars lit ablaze, windows being smashed, and stores being looted have made the world stand still and watch in awe as one of the great American cities went to war with itself. But there is one question on the minds of some of those watching. Why would they destroy their own community ?

This is a question that is thrown out every time peaceful protests turn violent. This violence spreads and the whole situation turns into a full on riot. Even those who stay passive and continue with their demonstration are engulfed by the chaos and are even vilified by the media and those watching, despite having no involvement with the rampage. Words such as criminals, animals, and thugs are used to describe anybody involved. But, it seems as though only a select few are demonized this way. History shows numerous riots that are similar to the ones in Baltimore that haven’t as nearly been covered by the media or given the same labels.

In 2014, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. After the game, fans took to the streets and proceeded to “destroy the city”, a term commonly used to describe the Baltimore riots. A total of 40 arrests were made that night, along with two shootings. Sgt. Monica MacDonald said that vandals broken the windows of five police vehicles and tagged four with graffiti. Bus services were quickly shut down after rioters climbed on top of buses, shattered windows and swung from power lines. Fires were burned and bystanders were hurt, but there was not an armored vehicle, rubber bullet, or canister of tear gas in sight.

This situation in San Francisco, which can very obviously be described as a riot, was covered nowhere near as much as Baltimore, or even Ferguson has been. And this isn’t an isolated incident. There have been many cases similar to this one that are just as bad, if not worse. Whether a team wins or losses, a similar outcome occurs.

In 2011, the Vancouver Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Nearly a hundred people had been arrested, 150 were injured, and 15 cars had been lit on fire, and nearly 50 businesses were vandalized. The damages caused by this were estimated to cost millions of dollars.

Just recently, Ohio State University won the NCAA football championship and nearly 90 fires were set by fans.

But, you don’t hear these people being called thugs or animals. You don’t see military grade weapons and vehicles being used against them. You don’t see massive amounts of people generalizing an entire area and calling for community leaders to step up. It seems as though, it doesn’t matter whether you start a riot and destroy property. What matters is who is doing it and why they are doing it.

When it’s a predominantly African American neighborhood that does it, they are seen as thugs that lack respect for authority and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, even though a large majority of the community is staying peaceful and are protesting brutality that has plagued them for generations. A whole community is branded like this and the message they are trying to send out is ignored and overshadowed, causing the same vicious cycle to repeat itself.

This piece was not written to vilify sports fans or sports culture. It is written to show a clear problem in our so called “modern society”. To show a clear hypocrisy in the way that our media paints situations of great complexity with broad strokes and how that feeds into our own ideals. The problem of looting and destruction of property should be dealt with very seriously, but thoroughly and without exception.

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