Pictures of a seemingly cool, calm, and collected police force casually interacting with members of biker gangs Bandidos and Cossacks, just minutes after fatal shootout have the country watching Waco, Texas in shock—but the better half in a state of contempt as such images serve as exemplary relics in the larger scheme of mass media representations and coverage of criminality and race.
The blogosphere is not attempting to ‘find racism’ as some might rather believe, but scrutinizing the bulk of Waco tragedy reports: eloquently rendered, data-heavy meanderings of an unusual, stint of biker rage. All that is seen are the simple, detailed logistics of last Sunday’s bloodbath—nine dead, eighteen severely injured, over 170 arrests, and roughly 100 confiscated weapons— which is the reason behind comparatively lower public outrage than other headlines informing Americans of recent crime; particularly, ongoing coverage of protests in Baltimore, which refrain from such objective means of storytelling. Deciding to adopt a primarily fact-based approach in relaying the unfortunate scene in Waco, media did something it hardly does for other incidents of violence. Is it so hard to imagine why?
Despite the staggering number of fatalities, measures to ensure public safety at Twin Peaks Restaurant where the shootout occurred seemed an afterthought considering the volume of law enforcement seen throughout Baltimore protests. For some reason, the National Guard was necessary in protecting the public and public property from unarmed protestors while hundreds of strapped biker-gang members were thought manageable with a mere 18-men strong police force. Officers remained sans riot gear and also refrained from restraining the mass via pepper balls, tasers, and tear gas. Bandidos and Cossacks sat pleasantly awaiting arrest on the sidewalk, texting and talking on cell phones. And even after notification of bikers’ plans to harm officers following the day’s arrests, police have yet to advance their methods of preventing further violence between the rival gangs.
If it still seems unfathomable that the unarmed or rock-toting participants of Baltimore’s riots and non-violent protests are less dangerous than about 200 armed, gang members riding Harley-Davidson’s, attribute such confusion to the way major news outlets choose to report crime, but most significantly, criminals. It is clear that the Waco shooting was more dangerous than any Baltimore protest or riot ever was and/or likely will be. However, the public is encouraged to don Baltimore protesters as ‘thugs,’ and ‘rebels,’ and those involved in Waco’s shootout as nothing but people who were a part of an unfortunate afternoon. If just a fraction of the same fact-driven impartiality is given to the Baltimore riots, we clearly see the biker gangs as something those gathering in memoriam of Freddie Gray are not: murderers. What criminalizes the protestors of Baltimore is not so much their actions, but their race, made obvious in the stark contrasts between its coverage and the actual extent of violent behavior. What more, the violence incurred by Baltimore protests is largely interpreted as pathological, further distancing the racial and political disparities for which they looked to raise awareness.