Why were the strategies used by police leading up to a biker-gang battle in Waco and the recent unrest in Baltimore so different?
According to Citylab:
There’s been a swarm of criticism circulating about how media outlets have treated the biker gang shootout in Waco, Texas, over the weekend. The wacothugs stream on Twitter provides a comprehensive read of how bloggers and pundits have labeled the mostly white Bandidos and Cossacks biker-gang members compared with how they discussed those involved in the recent Ferguson and Baltimore conflagrations.
But while the media response might have been less than stellar, the law enforcement response was the real problem. Police were already on the scene in full force at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco before the biker gang fight broke —which resulted in nine people dead, 18 wounded, and over 170 arrested. According to local news station WFAA8, law enforcement officials had already been alerted that a war might break out between the gangs as early as May 1. That’s when the state’s Joint Information Center sent out a bulletin titled, “Tension between Bandidos OMG and Cossacks MC remains high in Texas.”
In Baltimore, police took an aggressive approach, treating a group of young students as a potentially violent mob, to be contained with a show of force. In Waco, police were in the presence of full-fledged, armed outlaw gangs, but were so deferential to the biker gangs that they even met with members ahead of time to try to negotiate peace. As WFAA8 reported:
According to the bulletin, law officers had been actively trying to reduce tensions between the two groups and had met with them about it. They had been cautioned about the “unwanted attention a potential war would bring to both groups,” the bulletin said.
The optics here would lead us to believe that the Baltimore students were given heavy-handed police treatment while the Waco gangs were handled with kid gloves because the former situation involved mostly African Americans, while the biker gangs were mostly white. That kind of disparate treatment only fuels the kind of charges of racism levied by those criticizing the media treatment of the two accounts.
One thing on that, though: The media has been criticized for not referring to the Waco gang shootout as a “riot,” as they referred to events in Baltimore and Ferguson. But perhaps they didn’t call what happened in Waco a riot because that’s not what it was. Martin Luther King defined riots as the “language of the unheard.” And riots, as we know them today, are typically characterized as a spontaneous, unorganized, response from civilians to a trigger—usually in response to a systemic problem. Recent examples of triggers have been policeharassment and brutality, which the U.S. Justice Department found evidence of in Ferguson, and is investigating in Baltimore now. Read more….