There has been and will probably always be plenty of "looking back" sorts of pieces about the Baltimore Uprising, which happened around this time two years ago. At some point or another, at least two different people or crews have been wandering around asking questions, shooting footage, making some big ponderous documentary about it and what it all meant. For me though, more than City Paper's own literary coverage of the protests and day of rioting, and more than the Baltimore Sun's dogged consistent coverage, the uprising is best captured in this short video put together by grassroots collective Baltimore Bloc—"The Baltimore Uprising - Part 1."
The video, which was made in late May of 2015, about a month after the uprising, features footage shot between April 18 and April 23, 2015, from the small homegrown protests for Gray while he was still alive, to the growing crowds (and media coverage) that seemed to really begin on April 21, just two days after Gray's death. Set to Fela Kuti's 'Unnecessary Begging,' off 1976's album of the same name.
Among the many things you'll see in this short is James MacArthur, aka the Baltimore Spectator, getting arrested for seemingly just standing there and then, not long after he was released, rushing into a burning building nearby, putting out a fire and helping a family to safety. Also, the BPD officer who has MacArthur arrested is Lt. Charles Thompson, who was also responsible for leading the mass arrests at #AFROMATION in 2016, and at a Blue Lives Matter protest in May of 2015, he threatened myself and CP photographer Reginald Thomas II with arrest for standing on the lawn of City Hall without permission (last year, CP also gave Thompson an award for his shenanigans as "Best Bucking the Trend").
There are plenty of other characters spotted in this footage including, Pastor Westley West, a controversial figure even during the early days of the protests where he seemingly had a group of dedicated youths with him but also got a side-eye from seasoned activists; Meech Tucker, who is seen in the early seconds of the video walking ahead of a march shouting, "If we don't get no justice, they don't get no peace"; lots of dirtbikers who often rallied the marchers together—and have since endured an intense and extended crackdown by the BPD; PFK Boom, impassioned activist and organizer and semi-viral star for schooling Pastor Jamal Bryant last year; and Abdul Salaam, activist, organizer, and focus of a recent New York Times story due to the civil trial he won against the BPD tied to an arrest he endured in July 2013. I could go on.
More than any fancy documentary or thinkpiece or panel—these six minutes give you a sense of what the Baltimore Uprising was really like.