The Beat, like everywhere else, is trying to figure out how to do what we do right now to be useful—especially because as of late we’ve doing events such as co-presenting Real Talk Tho discussions or presenting with Baltimore Legal Hackers and that can’t happen right now. So we’ve begun a sort of catch-all column where Baltimoreans (and us) discuss some under-discussed elements of COVID-19.
Readers, we thought hard about how to frame this one. Usually, we let Larry Cohen’s expressive and witty photos just speak for themselves but covering the “Reopen America” demonstrations or protests or whatever these things are in Annapolis on Saturday, April 18, demands a little framing. Mostly because this is an extremely fringe group of people and a small number of them and, as Jaisal Noor at The Real News Network observed, there’s plenty of evidence these kinds of protests are being pushed—and funded—by a bunch of rich right-wingers.
“The protest had been tied to Michigan’s DeVos family, billionaires who are leading Republican donors and activists. The DeVos family includes Erik Prince, Founder of Blackwater, and Betsy DeVos, the heiress who serves as Donald Trump’s Education Secretary,” Noor said. “The DeVos family’s also a leading member of the Koch Donor Network who bankroll conservative causes and it turns out who are major backers of the supposedly Grassroots Tea Party Movement, which called for less government and lower taxes.”
So that’s something to consider when you see these aggrieved folks in their F350s demanding the country open back up so that they can get a haircut or a Venti Mocha Frappuccino with extra whip. Why is it news at all? Well, it happened and me and Baltimore Beat editor-in-chief Lisa Snowden-McCray think that while it doesn’t represent anything resembling a “movement”—especially again, because this is being contrived by billionaires—it is news. Local news. And for Lisa, it really resonated because she grew up not far from Annapolis and is all too familiar with this kind of privileged white rage.
“It’s hard to know what is real when everything seems surreal. The spectacle that happened in my hometown isn’t much different than the spectacle of Donald Trump’s press conferences,” she told me. “What was real was the white entitlement, the white rage, and disregard for Black and brown lives. The protest that happened in Annapolis wouldn’t have happened if the protesters were Black. Black people are the ones who are dying by larger numbers from this virus. Not necessarily because we have been more cavalier with the warnings set out by Governor Larry Hogan but because we are often the ones working in the service industry. We are the ones who staff grocery stores and deliver food and work in nursing homes and hospitals.”
That this happened—that these people were gathering in protest of nothing real during an nationwide emergency—nearly five years to the day that Freddie Gray died in police custody kicking off protests that were treated like a national emergency is disappointing but not surprising, Lisa told me: “Whether we are talking about Freddie Gray, who was, after all, just walking when Baltimore Police began chasing him on that April morning, or a deadly disease that is ravaging the globe— we are reminded constantly that Black lives don’t matter,” she said.
With all that said, here are some photos by Larry Cohen of Saturday’s Reopen Maryland protest in Annapolis.