Dystopian Dreams: Visual Overview of New York City Protests, Baltimore Military Occupation and Police Disinformation Tactics

New York City Protests in Solidarity with the Citizens of Baltimore After Maryland Police Murder Freddie Gray

Image of #NYC2Baltimore protests in support of #BaltimoreUprising.Walking in protest against the police murder of Freddie Gray. New York City, 29 April 2015.

This entry organizes a visual guide and overview for protests that occurred in New York City on April 29, 2015. Most images and text are drawn from various eyewitness accounts and cellphone photographs posted to Twitter in real-time. The information is chronologically ordered, with inclusion of explanatory text and links for further context.

The “dystopian dreams” mentioned in the title are coming true before our eyes. In terms of science fiction, this is a moment from which you may wish to begin your extrapolations. The images provide plenty of fodder for imagining a possible/probable future that begins now.

. . .

Image of #NYC2Baltimore protests in support of #BaltimoreUprising.A police line forms.

8:44 PM – 29 Apr 2015
Police line up on the West Side Highway #NYC2Baltimore #shutitdownNYC

8:46 PM – 29 Apr 2015
NYPD attacked a PEACEFUL protestor. This whole thing was peaceful until they started barricading us. #nyc2baltimore

9:16 PM – 29 Apr 2015
2000 having standoff with police on Spring and West Side Hwy. Arrests happening. #NYC2BALTIMORE

9:30 PM – 29 Apr 2015
#NYPD has undercovers in the protests. be careful #NYC2Baltimore

9:39 PM – 29 Apr 2015
Cops are out for blood, pushing people in the street and then arresting them for being in the street? #NYCStandsWithBaltimore #NYC2Baltimore

9:39 PM – 29 Apr 2015
citizens are not terrorists (so difficult to get these abstractions across to the NYPD) #nyc2baltimore #FreddieGray

9:51 PM – 29 Apr 2015
Two marches found each other in Times Square #NYC2Baltimore #NYCRiseUp #Baltimore

Image of #NYC2Baltimore protests in support of #BaltimoreUprising.
Groups of protestors converge on Times Square.

Real-time Disinformation Campaign

At around 9:50pm, a strange counter-narrative sprung up among some Twitter users. Police murder victim Freddie Gray was “suicidal” and was “trying to hurt himself” in the back of the police van, where he sustained injuries including a crushed trachea and nearly transected spinal cord.

Image of Balimore Resident Freddie Gray being dragged by police in handcuffs.The arrest of Freddie Gray, which would lead to his death.

This was apparently corroborated by a “fellow prisoner” in the back of the van. This “prisoner” could not see Freddie Gray, and could not be reached by journalists to confirm the comments — comments reported by police to the press on his behalf.

The counter-narrative also claimed that Freddie Gray’s nearly-severed spinal cord was the result of a previous injury, exacerbated as part of a “freak accident” while being arrested by police. This is also completely false according to all known evidence.

9:53 PM – 29 Apr 2015
New story now is that #FreddieGray broke his own back. Yep, just like the men who shot themselves in the head while cuffed. #NYC2Baltimore

10:23 PM – 29 Apr 2015 (@alt_scifi)
“The other prisoner” is a ghost.
Police are fully authorized to lie.
Read beyond the first paragraph.
#NYC2Baltimore

10:46 PM – 29 Apr 2015
Amazing, @jemillerwbal blew the WaPo rumor up—wait for it—six days ago, w/BPD confirmation. #BaltimoreUprising

In reference to:

8:41 PM – 23 Apr 2015
BPD Comm Anthony Batts says 2nd prisoner in van with Freddie Gray reports no erratic driving by van driver and Gray mostly quiet

Jayne Miller is an investigative reporter with WBAL-TV, a local Baltimore television station.

Note the similarity in police and media disinformation tactics as you’ll see regarding the “credible gang threat against police” further down in this entry. The problem isn’t “the media”; the problem is a sensationalistic mass media (for example, CNN) that distorts facts and panders to hysteria in order to amass more eyeballs for their advertising demographics.

10:23 PM – 29 Apr 2015
Another showdown at 42nd and 8th #nyc2baltimore #BaltimoreUprising

Image of #NYC2Baltimore protests in support of #BaltimoreUprising.Face-off between police and protestors. 42nd St. and 8th Ave.

10:52 PM – 29 Apr 2015
TONS of NYPD inexplicably a block away from largest group, guarding a Chase bank. #BaltimoreUprising NYC.

Image of #NYC2Baltimore protests in support of #BaltimoreUprising.Police stand guard, protecting a Chase bank branch near Times Square, New York City.

Meanwhile, Back in Baltimore…

11:18 PM – 29 Apr 2015
Baltimore. #FreddieGray #BaltimoreUprising

Military personnel carrying assault rifles, patrolling the streets of Baltimore, Maryland.Military personnel carrying assault rifles patrol the streets of Baltimore, Maryland.

On April 27th, 2015, CNN reported a “credible threat” that gangs were banding together to murder police officers:

Earlier Monday, Baltimore police said they had received a “credible threat” that gangs were teaming up to “take out” officers.

It did not say where the information came from, nor did it say whether the threat was tied to the recent death of Freddie Gray.

“The Baltimore Police Department/Criminal Intelligence Unit has received credible information that members of various gangs including the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods, and Crips have entered into a partnership to ‘take out’ law enforcement officers,” police said. “This is a credible threat.”

This is a variant (or rather, precedent) of the same disinformation tactic used in the “Freddie Gray was suicidal” story circulated on April 29th. Claim “credible evidence” from an unverifiable “anonymouse source”, all the while actually relying on a false appeal to authority. This authority-mongering is based on the idea that police are inherently good and never lie, while in fact, police are human and frequently lie when properly motivated.

The following tweet contains a link that completely debunks the “credible threat” disinformation gambit attempted by the police, dutifully repeated by the mass media., and believed by many.

11:18 PM – 29 Apr 2015
The Crips and Bloods in Baltimore demand justice for Freddy Gray #BaltimoreUprising #BlackLivesMatter

10:11 PM – 29 Apr 2015
This is a failed justice system in action. #BaltimoreUprising

Military personnel carrying assault rifles; armored personnel carriers patrolling the streets of Baltimore, Maryland.
Military personnel carrying assault rifles; armored personnel carriers patrolling the streets of Baltimore, Maryland.
Armored personnel carriers transport military personnel on the streets of Baltimore.

11:16 PM – 29 Apr 2015
Then VS Now.
#BaltimoreRiots
#BaltimoreUprising

Normal Rockwell cartoon, The Runaway, 1958. Neighborhood police officer gazes down paternalistically toward a wayward young boy at a local deli.
Parody of The Runaway. Replace 'neighborhood police officer' with 'riot police officer with M-16 assault rifle and gas mask.'
Left: Normal Rockwell cartoon, The Runaway, 1958.
Right: dystopian parody.

Despite the hype about this as a “racial” issue, the Freddie Gray murder is also a question of police tactics against citizens generally. Many of those who protested in New York were not black, and they were treated with excessive force according to firsthand accounts. Likewise, the repeated police attempts at media disinformation speak volumes about the nature of a dystopian society. If you can convince the people to turn against each other, they will be too distracted to focus on a corrupt, manipulative, coercive system.

Where will society go from here? Maybe our best science fiction can give us a few clues, and perhaps, inspire us toward better alternatives.

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