A Word of Caution for Those Who Throw Bricks at Firefighters

 

Baltimore_City_Fire_Department_With today being the 23rd anniversary of the start of the Rodney King Riot in Los Angeles, I was watching footage out of Baltimore and recalling that long-ago night when the world’s attention turned to the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues in South Los Angeles. As was the case in Los Angeles then, the city leaders in Baltimore this past week failed to see the signs of impending trouble that were clear to cops on the street. In both cities, the higher up the chain of command you looked, the more obtuseness you seemed to find. And in both cities, the mayors were complete failures when the crisis came. (Five years ago, I wrote on PJ Media about the failure of some LAPD managers – I refuse to call them “leaders” – to take charge and do what was necessary in those first early hours of the riot. You can find that piece here.)

There are many analogies to be drawn between the L.A. Riot and the one in Baltimore, but one that stands out in particular is the way firefighters in the two cities were treated by the mob. “If you wanted to be loved,” I was told as a young cop, “you should have joined the Fire Department.” As a general matter that saying is true, but not when the rioting starts, apparently.

Images from Baltimore of fire hoses being cut, and of fire engines being pelted with rocks, bricks, and bottles as they sped to a fire reminded me of what I saw in Los Angeles on the second or third night of the ‘92 riot. At the intersection of 108th and Main Streets in South Los Angeles, a fire station stands on one side of 108th and a police station stands on the other. As the rioting grew more intense — and as resources from beyond Los Angeles County were brought in to assist — 108th Street between Main and Broadway was blocked off to serve as a staging area for police cars and fire apparatus. (If you’re wondering, Broadway in South Los Angeles is nothing at all like Broadway in New York.)

As I walked the line of fire trucks and engines (did you know there’s a difference?) parked in neat rows in the street, I a saw there wasn’t a single one that didn’t have some kind of damage from having rocks or what have you thrown at it. I was most struck by a fire rig from Newport Beach with a windshield that must have been smashed with cinderblock. If you’re unfamiliar with Newport Beach, it’s an affluent city on the coast in Orange County, about 40 miles from Los Angeles. I suspect it’s a very pleasant place to be a firefighter. I imagined these guys sitting comfortably in their firehouse watching the news as large sections of Los Angeles went up in flames, when suddenly the bell rings and they’re told to get their gear on and head on up the freeway to the place they had just seen on television. And head on up they did, only to have some thug throw a cinderblock through their windshield when they got there. It’s a wonder none of them was killed.

But one firefighter nearly was. A few miles to the north, Scott Miller was driving an LAFD hook-and-ladder rig code-3 up Western Avenue when a car pulled alongside and an occupant opened fire with a handgun. Miller was hit in the face but somehow managed to keep the rig under control and bring it to a stop. (Miller made a remarkable recovery, and the man who shot him was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Doesn’t seem long enough, does it?)

What makes this targeting all the more perverse is that the hoodlums committing these acts are far more likely than others to need the services of these firefighters someday. As things return to normal in Baltimore, remember that it’s “normal” for people to shoot each other with some regularity there (Baltimore has the fifth-highest homicide rate in the country). The Baltimore Sun reported that four people in the city were shot on Tuesday and five more on Wednesday. At least two of the victims died. (I didn’t hear of any protests.)

Some might want to ponder these grim facts before heaving bricks at a passing fire engine. When it’s you lying in the gutter with a bullet in your belly, that firefighter might be the last man standing between you and the Grim Reaper.

Never send to know for whom the siren wails; it wails for thee.

Image Credit: “Baltimore City Fire Department ” by Baltimore Fire Department – http://www.baltimorecity.gov/Government/AgenciesDepartments/Fire.aspx. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Attacking firefighters is the express lane to Detroit.

    Oh, and any parent w/ a three-year-old boy knows the difference between a truck and an engine :-)

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @WardRobles

    Excellent point. I would go further and say that these riots are not protests, they are either mindless anarchy or an attack on our civilization itself. I happened to relocate from Glendale (an old suburb adjacent to LA) the day in 1992 the Rodney King verdict was announced. The rioters set fires in a regular grid pattern all over the City in order to overwhelm police and fire. Glendale police basically guarded the borders of their city and prevented any rioting from beginning. When the National Guard was finally deployed, the violence in LA came to an abrupt ending, as happens in all riots. The sooner civilization deploys overwhelming force, the sooner the violence and destruction stops. The Mayor of Baltimore is either stupid or on the wrong side.

    • #2
  3. user_45880 Member
    user_45880
    @Eiros

    The fire brigade in my town was not efficient for need of equipment. Usually we had to let the house that was on fire burn down and use the water to keep fire from spreading instead.

    I can’t even think of how someone could vandalize fire equipment. We had one pumper. No buildings in town were high enough to need ladders. But that pumper was all that kept whole town from burning up when house catch on fire, and all mechanics in town waited for chance to tune up her engines with pride. Younger boys, and girls if they wanted to, would wash and polish her every Saturday morning.

    It was not volunteer department, but maybe it was in sense that we had no professionals. All townsmen of able body and many women were fire fighters, so no volunteering. If you could swing axe, you fought fires. I don’t ever remember anyone questioning that.

    Maybe thugs on street would not be quick to throw bricks if they also ran into burning houses to save lives and breathe smoke for few hours.

    • #3
  4. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    Both articles are excellent reading and bring the reality into sharp focus. What struck me in the article posted on PJ Media was the simple fact that the only qualification required to become a victim of the mob in the LA riots was that you be a non-Black. To me, that clearly demonstrates the essential racism endemic in Black communities, not that I needed further proof, having taught in schools for more than 40 years with populations that ran from 100% Black in Bedford-Styvesant to more than 40% in Seattle Public schools.

    My experience was that no matter the degree of education or lack of it, the hatred of “Whitey” was covered by a very thin veneer, that the sense of victimhood was ever present, no matter how far one had risen up the socio-economic ladder. Given that, it isn’t at all surprising that any excuse, no matter how spurious, can be used as a justification for the kinds of insane behaviors which arise in Black inner-city neighborhoods. The act of a single individual, as occurred in Ferguson, becomes a reason for blanket condemnation of an entire police force and rioting in the streets as a form of “protest.”

    The riots are not protests. They are the upwelling of deep-seated hatred, resentment, and a misplaced sense of victimhood. They are an opportunity to express anger which is never that far below the surface.

    • #4
  5. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    As usual, Jack says it all and says it well. Thanks for posting.

    • #5
  6. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    My experience was that no matter the degree of education or lack of it, the hatred of “Whitey” was covered by a very thin veneer, that the sense of victimhood was ever present, no matter how far one had risen up the socio-economic ladder. Given that, it isn’t at all surprising that any excuse, no matter how spurious, can be used as a justification for the kinds of insane behaviors which arise in Black inner-city neighborhoods. The act of a single individual, as occurred in Ferguson, becomes a reason for blanket condemnation of an entire police force and rioting in the streets as a form of “protest.”

    The riots are not protests. They are the upwelling of deep-seated hatred, resentment, and a misplaced sense of victimhood. They are an opportunity to express anger which is never that far below the surface.

    Misplaced, yes, but that sounds accidental. “A systematically inculcated sense of victimhood and entitlement” might be better.

    • #6
  7. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    I heard or read (not sure the source) that some of the “rioters” had come to B’more from Ferguson. Has anyone else heard or seen anything on this? If this is true, what is being done to track down these people and question them?

    • #7
  8. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    “Misplaced, yes, but that sounds accidental. “A systematically inculcated sense of victimhood and entitlement” might be better.”

    I stand corrected. Thank you.

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @DougWatt

    Thanks Jack. I only had to wear a helmet three times. Although I’m no longer on the job it was difficult to watch what went on in Baltimore. I was well aware of the fact that the officers were given a stand down order.

    • #9
  10. Sisyphus Inactive
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    The regular explosion of violence is central to keeping the grief mongers in power. It means another generation where investors and business owners avoid brick and mortar commitments, and therefore jobs, in not just these venues, but many others with a similar profile. Of course, civilization, or at least the White House Correspondents Dinner, went on without a hitch. Our flow of celebrity selfies was completely unaffected. Yay.

    • #10

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