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There's another reason why Freddie Gray's Baltimore neighborhood is so angry

Demonstrators throw rocks at Baltimore police.

Riots erupted in Baltimore on Monday in the wake of alleged police brutality.

Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, suffered a spinal-cord injury while in police custody and died April 19.

Rioting and violence after Gray's funeral on Monday — much of it aimed at police officers, more than 15 of whom were injured — has to do with more than just Gray's case.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who grew up in the neighborhood that was just torn apart by looting and fires, wrote in The Atlantic: "Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution."

Vaughn De Vaughn, a local teacher, told The Baltimore Sun: "This is about anger and frustration and them not knowing how to express it."

Coates makes the point that "when nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con."

The Baltimore Sun revealed in an extensive investigation published in September that the city has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over police brutality lawsuits. The wording of the story's opening sentences seem like ominous foreshadowing today — the newspaper noted that "the perception that officers are violent can poison the relationship between residents and police."

Residents watch as protesters clash with police near Mondawmin Mall after Freddie Gray's funeral in Baltimore April 27, 2015.

Michael A. Fletcher wrote in The Washington Post that "it was only a matter of time before Baltimore exploded."

He continued: "In the more than three decades I have called this city home, Baltimore has been a combustible mix of poverty, crime, and hopelessness, uncomfortably juxtaposed against rich history, friendly people, venerable institutions and pockets of old-money affluence."

Protesters clash with police near Mondawmin Mall after Freddie Gray's funeral in Baltimore April 27, 2015

Fletcher also noted that Baltimore is not Ferguson in that its primary problems aren't racial. The massive gulf between the "haves" and "have-nots" seems to be the source of the tension.

Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham highlighted some striking facts from a recent Justice Policy Institute report about Gray's neighborhood in Baltimore.

Unemployment is sky-high, median household income is low, drug use is common, and most adults don't have a high-school diploma. The report notes that these "challenges" "contribute to a cycle of incarceration, poverty, and lost opportunity" for the community.

At the conclusion of his column, Fletcher wrote: "Now all of the pent up anger and bitterness has boiled over into the kind of rioting Baltimore has not seen since the 1968 uprising that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

Baltimore police officials said they arrested Gray "without force or incident" on April 12 after finding a switchblade knife on him. While in police custody, he suffered a "medical emergency" that severed his spine 80% at his neck, according to a statement from his family attorney, William "Billy" Murphy Jr.

It's still unclear exactly what happened to cause the injury.


This piece originally appeared in Business Insider.

Follow Pamela Engel on Twitter at @PamEngel12 and Business Insider at @BusinessInsider.

Posted in JPI in the News, Criminal Justice News

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