By Gerald V. Paul
“Baltimore is burning. Surprised? Nah. (See Baltimore Riots of 1968),” author Dalton Higgins posted on Facebook this week.
“For those who have never actually been in a riot scene, it must be really hard to understand. Having walked down Toronto’s Yonge Street in 1992 as a young man; of shootings of Black men by Toronto Police,” Higgins wrote.
The Associated Press reported that “rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos Monday, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing bricks at police hours after thousands mourned the man (Freddie Fray) who died from a severe injury he suffered in police custody.”
The unrest in Baltimore is over the mysterious death of Gray, whose fatal encounter with officers came amid the national debate in the U.S. over police use of force, especially when Black suspects are involved. Gray was African American.
Police have declined to specify the races of the officers involved in his arrest, all of whom are suspended with pay while they are under investigation. The initial arrest was captured on cell phone video.
Higgins, a leader in the Caribbean community, said he understands the reaction. “Rage is rage. The mistreatment of Black people in Toronto is appalling and it’s one of those festering boils that’s bound to erupt (those working on the ground know exactly what I’m talking about).
“Black Lives Matter – Toronto Coalition and the many groups of young freedom fighters working to address these matters didn’t ask for this.
“Just think for a second if there were no cameras to document these blatant miscarriages of justice,” Higgins added.
Among Higgins books is Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake, The Unofficial Story, about the singer born Aubrey Drake Graham. Considered Canada’s foremost expert on hip-hop culture, he noted he has been writing about unnecessary harassment and brutality since the mid 90’s while a student at York University, articles contained in Now magazine and The Source magazine archives.
In an older Facebook post, Higgins shared his experience with carding / racial profiling:
“I joined an exclusive club last week, whose membership has no privileges. City-TV’s Dwight Drummond and the Toronto Star’s Morgan Campbell apparently have close links to it.
“Ever heard of BJMFC (Black Journalists Mistaken for Criminals)? Well, neither have I but last Friday (July 9) at 4:30 a.m. and I’m taking a shortcut home up Winona after a Harbourfront concert. A police cruiser, 132B, pulls up behind me.
“The first question officer number one asks me is, ‘What are you doing here?’
“Uh, I’m going home.”
‘Do you live around here?’ I get asked twice … Police out of car: ‘Where were you born?’
“Er. Toronto Western Hospital … and so it goes.”
They proceeded to write him up in a contact card, he says.