White Privilege on Display in Post-Super Bowl Riots

"You can riot if you're white and your team wins, but if you're Black and being killed, you can't speak out," said Hawk Newsome, president of BLM in New York.

REUTERS

Following the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl win over the weekend, die-hard fans took to the streets of Philly to celebrate — leaving in their path a whirlwind of violence and destruction, as well as a question of racial inequality.


Looting, property damage, fires and injuries dominated the riots. Philly.com reported:

"Just before 12:30 a.m., revelers smashed a display window at the Macy's department store across from City Hall, and looters burst into a Sunoco APlus convenience store at Broad and Catharine Streets, grabbing merchandise and screaming, 'Everything is free.'

"Fans clambered up light poles, despite the city's best efforts to keep them off by slathering the fixtures in hydraulic fluid. And by the end of the night, nearly all of the light poles on the east side of City Hall had been toppled.

"Even before that, rowdy fans had flipped a car parked outside the Hyatt at the Bellevue, and officers were called in after three people fell from light poles and lost consciousness at Broad and Arch Streets. The awning of the Ritz-Carlton hotel across from City Hall collapsed under the weight of people seeking a bird's eye view of the crowds."

Despite videos posted all over social media depicting absolute chaos and damage, as well as reports of patrons attacking police officers, a representative for the mayor's office reported there were only three arrests.

According to Philly.com, the event "was a largely peaceful affair," adding, "Officers hung back and let the public jubilation play out, stepping in only to avert the most unruly behavior and to prevent the beer-fueled masses from injuring themselves."

This left some people scratching their heads.

"Somehow, it seems there's a line drawn in the sand where destruction of property because of a sports victory is okay and acceptable in America," Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of New York, said in an interview with Newsweek. "However, if you have people who are fighting for their most basic human right, the right to live, they will be condemned."

Notably, a tweet from a Philadelphia police sergeant garnered some attention: Sgt. Brian Geer said simply that "if everyone would go home that would be great. We have to get some rest to start planning a parade in the morning."

Meanwhile, in sharp contrast, the riots in Baltimore, Md., following the death of Freddie Gray after sustaining a spinal cord injury while in police custody were handled — and criticized — much differently. As DiversityInc reported at the time of Gray's funeral in April 2015:

"Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in Baltimore and called out the National Guard; up to 5,000 officers will be available. A weeklong daily curfew has been instated, beginning Tuesday, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. New Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would send Justice Department officials this week."

The Baltimore Sun reported that over 200 arrests were made during the riots.

Newsome also drew parallels between Sunday night and what took place in Baltimore.

"You could feel the tension in the air," he described, having been present in Baltimore at the time.

Baltimore officials had reason to expect chaos in the city, as riots and looting swept the city following the initial news of Gray's death. But Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation of their own, one not lost on city officials — as demonstrated, for instance, by the city's need to attempt to keep fans from climbing light poles.

"You can riot if you're white and your team wins, but if you're Black and being killed, you can't speak out," Newsome said.

BLM of Philly said in a statement:

"It is nothing new to us that hordes of predominantly white fans setting fires, flipping over cars, and destroying property are viewed as 'rowdy' and engaged by police in a non-threatening manner, while crowds of predominantly black and brown people blocking traffic, or even holding candle light vigils to protest state violence against black and brown people are met with scores of hostile police and viewed as 'violent.'"

Twitter users also noted the different responses depending on who is doing the protesting — including Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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