Politician: No Food Stamps For Protesters, Civil Rights Are Only For Rich People

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Tensions In Baltimore Continue To Simmer After Days Of Riots And Protests Over Death Of Freddie GrayThe city of Baltimore is a raw nerve right now, with years and years of political grief coming to a head in the city’s streets. A lot of people seem to think that if people of color just went home and asked nicely not to be murdered by police instead of protesting, everything would go a lot smoother–by which of course they mean that nothing would change, since the status quo is working out just fine for them as it is. But perhaps the finest example of a complete lack of understanding regarding cause and effect in Baltimore comes from a Maryland state delegate who thinks that all these protests would just melt away–if the families of kids caught protesting could lose their food stamps as punishment.

Based on the coverage in the Washington Post‘s story, State Delegate Patrick McDonough seems confused on a number of points here–first, the troubling suggestion that everyone involved in the protests is on food stamps in the first place; secondly, the idea that the constitutionally guaranteed right to public assembly is one that should be punished for its free exercise; and thirdly, the baffling belief that civil unquiet will just gently evaporate if you decide to inflict your own miniature version of the Hunger Games on a swath of the city. No, I can’t imagine how anyone would want to continue protesting when you decide families with children in need should go hungry for a month because one member was engaged in constitutionally-sanctioned activities! Terrific plan!

McDonough seems well aware that his proposal is too far out to pass through the legislature (he acknowledges that depriving families of food for a month seems “a little bit harsh”–gosh, do you think so?). But even if this plan doesn’t have a shot at being implemented, it’s worth probing the sentiments motivating it. McDonough’s argument for revoking food stamps for the families of protesters is based on his feeling that the people out in the Baltimore streets are doing so because of, in his words, “a failure to do proper parenting”. Bad parenting is the latest in a long list of things that have been blamed for the events in Baltimore, along with absentee fathers, failing public schools, marriage equality (what?), and of course, President Obama. The figure strangely missing from all these calculations of who and what is responsible? The history of violence from the city’s police force. The righteous anger of the people of Baltimore over what happened to Freddie Gray and others like him isn’t happening because they missed out on ‘proper parenting’, however that’s defined in McDonough’s myopic view–it’s because they’re paying attention.

(Image: Andrew Burton / Staff / Getty)