Sunday, May 3, 2015

Do the right thing?

"As parents we wanted Allen to do the right thing," stated Bobbi Smallwood.

A nation watched on April 27 2015 as what had begun as another day of peaceful demonstrations grew into a violent night of wild destruction.  There have been various theories as to why the day progressed the way it did and they may well figure that question out in the not too distant future.  What is known is that by the next day, Allen Bullock's picture was known world wide as a symbol of what happened that day.

The riots had turned ugly on April 25th when a group that had been protesting the death of Freddie Gray turned violent outside the Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards that evening.  People who were inside watching the game were delayed in leaving because of the rioting.  Bullock was photographed there smashing a police cruiser with a traffic cone and his picture ended up on the front page of the Baltimore Sun the next day.

His mother Bobbi and stepfather Maurice Hawkins, 44, had told Allen that the police would find him, knock down the door and beat him if he did not do the right thing and turn himself in.  They felt that he was dead wrong in what he did and needed to be punished but not as severely as the charges will face in court.   Allen did turn himself into the police and now his parents are very upset and publicly stating that they wish they had not.

Allen is facing eight charges which include rioting and malicious destruction of property as well as a bond of $500,000 which is why his parents have changed their minds.  They feel that he has been singled out and made an example of with a bail that high.  I would almost jump on that boat as well since about half of those arrested between Saturday and Monday have been released on their own recognizance and most of the remaining are facing bail of about $10,000.  I can not back the pleas for softer treatment of Bullock though after reading more of the evidence.

It has been stated on the site begging for donations to raise Bullock's bail money that he was so angry about the lack of information that had been released about the death of Freddie Gray that he broke the windows on the police car.  He was caught on film as well as in stills smashing away at the car with a friend who his parents now refuse to name since he has not been charged yet.  The most serious charge bullock faces is the inciting a riot charge which his parents and supporters claim is false.  What you can readily see though is that the pair is surrounded by onlookers who did not join in on the destruction.

Bullock may have been angry but he had no reason to lead the charge in destroying the police car.  In fact, he had no business getting in any legal trouble at that time.  Bullock was already on probation at the for juvenile convictions that included fighting and theft, so he was breaking his probation conditions just by breaking the law.  I do understand where they could find a charge of inciting a riot because he is the primary person to smash the car and by doing so, he was either showing off to the surrounding crowd or trying to get some of them to join in.  I would be much more sympathetic if he had been grabbed by the police out of a crowd of hundreds and arrested for just being there.

Other sites tell the tale of how both of his parents have had their own arrests, his mother on prostitution charges in 2003 and the lack of jobs available to blacks in Baltimore.  Bullock isn't one of those poor downtrodden,never going to have a chance young men though.  He was on probation for juvenile arrests but he had caught some pretty significant breaks as well.

 He was living with a cousin in East Baltimore and was earning $15,600 a year working in sanitation for the city in a program for juveniles on probation.  He had graduated middle school in 2012 and had attended night school once in an attempt to get his GED but left that after he failed to graduate.  His parents also stated that he was running his own successful car detailing business and was making anywhere from $900 to $3,000 a month depending on business.

If that figure is just roughly rounded off, he could have been making an additional $10,000 a year which also could have been tax free if he had not been claiming on his tax form.  That means that the he could have been bringing in roughly $25,600 a year which many adults would state is a fair wage for a years work.  The estimated poverty level wages for a single adult is $11, 670 in the US so without counting his side business pay, Bullock was already above that bare minimum.  He is making with just the one job, what anyone else working a minimum wage job, full time for a year would make.

Then take into account the additional pictures and postings that Allen had made.  Bullock posted a picture of him smashing the police car on his own Facebook page as well as pictures circulating of him wearing a police officers hat.  He does not make any attempt to link the pictures and comments to the death of Freddie Gray or the unfair treatment alleged of the police in general.

His parents are concerned that he may not receive the medications he needs to treat his ADHD while he is in jail as well as the possibility that he will lose his job.  Bullock has gotten breaks from the legal system and was set up in a job opportunity that could have left him with a fairly decent paying career job.  He chose to not only be down there for the protests but also to jump on a police car and start bashing it.  He can not claim that he was swept up in the crowd choices because he was performing for the crowd.

Unfortunately, now he faces eight charges in adult court, one of which could have him facing life but will most likely end up with 4 to 8 years in jail.  He is being made an example of but then, there are many more that joined into the destruction of their own neighborhoods, businesses and property over those few days.  Bullock's friend will be arrested as well as the police in Ferguson MO have shown.  They will take their time and round up more of the vandals who acted like thugs and they will be charged.  Allen did do the right thing in the end but the right thing should have been to not destroy a police cruiser in the first place.

Welcome to the world of adults Allen Bullock......... there are all kinds of choices and there are also consequences for those choices, good or bad.  May this be a lesson that many can learn from.  You have free speech but you do not have the right to destroy.

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Update May 12 2015:

Allen Bullock has been released on the $500,000 bond that he had been held with after he turned himself in.  His mother stated that they had raised the funds for his bail through friends as well as over $8,000 that had been raised on a fundraising site.  She added that they are still trying to get his bail lowered and complained that he was being held on a higher bail than any of the police officers that have been charged with Gray's death.  None of those officers though have a previous criminal history and they had not broken parole as Bullock had done.

While they do state that he broke the law and he needs to be punished for it, they continue to state that he has been unfairly targeted with the high bond.  He did do the right thing in turning himself in but it can be easily seen that he had no mob helping him destroy the police cars.  The pictures from the scene show hundreds standing around and watching him flail away with a traffic cone.  The excuse that he was acting out on his emotions doesn't float well.  He is 18 with a record and had been given a huge chance already by his placement in the job he had.  Maybe with the high bond he has, he will learn to control those emotions a lot better now.

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