Justice

The Maryland National Guard’s Facebook Fail

CREDIT: Screenshot from Facebook

The Maryland National Guard left Baltimore late Tuesday, as Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the state of emergency. Hours later, Maryland National Guard headquarters were using their presence in Baltimore as a recruiting tool.

In a Facebook post late Tuesday night, the Office of Maryland Army National Guard Recruiting said, “In April 2015, over 2,500 of your brothers, sisters, and neighbors were called to help restore calm in the city of Baltimore. Contact your local recruiter by downloading our new moble app at the App store.” The message was published several different times with different photos of the National Guard in the city, including the one below in which a row of mostly white National Guard members stand in a line staring across a railing at residents, many of whom are African American.

NationalGuardBaltimoreRecruit

CREDIT: Screenshot from Facebook

If the comments are any indication, the post doesn’t seem to have generated much positive recruitment buzz. Shares and comments on the post responded, “to suppress the constitution?” and “yuck,” reflecting a tone of hostility between the National Guard and residents of the city who were under a kind of police state since protests escalated over the death of Freddie Gray.

The posting came after a week in which some 1,700 troops descended on the city the morning after protests escalated to riots. In the week that followed, the scene remained much more peaceful, with spates of tear gas, smoke bombs, and arrests that seemed to mostly come from local police after the 10 p.m. curfew some nights.

But camouflage garb and military gear harkened back to scenes not just of militarization, but of Ferguson just months earlier, and left many residents feeling unsettled.

“When I see them come with tanks and blocking off areas of our neighborhood, I’m not going to listen to someone who does not live here,” activist David Blair told ThinkProgress. Blair is an advocacy co-leader for New Lens, a youth group that focuses on art and activism.

Others had a more positive impression of the National Guard’s presence, despite early hesitations. “They were sent in to do a job and I feel like they accomplished what they were sent in to do to the best of their ability,” said Reverend Michael Parker, who lives in Freddie Gray’s neighborhood and knew him as a child. “Considering all that was going on, I don’t think that their presence was unwanted or even unnecessary really.”