Oct 28, 2002
Hundreds of people showed up for memorial services and rallies in East Baltimore recently, and more than 2,000 people went to a funeral home to pay their respects to Angela and Carnell Dawson and five of her children. They had been burned to death in a fire set in retaliation for the parents' opposition to drug dealing in their neighborhood.
Angela Dawson had complained to the police repeatedly about drug dealing in her neighborhood and threats and harassment directed against her as a result of her confrontation with drug dealers. Months ago, Dawson had reported their next door neighbor to police as a drug dealer, but in a plea bargain with prosecutors he pled guilty only to illegal gun possession charges and was placed on probation.
He came back to harass the Dawsons, painting profanities on the outside of their house and slapping Mrs. Dawson when she tried to remove it. On October 2, Mrs. Dawson had been a witness against him in court concerning this incident.
The next morning, two Molotov cocktails were thrown through a window of the house and burned up the kitchen before the Dawsons succeeded in bringing the fire under control.
Fifteen days later, early in the morning, an associate of the drug dealer kicked in the door to the Dawsons' three-story row house, pouring gasoline throughout the first floor, and then setting the house on fire, killing everyone sleeping on the floors above.
In response to loud criticism from the neighborhood, police say they offered to move the Dawsons after the first attack.
What kind of offer was that? It would have left the neighborhood more under the control of drug dealers. Maybe the police don't care about that. But the Dawsons did. They refused, saying they wouldn't be driven out of their neighborhood.
If the Dawsons made any mistake it was to put their faith in the cops, who at best don't care, but too often are implicated in the drug trade.
Drugs won't be stopped in these neighborhoods unless people who oppose them band together to oppose them, including to protect themselves.