Civil Liberties

Selma and Baltimore



"We're not asking, we're demanding: Give us the vote!" says David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. in the Oscar-nominated Selma. The film celebrates King above all for his commitment to the practice of non-violent protest. He is repeatedly shown imploring his followers to "disturb the peace" but rejects the more radical tactics of people like Malcolm X.

Selma appeared on Amazon's instant streaming service in late April—just as chaos was unfolding in Baltimore. When Freddie Gray, a black 25-year-old, died of a spinal injury a week after being taken into police custody there, protesters flooded the streets, eventually becoming violent.

Throughout the protests-turned-riots, Gray's stepfather, Richard Shipley, like King before him, called for composure. "I was so hurt and ashamed that they were apparently attempting to use [violence] in the name of Freddie," he said. "Even though it was a tragic situation, we must protest and raise our voices in a peaceful manner."