COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - As questions arise as to why the peaceful protests over Freddie Gray's death suddenly devolved into all out violence, we turned to a local expert for answers.
We spoke with Dr. Nicholas Easton, an assistant professor in Columbus State University's Department of Political Science, who says that these incidents can almost always be linked to poverty and that until that is addressed, these incidents will keep happening.
"We have to look at the root causes, and the root causes are always poverty," Dr. Easton said. "Until we start making job opportunities available, until we start addressing the conditions in some of our inner city communities, we can't expect to address the issues in those communities. The concerns we have with lawlessness, looting, all of the things we're facing today are just going to be a natural result of those kinds of conditions in some ways. It's just a tinder box waiting for a spark."
We also asked him about the importance of nurturing good relationships between police and communities.
"I'm not sure it's still possible to nurture good relationships if there isn't enough commonality of the people, enough ongoing relationships between the people," he said. "I think one of the big problems we need to face and will be facing over the years is the idea that our police departments have become too estranged from the communities. They're no longer a part of the community, they rarely come from the community, and with the racial nature of community divisions now, that only exacerbates the problem. It's going to be difficult to deal with under the circumstances."
Lastly, we asked for his thoughts on protesters who say their problems haven't been heard in the past and are lashing out.
"[Looting] isn't of course the best way to get your message across, but sometimes it looks like the only way," Dr. Easton explained. "We can't put ourselves in the minds of the people that are rioting and say 'why don't they look at their choices more carefully?' People don't look at their choices very carefully, they look at what they see as opportunities. This is certainly the wrong way to go about it but one has to have some sympathy for the frustration of the black community with this ongoing set of reports we've gotten about police brutality towards black youth. There's a general knowledge that this has been going on for years and the frustration with some of these, kids in particular, is nothing's going to get done about it, and we can understand that to some extent."