Twitter Rants! Celebrities Slam Baltimore’s ‘Police Brutality’

Thank goodness the celebrities have spoken!

In volatile, uncertain moments like the rioting in Baltimore, most people inevitably say to themselves, “I wonder what that guy from Grey’s Anatomy thinks of all this” or, “I bet my favorite hip hop star has a thoughtful take on what’s happening.” 

Well, no, they don’t. But that rarely stops celebrities from sharing anyway.

Since 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s funeral on April 27, certain celebrities have taken to Twitter to sympathize with the rioters. From Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy) and Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl) to hip hop artist Talib Kweli Greene, big names are blaming “police brutality” and “oppression” for the riots – to their collective audience of millions. 

To his 969,000 followers, actor Jesse Williams posted a flurry of tweets on Baltimore including:

  • You want us to condemn black folks being violent against PROPERTY but you NEVER condemn police killing actual PEOPLE. #Explain #JustTry”
  • The reaction to oppression has always been spun & marketed as validation for the status quo.”
  • If we view rioting as a mass temper tantrum expressed through violence & property damage, white sports fans do that monthly. #Tradition.”
  • Police & policies have been rioting on our bodies; destroying people & property every single day of your lives. But here you come...”

Another Grey’s Anatomy star, Kelly McCreary, tweeted an Instagram post quoting James Baldwin on “the white policeman.” 

“What is happening in Baltimore,” McCreary wrote, “takes place when people who are dehumanized disrespected deprived and disowned simply cannot take it anymore.” 

Hip hop recording artist Talib Kweli Greene also chimed in about the “killer cops” to his Twitter audience of one million 

  • Police killing more unarmed Americans on tape than ISIS. Fact. But cuz it's young ppl of color police aren't considered terrorists.”
  • Activists are ALWAYS asked to, & do, condemn rioting. Cops are NEVER asked to, & never, condemn racist, killer cops.”
  • Police violence caused ‘riots.’ You wanna stop riots? stand up against police brutality that is killing people of color indiscriminately.”

Using similar language, “Police brutality” came up twice in rapper David Banner’s Baltimore tweets. 

“I want to hear how Hilary Clinton feels about what's going on in Baltimore and around the nation regarding Police brutality” he tweeted, and later added that he was discussing “police brutality” in the MSNBC studios.

Some of Banner’s other anti-police tweets to his 641,000 followers: 

  • So they kill us and no one comes to the rescue. Why are crooked cops not called thugs? Where is the national guard for us.”
  • Slave rearing - break the young bucks - keep them docile - (fight the damn cops when they kill innocent kids.)”
  • Applaud these kids for having the balls to do what we wouldn't. Stop beating them in public like the police.”

On April 19, the day of Gray’s death, actor Penn Badgley similarly tweeted that “An instance of police brutality is the final blow in a longer struggle. Myriad forms of oppression wage war on an individual for a lifetime.” 

Again incorporating “police brutality,” rapper Freddie Gibbs wrote, “I lost one of my best friends to police brutality in 2006” but urged “Baltimore I respect it, 100%. Just do it peacefully, we don't need an excuse for them to kill another one of us. #FreddyGray.” That plea apparently went unheeded. 

Russell Simmons, cofounder of hip-hop music label Def Jam, had more success, since he urged Baltimore law enforcement to “PLS show constraint + be peaceful.” 

Limiting himself to one tweet on the topic, Rapper YG acknowleged, “Baltimore doing what they suppose 2 be doing.” 

A bit more indirect in his message, Singer John Legend tweeted out an article published by The Atlantic’s entitled, “Nonviolence as Compliance in Baltimore.” 

Imitating the celebrities, media hosts also picked certain language when discussing Baltimore, from CNN’s Marc Lamont Hill arguing “this is not a riot” but “uprisings” against “police terrorism” to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow declaring that Baltimore police were “a little out of control.”


— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.