Tags: Baltimore | riots | mayor | Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

Critics: Baltimore Mayor Gave Protesters 'Permission to Riot'

Image: Critics: Baltimore Mayor Gave Protesters 'Permission to Riot'
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake greets a citizen the morning after citywide riots following the funeral of Freddie Gray, on April 28, 2015. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 28 Apr 2015 10:40 AM

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is in damage control mode following widespread criticism stemming from her comments Saturday addressing rioting and protests over the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal cord injury, and died a week later, while being transported in a police van.

"It's a very delicate balancing act, because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave to those who wished to destroy space to do that as well," Rawlings-Blake said, leading many to interpret the comments as the mayor imparting permission for the vandalism and property damage that ensued.

"Her words, which effectively told police to stand down as those gathered to protest the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray smashed store windows, looted 7-Elevens and forced attendees at a Baltimore Oriole-Boston Red Sox baseball game to remain in the stadium because it wasn't safe outside," wrote Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, in an opinion piece for Fox News.

Protests following Gray's death had been largely peaceful until Saturday night, when demonstrators "scuffled" with police in riot gear outside Camden Yards, according to The New York Times.

On Monday, the day of Gray's funeral, violence erupted in the form of riots, fires and looting, and when it was over "the streets in Baltimore looked like a war zone," according to CNN, which reported that buildings and cars were engulfed in flames, about a dozen businesses had been looted or damaged and at least 15 officers were wounded, six of them seriously.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and the mayor issued a curfew.

Many are laying the blame on Rawlings-Blake.

Her remarks "legitimized the actions of the rioters and encouraged an escalation effectively telling rioter and police officer alike that the city does not have either law enforcement's or the law-abiding citizen's backs as the confrontation continues to grow," Manning charged.

"When the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect the people and property of a community know that their elected boss believes that the lawbreakers are justified in creating mayhem, it destroys the resolve to provide that security.

"When the people know that the police have been told to stand down anarchy is sure to follow. Then the law-abiding will lock their doors and imprison themselves while the lawless run free. And when tourists or those who live outside a city feel that it is unsafe to enjoy the entertainment provided in that town, they stay away."

After the violence snowballed, Rawlings-Blake reappeared before news cameras to clarify her earlier statement, saying she had been referring to "protesters, not thugs who want to incite violence and destroy our city," according to the Daily Beast's Michael Daly, who wrote an article headlined "Baltimore Mayor Gave Permission to Riot."

"She seemed deaf to the echo of her own words, when she had spoken earlier of giving room to 'those who wish to destroy,' " Daly writes. "That is a pretty good definition of a thug."

Though the mayor has vowed to hold those responsible for the violence and damage accountable, "she gave not the slightest glimmer of feeling that she should be held accountable for anything," Daly writes.

On Monday, the mayor's spokesman, Howard Libit, addressed the controversy.

"Unfortunately, as a result of providing the peaceful demonstrators with the space to share their message, that also meant that those seeking to incite violence also had the space to operate," Libit said.

"The police sought to balance the rights of the peaceful demonstrators against the need to step in against those who were seeking to create violence. The mayor is not saying that she asked police to give space to people who sought to create violence. Any suggestion otherwise would be a misinterpretation of her statement."

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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is in damage control mode following widespread criticism stemming from her comments Saturday addressing rioting and protests over the death of Freddie Gray.
Baltimore, riots, mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
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2015-40-28
Tuesday, 28 Apr 2015 10:40 AM
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