Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made a stunning admission Saturday in the aftermath of violent protests over the recent death of Freddie Gray, saying she wanted to give space to those “who wished to destroy.”
And destroy, some did.
Numerous storefronts and vehicles were damaged and businesses were looted at the tail end of a day of demonstrations. Thirty-four people were arrested and six police officers suffered minor injuries. Baseball fans attending a game at Camden Yards were told to stay inside the ballpark until violence outside of the stadium subsided.
“I’ve made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech,” Rawlings-Blake said during a press conference Saturday night.
“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 those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”
“And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to deescalate, and that’s what you saw.”
Protesters are upset because of the circumstance surrounding Gray’s death last Sunday. He was arrested on April 12, following a foot chase with police. At some point, he suffered a severe spine injury and died. Baltimore’s police commissioner admitted Friday police failed to provide Gray with medical care in a timely manner.
Rawlings-Blakes’ spokesman Howard Libit responded late Sunday, saying that the mayor’s words had been taken out of context.
“What she is saying within this statement was that there was an effort to give the peaceful demonstrators room to conduct their peaceful protests on Saturday. 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. 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.”
Updated to include comments from the Baltimore mayor’s office.
[h/t: The Right Scoop]