Sometimes a protest is just a riot camouflaged in self-righteousness. It might not start that way, and the actors might not think that it is. But nonetheless, sometimes it is.

A few miles from my apartment, the Miami neighborhood Liberty City has yet to shake the aftereffects of the 1980 riots that sprang from the acquittal of four officers in the killing of a black man. In California, neighborhoods and property values remain scarred from the Watts Riots in 1965 and the Rodney King Riots in 1992. More recently in Ferguson, Mo., the long-term consequences of a few nights of looting and burning are starting to be felt by residents and property owners.

So it makes sense, in a way, that facing a weekend of protests against themysterious police-related death of resident Freddie Gray, that Baltimore authorities would be on edge.

What no one expected is what Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake admitted in a press conference on Sunday: that she asked the Baltimore Police Department to “give those who wished to destroy space to do that.”

“We work very hard to keep that balance [between free speech and destructive elements], and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate,” she said.

Overall, Baltimore police said 34 arrests were made during Saturday’s main demonstration, and six officers were allegedly injured.

Several downtown storefronts were smashed, and some police cars were damaged.

But overall, the most of the damage was cosmetic, and it might not cost the city or property owners a fortune to fix. Either that, or it might have been worth the calculation from city officials to sacrifice a little public property for the sake of allowing protesters to vent their anger, hopefully quelling unrest in the long run.

This weekend’s protests garnered international attention, drawing comments from everyone from Iran’s Ayatolla Seyed Ali Khamenei, to Baltimore Orioles players, who basically were trapped with fans inside of the stadium on Saturday night due to the protests that were going on just outside, as a win against the Red Sox came to a close.

Despite her comments about creating a “space” for more destructive elements in protests, Mayor Rawlings-Blake expressed disappointment on Sunday night at the “outside forces” who she said were “inciting some of the ‘shut this city down’ sort of messaging,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

Then, she made a call for peace, which might not be too far away. Gray will be buried on Monday, and the Baltimore Police Department’s full report on Gray’s death should be released before next weekend.

It could be very well that protests in Baltimore have already reached their peak of violence and destruction. Considering how volatile the situation looked going into last weekend, if it all pans out, there could be a case for other leaders to handle widespread protests like this differently.

Because sometimes, punching the punching bag really does take your anger away. And on the flip side, telling you not to punch the punching bag can only make you angrier.

UPDATE: The Mayor’s Office issued a statement this afternoon about the comments above:

—Today, Howard Libit, Director of Strategic Planning and Policy, issued the following statement regarding Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s comments on the rights of protesters:

“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. Any suggestion otherwise would be a misinterpretation of her statement.”

This clarification is regarding comments made by Mayor Rawlings-Blake during a recent press conference. The mayor’s original quote follows (emphasis and clarification added):

“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. 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 [as a result] 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.”

Death of Freddie Gray

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Death of Freddie Gray
Date Incident began April 12, 2015
Location Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Type Death in police custody
Cause Spinal cord injury
Filmed by Two witnesses to arrest
Participants Freddie Gray (death)
Six Baltimore police officers
Inquiries U.S. Department of Justice
Baltimore Police Department

Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man, died of a spinal injury on April 19, 2015. A week earlier, police had taken Gray into custody in Baltimore, Maryland, United States.[1] Within an hour of his arrest, police had transported him to a trauma clinic, and he was in a coma.

The incident has led to protests in Baltimore. Six Baltimore police officers have been suspended with pay.[2]


Freddie Gray was 25 years old, and had two sisters. As children, he and his sisters were found to have lead poisoning in their blood levels.[3] According to a 2008lawsuit against a Sandtown-Winchester housing complex where Gray and his sisters lived, the lead poisoning caused medical, behavioral, and educational problems for the children. Terms of the settlement were not publicly revealed.[3] At the time of his death, Gray lived in the Gilmor Homes neighborhood. He stood 5 feet and 8 inches tall and weighed 145 pounds. Gray had a criminal record, mainly for drug-related offenses.[4]

Details of arrest and death[edit]

Police encountered Freddie Gray on April 12, 2015, in an area of Baltimore a police spokesman said was known for drug deals and violent crimes.[5] He ran; according to court documents Gray “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence”.[1] Police chased and tackled Gray, found a switchblade in his pocket, and took him into custody at 8:40 a.m.[1]

Two bystanders captured Gray’s arrest with video recordings.[6]

According to the police timeline, Gray was in a transport van within 11 minutes of his arrest, and within 30 minutes “units request paramedics to the Western District to transport the suspect to an area hospital.”[5] He was taken to the University of MarylandR. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, in a coma within an hour of being taken into police custody.[5][7]

The statement of charges filed by Officer Garrett Miller against Gray accused him of possessing a switchblade. Miller wrote, “The defendant was arrested without force or incident.”[8] Officers also reported “that he suffered a medical emergency during transport”.[9]

In the following week, according to the Gray family attorney, Gray died, was resuscitated, remained in a coma, and underwent extensive surgery in an effort to save his life.[5] According to his family, he lapsed into a coma after his spine was “80% severed” at his neck, he had three fractured vertebrae, and his larynx was injured.[2][10] He died the following Sunday, April 19, 2015.[1]

Subsequent events


Protestors at a police station near the site of Gray’s arrest

The Baltimore Police Department suspended six officers pending an investigation of Gray’s death.[1] On April 24, 2015, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said, “We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.”[11] Batts also acknowledged police did not follow procedure when they failed to buckle Gray in the van while he was being transported to the police station.[11]

CBS News reported the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the case.[12]


By April 21, 2015, according to Reuters, “[h]undreds of demonstrators gathered in Baltimore” to protest Gray’s death.[6]

On April 25, 2015, protests were organized in downtown Baltimore. Protesters marched from the Baltimore City Hall to Inner Harbor. After the final stage of the official protest event, some protesters became violent. They damaged at least five police vehicles, and several people shoved police officers and threw various objects at the police. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said most protesters were respectful but a “small group of agitators intervened”.[13] Rawlings-Blake said of those who destroyed property while protesting Gray’s death, “… we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well…”[14] At least 35 people were arrested, and six officers were injured.[13][15]

A photographer for Baltimore City Paper, who filmed the protest, reported having been beaten by two police officers in riot gear. Thereafter, City Paper published a video on its website documenting the violence.[16] A Reuters photographer with visible press credentials, who filmed the beating from a public sidewalk, was detained and received a citation for “failure to obey orders”.[17]

On April 27, 2015, some lootings happened, some police vehicles put on fire and stones thrown into officers.

See also

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Rawlings-Blake in July 2014
49th Mayor of Baltimore
Assumed office
February 4, 2010
Preceded by Sheila Dixon
49th President of the Baltimore City Council
In office
January 17, 2007 – February 4, 2010
Preceded by Sheila Dixon
Succeeded by Bernard C. Young
Member of the Baltimore City Council
In office
December 1995 – January 2007
Personal details
Born March 17, 1970 (age 45)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Kent V. Blake
Relations Howard “Pete” Rawlings, former (D), Maryland State Delegate, District 40
Children Sophia Blake
Profession Attorney

Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake (born March 17, 1970) is an American politician and the 49th and current Mayor of Baltimore City. She is the second woman to hold the office. A member of the Democratic Party, she currently serves as secretary of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)[1] and Vice President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.[2]

Early life and family

Rawlings-Blake was born in Baltimore and grew up in the city’s Ashburton neighborhood.[3] She is the daughter of Nina Rawlings, M.D. (pediatrician) and Howard “Pete” Rawlings,[4] former member of the Maryland House of Delegates.[5]


Rawlings-Blake attended Western High School, the oldest public all-girls high school in the United States. In 1984, she was elected vice president of her class. She graduated in 1988.

Rawlings-Blake attended Oberlin College in Ohio, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in Political Science. She later returned to Baltimore to attend the University of Maryland School of Law, where she earned her Juris Doctorin 1995. She was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1996 and to the Federal Bar in 1997.[6]

Rawlings-Blake is an alumna of the Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound Center[citation needed] and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Epsilon Omega chapter.[6] She is a former at-large member of the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys.[citation needed]

Political career

Early career

From 1990 to 1998, Rawlings-Blake served on the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee,[6] and in 1993, she served as the Annapolis lobbyist for the Young Democrats of Maryland.[citation needed]

In 1997, Rawlings-Blake began serving as an administrative law attorney with the Baltimore City office of the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, which offers free civil legal services to Maryland’s low-income residents. She went on to serve as a staff attorney with theMaryland Office of the Public Defender in its Southern District (District 1, Baltimore City) from 1998 to 2006.[6]

Baltimore City Council

In 1995, Rawlings-Blake became the youngest person ever elected to the Baltimore City Council. She represented the council’s District 5 from 1995 to 2004 and District 6 from 2004 to 2007 (following a redistricting of the council).[citation needed]

From 1999 to 2007, Rawlings-Blake served as vice president of the Baltimore City Council.[6]

City council president

Rawlings-Blake became President of the Council on January 17, 2007, when then-City Council President Sheila Dixon became mayor. The Charter of Baltimore City states that, “If it becomes necessary for the president of the City Council to fill the unexpired term of the mayor…the City Council, by a majority vote of its members, shall elect a new president for the unexpired term.”[7]

On June 14, 2007, Rawlings-Blake announced that she would seek a full four-year term as council president. Her platform included improving education and reducing crime in the city.[citation needed] Rawlings-Blake won the Democratic primary with 49 percent of the vote. In the general election, Rawlings-Blake defeated her only opponent with 82 percent of the vote.[8]

Mayor of Baltimore

On January 6, 2010, then-Mayor Sheila Dixon announced, following her conviction for embezzlement, that she would resign from office, effective February 4, 2010. Per the Charter of Baltimore City, in the case of a mayoral vacancy, the sitting city council president shall automatically succeed the vacating mayor and serve the remainder of the term.[7] Consequently, following Dixon’s resignation on February 4, 2010, Rawlings-Blake became mayor of Baltimore City.[9]

Rawlings-Blake went on to seek a full term as mayor, and in November 2011, she was elected to her first full term as mayor, receiving 87 percent of the vote in the general election.[citation needed]

Rawlings-Blake has stated that her goal as mayor is to grow Baltimore by 10,000 families.[10]

Political positions and policies

City budget

On February 6, 2013, Baltimore City released a 10-year fiscal forecast, which the City had commissioned from independent financial consulting firm Public Financial Management, Inc. (PFM) at Rawlings-Blake’s direction.[11] The report outlined a number of fiscal obstacles facing the City in subsequent years.[12][13]

To address the challenges outlined in the fiscal forecast, Rawlings-Blake presented Change to Grow: A Ten-Year Financial Plan for Baltimore,[14] the City’s first long-range financial plan. Among other major reforms, the plan outlined proposed changes to Baltimore City’s employee pensions and benefits system, City tax structure, and overall municipal operations.[15] By implementing elements of this plan, Baltimore City has been able to extinguish $300 million from a cumulative budgetary shortfall forecasted at approximately $750 million.[citation needed]

Urban blight

At the time Rawlings-Blake took office, Baltimore City had approximately 16,000 vacant buildings, resulting from a half-century of population decline. In November 2010, in an effort to reduce urban blight caused by vacant structures, Rawlings-Blake introduced the Vacants to Value (V2V) initiative.[16] The initiative’s strategies include streamlining code enforcement and disposition of City-owned vacant properties, offering incentives targeted at home buyers who purchase previously vacant homes, supporting large-scale redevelopment in deeply distressed areas, and targeting demolition to improve long-term property values.[17]

In 2013, Baltimore Housing won the Urban Land Institute’s Robert C. Larson Workforce Housing Public Policy Awards[18] for the V2V initiative. V2V has also been recognized by the Obama Administration, the Clinton Global Initiative, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, ABCD Network, and the Financial Times.[citation needed]

Other activities

In 2015, Rawlings-Blake became the first mayor to appear in Chicago, saying “I am honored to be the first mayor to appear in Chicago—one of the most historic shows in Broadway history—and I want to reassure the cast and crew that I am already hard at work rehearsing my lines. I always love to show off the ‘razzle dazzle’ of Baltimore’s flourishing cultural scene, from expanding our Arts & Entertainment Districts, to growing Baltimore’s downtown theater corridor and all that jazz. I cannot wait to make my big debut in an amazing show like Chicago.” She appeared in a one night performance on March 4, 2015, as an ensemble performer throughout the night.[19] The mayor later thanked the Nation of Islam for what she said was “for helping quash violence” despite NOI’s leaders calls to “Teach your baby how to throw the bottle if they can’t bite.”[20]

Awards and honors

In in 2007[21] and 2011,[22] Rawlings-Blake was honored by the Daily Record as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women.

Rawlings-Blake was named as a Shirley Chisholm Memorial Award Trailblazer by the National Congress of Black Women, Washington, DC Chapter (2009)[citation needed] and as an Innovator of the Year by the Maryland Daily Record (2010).[23] In 2013, she was included in The Baltimore Suns list of 50 Women to Watch.[24]

She is a recipient of the Fullwood Foundation Award of Excellence (2010),[citation needed] the National Forum for Black Public Administrators’ Distinguished Leadership Award (2012),[25] the Maryland State Senate‘s First Citizen Award (2013),[26] and the Baltimore Black Pride ICONS We Love Award (2013).[27]

In 2014, Vanity Fair included Rawlings-Blake in its list of the Top 10 Best-Dressed Mayors.[28]

Personal life

Rawlings-Blake currently lives in Baltimore’s Coldspring neighborhood with her husband, Kent Blake, and their daughter Sophia. She is a member of Douglas Memorial Community Church, a historic Methodist Episcopal church in downtown Baltimore.[29]

On May 9, 2013, Rawlings-Blake’s 20-year-old cousin Joseph Haskins was shot and killed during a home invasion robbery.[30]