Baltimore mayor defends riot response

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is pushing back against critics who are questioning her handling of the riots that swept parts of the city on Monday night.

“You can’t see everything that I see; you don’t know all the different moving pieces,” she told reporters Tuesday morning.

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“There are always going to be armchair quarterbacks that have never sat in my seat that see things differently, but this isn’t the first emergency that I’ve had to deal with, and I know you have to put in the work and manage the crisis on the ground.”

Rawlings-Blake, who is eying a run for the Senate in 2016, is being thrust into the national spotlight by the case of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died earlier this month in police custody. It’s unclear how Gray suffered the severe spinal injury that ended his life.

Gray’s funeral on Monday intensified the protests in the afternoon and into the early evening. Some of those protests became violent, with people throwing objects at police and setting fires. Police officials told the media that 15 officers were hospitalized.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Monday night activated the National Guard in Baltimore and suggested Rawlings-Blake had held up the process.

"When the mayor called me, which quite frankly we were glad that she finally did, instantly we signed the executive order," Hogan said.

Rawlings-Blake defended her handling of the crisis, and lamented the toll that the unrest had taken on her city. She noted that one of the fires gutted a West Baltimore CVS that had been seen as a crucial addition to the community.

“I spoke to someone here who knows how hard we fought to get a CVS to invest into this neighborhood,” she said, noting that the drug stores is the only place some people can pick up prescriptions nearby.

“Everybody know we have a city with great needs, and there are many that are struggling. What happened last night made sure that more people are struggling.”

The mayor said over the weekend that the city has been trying to walk the line of keeping the peace and allowing people to protest. She added that in the balancing act, she wanted to “give those who wished to destroy space to do that.”

Some criticized her for that remark, and her office walked back those comments on Monday.

"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,” Howard Libit, her spokesman said, according to The Baltimore Sun.

“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.”