Baltimore mayor defends absence at protests

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) in an interview Thursday defended her decision not to personally go and calm angry crowds in the city’s streets.

{mosads}“I know that my presence can be a calming presence and can be a flashpoint,” she said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“I’m not going to risk inserting myself — you know, it might look good to some people — but I’m not going to insert myself in a situation that we know is potentially hostile and very fragile, when I have leaders like Elijah Cummings and Senator Pugh who are willing to stand in and do that work that needs to be done,” she said.

Some elected officials, including Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), have been a presence among protesters, looking to convince residents to obey a curfew that took effect on Tuesday night. Rawlings-Blake said “everybody has their role and their place to bring peace in our community.”

“There are a lot of moving pieces, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done operationally, and I’m doing that role,” she added. “I can’t be eight different places at one time.”

The mayor has been visible at media briefings during protests in the city over the way the police department treats minority communities. Those protests were sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who sustained a fatal spinal injury while in police custody.

Most of the protests have been peaceful, but on Monday, there were riots that saw residents burn cars and buildings over the course of the afternoon and evening.

Rawlings-Blake’s response has drawn some criticism from both inside and outside the city. Many took offense to her characterization to rioters on Monday as “thugs,” and commentators have wondered why she waited until Monday night to ask Maryland’s governor to activate the National Guard for assistance.

She retracted her “thugs” comment on Wednesday.

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