By Susan Jones, CNS:
“I’ll say the very blatant mischaracterization of my words was not helpful today,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told a news conference Monday night, as fires burned and hundreds of “thugs” (the mayor’s word) looted and destroyed her city.
She called it “unfortunate” that the media “decided to mischaracterize my words and tried to use it as a way to say that we were inciting violence.”
Rawlings-Blake made the comment after a reporter suggested that her own words on Saturday may have contributed to the problem.
On Saturday night, after violence began to escalate in Baltimore, the mayor said she was working with police to make sure they protected the protesters’ right to free speech:
“It’s a very delicate balancing act, because while we tried to make sure that they (protestors) 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,” Rawlings-Blake said. “We worked very hard to keep that balance and put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate, and that’s what you saw.”
On Monday night, Rawlings-Blake explained, “I was asked a question about the property damage that was done, and in answering that question, I made it very clear that we walk a — we balance a very fine line between giving protesters — peaceful protesters — space to protest.
“What I said is, in doing so, people can hijack that and use that space for bad. I did not say that we were accepting of it; I did not say that we were passive to it. I was just explaining how property damage can happen during a peaceful protest.
“And it’s very unfortunate that members of your industry decided to mischaracterize my words and tried to use it as a way to say that we were inciting violence. There’s no such thing.”
Mayor’s priority was ‘measured’ and ‘appropriate response’
Later Monday night, Rawlings-Blake told CNN she was “very measured” in her response to Monday’s out-of-control violence, because, “We see what happened in jurisdictions that overreacted and brought in resources that escalated the violence on the street, and I didn’t want that to happen in Baltimore.
“We wanted to make sure we had the appropriate response to what was going on on the ground. And when we saw that the breakout violence in the small groups –we realized that it was time to bring in additional resources, and I’m very grateful for the governor’s cooperation.”
(Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) says he called out the National Guard within “30 seconds” of getting the request from Rawlings-Blake on Monday night, many hours after the looting first started.)
CNN’s Don Lemon noted that some people think the rioting was allowed to get out of control and that the looters were “given way too much leeway.”
“It is a very delicate balancing act to make sure you protect people’s right to free speech their right to protest,” Rawlings-Blake responded. “The fact that people exploited the opportunity to protest, with violence and looting, doesn’t mean that I don’t have a duty to protect people’s right to be heard.
“What I said very clearly was, when you…facilitate space for people to be heard — that space was exploited by those who meant to do harm to our city. that’s what I was saying, very clearly. And when the protesters got out of hand, and started to destroy property, we did — we used best practices — the way the officers are trained to make sure that we are focusing on those that were doing the damage, and also working to not escalate.
“We have seen all over the country, and throughout our history, what happens when you use too much force to respond to an incident. It escalates and it can be a lot worse. I didn’t want that for my city. We worked very hard to contain this, and to do it in a way that doesn’t turn Baltimore into a military state.”
Instead, the rioting has turned parts of Baltimore into a pile of burned-out rubble.