The 1st Thread/The Charm City Curfew Thread For 4/29/15: Baltimore Riots Highlight the Delicate Balance of Using Police Force
A myriad of criticism has been directed at Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s restrained handling of her city’s massive riots the last two days, as the delicate balance of whether a government should enforce strong action on its citizens is once again under debate.
That conundrum has placed Rawlings-Blake into a current "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" place, where she will inflame social media activists if police force is continuously active like it was on Tuesday night, or further incensed outsiders that have slammed her for her police department's lack of aggressive on Monday.
Rawlings-Blake adamantly defended her decisions for a calm, hands off response from her police department hours after mostly young adults and teenagers began their raiding of local stores and locations throughout West Baltimore. Over the weekend, the 45-year-old mayor and native of Baltimore emphasized her support of first amendment practices.
"I 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. "It's a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and 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 de-escalate."
The words "we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that" have been centered on by many as to highlight Rawlings-Blake allowing the riots to occur. She vigorously hit back at those claims during her press conference Monday evening.
"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," she said. "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."
Those candid words from her did not help stop the wave of criticism she faces, as headline such as the one from CNN above exhibits the continued denunciation she faces. It's why she again had to open up once more, this time to TIME Magazine, about how she felt she did display some sagacity the past few days.
“I’m not green to these types of issues. I’ve been mayor for five years. I’ve led a city. And directed a police department. I know how to use resources. We’ve done it and we responded to protests,” she said Tuesday evening, hours before police began enforcing the first night of a week-long 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. “I’m comfortable with how we’ve responded in very, very challenging times.”
Rawlings-Blake even hit back at her governor Larry Hogan for claiming that the Baltimore mayor was unavailable to make a request to him for more force. It was just the latest tension between the two of many since the Republican was elected as governor last November to succeed Martin O'Malley .
The rioting went against the planned day of non-action from some in the community in respect to the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man killed by police force two weeks ago that has ignited the wave of protests.
“We had made a covenant with the community, the city at large that this day, there would be no protests, there would be no marching, as it was the request of the family, that this would be moratorium,” said Jamal Bryant to MSNBC, the pastor who delivered the eulogy at Gray’s funeral. “Imagine the shock and amazement coming from the burial, getting the news of a code red that this outbreak had taken back is really disappointing and is unfortunate. It doesn’t mirror or reflect the ideology of this movement - which is in it to itself non-violent- and all the more peaceful.”
A major example of the lack of aggressive demonstrated by Baltimore police was when protesters raided a local CVS pharmacy. One young man, interviewed on CNN, mentioned how the SWAT unit observing the situation did not intervene.
“They stood out there and watched them go into (CVS),” he said in frustration over the events. “They allowed it to happen. They could have moved down there like they have done and stopped it. But they allowed it to happen!”
The Baltimore police’s cavalier reply to the riots is a stark contrast to the recent, much publicized actions taken by police departments in Ferguson and New York City during their citizen protests over the death of black men. Those incidents arguably played a major factor in Rawlings-Blake's choice to not repeat those tactics, which many have felt escalated the high tension already between local black residents and cops.
Bryant also came to Rawlings-Blake’s defense, mentioning how Maryland’s laws protecting police have contributed to a lack of response against the suspended six cops who brutalized Gray. The pastor called any slamming of the mayor and the city for not taking action on the suspended officers as "an absence of knowledge of the law." He cited current LEBOR law that allows officers to not talk to their higher ups for 10 days following an incident.
"The mayor's arms are proverbially tied behind her back," he said. "None of those six officers can be terminated until charges are filed."
Baltimore's leaders, topped by Rawlings-Blake, are dealing with a juggling act that even Cirque du Soleil's top performers would struggle to handle.