Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has some pointed comments for those who criticized her actions in the wake of riots that have roiled her city.
“I know we have problems and I was determined to fix it. Don’t get it twisted,” Rawlings-Blake a gathering of the Al Sharpton-led National Action Network in Baltimore on Thursday.
Rawlings-Blake has come under fire for comments she made related to the unrest sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering a spinal cord injury while in police custody.
The mayor had urged law enforcement to give space to “those who wished to destroy", comments that seemed ill-timed given the violence, arson, looting, and injuries to police officers on Monday night as protesters and law enforcement clashed.
She also referred to the looters as “thugs,” a term which rankles some in the community.
True to form, Rawlings-Blake didn’t mince words on Thursday either.
She expressed frustration over what she says is the hypocrisy of those who question why she didn’t do more and the tepid support she said she received when she lobbied state lawmakers for reforms for law enforcement.
“When I went down to Annapolis to try to fight for reform, simple reforms for the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, people looked at me like I had his three eyes,” Rawlings-Blake said. “To stand here and say that I don’t care, that I don’t want to reform the police department, when I was down there? I’m not even going to tolerate it. The record is clear.”
The mayor also delivered her remarks on the same day the Baltimore police commissioner announced the department had turned over confidential information on the nature of Gray's death to prosecutors. The Justice Department is also investigating.
Black officials elected to represent communities with large African American constituencies are often in a complex position, said Mark Anthony Neal, an African American studies professor at Duke University.
“It’s an interesting challenge for black officials of black cities,” Neal said. “You’re looking at a black city with a black mayor. She needs the support of the white business community and the African American communities.
On Thursday, Rawlings-Blake made clear that her loyalties were with Baltimore—all of Baltimore.
"What I have said consistently is the Baltimore that you have seen over the past few days is the Baltimore that I know and love. What we are known for...that resiliency, that ability that when everybody else counts us out, that we will stand together."