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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she used the wrong phrase to allow people to voice their frustrations following the death of Freddie Gray.
During a press conference on April 25, Rawlings-Blake said, “I've made it very clear that I worked 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. It’s a very delicate balancing act because while we try to make sure that they 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, and we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate.”
Rawlings-Blake said in an interview Sunday that while she believes her words were taken out of context, people also took advantage of her words.
“I certainly used the wrong phrase to talk about what was clear, that there were people who took advantage of the peaceful demonstrators’ First Amendment rights and they used it to destroy our city,” she said.
"I don't condone it, and we’ll make sure that those individuals will be held accountable," she told Chuck Todd.
The Democratic mayor rejected the assertion of a protest leader that charges would not have been announced had rioters taken violent action, including the burning of a CVS Pharmacy. Kwame Rose, who led a march to City Hall Saturday, told the Baltimore Sun, “Had it not been for the youth burning that CVS, we would not have had charges yesterday.”
Rawlings-Blake called the statement “misguided and untrue.”
“I pledged to do everything that I could to have a thorough and transparent investigation, and give all of that information to the state's attorney so she could do her investigation and make charges,” she said. “What happened with the rioting and the destruction of CVS was senseless. What it is doing is destroying neighborhoods. It is making it difficult for our seniors to get their medicine, to get food.”
The mayor, responding to criticism that she has been aloof and indifferent during the situation in her city, said her focus is on solving the crisis. “I’m going to focus on healing our city and making the decisions that I need to make in order to get us forward and get us through this unfortunate, unfortunate crisis,” Rawlings-Blake said.
She also said there is much work to be done, referencing comments she’s made in the past as a panel guest on “Meet the Press.”
“I've talked on your show about the fact that in Baltimore we're dealing with reforming our police department. I acknowledge that we have work to do. That's why we've instituted police brutality reforms. That's why I asked the Department of Justice to come in and work with us in a collaborative fashion to reform our police department,” she said. “We have a lot more work to do, but it starts with acknowledging the problem. I am a leader that was willing to acknowledge that we had this problem, and work to fix it.”