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Crime & Justiceby Mark Reutter7:25 pmApr 27, 20150

Inside City Hall: While her staff parses a remark, the mayor stays mum on a sad and violent day

With the city on tenterhooks, the mayor and her staff have little to say today

Above: Mayor Rawlings-Blake appeared before the cameras yesterday with local faith leaders to urge peace.

8:30 p.m. UPDATE: Addressing reporters tonight after a state of emergency in Baltimore was declared by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Mayor Rawlings-Blake defended her absence from public view today. “We’ve been managing the situation. I was working to make sure we were managing,” she said.

Today the mayor’s office issued a single statement, clarifying her prior comments that suggested she was giving “space” to protesters who “wished to destroy,” amid criticism about the comment from the law enforcement community and others.

Otherwise on a day when hundreds of mourners tearfully said goodbye to Freddie Gray, angry teenagers lit fires and hurled bricks at police, panicking downtown businesses closed early, and police issued a press release citing “credible evidence” that violent gangs were preparing to “take out” law enforcement officers – the mayor and her staff were publicly silent.

The mayor was last seen on Sunday when she appeared flanked by local religious leaders and called on residents to adhere to the city’s “long tradition of peaceful demonstrations.” She tweeted out that photo-op.

Here is today’s statement issued from her office:

Rawlings-Blake Administration Issues Statement Regarding Mayor’s Comments on the Rights of Protesters

BALTIMORE, Md. (April 27, 2015)—Today, Howard Libit, Director of Strategic Planning and Policy, issued the following statement regarding Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s comments on the rights of protesters:

“What she is saying within this statement was that there was an effort to give the peaceful demonstrators room to conduct their peaceful protests on Saturday. Unfortunately, as a result of providing the peaceful demonstrators with the space to share their message, that also meant that those seeking to incite violence also had the space to operate. The police sought to balance the rights of the peaceful demonstrators against the need to step in against those who were seeking to create violence.

“The mayor is not saying that she asked police to give space to people who sought to create violence. Any suggestion otherwise would be a misinterpretation of her statement.”

This clarification is regarding comments made by Mayor Rawlings-Blake during a recent press conference. The mayor’s original quote follows (emphasis and clarification added):

“I’ve 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. It’s a very
delicate balancing act, because, while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars
and the other things that were going on, we also [as a result] 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 deescalate, and that’s what you saw.”

The mayor also issued two tweets today dealing with matters not directly related to the “wish-to-destroy” kerfuffle:

Despite any rumors, @BaltCitySchools afterschool programs are open and ready to serve our children.

We worked very hard—and will continue to work hard—to put ourselves in the best position to deescalate those instances.

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