If you believe Maryland Del. Pat McDonough, don’t visit Baltimore’s Inner Harbor because gangs of black teenagers are terrorizing tourists.
"Roving mobs of black youth are responsible for the attacks," said McDonough, a Republican state legislator. "This has been going on for years. I have a responsibility as an elected official to bring this to the public's attention."
And here’s the bombshell accusation that is long on fiction and short on facts: McDonough claims city and state officials are “covering up” crimes committed by black gangs at Inner Harbor. McDonough is calling for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings to convene a "summit" to address public safety concerns in Inner Harbor — or resign.
Thanks to McDonough, the issue of race in Baltimore is at the forefront of discussion with some black activists saying McDonough is race baiting, while his supporters say black teenagers have been allowed to run wild. The not-so-subtle implication by McDonough is that black teens are frightening white families who are visiting Inner Harbor, downtown Baltimore's flagship tourist spot.
"Del. McDonough's sad and racially-charged publicity stunt is not deserving of a response and Mayor Rawlings-Blake is proud of the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department for reducing crime to historic lows,” Blake spokesman Ryan O'Doherty told reporters. “As an elected official, Del. McDonough should show more respect for the work our police officers do with the community to make Baltimore safer."
McDonough told reporters that he and his wife were recently driving through the Inner Harbor area when they witnessed "a mob of nearly 100 people "battling" in the middle of the street.
“It was a pretty frightening sight," he said. "People, retired police officers, have been calling me telling me this has been going on for a long time and the city and the mayor are covering it up." He said Gov. Martin O'Malley should send in Maryland State Police to patrol the Inner Harbor.
He also said the Inner Harbor area should also be declared a "no travel zone."
"The State Department does it all the time for people traveling to the Middle East and other areas," McDonough said. "People need to be alerted that there's a danger."
Rev. Cortly Witherspoon, a Baltimore minister, said McDonough should apologize for his comments. Witherspoon held a rally at City Hall this week with religious leaders, politicians and civil rights leaders to criticize McDonough.
"He is attempting to galvanize a right-wing conservative base," Witherspoon told reporters. "He is attempting to awaken a very dark side of the electorate in this state."
Civil rights leaders lined up to criticize McDonough.
"Mr. McDonough, you have given us a reason to come together to discuss your bigotry," said Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham, former head of the city's NAACP chapter. "But more important is our children. They have to be our priority."
City officials said teen violence has been reduced by 37 percent over the previous two years, while also reducing juvenile arrests by 60 percent.
"Baltimore City has reduced crime by a greater percentage than any major city in American in the last 10 years," O'Malley said. "Pat should come and visit some time."
Last year, a black teenager was stabbed during a fight and more than 100 teenagers roamed the Inner Harbor area. And two years ago, business owners complained that 4,000 teenagers were hanging out in Inner Harbor. There were no fights, no arrests, and no rowdy behavior, according to news reports, but some businessmen complained because the crowd was mostly black.
Meanwhile, Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., a black Baltimore Democrat, said McDonough’s comments were designed to start trouble.
"It's a throwback to the '50s and '60s, and it's obviously race-baiting," Mitchell said.
Mitchell has offered to take McDonough on a tour of the Inner Harbor area but, so far, McDonough has ignored the invitation.