In the wake of Freddie Gray, Jr.’s controversial death in a police van, Baltimore City erupted in protests, some of which turned violent. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was on the frontlines during the unrest and she was criticized for her leadership in handling the situation. Since charges have been filed against six cops in the Gray case, tensions have eased and Prince even came to town, but things are still uneasy in the city.
On where the city is right now:
“We’ve had a rough couple of weeks. But I think what people have seen about Baltimore is that we’re resilient, we have the spirit to rebuild and you see that everywhere you go. We’re rebuilding on many fronts. People are asking what can they help and what can they do and I just ask that people stay with us for the long haul. A lot of the issues we face aren’t just unique to Baltimore. A lot of the issues that we face aren’t unique to Baltimore.
They are issues that it’s going to take time to correct and I hope the well-wishers and people that want to be a part of the solution understand that. Most of those businesses that were impacted are back open. We’re working with businesses that are underinsured or uninsured. A lot of them are mom and pops that are just making it like most of us are. We’ve had a lot of help from the business committee. In one night the business community raised over 200,00o to help businesses recover. A lot of the stores have claimed they are going to rebuild – the CVS and the Rite Aid.”
On summer programs and jobs programs going forward:
“Baltimore, I’m very proud, we have a very robust summer jobs program even more than cities twice our size. I’m very pleased at the outpouring of support that we’ve had since the unrest, we’ve had even more businesses that have stepped up to fill that gap. Even when the federal government pulled their money back from summer jobs, we made sure, I made sure, that that money was there. We had about 2,000-3,000 kids still needing slots and we’ve had the business community and foundations step in and say they would fill that gap. We’ve announced a bunch of free programs for the summer. We have free summer camps at 39 different locations that include free meals, enrichment camps, we have B’More Night Hoops and free memberships at Upton boxing for kids under 18.”
You can get information on all the free programs through Baltimore City’s official website HERE.
On what she would’ve done differently:
“Earthquakes, tornados, I’ve dealt with it all. No matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement and we’re looking at those operations now. In the heat of the moment, you don’t get to make those decisions in hindsight. You have to make those decisions on the fly often with incomplete information. When you have a series of choices, and none of them are good, you make the best out of those uncomfortable decisions you have to make in order to restore peace.
It was an unpleasant time of unrest and sadness and tension. In two weeks of demonstrations, we had a few hours of unrest. We are already in the rebuilding phase, and…we didn’t lose a life as a result of the riots. When you take a look at those things and that we were able to restore peace to the city, and out of all the uncomfortable decisions we had to make, I think that we and I, made the decisions that restored peace and got us to the place where we got the city back open and running again and as quickly as possible. I’m just glad we’re on the other side of it.”
On restoring trust between police and the community:
Even before Freddie Gray, before Ferguson, I have been on the front lines of dealing with police brutality – this chasm between the community and the police. I’ve had community conversations, public safety meetings throughout the community, including one with young people just to ask how we can better together? How can we close this gap? How can we solve these issues? We’ve put a series of reforms in place with the goal of trying to get to that place.
Even when I was fighting for myself – I heard it very clearly from the community that the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights set an uneven playing field and made it difficult for there to be trust relationships and accountability from the community and police. I went to the state capital to fight or reforms and a lot of these people who have been so freely critical of my work were nowhere to be found. This work has been going on. I invited the Department of Justice in last year to work with on collaborative reform and this year, I’ve asked for the Department of Justice to do a civil rights investigation and I’m sure those reforms will be put in place will be enforceable by the courts.
Click the link above to hear the entire interview.
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