Mayor: City didn't purposely allow crimes Saturday during protest

Mayor not permitting violence, spokesman says

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake responded Monday to criticism that the city purposely allowed vandalism and property damage Saturday during protests over the death of Freddie Gray.

Some news outlets reported Monday on comments made by the mayor Saturday night, after 35 people were arrested during demonstrations involving more than 1,000 people.

In addressing the news media Saturday, Rawlings-Blake described how the police endeavored to protect the protesters’ free-speech rights by giving them space to operate. Once some behavior turned violent, the police made arrests and charged some demonstrators with assault, property damage and rioting.   

“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 gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Those comments met with backlash on talk radio and on some websites with national audiences.

On Monday, a spokesman for the mayor issued a statement clarifying her remarks.

"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,” said her spokesman, Howard Libit. “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."

Gray, 25, suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody April 12. He died seven days later.

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts has said officers failed to get Gray immediate medical attention and failed to buckle him in with a seatbelt in the transport van. Six officers are suspended with pay. Multiple investigations, including one by the U.S. Department of Justice, are ongoing.  

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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