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Mayor hit with water by festival-goer at Mondawmin

A woman dumped water on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as she was greeting residents at Mondawmin Festival.

A Baltimore woman was arrested after she dumped what appeared to be water on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as she greeted residents Saturday morning at the Mondawmin Festival.

The woman, identified by police as Lacheisa Pailin-Sheffer, ran up to Rawlings-Blake and poured a large cup of liquid over the mayor's head. Aides rushed to the mayor to help her dry off while a member of her executive protection unit grabbed the woman and placed her in handcuffs.

Police said Pailin-Sheffer, 37, was charged with second-degree assault.

When asked later about the incident, Rawlings-Blake said, "I didn't know what it was that she threw at me. I hope it was water. It was more shocking than anything else."

Her spokesman, Howard Libit, said, "Fortunately, the mayor is fine. She went on and had a great time at the festival."

Libit said the incident would not keep the mayor from going to other public events. "She enjoys opportunities like this to engage with the people of Baltimore. This was an odd, random incident. Things like this happen."

Rawlings-Blake was attending the Mondawmin Festival, a daylong event with live music, free food and representatives from city agencies and nonprofits, held both inside and outside at the mall where violence and rioting erupted in the city just two months ago.

On April 27, as class at nearby schools was letting out for the day, students clashed with police officers in riot gear, and the unrest later spread throughout the city. Some have criticized the Rawlings-Blake administration for its handling of the rioting and recent violence across Baltimore, including her opponent in the coming Democratic primary election, former Mayor Sheila Dixon.

The water-throwing incident did not interrupt the mayor's plans for the festival or for the day, Libit said. Rawlings-Blake spent time visiting booths before leaving to meet with supporters, then visiting a basketball clinic.

Kevin Cleary, community program manager in the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, said Rawlings-Blake asked his office to plan the festival to help connect area residents with resources and to bring in business for mall retailers in the wake of the riots.

Through funds from Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore and the city housing department, the city was able pump some sales into the mall by purchasing 300 vouchers at $5 apiece for mall merchandise and distributing them to 300 volunteers who helped with the festival. Organizers also distributed free food to the crowds — 1,000 hamburgers and 800 hot dogs, Cleary said.

Community events such as the festival can help bring in customers, said Bridgette Cifton, an assistant manager of Shoe City at Mondawmin. "It's been pretty good," she said of the traffic through the store on Saturday.

Many attendees came in search of help — finding housing, jobs or legal services.

"A lot of people are looking for work," said Mallory Crawford, enrollment coordinator for Bon Secours Community Works, which offers career development, family support, financial services and help for women in crisis.

Aeisha Morrison, 36, who has been living in shelters with four children and a grandchild since October, made her way from booth to booth inside the mall, seeking help with permanent housing as well as finding part-time jobs for her teenagers. Morrison, accompanied by two of her teenage children, said it helped to find so many services in one spot.

"A lot of times you don't know who to call," she said.

Donna Carolina, a case manger at Catholic Charities, handed out fliers for free laboratory training at the BioTecnical Institute of Maryland Inc. to passers-by.

"If we get everyone working, we can build the community," Carolina said.

By late afternoon as the festival wound down, musician Menes Yahudah led a drum performance by children and adults in Urban Foli, a musical theater performance group that specializes in traditional African drumming. The festival performance was the second "drum circle" in response to the rioting — Yahudah had also led one shortly after the riots in the city's hard-hit Penn North neighborhood.

"It's another opportunity for him to touch the community with his drumming," said his fiancee, Eboni Wiggins, as she watched the performance.

Nearby, about 300 children had bounced their way through the Maryland National Guard-staffed inflatable obstacles course, where Lucy Stuckey waited to give a turn to her 1-year-old grandson.

After a spring marked by violence in her neighborhood, Stuckey said she was happy to see the community come together for enjoyment.

"It's beautiful here," Stuckey said. "It's something good for the kids."

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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