Delegate says focus shouldn't be on his 'black youth mobs' comment, but on city violence

State Del. Pat McDonough, who stirred controversy this week when he said "roving mobs of black youth" terrorize Baltimore, shrugged off criticism Friday that he is using shock tactics to raise his political profile.

McDonough, a Republican who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, refused to apologize for his comments. He has called for Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, to assign the Maryland State Police to fight the "consistent and dangerous attacks" in the city. McDonough has hosted a conservative talk show on WCBM for 20 years.

McDonough said public debate should not "demonize the messenger" but instead focus on MayorStephanie Rawlings-Blake's efforts to curb violence in the city.

"I don't do this for political approval," McDonough said. "Somebody's got to speak up. I am the speaker-upper. ... Stephanie is the one who should be grilled."

Rawlings-Blake's office dismissed McDonough's remarks as a "racially charged publicity stunt."

Spokesman Ian Brennan also highlighted the mayor's plan to invest $20 million in four new recreation and community centers, pump $130,000 more into year-round employment opportunities for 350 young people and put in place a new youth initiative called "Super Summer," which aims to increase the number of children and teens enrolled in summer meals and reading programs.

O'Malley has noted that crime has declined in Baltimore.

McDonough said his concern was prompted in part by a series of violent events in downtown Baltimore onSt. Patrick's Day— including an attack on a tourist from Virginia that was caught on tape. A Baltimore Sun investigation revealed the disturbances were more widespread than police officials initially described.

As the McDonough controversy swirled on Thursday afternoon, a 19-year-old student from Baltimore's Polytechnic Institute told police he was beaten by two separate groups of juveniles from a rival school in downtown Baltimore.

According to police, the student was walking in the 200 block of W. Fayette St., a block north of 1st Mariner Arena, about 4:20 p.m. Thursday when he said he was attacked from behind by an unknown male. Nine other juveniles joined in as he tried to defend himself, and his phone was taken during the attack, he told police. 

Moments later, police say, an MTA bus stopped in the block and a juvenile male wearing a Digital Harbor High School shirt "forced open the door and got off the bus," followed by 19 other juveniles wearing Digital Harbor shirts, who again assaulted the victim, police said. 

Anthony Guglielmi, a city police spokesman, said the victim told police he was attacked because of a rivalry between the two schools. Guglielmi said police were coordinating with school officials to investigate the case.

The Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon, president of the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said political and civil rights leaders can all agree that violence in Baltimore is a concern.

But he said McDonough's remarks were "below the belt," culturally insensitive and intended to exploit Baltimore's challenges for his own political gain.

Witherspoon said he is planning a rally at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall to include ministers, politicians and civil rights leaders. He said McDonough should apologize, or WCBM and the station's sponsors should pull the plug on his talk show.

"He is attempting to galvanize a right-wing conservative base," Witherspoon said. "He is attempting to awaken a very dark side of the electorate in this state."

Bob Pettit, general manager for WCBM, said he's not going to cancel McDonough's show. "We believe in free speech, and we don't censor our hosts," Pettit said.

The recent comments by McDonough, elected to the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1983 and since 2003, have received mixed reviews by some voters.

Mark Ward, 58, an antiques vendor living in Edgewood, called McDonough a "whack job."

"He's way out of line," Ward said. "He's out of line in that by singling out any particular race, there's an injustice done."

Mark Ashford, a shift supervisor at Abingdon Water Treatment Plant in Harford County, said the city isn't the only area struggling with violence. Ashford, 48, pointed to a gang presence in his hometown of Aberdeen.

"It may have been a little off-key to mention race," he said. "I agree with what he said — maybe he could have said it differently. Violence and theft are out of hand. They need to get a grip on it."

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.