Advertisement

Rawlings-Blake says Baltimore 'ready to exhale' at 2015 Preakness

Political and police leaders said they saw Preakness as an opportunity to celebrate a city battered by the turmoil over the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered what ultimately was a fatal spinal injury after he was arrested on April 12.

Political and police leaders said they saw Preakness as an opportunity to celebrate a city battered by the turmoil over the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered what ultimately was a fatal spinal injury after he was arrested on April 12.

"Like me, the rest of the city is ready to exhale," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, "and enjoy what we love about our city."

Advertisement

Rawlings-Blake said that she hoped national audiences were seeing the real Baltimore on Saturday, rather than the devastating images of the fires, looting and confrontations with police that erupted after Freddie Gray's funeral.

"We kept saying over and over, the images (the national media) ran on a continuous loop are not the Baltimore that we know and love," she said. "It's not our great city."

The mayor did not respond to a question about whether her gray dress was a reference to the 25-year-old man whose death sparked the protests, but instead tapped her gray and purple hat as if she chose her outfit to match it.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who declared a state of emergency and sent the National Guard to the city, seemed to want to focus instead on the sunny, festive day at the race track.

"It's a beautiful day here," he said to a question about how it felt to be in the city under such different circumstances. "I couldn't be prouder of us for hosting the 140th Preakness Stakes.

"It's a terrific day and a great crowd," said Hogan, a Republican who took office in January.

As for how Baltimore would look in the national broadcasts on Saturday compared to several weeks ago, Hogan said, "It should be a better show.

"Everything's under control," he said. "Everybody's enjoying themselves."

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford struck a serious note amid the light-hearted atmosphere at Pimlico Race Course.

"The unrest is a not-so-distant memory," Rutherford said. "We're trying to address the long term issues.

"The trouble with government programs that try to address poverty is that they maintain people," he said. "We have to have policies that help people get out [of poverty]. We don't want to maintain people."

Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said he was heartened by the positive response officers were receiving at Pimlico — where particularly in the corporate tent village, fancily-dressed people angled to take their pictures, give them a thumbs-up or thank them for their work during the unrest.

"It's a good opportunity for Baltimore to get back on its feet," Davis said. "Things like this serve to bring people back together, and get back to normalcy."

Except for one officer who had heat exhaustion, Davis said in the early afternoon that the day seemed to be going smoothly.

Advertisement
Advertisement