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Cummings says Baltimore protests 'could have been worse'

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said the unrest late Saturday that followed hours of peaceful protests over Freddie Gray's death was caused by a "few people, mainly from out of town."

Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who represents Baltimore, said many in the city deserve credit for remaining peaceful in the face of great frustration over Gray's death. The 25-year-old died April 19, a week after sustaining a spinal cord injury while in police custody.

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"I got to give it to the citizens of Baltimore," Cummings told Bob Schieffer Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "… There was a few people who said, 'We're going to turn this city down. We're going to close it down,' and the next thing you know we had a few people, mainly from out of town, to come and to start beating up on police cars and throwing all kinds of projectiles."

He said the situation "could have been worse."

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Cummings, who is considering a run for U.S. Senate, called police-community relations "the civil rights cause for this generation." He said the ability to record interactions between police and the public with cell phone cameras is creating "a whole new situation."

Schieffer asked whether Cummings was satisfied by the response by city police officials and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

"I think they are doing the best they can under the circumstances," Cummings said.

But going forward, Cummings said, the Police Department needs "a top to bottom" review. The U.S. Department of Justice is opening a criminal investigation and civil rights probe into Gray's death as well as undertaking a previously announced "collaborative review" of the agency's use-of-force reports, training procedures and policies.

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"We have got to take this department apart and try to figure out what is wrong and what is right," Cummings said. "This is a significant moment … If we don't correct this, it will only get worse."

Cummings said he believes the confrontations were eased late Saturday, in part, due to requests for calm by the mayor, police commissioner and other city leaders. He reiterated his belief that community leaders also played a role in helping to restore peace.

"A lot of community leaders were in the crowd saying, 'This is our house. We will protect our house,' and asking people not to be violent," Cummings said.

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