Former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has taken on a new role as the rapper Travis Scott’s spokeswoman, making the rounds this week defending her client in a pair of national television appearances in the wake of the Astroworld Festival tragedy that left at least nine dead and hundreds injured during Scott’s performance.
A criminal investigation into the deaths at Astroworld is underway. Thursday was the last day attorneys, who have filed more than 50 lawsuits to date, were allowed access to the concert site at NRG Park, where the stage where Scott performed and surrounding crowd barricades have remained standing.
The lawsuits have been filed against Scott and several companies, including entertainment giant Live Nation and concert promoter ScoreMore, a nonprofit managing the Houston-owned venue. The complaints allege that organizers failed to take simple crowd-control steps, to staff properly and to act on early signs of trouble at the sold-out concert at NRG Park that attracted 50,000 fans.
Rawlings-Blake, in a Friday appearance on CBS Mornings with Gayle King, deflected blame away from Scott, who has been previously accused of riling up his audiences. During a Lollapalooza performance in 2015, he encouraged fans to climb over securities barricades, for instance.
“He does not hide from the fact that in the past he has made mistakes,” Rawlings-Blake said on CBS Mornings. “But one thing he said to me, and he looked in my eyes and said that he has learned from that and that’s why he takes safety so seriously.”
Critics have lashed out at Scott for not ending the festival when fans started getting hurt. Scott multiple times briefly paused his performance as the crowd grew unruly.
Concertgoers have described the packed crowd growing dangerous even before Scott appeared on stage, and seeing people collapse while the rapper performed. Scott’s attorneys have said he did not know about the deaths and injuries until after the show. Rawlings-Blake stressed Scott found out “hours and hours” later.
“This notion that Scott had the ability to stop the concert is ludicrous,” Rawlings-Blake told Gayle King. “They have a 59-page operations plan, and it clearly says the only two people that have the authority to stop the concert were the executive director and the concert producer. He was not responsible for this, but he wants to take responsibility for the solution.”
She said Scott, who has pledged to cover the funeral costs for the concertgoers who died during his show, has been in contact with the victims’ families.
Earlier this week, Rawlings-Blake in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett said, “we’re doing everything that he can do in his power to make sure that no fan ever loses their life at another concert.”
CNN reports Scott and Rawlings-Blake were connected by a mutual friend.
“He is angry. He is upset that this happened,” she continued on CNN, adding, “I think the finger-pointing is just — it is unproductive. He at his heart wants to reach out to the families. He also wants to reach out to make sure that something like this never happens again.”
Rawlings-Blake served as Baltimore mayor from 2010-2016. She oversaw the city during the violent protests that sprang up following the death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody — a fact that King used to intro her guest.
“She is used to dealing with tragedy and controversy,” King said. Since leaving office, Rawlings-Blake opened her public relations firm SRB & Associates.
Scott was only minutes into his set when at least one Houston officer radioed over a police channel that the main stage had been compromised by a massive crowd surge.
Recordings of police radio traffic, obtained by the Houston Chronicle, reveal how quickly law enforcement became aware of the rising danger in the throng of concertgoers shortly after the star rapper began performing at the sold-out music festival, which drew about 50,000 people.
“I’m at the medical tent,” one officer radioed in around 9:30 p.m. “There’s a lot of people trampled and they’re passed out at the front stage.”
Later, another officer says: “We’re getting multiple reports of people getting injured. We have another report of cardiac situation with CPR by the stage.”
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said during a news conference Wednesday that police told organizers to shut down the performance when fans in the crowd were administered CPR. Authorities gave word around 10:03 p.m. that the concert was in the process of shutting down, but witnesses say Scott and Drake, the superstar rapper who came on toward the end of Scott’s set as a special guest, kept performing.
Finner repeatedly refused to provide timelines, saying the case was still under investigation. He said more than 500 officers were working the festival, more than double the number assigned in 2019 when the festival was last held.
But Finner said festival organizers had not provided clear records of how many private security guards were working the show, describing what they turned over as “just not good.” It was up to Live Nation Entertainment, the show’s promoter, to secure two mosh pits in front of the stage, Finner said.
“Someone has to say ‘where are the breakdowns? Where where the communication breakdowns? Where were the public safety breakdowns?’” Rawlings-Blake said on CBS.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.