Demonstrators gathered in front of Baltimore City Hall during a Rescue America rally organized by Walk Away campaign organizer Brandon Straka on Saturday. The protest, the first of its kind, criticized tactics of organizers in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Straka, dressed in a black T-shirt and dress pants, paced back and forth in front of a “Blue Lives Matter” sign and a crowd of nearly 100 people decked largely in President Donald Trump T-shirts and hats.
Straka, a former supporter of Hillary Clinton who launched the Walk Away campaign ahead of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, said this was one of several rallies to be held in cities throughout the country, the next being Sacramento. He said Baltimore had gotten its planning together quickly due to Tim Fazenbaker, a local Baltimore organizer with Straka’s campaign organization.
Fazenbaker met with Straka while he was touring the country during a political campaign and wanted Baltimore to be the first city to get the opportunity.
“We want to make a change. We can’t just keep doing what we have been doing for seven years,” Fazenbaker said.
It did not take long for the group to be met by Black Lives Matter demonstrators who calmly debated with demonstrators at the rally but ultimately ended up hearing an earful from Straka.
“If you’re a Black person who believes that your life matters, what you don’t do is go out and commit acts of violence and vandalism and destruction. You don’t do that,” Straka told the crowd.
The demonstration comes on the heels of protests and outcries throughout the country following police-involved killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, including demands for police reform demonstrators supporting the Black Lives Matter movement have called for. Straka, Fazenbaker and other speakers linked that movement directly to recent unrest in Portland.
Straka wants to push people with left-wing ideologies to leave the Democratic Party, he said.
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And first-time demonstrator Lyn Rodriguez took his side.
Rodriguez, 50, criticized the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue in Little Italy on July 4. She said she is seeing “so much destruction out there” during protests; she came to the demonstration with family to let her voice be heard.
“You know Baltimore has had some things going on right ? And I am pretty close to Baltimore. The Christopher Columbus statue was brought down . What was that?” Rodriguez said.
To Rodriguez, Baltimore is one example. Other cities such as Atlanta, which saw unrest following the officer-involved death of Rayshard Brooks, were also mentioned. But activists in Baltimore say they have been strategic, as rallies throughout the city since the COVID-19 pandemic have remained peaceful.
But Straka still holds firm on his position, that Floyd and Taylor had been “glorified,” turned into “martyrs” and portrayed as “innocent, good people.”