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Obama, Rawlings-Blake discuss Freddie Gray protests

President Barack Obama spoke with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Monday to receive an update on the city's efforts to maintain peace following the death of Freddie Gray, the White House said.

Obama discussed the administration's "commitment to provide assistance as needed," according to a summary of the call released by the White House, and will continue to receive updates about the protests — which grew significantly more intense Monday following funeral services for Gray.

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The White House said senior adviser Valerie Jarrett separately spoke with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan about the protests and state and local efforts to keep them peaceful.

Obama also received an update on the situation from Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in just hours earlier as the U.S. attorney general. Lynch touched on relations between police and African-American communities in her first remarks as the nation's top law enforcement officer.

"We can imbue our criminal justice system with both strength and fairness, for the protection of both the needs of victims and the rights of all," said Lynch, the first black woman to head the Justice Department. "We can restore trust and faith, both in our laws and in those of us who enforce them."

She did not name Freddie Gray.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked repeatedly whether the Justice Department would play a more active role to review police tactics, or ease tensions with the communities they serve, under Lynch.

"I would imagine that she could play a pivotal role in trying to advance this kind of understanding that will have important benefits both for law enforcement but also for the people who live in the communities that those law enforcement officers serve," he said.

"But ultimately it's going to require the commitment of local leaders in communities across the country."

While Lynch met with Obama in the Oval Office , reporters watched footage of clashes between young people in Baltimore and police on television.

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