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Gov. Larry Hogan points to Rodney King riot in disaster aid appeal

Gov. Larry Hogan is pointing to precedent — a federal decision to aid Los Angeles after a 1992 riot — as he appeals the Obama administration's decision to deny $19 million in assistance for Baltimore this year.

In a letter this week asking President Barack Obama to overturn the decision, Hogan provided several examples in which the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided aid to state and local governments hit by calamities other than natural disasters.

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However, Hogan said, the "most compelling comparison" was the determination that Los Angeles was eligible for aid to rebuild after the civil unrest sparked by the acquittal of police officers in the videotaped beating of the late Rodney King, an unarmed African-American man who had resisted arrest. The three-day riot resulted in more than 50 deaths and an estimated $1 billion in property damage.

The governor argued that Baltimore should not be penalized because the damage during the unrest between April 25 and May 1 was far less extensive. While the rioting in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gary from injuries suffered while in police custody drew national attention, there were no deaths as a result.

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"The disparity in overall impacts is, at least in part, due to the coordinated efforts of the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland in mobilizing and directing the surge of resources to restore and maintain order," Hogan told Obama.

Maryland applied for more than $19 million to help the city, state and counties that participated in the response recover their costs. W. Craig Fugate, FEMA's administrator, wrote to Hogan June 12 saying federal disaster aid "is not appropriate" for such an event.

Hogan's office, which said Tuesday it would appeal, released the letter Wednesday.

In addition to the Los Angeles riot, the governor also pointed to other instances in which FEMA awarded aid in cases other than natural disasters. They included the 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center, the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, and the 1980 Mariel boatlift of refugees from Cuba.

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