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Rawlings-Blake criticizes protesters for blocking traffic in Baltimore

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Tuesday criticized both Gov. Larry Hogan over his recent funding decisions and a group of protesters led by Pastor Jamal Bryant who blocked traffic coming into Baltimore -- a decision she suggested could have prevented hospital workers from reaching medical centers and patients from getting treatment.

"I understand and respect the right to protest," Rawlings-Blake said. "When you are putting people at risk by shutting down major thoroughfares, that's beyond reasonable protest. We were very clear with the protesters this morning that wasn't going to be tolerated."

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Bryant and others were protesting state decisions to fund a new $30 million youth jail in Baltimore, but not allocate $68 million set aside by the General Assembly for public schools.

State officials approved plans earlier this month to build a 60-bed jail to house Baltimore teenagers charged as adults -- a step to address years of concern about the practice of housing young city defendants alongside adults. The approval came a day before Hogan announced plans to spend the $68 million on the state's struggling pension system instead of schools.

Rawlings-Blake said Tuesday she doesn't support the way the governor made his funding decisions. She called the decision to fund the youth jail "abrupt" and said officials didn't involve community members in the process.

"With respect to the underlying issue, I understand the frustration," Rawlings-Blake said of Tuesday's protest. "Without any debate at the Board of Public Works, there was a decision to spend millions of dollars on a youth jail. In the same week, there was a decision made not to fund education. It sends an unusual and a peculiar message to the families of Baltimore."

Bryant, pastor at Empowerment Temple and a vocal community leader in Baltimore during protests following Freddie Gray's death, said more protests were planned.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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