On Saturday night Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake explained her measured approach to the incipient destruction taking place on the streets of the city (video below). She “made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech.”
“It’s a very delicate balancing act,” she continued. “Because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate.”
Yesterday, however, as the incipient destruction expended into riots and looting, the mayor denied that she had provided “space to destroy” and blamed the media for giving currency to her words (video here). The mayor explicated Saturday night’s text:
“I was asked a question about the property damage that was done, and in answering that question I made it very clear that we balance a very line between giving protesters — peaceful protesters — space to protest. What I said is, in doing so, people can hijack that and use that space for bad. I did not say that we were accepting of it, I did not say that we were passive to it, I was just explaining how property damage can happen during a peaceful protest. It is very unfortunate that members of your industry decided to mischaracterize my words and try to use it in a way to say we were inciting violence. There’s no such thing,” she said.
“What we did was manage a peaceful protest in the best way possible and when it got violent and destructive we responded to that. We have an obligation to protect people’s First Amendment rights. We also understand through the best training and best practices that we have to do everything we can to de-escalate, and those were the tactics that were deployed yesterday. Did people exploit those tactics or that space that we gave, that we facilitated to have people protest for bad? Yes, they did. But we didn’t endorse it.”
Asked whether the “de-escalation strategy” she touted on Saturday was a mistake, the mayor paused and replied, “Any other questions?” She didn’t invoke her Fifth Amendment rights, but she declined to answer.