Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake took a drubbing in the media for her handling of the protests and rioting surrounding the death of Freddie Gray, with many saying it was too little and/or too late. (A terribly worded statement about giving people “space to destroy” certainly didn’t help her there!) On Tuesday, she told the Baltimore Sun that without her leadership, things could have been a lot worse.
“Nobody died during the riots,” the mayor said. “Out of the two weeks of demonstrations, we only had a few hours of unrest, and then we were able to restore peace and calm.”
Rawlings-Blake said that without the “amazing amount of restraint” from police officers, “Monday could have been substantially different.”
Her statement points to the difficulty, even in hindsight, of judging how a real-life emergency was handled. We would need to compare it to what could have happened. And we’ve got no hard data on that.
That’s not to say the mayor’s actions are impossible to criticize. Todd Eberly, political science professor at St. Mary’s College, told the Sun that the mayor minimizing the unrest as “only one night of rioting” is like saying, “Right up until Lincoln got shot he had a great time at the play.”
Doug Ward, director of the Johns Hopkins University’s Division of Public Safety Leadership, told the Sun that more than anything, “Baltimore was lucky” that the situation didn’t turn more destructive and violent. “The police were nowhere to be seen,” he said.
Her delay in making a public statement, her apparent lack of presence during that statement, and her potentially flame-fanning use of the word “thugs” could hardly be called strategic, whether you’re for riot cops and tanks or an “amazing amount of restraint.”