As Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake faces scrutiny after riots gripped her city earlier this week in response to alleged police brutality, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’d spoken to the “very capable leader” this weekend.
“I know Stephanie Rawlings-Blake pretty well. Obviously when I talked to her Saturday—I guess it was late-morning, early-afternoon—it was before some of the worst stuff, worst of the experience,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters outside City Hall today, according to audio provided by his office. “But she’s a very capable leader, a very thoughtful leader.”
Violence erupted in the city following the funeral for Freddie Gray on Monday, an unarmed black man who died of a severe spinal cord injury after being arrested by Baltimore police. Protests leading up to the funeral had been peaceful but boiled over Monday, with people setting fires and looting—scenes that did not play out in New York after the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died of a police chokehold, nor after a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer.
Ms. Rawlings-Blake was particularly criticized for saying the city “gave those who wished to destroy space to do that.” She also butted heads with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has implied Ms. Rawlings-Blake should have reached out to him earlier to enlist the help of the National Guard.
“I think this was a tough moment obviously for Baltimore,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I think they were quick to make adjustments and obviously last night went a lot better.”
Mr. de Blasio painted a broader picture of strife in Baltimore, a city plagued by violence and poverty.
“It’s a city that really dealt with some of the worst crime dynamics of any city in America, some of the toughest economic changes, and she’s been trying to pull that city forward, and I really wish her luck. You know, I think mayors all around the country stand in solidarity with her,” Mr. de Blasio said.
New York did see its own protests following the Garner decision, with demonstrators blocking streets and occasionally clashing with police, with a handful of arrests for smaller assaults but no widespread violence or looting. Some—including Police Commissioner Bill Bratton—sought to connect anti-police protests to the murder of two NYPD officers in December.
There are plans for a protest in Union Square tonight, in solidarity with Baltimore. Mr. de Blasio urged those protesters to keep things peaceful.
“I’d say if you want to make change, keep things peaceful. The obvious fact is when anyone moves away from violent, moves away from nonviolent protests, when anyone gets involved in violent protests, it denigrates their cause,” Mr. de Blasio said.