Leadership: When a big city mayor gives thumbs up to unbridled violence and chaos in her own town, she shouldn’t be surprised when she gets it. Neither should those who voted for her and now will suffer the results.
Here’s what we know: Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man, was taken into custody by the police for possessing a switchblade knife. He ran from the police and resisted arrest. And sometime during his arrest, he was injured seriously — so seriously that he died a week later of spinal injuries in the hospital. The six police officers involved in the pursuit and arrest have been put on leave, and an investigation is underway. Those are the main facts so far.
Yet, in our era of heightened racial sensitivity, and before all the facts are in, Gray’s death has led to demonstrations and outright rioting in Baltimore.
In the wake of last August’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the subsequent rioting and destruction of property there, one thing should be clear: Encouraging riots is both foolish and dangerous.
However angry people might be, we’re still a nation of laws. The legal system has to function for justice to be done. Rioting is a breakdown of public order that can ruin neighborhoods, communities and entire cities.
That’s why Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s comments are truly astounding. Not only did she not tell those who were demonstrating to wait until all the facts were in, she seemed to encourage the worst elements among them to do violence.
In a press conference Sunday, Rawlings-Blake said, “I … instructed (the police) to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. … We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that.”
“Space” to rob, loot and commit arson? Even after 35 people were arrested and six police officers injured during the protests? It was an extraordinarily inflammatory comment.
Meanwhile, Baltimore police report “credible information” that an alliance of gangs has formed to “take out” cops — possible fallout from the mayor’s remarks.
It has been claimed that this violence was all the handiwork of “outsiders.” “The Baltimore Police Department believes that outside agitators continue to be the instigators behind acts of violence and destruction,” Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts told the media.
Yes, some fanning the flames were outsiders. As several news organizations reported, one of them was Malik Shabazz, president of Black Lawyers for Justice and former head of the New Black Panther Party.
Even so, you can’t blame all the violence on Shabazz and other outsiders. The police blotter shows that of the 35 arrested, just three came from outside Maryland. So the discontent was mostly homegrown — the flames fanned by the city’s own leaders.
Baltimore’s mayor should have had a very different message: That is, despite the anger, political violence won’t help African Americans in Baltimore. Far from it. It will destroy businesses and property values and kill jobs — damage from which it will take years to recover.
The police face a May 1 deadline for submitting their findings in the Freddie Gray case to Maryland’s state prosecutor. The prosecutor, weighing the evidence, will then decide whether to press charges.
Shouldn’t people find out all the facts before protesting? And shouldn’t politicians encourage peace rather than the destruction of the very communities they lead?
Read More At Investor’s Business Daily: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/042715-749842-stephanie-rawlings-blake-calls-for-space-for-those-who-destroy.htm#ixzz3Yd2RAHmZ
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