WASHINGTON — After Baltimore’s first round of rowdy protests on Saturday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake came under fire for saying that the city gave people “who wished to destroy” space to do so.

“I worked 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,” Rawlings-Blake said to the media Saturday evening.

“It’s a very delicate balancing act because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”

On Monday, at another news conference on the riots that broke out in the streets following Freddie Gray’s funeral, Rawlings-Blake said she was misunderstood.

“I’m going to protect people’s right to protest,” she said. “The fact that people exploited that does not mean that I do not have an obligation to protect people’s right to protest. I never said, nor would I ever say, that we are giving people space to destroy our city. So my words should not be twisted.”


Gray, who was 25, died on April 19 — one week after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody.

Demonstrations have been nearly constant in the city ever since, and destructive riots broke out after his funeral on Monday. At least 15 officers were hurt Monday, including six who remained hospitalized late in the day, and two dozen people were arrested. Several buildings were burned, as well.

Video of Saturday’s press conference:

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