Baltimore 1 year after Freddie Gray's death

Posted at 5:34 PM, Apr 19, 2016
Long before officers loaded Freddie Gray into a police van and failed to secure him, rough rides and other acts of police brutality had resulted in costly settlements to the City of Baltimore for decades.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says even as city council president, she was working to change that.

"It was before Freddy Gray that I asked the Department of Justice to come in with the COPS office to improve community policing,” said Rawlings-Blake, “It didn't take Freddie Gray's death for me to be in this work.  It took his death and the riots to wake a whole bunch of other people up, but my track record is very clear."

The riots that followed Gray's funeral prompted a wave of criticism over the city's preparedness or lack of it.

The mayor called for peaceful protests and met with local religious leaders to counter outside agitators who flocked here from Ferguson and New York.

But she didn't foresee the lawless acts of those who would use the cover of chaos to commit criminal acts.

"You can't say it's an issue of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ when people drove their luxury vehicles to the mall to steal.  That's not ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.  That's people that are taking advantage of very raw and horrible time in our city to their own benefit,” said the mayor, “When people are stealing drugs so they can sell them out on the street or stealing booze or whatever, these are opportunists."

Armed members of the National Guard would descend upon the city and curfews would follow culminating with indictments against six police officers.

Looking back now, the mayor says she has no regrets over her actions.

"If you're saying, 'Am I comfortable in my skin?'  Absolutely, you know every day, all day, because I'm very comfortable with the decisions that I've made and the outcomes.  Was it a tragedy?  Absolutely.  Was it a scar for our city that will take probably decades to overcome?  I'm sure."

But unlike the riots of 1968, no one died during the April riots. 

A year after Freddie Gray's death, she also wants to remember those who suffered the most painful loss.

"While we commemorate or are talking about this day in history, this anniversary in really sanitized terms, his family are reliving the horrible tragedy and the grief of loss and that is not lost on me."

The mayor says she hopes as people reflect on Gray's death, they will consider what they can do, setting aside any racial, socio-economic or religious differences, to help the fabric of the city.

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