Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says Baltimore Wasn’t Fully Prepared for Riot

© Xinhua News Agency/REX Policemen guard near a CVS pharmacy store which was set ablaze in Baltimore on April 27.
© Xinhua News Agency/REX Policemen guard near a CVS pharmacy store which was set ablaze in Baltimore on April 27.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledged Tuesday that her administration wasn’t fully prepared for April’s rioting, but said officials are learning from it and working to improve should more unrest flare up. 

“I never suggested that we were totally prepared, because this was something that the city hadn’t seen in over 40 years,” Rawlings-Blake said, a day after the city released more than 7,000 internal emails about the unrest. “What I did say is that we were going to learn from everything that happened in the unrest and the riots so that we’re more prepared for the future.”

The Baltimore Sun reported Monday that the emails and other documents show that communications within government broke down during the riots of April 27, as officials desperate for information exchanged rumors and subordinates questioned city leaders. Even as Baltimoreans were looting stores and throwing rocks at police, emails show, officers were waiting for riot gear that was on order.

The emails, obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a public information request, also show city officials were reluctant to call in the National Guard as the violence — which started about 3 p.m. at Mondawmin Mall — escalated.

The mayor’s office was getting emailed pleas from residents to call in the Guard as news of the unrest spread. One wrote at 4:03 p.m., saying, “Bring in the national guard.” Another email to the mayor at 4:34 p.m. said, “I think you need to call in the National Guard to help in this.”

At 4 p.m., Kaliope Parthemos, the mayor’s chief of staff, told another staffer how to respond to such calls: “State troopers have been assisting. National Guard is only when there is a state of emergency.”

Some residents vehemently disagreed with the city’s approach. At 5:10 p.m., Bonnie and Elden Schneider wrote to the mayor: “Enough is enough!! Call in the National Guard!!!”

At 6:07 p.m., Joyce Green, president of a community relations council in the Central police district, wrote to then-police commissioner Anthony W. Batts.

“This has got to stop before more civilians and officers are injured,” she wrote. “It is time to call in the National Guard to help stop this and to call for a Curfew to get everyone off the streets. I don’t want to see anyone else injured or more property damaged and destroyed.

“The CVS may never come back and I fear we may lose the supermarket,” Green wrote. “The city never fully recovered from the riots in the ’60s and the same thing is going to happen again.”

In an interview with The Sun, Kevin Harris, a spokesman for the mayor, said Rawlings-Blake was trying to balance the need to call in the National Guard against the concerns of some citizens worried about kids being harmed by soldiers.

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Source: Baltimore Sun | Luke Broadwater

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