Baltimore Residents Say Anger Over Freddie Gray Could Affect Mayor’s Race
City Hall seen as out of touch with residents’ concerns
STEPHEN JANIS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, TRNN: As the city settles into a tense state of normalcy after weeks of unrest and conflict earlier this month, focus is slowly starting to settle on how the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, and how the handling of the crisis before and after, will affect the city’s oftentimes inert political landscape.
Looming over this question is the fact that in less than a year the city will hold a decisive election of who will be mayor, a primary that many say will be directly affected by Gray’s death and the subsequent handling of events that consumed the city in protest and anger. Which is why The Real News Network decided to ask the community to weigh in on how they think the current state of the city will bear upon the outcome.
GREGORY, WEST BALTIMORE RESIDENT: We need people in the office with leadership, leadership mind.
JANIS: Based upon several conversations in Northwest Baltimore near where Freddie Gray was arrested, the people who live there say at the root of the unrest is a disconnect between Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the community, only made worse by the style of policing that led to the fateful encounter, and ultimately his death.
GREGORY: She’s not doing her job. Closing down recreation centers for the kids, and what I can say, I know she will not win next year.
JANIS: That her failure to communicate with residents only exacerbated tension within the community that boiled over nearly three weeks ago.
TANAYRA, WEST BALTIMORE RESIDENT: Somebody who seems like they care. Cares about the city, like, really cares about the people. And not cares about what everybody else thinks about the city. That’s what I feel as though it needs to be.
JANIS: And many are also concerned that despite the protests, little will change at City Hall.
SAMIR, WEST BALTIMORE RESIDENT: These people, they don’t want to hear you. It’s like they’re all on their high horse, I guess. They–it’s just, Baltimore City’s just a bad place to raise your kids. It’s a bad place to try to live as, you know. A successful lifestyle.
JANIS: A concern that seems reasonable given that just two weeks after the protests erupted, the Mayor declined to set aside money for some 3,000 unfunded job slots for teens.
TANAYRA: We need more summer jobs for youth because pretty much now, it’s older people taking jobs that are for kids, like working at McDonald’s. Older people work there. When kids–that’s for teenagers. And I feel as though there needs to be more jobs for us to have.
JANIS: In the end, some say the city might have to reach into its past to find a new leader. Among them, Mayor Sheila Dixon, who has flirted publicly with the idea of running but has made no announcement yet. Even though Dixon was convicted of theft and removed from office, residents say her past is not the point. It is what she can do in the present and how it will bear on the future of a city still in pain that will ultimately determine who they support.
SAMIR: To be honest with you, she was like a Robin Hood. She took from them to give to us. And they fired her because of that. They got rid of her because of that. But at the end of the day it’s like, when somebody’s oppressing your people, to the extent where you’re in a position of power and they don’t want to help you out to help your people out, sometimes you do have to take things in your own hands. I’m not saying what she did was right, I’m saying that when you’re back against the wall, sometimes you go against the grain to make things right.
JANIS: Stephen Janis reporting with Megan Sherman in Baltimore, for The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.