Plenty of 'space to destroy' last night in Baltimore

Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has earned an unwelcome immortality with her remark:

I’ve made it very clear that I worked with the police and instructed them to do everything they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It’s a very delicate balancing act. . . . 

We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. We worked very hard to keep that balance.

Despite the mayor’s two clumsy attempts to walk back her foolish words, the evidence of Monday night’s rioting is that space to destroy was provided all over West Baltimore.

The mayor’s attempts to walk back her remarks display remarkable incompetence, mixing obtuseness with arrogance.  First, her office issued a clarification that was a variation on the Groucho Marx line, to the effect of, “Who are you going to believe?  Me or your lying ears?”

What she is saying within this statement was that there was an effort to give the peaceful demonstrators room to conduct their peaceful protests on Saturday. Unfortunately, as a result of providing the peaceful demonstrators with the space to share their message, that also meant that those seeking to incite violence also had the space to operate. The police sought to balance the rights of the peaceful demonstrators against the need to step in against those who were seeking to create violence. The mayor is not saying that she asked police to give space to people who sought to create violence. Any suggestion otherwise would be a misinterpretation of her statement.

But these words are vey clear: “We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”

Last night, speaking to the nation’s media at a press conference, she accused those who reported her exact words of “mischaracterizing” them (video here).

“I made it very clear that we balance a very fine line between giving peaceful protesters space to protest. What I said is, in doing so, people can hijack that and use that space for bad,” the mayor said. “I did not say that we were accepting of it, I did not say we were passive to it. I was just explaining how property damage can happen during a peaceful protest. It is very unfortunate that members of your industry decided to mischaracterize my words and try to use it as a way to say that we are inciting violence, there is no such thing.”

The mayor betrays a personality that blames others for her own mistakes.  Even Al Sharpton, on Morning Joe this morning, agreed that she should admit that she expressed herself badly.  But she cannot do that, and she betrays an ineffective style of leadership that is having grave consequences for the people of Baltimore.

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