Although the trials of the police officers involved are still playing out, enough time has passed since the Freddie Gray riots in Baltimore for some historical perspective to begin taking shape. Many questions remain over the response from City Hall – and at all levels, really – and some of the timeline is being put into context. Governor Larry Hogan is adding to the chronology of events this week with an interview where he describes some of the behind the scenes action which contradicts the prevailing media narrative from inside the city. In particular, he focuses on the support sent in by the state at the height of the riots and how Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wasn’t exactly grateful for the assistance she received as the city descended into chaos. (Baltimore Sun)
During remarks at the center-right American Action Forum in Washington, the Republican governor said he first called Rawlings-Blake last April offering help after an aide showed him footage of a burning police car. He called again three hours later with two options: He would sign an executive order sending in the National Guard at her request, or he would sign one sending it in at his.
“I think it’s better for you and better for me if we go with the first one,” Hogan recalled telling the mayor. “But either way, we’re … taking over.”
Hogan said Rawlings-Blake told him she needed more time, and when he refused, she asked for 15 minutes to think over her options.
“She called me back, and she said, ‘Since you’re holding a gun to my head, and since you’re going to do it anyway, I guess I’ll ask you to come in,'” Hogan said. “And then we came in, saved the city, and we never got a thank-you.
This was one of those moments where a “local story” became very national almost immediately. The entire nations was fixated on news reports as the “peaceful protests” quickly broke down into violence and anarchy. It wasn’t just one police car on fire as you’ll recall if you were watching. By the time the CVS pharmacy at the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues had been looted of most of the drugs inside and was going up in flames, the city police were backed down into a few strongholds. News crews watched in horror as bands of gang members went door to door through businesses and private residences carrying off armloads of goods until the Governor sent in the National Guard to reestablish order.
With all of these events fully documented on film, the initial response from the Mayor when Hogan reached out to her is rather staggering. She insisted that things were under control even as the city was going up in flames around her.
Hogan said that when he first called the mayor, she assured him that everything was under control. He recalled telling her that “it doesn’t look like everything’s under control. It looks like the city’s on fire.”
He said that the National Guard’s “overwhelming presence had a chilling effect on the rioters. They all went scurrying home and didn’t want to cause any more violence because we had an overwhelming display of force.”
Rawlings-Blake is on her way out, having chosen not to run for another term. In the interview, Hogan declared that her career is over, which sounds about right. But sadly, the price for her inaction and political calculations in a moment of crisis has already been paid and it’s the residents of the city’s poorest communities who picked up the tab.