The violence that overtook peaceful protests in Baltimore Monday has reached the ears of the top officials in the country. While President Obama hasn't publicly talked about the Baltimore riots, the White House released a statement Monday detailing discussions he had with newly instated Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The Obama Administration said the federal government is ready to provide assistance as needed.
The White House said Obama spoke with Lynch, who was sworn in this afternoon, in a pre-planned meeting on current issues, including the situation in Baltimore. Lynch updated Obama on the protests and riots that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray, who on April 12 sustained a life-ending spinal injury while in police custody. The Department of Justice announced last week it would investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the 25-year-old's death. Lynch said in a statement the DOJ would provide assistance if needed.
As our investigative process continues, I strongly urge every member of the Baltimore community to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. In the days ahead, I intend to work with leaders throughout Baltimore to ensure that we can protect the security and civil rights of all residents. And I will bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence.
The White House also said Obama spoke with Mayor Rawlings-Blake about the efforts to "address the demonstrations and maintain peace throughout the city." According to the statement, Obama's administration would be committed to providing assistance if needed and would continue to receive updates from Lynch and White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, who spoke with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
The events in Baltimore are very reminiscent of what took place in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer, after black teenager Michael Brown was shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. Obama released several statements about Ferguson — specifically, one after the shooting and first protest and another after a night of violence — but the president largely stayed out of the daily conversation surrounding the small Missouri town. A week following violence that swept across Ferguson, Obama said:
While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice.
Monday's events may elicit a more direct response from the president given its proximity to the nation's capital. Baltimore is just 40 miles away from Washington, and it will be difficult to ignore the racial tensions and violence that have consumed a city so close to the White House. Authorities said 15 police officers were injured Monday, mostly from bricks and bottles thrown by protesters. Looting and fires were common, causing Gov. Hogan to declare a state of emergency. Mayor Rawlings-Blake also put a mandatory curfew into effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for the next week.
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