Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley spoke of the Baltimore protest on Meet the Press Sunday. He said that the protests have set the city back but that the story is not over. The fact that the protest turned violent was heartbreak according to O’Malley. He went on to say that the situation in Baltimore should be a “wake up call” to America for the need to address income inequality and the toll the war on drugs is taking.
O’Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore from 1997 to 2007, imposed a police policy that led to a drop in crime but has faced criticism by some who say the strict policy fueled the lack of trust between police and communities. Crime did drop, but in 2005 a grand jury found an over abundance of arrests in black neighborhoods and recommended that officers be retrained. The NAACP and the ACLU in 2006 sued on behalf of 14 plaintiffs who claimed they were wrongly arrested due to a policy that emphasized arrests for offenses that were minor. An $870 thousand settlement was agreed to by the city in 2010. O’Malley has defended his record, cutting short a trip overseas to come to Baltimore during the protest. He walked the streets, shaking hands and talking to citizens and community leaders. His advisers discussed how during his time as mayor he expanded drug treatment, created a civilian board to deal with police misconduct, and that there was a drop in police involved shootings. O’Malley served two terms as mayor, went on to be governor for another two terms, and was strongly supported by the city of Baltimore. Still some hold him partially accountable for the violence that erupted in Baltimore, saying that people’s frustration over being unfairly targeted finally came to head.
O’Malley spoke of an economy that is leaving cities like Baltimore behind and that people of color can not be ignored or treated like disposable citizens. Speaking of the protest in Baltimore, O’Malley said that extreme poverty leads to extreme violence and that there has not been an agenda for our cities since Jimmy Carter. He went on to say that our cities have been left to fend for themselves, and have not been invested in and it has created the conditions we see today. The civil unrest in the city has made him more determined to bring national attention to the plight of the cities and to poverty.
O’Malley rejected House Speaker John Boehner’s assertion that the liberal policies for urban poverty that have been ongoing for over 50 years are a failure. Boehner pointed out that $130 million had been invested in Baltimore for schools, healthcare, and education, but the government effort had not succeeded. O’Malley said that $130 million in funds was a “spit in the bucket” and did little to address the systematic poverty facing the city.
O’Malley, while speaking on the Baltimore protest, also took the time to discuss his possible presidential bid, saying that if he does run he would make his announcement in Baltimore by the end of May. O’Malley could not imagine announcing it anywhere else. He hinted that the crisis in Baltimore would be central to his campaign.
By Jessica Hamel
Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program-Creativecommons Flickr License