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Douglass Students Say They Got A Bad Rap

P. Kenneth Burns

Students at Frederick Douglass High School bristled Wednesday at suggestions that they were involved in the riots that erupted near their school Monday after the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

For one thing, they said, the rioting at Mondawmin Mall began around 3:00 p.m., an hour before they get out of school. In addition, the Mondawmin Metro Station is a major transportation hub where students from many schools meet on their way to and from classes every day.

Not only that, they said, they resented those involved in the riots being called “thugs” by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake and other city officials.

The students expressed their concerns in front of Hip Hop artist and Maryland native Wale, who visited the school at the request of the Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple AME church.

City schools re-opened Wednesday after being closed Tuesday because of the rioting that stemmed from protests over Gray’s death from injuries suffered while in police custody.

The Grammy-nominated artist said he also was upset about the mayor’s choice of words.

"Regardless of what’s happening out here, these are the young leaders of tomorrow and they have to look in the mirror and see something better than what they’re being perceived as on TV," he said.

Bryant said he was "absolutely amazed" by the mayor's characterization, “considering she has a black child, and I pray her child is never called or attached to that."

Rawlings-Blake has since walked back those statements. She tweeted earlier in the day that she was speaking out of anger and frustration and added that she saw “misguided young people who need to be held accountable, but who also need support and that [her] comments” didn't convey that.

Deputy Mayor Dawn Kirstaetter, who was at the school as well, apologized on behalf of the mayor.

Wale said he was disappointed that the mayor is not doing more to express regret.

"I think that if you go on a large scale; a large podium and say such a ridiculous statement, I think you need to go on a larger grander scale and say I retract that statement," said Wale who added that the mayor should have been at the school to talk to the students.