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Stokes: Riots ‘Should Have’ Happened

P. Kenneth Burns

Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Carl Stokes said Wednesday that long term neglect of some city neighborhoods caused the riots that erupted last April after Freddie Gray’s funeral, “as it should have.”

Appearing on WYPR’s Maryland Morning Stokes recalled a CNN reporter asking him “that riot really tore up this neighborhood, didn’t it” while walking around Penn North, two days after a CVS in the neighborhood was burned down.

“I said ‘Will you look again?  Do those boards look like they were put up yesterday?  The riot did not tear up this neighborhood,’” Stokes remembered telling the reporter.  “The conditions, the neglect; the hopelessness that is in this neighborhood caused an uprising; as it should have.”

Stokes said at least three mayors have neglected those communities, causing a breakdown in police and community relations.

“[The community has seen] their sons and daughters being taken away to jail for committing no crimes and we see some officers – a very small number – getting away, they would say literally, with murder,” he said.

Stokes said he thinks the community respects and supports the “greater majority” of the police force.  But “they’re mad that we have not removed the bad cops from their midst of the community and the other officers.”

This is the second mayoral campaign for Stokes, who served two terms on the City Council from 1987 to 1995 and returned to the council in 2010 to fill the vacancy created when Jack Young became council president.

Stokes first ran for mayor in 1999, losing to Martin O’Malley.

At the time, he said he would focus on educating young people and finding jobs for people to improve public safety.

“[I said] we’re going to take people off corners and we’re going to get people into employment.”

But O’Malley argued that none of that could be done “until we lock up as many people as we can,” Stokes said.

“The people said ‘that’s what we need; we need to lock them up,’” he recalled.

Stokes said he hopes that voters have changed their minds since then and come to realize that mass arrests were not the answer.

“Just doing that was a very stupid and, quite frankly, immoral strategy,” he said.  “We have ruined thousands of people’s lives in our town.”