Protestors went on a rampage over the weekend in Baltimore, Maryland, as what was billed as a peaceful protest turned violent with attacks on police officers and their vehicles.

The protestors were pushing back against the death of Freddie Gray, a man who died while in police custody.

With the slew of cases of police brutality, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that protests are being organized, or that those protests will turn violent now and then. Asking people to come together in a mob-mentality situation where they are focusing on loss and anger will inevitably lead to flare-ups.

However, what makes the Baltimore situation stand out from other protests and what makes it disturbing is the way that the city’s leadership reacted to the event and stood up for the violence and destruction caused by the protestors.

Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, announced in a press conference following the protests and violence that the Baltimore police were giving rioters “space to destroy.” Those words were part of her speech that spoke about giving those who wished to protest their right to freedom of speech.

Rawlings-Blake later released a statement that purportedly corrects the way her words could be read. Instead of speaking about giving rioters “space to destroy” she supposedly meant that the rioters used the space for free speech to destroy on their own.

But Rawlings-Blake can only attempt to play revisionist history with her words. It’s clear from watching the video clips that she seemed to think that the ability to destroy and voice outrage was at least a part of the free speech that she and the Baltimore police granted to the protestors.

Elected officials should not be standing up for the destruction of private property and the injuring of police officers. Six police officers were wounded in the rioters’ expression of “free speech.” When speech acts cross the line into violence, then it becomes a crime. It’s very simple.

We need to open public discourse about police violence, this is true. But having protests turn violent and then be upheld as “free speech” by public officials is the absolute wrong way to move forward.

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