Obama Stands by Statement that Baltimore Rioters Are 'Thugs and Criminals'

© AP Photo / Carolyn KasterWhite House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington
White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington - Sputnik International
US President Barack Obama will not change the way he characterized the Baltimore rioters as being “thugs and criminals,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — On Monday, riots erupted in Baltimore, Maryland after the burial of 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray who died of a spinal cord injury while in police custody. Rioters throw bricks at police, injuring 20 officers, destroyed 144 cars, 15 buildings and looted stores.

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“No, I do not think that the President would in any way revise the remarks that he shared with all of you in the Rose Garden,” Earnest said when asked whether the President thinks the phrase he used was the best way to characterize the Baltimore rioters.

Earnest said that what the rioters did to Baltimore was nothing short of criminal — “whether it’s arson, or the looting of a liquor store, those were thuggish acts.”

President Obama wanted to draw a “clear distinction,” Earnest noted, between the actions of the rioters versus the efforts of the Baltimore community to address legitimate concerns about the treatment of Freddie Gray by the police and “and what they perceive to be some broader problems that may exist.”

Ahead of Obama’s remarks, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also described the rioters as “thugs,” but retracted her characterization on Wednesday via Twitter.

“I wanted to clarify my comments on ‘thugs’,” Rawlings-Blake wrote in her Twitter message. “When you speak out of frustration and anger, one can say things in a way that you don’t mean.”

As a result of the unrest in Baltimore, the Mayor declared on Monday a week-long curfew in the city from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

White House officials have not made any arrangements to travel to Baltimore, Maryland which was hit on Monday by a wave of riots, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.

The press secretary noted that senior officials from the US Department of Justice, including a top US civil rights prosecutor, Vanita Gupta, visited the city on Tuesday.

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US President Barack Obama said in a radio interview earlier on Wednesday that he plans to visit Baltimore after unrest calms down.

“There is no one from the White House, that I know of, who has travel plans for Baltimore at this point,” Earnest said in a press briefing.

Baltimore, located about 40 miles, or 64 kilometers, away from the US capital, saw a wave of violent riots and looting following Freddie Gray’s funeral on Monday.


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