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Baltimore City Council President: 'I Don't Condone' Rioting, Looting


Like the mayor, our next guest also called the rioters thugs before he pulled back. Jack Young is president of the Baltimore City Council, and I asked him why he apologized for using that word.

JACK YOUNG: I'm going to tell you why I did that. I don't want to implant that into their minds 'cause I don't want them to believe that 'cause I believe that everyone can change. And it was in the heat of the moment because what I saw - I saw thuggish-type action. But, you know, not all of them were participating in that. So to label all of them as thugs was not the right thing that I think I should've done, and that's why I apologized.

BLOCK: Have you heard any voices expressing the view that I've seen in some columns, which is that the violence, while not right and not good, it should be understandable when people are surrounded by violence all the time and specifically violence at the hands of police.

YOUNG: I definitely don't agree with that. It's like telling them it's OK to go and destroy your own community. Someone went and shot up about eight or nine cars. Why? This is not about Freddie Gray. This is about people who are there for one reason, to create havoc in Baltimore City, and it's unacceptable.

BLOCK: You held a news conference yesterday with some self-described gang members in Baltimore. They said they were against the violence that they've seen in the streets. But there are folks who say that was really the wrong message for you to be sending - to be standing next to, speaking in the same voice as gang members responsible, probably, for some of the violent drug trade in your city.

YOUNG: I disagree. Not all gang members are dealing drugs. Not all gang members are killing people. The gang contacted me. They wanted to speak to me because they wanted to tell me what the young people was feeling. What they said was they were feeling unloved, they was feeling deprived of good schools, recreation centers, swimming pools. Those guys are our children, and I told them when they came to meet with me, look, I don't condone gangs, so don't get it wrong. I'm not giving credence to what you're doing, but I want to hear what you have to say. They are citizens of Baltimore as well. Some of them have jobs. Some of them pay taxes. Would I like to see them out of the gangs? Absolutely, but guess what? They were some of the same ones that rode up in vans that stood in front of stores and said you're not going to loot this store.

BLOCK: You're saying those were gang members doing that.

YOUNG: These were gang members. They reached out to their homeboys and homegirls because they respect them. I'm telling you, they respect them more than they respect us. So to reach out to them, I think was the right thing to do, just like I would meet with any other groups. Somebody said would Council President Young meet with the Ku Klux Klan? If they wanted to come and meet with me to talk about making things better, absolutely I would meet with them.

BLOCK: As you drive around Baltimore now and see the businesses that were looted and businesses that were burned, how do you convince businesses to come back to these neighborhoods now?

YOUNG: Well, you know, that's a tough question. Some of them had said that they will return. We don't know about CVS because I haven't been able to reach them yet. But I went to some of those businesses that were looted on Monday. I made phone calls to owners who I could reach. I went to Downtown Locker and talked to them. Matter of fact, I had a meeting with them today. They are still committed to the city of Baltimore. And prior to all of this, they had a meeting scheduled with me today because they want to do a community/rec center right in the heart of East Baltimore. I mean, these companies are committed. We let them know that this is not nothing that we condone.

That's why when you asked me the first question, was it OK for them to do? No, it was not because, guess what? Their grandmothers, their aunts, their uncles had to get their prescriptions filled there. They had neighbors who worked there who no longer will be paid. So they can't pay their rent, the seniors can't get their prescriptions filled. I mean, you know, it's a ripple effect, and it spans far beyond what they think they're doing out there. And it's wrong, and I don't condone it.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Young, thanks very much for talking with us today, I appreciate it.

YOUNG: Thank you.

BLOCK: Jack Young is president of Baltimore's City Council. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.