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Hogan: Freddie Gray’s death ‘was a spark’

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks to a class at Towson University. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks to a class at Towson University. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Gov. Larry Hogan Tuesday vowed more help for Baltimore City but said that overcoming decades of systemic problems in communities touched by the riots following the death of Freddie Gray will not be easily accomplished.

Hogan made his comments during a 30-minute, wide-ranging exchange with students at Towson University on issues such as the Red Line transportation project and working with a majority Democratic legislature. The governor also chastised Republicans and Democrats in Annapolis for being too partisan.

“We’re trying to make improvements in people’s lives in Baltimore City so you don’t have this tinder keg ready to constantly explode,” Hogan said. “We’ve got to help get people out of the lives they’re stuck in. We’ve got to try and address the long-standing issues.”

Gray, a 25-year old west Baltimore man, died a year ago. His death from injuries while in police custody touched off riots that Hogan called some of the worst violence in Baltimore City in more than four decades.

Nancy Grasmick, Governor Larry Hogan, and Richard Vatz, Professor of Rhetoric at Towson Univeristy, seen walking down a hallway at Towson University. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Nancy Grasmick, Governor Larry Hogan, and Richard Vatz, Professor of Rhetoric at Towson Univeristy, seen walking down a hallway at Towson University. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

“There are a lot of different issues that need to be addressed,” Hogan told students. “I’m not a magician. I can’t tell you we’re going to immediately fix Baltimore, but by working together and listening to people and working together with the local leaders, school system, local government, we’re going try to everything we can to make a difference in people’s lives there.”

Hogan made his remarks to about 75 students in Professor Richard Vatz’s communications and rhetoric class. He also fielded questions, most of which were about Gray or the city of Baltimore.

Hogan said the death of Gray while in police custody set off a chain of events that had been building as a result of underlying frustrations in Baltimore’s poorer communities.

“There’s a lot more happening beneath the surface,” Hogan said. “Freddie Gray was a spark We have a lot of things that have been happening for 50 years in Baltimore that caused people to be frustrated. People that can’t find jobs, that see no hope, that see no opportunity, that don’t feel like they’re getting a good education, that don’t feel like anyone is paying attention to them in the city. You can’t change 50 years or 100 years of problems overnight but we’ve been really focused on that even before the unrest in Baltimore.”

Governor’s critics

Hogan has come under criticism by some Democrats, including outgoing Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who accused Hogan of abandoning the city on a number of issues — in particular, his cancellation of the Red Line light-rail project.

The governor Tuesday decried the violence that followed Gray’s death while at the same time lauding the state response. Hogan ordered the National Guard to assist Baltimore police in their response to the uprising.

Hogan told students that the state is even more prepared should there be another spree of violence. Some have expressed fear that the outcomes of the trials of six police officers accused in Gray’s death might spark unrest.

“You never know when this could happen again,” Hogan said. “We’re going to be prepared. We’re going to hope for the best and plan for the best and be prepared for the worst. If there’s anything that happens we’re going to be more prepared, more organized and more coordinated than we were.