Following violent rioting in Baltimore Monday night that saw looting and police cars set ablaze, the crowded 2016 presidential field on Tuesday came together in calling for peace in the shaken city.
Former Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley (D), whose likely White House bid will lean heavily on his record as the city's mayor and as governor of Maryland, wrote on Twitter that he was "saddened that the City [sic] I love is in such pain this night."
Parts of the city erupted in protest Monday afternoon hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray, the young black man whose death from injuries sustained while in police custody has put additional strain on the already tense relationship between local communities and the authorities. The protests escalated Monday evening and led Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to declare a state of emergency in the city.
Dr. Ben Carson (R), a former resident of the city of Baltimore, said in a statement that he is saddened by the “destruction taking place by irresponsible individuals.” Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, is well-known in Baltimore for his outreach to the city's youth.
“It is vital to remember that the best way to create positive change is through peaceful conversation and policy ideas that display a commitment to resolution,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are extended to those who are experiencing fear and loss during this troubling time, including the families of Mr. Gray and first responders/officers."
"I urge parents, grandparents and guardians to please take control of your children and do not allow them to be exposed to the dangers of uncontrolled agitators on the streets,” he added.
The calls for an end to the violence came from both sides of the aisle, with nearly all of the candidates (and potential candidates) who spoke on the issue adding that that they wish to see a full investigation into the circumstances of Gray's death.
(The initials at the end of GOP Gov. Scott Walker and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's tweets indicate they are personal messages, rather than tweets written by their social media teams.)
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), in a statement to the press, forcefully called for the facts to be “thoroughly and impartially investigated.” He also said that “rioting and mayhem are not the answer.”
"While we continue to pray for a peaceful conclusion to the events in Baltimore – and pray for the families of those injured – I hope we all remember that our nation’s law enforcement consists of thousands of heroic officers who deeply respect the dignity of each person they serve to protect,” he said.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R), who has spoken extensively about the harmful effects of poverty and the need for criminal justice reform, noted that he passed through Baltimore last night and was "glad the train didn't stop."
“It's depressing. It's sad. It's scary. I came through the train on Baltimore [sic] last night; I'm glad the train didn't stop," he told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. "The thing is that really there are so many things we can talk about...you know, the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of sort of a moral code in our society. This isn't just a racial thing, it goes across racial boundaries.”
He added later: “There are a lot of things that can be done but there can be no excuse for the behavior.”
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) and businessman Donald Trump (R), both of whom are weighing White House bids but have not formally entered the race, indicated that they believe President Obama should do more to calm the situation.
“[Obama] could be such an eloquent spokesman to heal wounds and to be a constructive force. I’m sure he realizes that and I’m pretty confident he will step up,” Bush told reporters in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ahead of the president's remarks Tuesday afternoon.
Bush added: “[W]hen you have a situation where churches are burned and when nursing homes that are under construction to deal with frail elders are burned to the ground, there has to be a commitment to the rule of law and to law enforcement.”
The president for his part strongly condemned the riots, calling them “senseless violence and destruction” and referring to the rioters as "criminals and thugs." He noted that the underlying issue "isn't new" and that his policy agenda in part seeks to invest in local communities struggling the most.
“That is not a protest. That is not a statement. It’s people -- a handful of people -- taking advantage of situation for their own purposes and they need to be treated as criminals,” he said from the White House.