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Black Lives Matter Activist Promises ‘Transformative Change’ for Baltimore

3 minute read

A prominent Black Lives Matter activist who announced he was running for mayor of Baltimore says he will soon roll out an “aggressively innovative” platform that will focus on issues of criminal justice and policing.

DeRay Mckesson, who organized Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., following police-related deaths of black men involving white officers, filed to run for mayor of Baltimore Wednesday, becoming the first from the movement to make a serious run at prominent elected office.

Mckesson told TIME that he’ll largely focus on issues pursued by the Black Lives Matter movement and believes the work he has been involved in over the past 16 months has been “focused on creating environments where people can thrive.”

“We know the traditional pathways to politics have never led to the transformative change we deserve,” Mckesson said, adding that he believes Baltimore voters are looking for something different in this year’s mayoral race.

On Thursday, Mckesson wrote an article for Medium describing himself as a “non-traditional candidate” but said he was not a “silver bullet for the challenges of our city.”

Read more: TIME Person of the Year Runner-up: Black Lives Matter Activists

But Mckesson faces a large and unwieldy field of seasoned candidates in the Democratic primary, including former mayor Sheila Dixon, who has been leading in the polls, as well as Councilman Nick Mosby, who represents the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested last year, and David Warnock, a Baltimore venture capitalist who has put in almost $1 million of his own money into the campaign.

“It’s a very competitive, fractured primary,” John Willis, a University of Baltimore public-affairs professor says. “Mckesson is starting way behind in terms of resources.”

The 30-year-old is the last of 13 candidates to enter the primary, which is wide open after Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced in September she would not seek re-election. Rawlings-Blake was widely criticized for not being able to contain violence throughout the city during the riots surrounding the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody last spring. The mayor eventually requested that the National Guard be sent in to restore calm.

Read more: Mayors Face Push From Black Lives Matter at Annual Meeting

Mckesson was born in Baltimore but worked as a public-schools administrator in Minneapolis until he moved to St. Louis following the riots in Ferguson, Mo., over the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson. Mckesson was active in protests in Baltimore over Gray’s death and has become a vocal activist online, amassing a Twitter following of almost 300,000 people.

In a November poll conducted by the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore, Dixon was ahead with 24%, followed by Maryland State Senator Catherine Pugh at 13%, Councilman Carl Stokes at 11% and Councilman Mosby with 10%. The poll also shows 26% undecided.

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