Civil rights activist DeRay McKesson, who was instrumental in the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement against police violence, is running for mayor of Baltimore.
McKesson, who filed his paperwork minutes before Wednesday’s deadline, is among more than a dozen Democrats heading to an April primary.
The 30-year-old son of two now-recovered drug addicts, McKesson rose to prominence during the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown and has become one of the nation’s best-known civil rights leaders. His distinctive blue Patagonia vest has been seen everywhere from street demonstrations in his native Baltimore to a recent appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
“I am not the silver bullet for the challenges of our city — no one individual is,” McKesson said on Wednesday in a post on the blog publishing platform Medium.
“Together, with the right ideas, the right passion, the right people, we can take this city in a new direction.”
His rivals include former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and state Senator Catherine Pugh.
The city has not elected a Republican mayor in more than 50 years.
Current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in September that she would not seek re-election when her term ends.
A website set up to collect contributions for McKesson’s campaign had recorded 474 donations totaling $34,383 by midday Thursday.
An alumnus of Maine’s Bowdoin College, McKesson worked in Baltimore and Minneapolis schools before moving into full-time activism.
One political observer said working-class Baltimore voters might hold his lack of political experience against him.
“The profile he has now, he’s gotten from doing national work, not local work,” said Lester Spence, associate professor of political science and African studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Last year, the mainly black city of 600,000 people was torn by its worst riots in a half-century following the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained while in police custody.
Coming amid a string of controversial police killings across the United States, Gray’s death proved a turning point when prosecutors brought charges against six officers within weeks.
The first of those six trials, in which Officer William Porter faced charges including involuntary manslaughter, ended in a hung jury.
That threw State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s aggressive schedule into disarray, and a judge last month rejected prosecutors’ request to order Porter to testify against his fellow officers while he awaits retrial.