Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson has been protesting police violence against African-Americans and other people of colour since the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson, Missouri police in August 2014.
In the 18 months since that event, Mckesson has become a full-time activist, working within the loosely organised Black Lives Matter movement, helping formulate its related police reform campaign known as Campaign Zero, and travelling across the country to protest and support those working in support of those efforts.
Mckesson is now formally jumping into politics.
On Wednesday, Mckesson announced that he has filed to run for the mayor of Baltimore. A native of Baltimore, Mckesson will run in the Democratic primary.
“Baltimore is at a moment. I’m running to usher Baltimore into a new era where our government is accountable to its people and aggressively innovative in how it identifies and solves problems,” Mckesson told The Washington Post.
The Democratic primary is especially important in Baltimore because the city historically votes Democrat for mayor. The last Republican mayor of Baltimore was in 1967.
Mckesson entered the race at the last possible moment, filing his paperwork just minutes before Wednesday’s 9 pm filing deadline.
The Democratic primary field includes Mckesson, former mayor Sheila Dixon, City Councilman Nick J. Mosby (whose wife is Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney currently trying to prosecute the police officers involved in the death of Freddie Grey), businessman David L. Warnock, and nine others.
A recent poll in the Baltimore Sun has shown Dixon leading the polls with 27 per cent of polled voters. That poll was released before Mckesson’s entry. It is not clear what impact he will have on the race.
Mckesson has never held elected office. His background is primarily in school adminstration and teaching. He has previously served as an administrator for Minneapolis Public Schools and Baltimore City Public Schools and as a teacher for Teach For America.
In a statement released to The New York Times, Mckesson seemed to indicate that this non-traditional background was key to candidacy.
“We cannot rely on traditional pathways to politics and the traditional politicians who walk that path. We have to challenge the practices that have not and will not lead to transformation,” the statement reads.
The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery has the inside scoop on how Mckesson made the decision to run, which was not final even hours before filing. Check out here.
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