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Maryland governor cites L.A. riots in appealing federal denial of disaster aid

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is pointing to precedent — a federal decision to aid Los Angeles after the riots of 1992 — as he appeals the Obama administration's decision to deny $19 million in assistance for Baltimore this year.

In a letter asking President Obama to overturn the decision, Hogan provided several examples in which the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided aid to state and local governments hit by calamities other than natural disasters.

The "most compelling comparison," the Republican governor said, was the determination that Los Angeles was eligible for aid to rebuild after the civil unrest sparked by the acquittal of police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, an unarmed African American man who had resisted arrest. The three days of riots resulted in 53 deaths and an estimated $1 billion in property damage.

The governor argued that Baltimore should not be penalized because the damage during the unrest between April 25 and May 1 was far less extensive. Although national attention focused on the rioting that began after Freddie Gray — also an unarmed African American man — died of injuries suffered while in police custody, there were no deaths.

"The disparity in overall impacts is, at least in part, due to the coordinated efforts of the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland in mobilizing and directing the surge of resources to restore and maintain order," Hogan wrote Obama on Tuesday.

Maryland applied for more than $19 million to help the city, state and counties that participated in the response recover their costs. W. Craig Fugate, FEMA's administrator, wrote to Hogan on June 12 saying federal disaster aid "is not appropriate" for such an event.

In his letter to Obama, Hogan noted that in addition to the Los Angeles riots, FEMA has provided aid after such events as the 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center, the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, and the 1980 Mariel boatlift of refugees from Cuba.

mdresser@baltsun.com

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