Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson has announced he will run for mayor of Baltimore.  He joins 12 candidates in the Democratic primary seeking to replace Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was criticized for her handling of the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gary.  She is not running for re-election.

Mckesson is one of the nation’s most high-profile Black Lives Matter activists.  His activism over the last year and a half has thrust him into the spotlight as a political force in the national Black Lives Matter movement.  The 30 year old Baltimore native rose to prominence in the movement that started in August 2014 after the police killing of Mike Brown.  His entry is a step into the mainstream for a national movement that has been criticized for a lack of organized structure and tactics. His candidacy is sure to jolt the political and protest communities at a time when activists have eschewed traditional politics and sought to work outside the system.

In a statement, Mr. Mckesson said that he was running to challenge the normal order of governing in the city. “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.”

He left his job as an administrator in the Minneapolis Public School System to move to the St. Louis area to work as a full-time activist. He then traveled around the country, turning to Twitter to chronicle protests against racial injustice.  He has since returned to his hometown of Baltimore.

Many believe he will have an uphill climb as he joins the race relatively late.  He will go up against a dozen candidates that include Nick J. Mosby, a city councilman and husband of the prosecutor who is trying six police officers in the death of a young black Baltimore man last year, and Sheila Dixon, the former mayor who remains popular even though she left office after a conviction on fraud charges.

Mckesson’s supporters herald him for helping shed light on national issues of police abuse and misconduct. His detractors, however, tag him as an antipolice anarchist whose comments helped foster spasms of protest violence in cities across the country where blacks have died at the hands of law enforcement.  Mr. Mckesson also has critics within the movement  who believe that he is too comfortable with the establishment because he has met with both Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton as well as Valerie Jarrett (one of President Obama’s top advisers).  They claim he is too much of a celebrity.

Others take it as a sign that the Black Lives Matter movement is taking a step in a new direction.  Elbert Walton, 73, a civil rights activist and political insider in St. Louis said “New activists jumping into the electoral fray would be a positive sign, because it would mean that they understood that their problem was a government problem and that they had to take control of government.

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