A prominent gay Black Lives Matter activist previously featured as one of The Advocate's 40 Under 40, announced his intention to run for mayor of Baltimore Wednesday, The New York Times reports.
DeRay Mckesson, 30, will run as a Democrat and is late in joining an already crowded race. However, according to the newspaper: "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."
Mckesson made a name for himself after he quit his job as a school H.R. administrator in Minneapolis to join the Black Lives Matter movement in St. Louis, following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man killed in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer. Mckesson continued his activism in his hometown following the death of Freddie Gray, who was not given medical attention and succumbed to injuries while in transit to a police station.
He gained prominence in the movement when video of his clever exchange with CNN's Wolf Blitzer went viral following a civil uprising that led to looting and destruction of private property in Baltimore.
"There's no excuse for that kind of violence, right?" Blitzer asked Mckesson.
"There's no excuse for the seven people that the Baltimore City Police Department has killed in the past year, either, right?" Mckesson replied, perfectly imitating Blitzer's all-knowing tone.
In a statement, published by The New York Times, Mckesson said he was running against the establishment. "We cannot rely on traditional pathways to politics and the traditional politicians who walk that path," he wrote. "We have to challenge the practices that have not and will not lead to transformation."
However, Mckesson has risen above the grassroots of activism and is already somewhat of a celebrity, boasting close relations with major political leaders. According to the paper, he held personal meetings with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama's top advisers. "He is one of 10 people whom Beyonce follows on Twitter," The Times reported. Still, Mckesson's top critics, including Fox News's Tucker Carlson, have characterized him as a "race hustler" and he is educating himself on anarchy, hardly mainstream.
In the mayoral election Mckesson faces other prominent black leaders including Nick J. Mosby, a city councilman, former mayor Sheila Dixon who "remains popular" according to The Times, though she left office after a fraud conviction, and David L. Warnock, a prominent businessman. The most recent mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was criticized for her handling of city protests, is not running for re-election, according to the paper.
Watch footage of Mckesson in action, below.