Washington (CNN)Rep. Elijah Cummings said it's up to adults across the United States to improve the education their cities provide — otherwise "Baltimore can happen anywhere."
Elijah Cummings: 'Baltimore can happen anywhere'
"You've got people look at us right now saying, 'That will never happen in my community.' But yes, it will," Cummings said. "But you've got to have people that listen, and you've got to begin to act on it."
The Democrat who represents Baltimore's comments came in an emotional interview on CNN's "New Day" on Wednesday.
He said it's up to adults in major U.S. cities to improve the educational opportunities children there are offered — which he said is behind the anger that has led to violent protests in the city this week, following the death in police custody of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.
He said he told a young man there, "I promise you, I'm not going to leave you behind."
And he said the protests should serve as a call to action to improve schools and correct previous decades' mistakes by offering educational options for adults.
"They don't want you just to hear them, they want to know that you're going to do something about their pain," Cummings said of the protesters.
"They're reaching for a future and they're trying to get it and it just seems like they cannot touch it," he said. "And so we as adults, we've got to say — 'OK, how do we improve our schools?' The ones who missed getting the kind of education they really felt they deserved, we've got to retrain, we've got to do remedial classes."