By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Thousands of people have come to Baltimore for the national NAACP convention.

The convention hasn’t been in Baltimore since 2000, and leaders say it comes at a pivotal time, as social justice and civil rights policies remain the organization’s top priorities.

Since the Freddie Gray riots in 2015, Baltimore convention business has suffered, but this weekend, it’s a packed house with the NAACP convention.

“It is the historical social justice organization in our nation,” said Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.

While social justice is on the minds of many, it extends beyond that to include criminal justice and mass incarceration, healthcare, education, and economic development.

“Racial hatred, racial prejudice, should not color the social environment,” said NAACP National Chairman Leon Russell.

The convention comes at a pivotal time, as it’s just months after the city entered into a consent decree to reform the Baltimore Police Department, which has gained less support from the Trump administration.

“I have communications with the Department of Justice on a regular basis,” Pugh said. “I’m not so focused on President [Trump] as much as I’m focused on resources that are needed.”

Unlike George W. Bush and Barack Obama in the past, President Trump declined an invitation to attend the convention.

The mayor has a strong message to those in attendance.

“Let’s have a real conversation around too many guns in our neighborhoods, communities, illegal guns, killing our children, killing are brothers, killing our sons, killing our babies,” she said.

Officials expect the convention to have an economic impact of more than $6 million.

Last year, the National Urban League conference was held at the convention center.

On Saturday, Derrick Johnson was appointed as Interim CEO and President of the NAACP.

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