Riots erupt: Baltimore descends into chaos, violence, looting
A Maryland Transit Authority patrol car burns at North and Pennsylvania avenues during Monday’s riots.(Jerry Jackson, Baltimore Sun)
One resident looks up at the E-Z Mart Tobacco & Convenience store at North and Fulton avenues while volunteers pause to cross the street, ready to clean up in the area following a night of rioting and looting.(Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)
A worker seals the front of convenience market, Hae-Tteuneun Store at Baker Street and Mount Street, which was torched in a night of looting and violence throughout the city.(Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron )
Police in riot gear guard Lexington Market at Eutaw Street and Lexington Street.(Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)
A brick rests in the center of Eutaw Street as police standby, guarding Lexington Market.(Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)
Zachary Raeburn, a student at Baltimore City Community College, said he was trying to catch a train when police officers shot him with something.(Justin Fenton/Baltimore Sun)
Police stand near a burning recycling bin ahead of the police line on Gwynns Falls Parkway.(Colin Campbell/Baltimore Sun)
Shawn Carrié said he is a photographer who was hit by a rubber bullet shot by police.(Colin Campbell/Baltimore Sun)
After two weeks of tension over the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore descended into chaos on Monday.
Roaming gangs of mostly young men clashed with police in the streets, seriously injuring officers, tore open businesses and looted their stocks. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard, and state police requested as many as 5,000 reinforcements from neighboring states.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted a weeklong citywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Tuesday.
Rawlings-Blake blamed the mayhem on “thugs who only want to incite violence and destroy our city.” She joined a chorus of officials and residents — some of whom fought off rioters to defend their homes and businesses.
“Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who, in a very senseless way, are trying to tear down what so many have fought for,” Rawlings-Blake said. “It’s idiotic to think that by destroying your city, you’re going to make life better for anybody.”
Col. William M. Pallozzi, superintendent of the state police, said 1,500 state troopers were in Baltimore Monday night. Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, commander of the Maryland National Guard, said as many as 5,000 soldiers could be deployed.
Church leaders took to the streets to intervene in the violence, to call for calm and pray for peace. Later Monday, more than 75 ministers met with gang members — Bloods and Crips — and representatives of the Nation of Islam leaders to talk about ways to end the violence.
The events stood in stark contrast to earlier, more peaceful protests in the city following Gray’s death last week in police custody.
The 25-year-old Baltimore man suffered spinal cord and other injuries after his arrest April 12. The case is still under investigation.
The violence began hours after Gray’s funeral, despite a suspension of demonstrations on Monday in deference to mourners and pleas from his family that protests remain peaceful.
“I want you all to get justice for my son,” said Gloria Darden, Gray’s mother. “Don’t do it like this.”
Clashes with police, looting and fires spread fear throughout the city. The Baltimore Orioles postponed a home game at Camden Yards, and the Baltimore school district canceled classes for Tuesday.
Late Monday, a massive fire gutted a building under construction in East Baltimore. Neighbors believe the fire was linked to the violence. Authorities said the cause remains under investigation.
Terrance Taylor, 17, said he was “devastated” by the destruction. “We are trying to build up this community,” he said. “It’s a waste of millions of dollars. I don’t see how this is making a statement at all.”
Rawlings-Blake surveyed the fire damage. “This is one of our darkest days as a city,” she said. “What does it solve?”
President Barack Obama spoke with Rawlings-Blake and Hogan early Monday. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in on Monday, condemned the “senseless acts of violence” for causing “a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore.”
Attorney Billy Murphy said the Gray family has faith that Lynch will conduct a thorough investigation into Freddie Gray’s death.
Carron Morgan, an 18-year-old cousin of Gray, said the violence Monday was “not what my family asked for. “This is not justice. This is just people finding a way to steal stuff,” Morgan said.
He said Gray’s family and neighbors were not rioting. Instead, he said, “we’re going to be out tomorrow cleaning up, for sure.”
The violence began around 3 p.m., as students fresh out of school gathered met shield-carrying police officers at Mondawmin Mall.
“They thought it was cute to throw cinder blocks” at officers, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said. He said rioters pulled police to “opposite ends of the city” and “outnumbered us and outflanked us.”
Students threw rocks. Police fired tear gas and retreated. As viewers around the world watched live on television, rioters set fire to vehicles and a pharmacy and smashed into businesses.
Looters casually loaded merchandise into cars and SUVs.
At least 15 police officers were injured — six seriously — in the clashes.
Police Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said all were going to recover from their injuries.
Kowalczyk simmered with frustration as he described officers facing a hail of rocks as they tried to bring calm.
“A group of outrageous criminals attacked our officers,” Kowalczyk said. “This is not OK.”
Police made at least two dozen arrests, and said they would be using pictures and videos to identify more suspects.
More than a dozen people were taken to the University of Maryland Medical Center emergency department and Shock Trauma for treatment of wounds that ranged from lacerations to head injuries, a spokeswoman said.
Councilman Brandon Scott called on adults to bring Baltimore back to order.
“We can cannot stand idle and let cowards ruin our city,” he said. “If you are an adult and you are out there participating in this, you are ruining the future for these young people.
“We cannot let this be a repeat of 1968,” when riots broke out after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “The neighborhood they’re in right now is still burned down from 1968.”
Scenes reminiscent of major riots in large American cities decades ago — including in Baltimore — as well as violent confrontations between police and protesters more recently in Ferguson, Mo., were captured by helicopter news crews and broadcast across the world.
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the rioters were only hurting their city.
“I am asking all of you out there looting to stop it. Please stop it,” Young said. “When you loot the CVS store, that means that your relatives who work in those stores can’t go to work, so they can’t get paid. There’s a ripple effect. This has gone from being a protest to rioting.”
“An eye for an eye and we all become blind,” added City Councilwoman Helen Holton. “We are better than this,” said City Councilwoman Helen Holton.
Former congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume called the events a “growing pain” in a process toward “real structural change” in the Police Department, which has been criticized by protesters for a history of brutality against citizens.
Mfume said he was walking the streets Monday night to try to connect with the young people causing trouble.
“There are a number of neighborhoods where men like myself, older, mature men … telling them there is a better way, a different way,” Mfume said.
More than 1,000 protesters gathered Saturday from the West Baltimore neighborhood where Gray was first arrested and marched downtown. Those protests were largely peaceful, but the day was tarnished by isolated vandalism and looting, and a late-night clash between police and protesters.
Monday’s violent acts followed the distribution of a flier on social media calling for high schoolers to “purge,” a reference to a movie in which all laws are suspended for a day.
Police said Monday that officers had received a “credible threat” that gangs in the city had formed a partnership to target officers. Kowalczyk said police did not know of a connection between the threat and the riots.
Members with the Bloods and Crips claimed it was not true that they were targeting police officers.
Hundreds of people were involved in the riots, which popped up in spurts.
Dozens broke into Mondawmin Mall. Some drove off with armfuls of clothing and boxes of store goods.
Portions of the Metro system were shut down, and streets were closed as police set up perimeters around entire neighborhoods.
Many downtown employers and attractions closed early Monday afternoon. Some, including the T. Rowe Price office tower on Pratt Street, planned to stay closed Tuesday. Others said they would to wait to see what morning brought before deciding whether to open on Tuesday.
A CVS store on Pennsylvania Avenue was looted and then set aflame. The fire that billowed thick smoke into the air. A Save-a-Lot in Bolton Hill was vandalized, and residents in the neighborhood were left to fend for themselves as police diverted resources to Mondawmin.
As afternoon turned to evening, looting spread along Howard and Centre streets. A group of people destroyed property around North and Fulton avenues, police said, and a car was set on fire at North Avenue and Pulaski Street.
About five stores in the 600 block of Eutaw Street were looted at about 4 p.m., witnesses said.
Kowalczyk said the department “will find the people that are responsible and we will put them in jail.” He called them “lawless individuals with no regard for the safety” of neighbors and officers.
Fires continued to break out into Monday night.
Hogan’s emergency order allowed him to activate the guard and authorize federal assistance.
The governor also promised repercussions for those responsible for the violence and looting.
“There is a significant difference between protesting and violence, and those committing these acts will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law,” Hogan said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger, Liz Bowie, Pamela Wood, Justin Fenton, Erica L. Green, Colin Campbell, Doug Donovan, Timothy B. Wheeler, Carrie Wells, Natalie Sherman, Mark Puente, Ian Duncan, Meredith Cohn and Dan Rodricks contributed to this article.
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