Monday, April 27, 2015

Baltimore Police, Protesters Clash; 15 Officers Hurt
John Bacon and William M. Welch
10:15 p.m. EDT April 27, 2015

Firefighters in Baltimore worked to extinguish the flames and smoke at a looted

Rioters in Baltimore hurled rocks at police, destroyed patrol cars and looted and burned stores as demonstrations over the death of a black man in police custody turned violent Monday.

Police said 15 officers were injured and two remained hospitalized Monday evening. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in the city and activated the National Guard to assist city and state police, calling it a "last resort'' to restore order.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the rioters "thugs" and said the city was imposing a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew starting Tuesday. She said she asked Hogan to send in the Guard.

"We are deploying every resource possible to gain control of the situation and ensure peace moving forward,'' she said.

The Baltimore Orioles postponed a scheduled Monday night game with the Chicago White Sox. The violence was taking place about two and a half miles from the Camden Yards baseball stadium that is home to the Orioles.

Police said more than two dozen people were arrested. The city's schools were canceled for Tuesday.

After darkness fell, a large building under construction near a Baptist church was engulfed in fire. A spokesman for the mayor, Kevin Harris, said the fire was related to the riots. He said the Mary Harvin Transformation Center was under construction and that no one was believed to be in the building at the time. The center is described online as a community-based organization that supports youth and families.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch dispatched the Justice Department's civil rights chief and director of the agency's community policing office to Baltimore in wake of rioting there. She condemned "senseless acts of violence.''

"In the days ahead, I intend to work with leaders throughout Baltimore to ensure that we can protect the security and civil rights of all residents,'' Lynch said. "And I will bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence.''

Dozens of people could be seen throwing bricks, rocks and other objects at officers and at patrol cars with officers inside just hours after funeral services for Freddie Gray. Some demonstrators attacked a stopped police car, leaping on the roof and hood and smashing windows. At least two other police vehicles were set on fire.

Police officers moved in and took down several people near the damaged car. But no police could be seen as rioters looted stores including a CVS pharmacy, a check cashing store, a liquor store and a cell phone store.

A short time later, smoke billowed from the broken windows of the pharmacy. Police said via Twitter that rioters cut a hose firefighters were using to battle the blaze.

Police said on Twitter that looters were "continuing to break into businesses and set cars on fire'' in the area, and that they were responding to reports of looting inside Mondawmin Mall.

The rioting came after days of protests over the death of Gray, 25, who suffered a fatal spinal injury after being taken into custody by Baltimore city police. It was the latest in a series of deadly encounters with police around the country that has triggered a national debate over the use of force, especially against suspects who are black.

Linda Singh, adjunct general of the Maryland National Guard, said they were bringing in Guard troops in armoreed Humvee vehicles. "We are going to be out in massive force,'' she said.

As night approached, Baltimore police used Twitter to describe protesters as "a violent and aggressive group'' and urged citizens to avoid the area.

Numerous police officers in riot gear responded to the demonstrations near a mall in northwest Baltimore. Police described many of the protesters as juveniles.

A flier circulated on social media called for a period of violence Monday afternoon to begin at the Mondawmin Mall and move downtown toward City Hall, Associated Press reported. Outside the mall, a young person threw a flaming trash can at the line of officers.

The University of Maryland Baltimore shut down its campus, hours after city police announced a "credible threat" that local gangs were targeting police officers.

The police department said the Criminal Intelligence Unit had obtained information indicating "members of various gangs including the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods and Crips have entered into a partnership to 'take out' law enforcement officers."

The department said law enforcement agencies and officers should take appropriate precautions. It was not clear if the threat to officers was directly tied to the concern for safety at the school.

The campus shut down at 2 p.m. "at the recommendation of the BPD." The school cited unidentified "activities (that) may be potentially violent and UMB could be in the path of any violence.

"The safety of our students and employees is of paramount importance please vacate the campus as soon as possible."

The schools alert was issued shortly after the funeral of Freddie Gray, which drew thousands of mourners to the downtown Baltimore church.

Gray's death April 19 while in police custody set off a week of protests. Most of the protest were quiet — until Saturday night. That protest began peacefully with more than 1,000 people rallying at City Hall. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said he moved through the crowd, promising that his office was making systemic changes.

Batts, who is black, said the organized protest had essentially wrapped up when tense confrontations resulted in violence. He has blamed the violence on "agitators."

The protesters "became very violent. They began to throw objects," Batts said Saturday night. "They picked up aluminum barricades and smashed windows at our bars and pubs."

Patrol cars were smashed. Six police officers suffered minor injuries; 34 people were arrested.

Batts said some residents moved between police and the angry crowd, urging the protesters not to damage the city. He commended police officers for showing "tremendous restraint" and city residents for helping tamp down the unrest.

"I am proud of our residents and our police officers," Batts said. "The vast majority of residents out here did a good job. ... A small number of people felt like they had to turn this into an ugly day."

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