Baltimore gets assistance from National Guard with rioting, looting

April 28th, 2015 by Staff

Due to rioting Monday night's MLB game between the Orioles and White Sox was postponed.


(NY Times) BALTIMORE, Md. – Maryland’s governor activated the National Guard on Monday and the city of Baltimore announced a curfew for all residents as a turbulent day that began with the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, the nation’s latest symbol of police brutality, ended with rioting by rock-throwing youths, arson, looting and at least 15 police officers injured.

The violence that shook the city broke out in the late afternoon in theMondawmin neighborhood of northwest Baltimore, where Mr. Gray’s funeral had taken place. Angry residents threw bottles, rocks and chunks of concrete at officers who lined up in riot gear with shields deployed. Cars were set on fire, store windows were shattered, a CVS drugstore was looted, and the cafe inside a century-old Italian deli was destroyed. Trouble also erupted at the city’s Lexington Market.

By nighttime, the chaos seemed to be competing with a push for calm. Looters pulled junk food from convenience stores within a few blocks of police in riot gear and cars that had been set ablaze. At the same time, young men in black T-shirts from a local anti-violence group urged their neighbors to go back inside. A large fire burned in east Baltimore, consuming a partly built development project of the Southern Baptist Church that was to include housing for the elderly.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake arrived at the scene of the blaze and said it was under investigation. “We don’t know if it is related to the riots,” she said.

Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, and the Maryland State Police, who took command of the response, said they would ask for 5,000 law enforcement officials from the mid-Atlantic region to help quell the violence. Some National Guard units were to arrive on Monday night, with others deploying on Tuesday in armored Humvees.

In Washington, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, on her first day on the job, briefed President Obama, who in turn called Governor Hogan. Mr. Hogan said the president urged him to have law enforcement officers exercise restraint, and he assured the president they would. “But,” the governor added, “I assured him we weren’t going to stand by and allow our city of Baltimore to be taken over by thugs.”

City officials said schools would be closed on Tuesday for the safety of children. At City Hall, Ms. Rawlings-Blake, sounding exhausted and exasperated after days of appealing for calm, announced that a 10 pm. to 5 am. curfew would be imposed for a week beginning on Tuesday. The city already has a curfew for juveniles under age 17.

“Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs,” she said. “I’m at a loss for words. It is idiotic to think that by destroying your city that you’re going to make life better for anybody.” The police said that at least 27 people had been arrested.

It was the second time in six months that a state called out the National Guard to enforce order in a city shaken by violence after a black man died in an encounter with police. Missouri deployed the guard in Ferguson in August after a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, and then again in November when violence greeted the news that a grand jury had not indicted the officer who shot Mr. Brown.

At a late night news conference, the Baltimore police commissioner, Anthony W. Batts, noted that Ferguson is a much smaller city than Baltimore, which covers 80 square miles. “We were pulled so thin,” he said, adding, “We had opposite ends of the city pulling us at the same time.”

The police said early in the day that they had received a “credible threat” that members of various gangs, including the Black Guerrilla Family, Bloods and Crips, had “entered into a partnership to ‘take out’ law enforcement officers.” But officers kept a low profile in the neighborhood during Mr. Gray’s funeral. The police also said that a flier circulated on social media called for a period of violence on Monday afternoon to begin at the Mondawmin Mall and move toward City Hall downtown.

Warned by the police of possible violence, the University of Maryland campus in downtown Baltimore closed early, as did the Mondawmin Mall. The Orioles postponed their home game against the Chicago White Sox. The Baltimore police vowed the authorities would take “appropriate measures” to keep officers and the neighborhood safe.

“You’re going to see tear gas. You’re going to see pepper balls. We’re going to use appropriate methods to make sure we can preserve the safety of that community,” a spokesman, Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk, said at a news conference. Fifteen police officers were injured, some with broken bones, and one was unresponsive, according to the department.

Pastor Jamal Bryant, who delivered Mr. Gray’s eulogy, came back to the neighborhood after the burial on Monday afternoon to appeal for calm. He said he would send teams of men from his church, the Empowerment Temple, to help keep the peace.

“This is not what the family asked for, today of all days,” Mr. Bryant said. “For us to come out of the burial and walk into this is absolutely inexcusable.” He said he was “asking every young person to go back home,” adding, “it’s frustration, anger and it’s disrespect for the family.”

Mr. Gray’s death on April 19, a week after sustaining a spinal cord injury while in police custody, has opened a deep wound in this majority-black city, where Ms. Rawlings-Blake and Mr. Batts — both of whom are black — have struggled to reform a police department that has a history of aggressive, sometimes brutal, treatment of black men.

Mr. Gray was chased and restrained by police on bicycles at the Gilmor Homes on the morning of April 12; a cellphone video of his arrest showed him being dragged into a police van, seemingly limp and screaming in pain. The police have acknowledged that he should have received medical treatment immediately at the scene of the arrest and have also said that he rode in the van unbuckled.

After his arrival at the police station, medics rushed him to the hospital, where he slipped into a coma and died . His family has said that 80 percent of his spinal cord was severed, and his larynx was crushed. The death spawned a week of protests that had been largely peaceful until Saturday night, when demonstrators — who had spent the afternoon marching through the city — scuffled with officers in riot gear outside Camden Yards, the baseball park. Authorities attributed the scattered violence that night to outsiders who, Ms. Rawlings-Blake said, “were inciting,” with “ ‘go out there and shut this city down’ kind of messaging.”

The service was more than a celebration of Mr. Gray’s short life; it was a call for peace and justice — and for residents of Baltimore to help lead the nationwide movement for better police treatment of black men that emerged last August after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

“The eyes of this country are all on us, because they want to see whether we have the stuff to make this right,” said William Murphy, the lawyer representing the Gray family, who is a fixture in legal and political circles here. “They want to know whether our leadership is up to the task.”

Much of that leadership was seated in the pews, including Ms. Rawlings-Blake and Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, who was one of the speakers.

But the violence on Monday was much more devastating and profound, a blow for a city whose leaders had been hoping Mr. Gray’s funeral would show the nation its more peaceful side. At the New Shiloh Baptist Church, Mr. Gray lay in an open white coffin, in a white shirt and tie, with a pillow bearing a picture of him in a red T-shirt, against a backdrop of a blue sky and doves, with the message “Peace y’all.”

The service was more than a celebration of Mr. Gray’s short life; it was a call for peace and justice — and for residents of Baltimore to help lead the nationwide movement for better police treatment of black men that emerged last August after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

“The eyes of this country are all on us, because they want to see whether we have the stuff to make this right,” said William Murphy, the lawyer representing the Gray family, who is a fixture in legal and political circles here. “They want to know whether our leadership is up to the task.”

Much of that leadership was seated in the pews, including Ms. Rawlings-Blake and Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, who was one of the speakers.

Also among the mourners were Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and chief of the N.A.A.C.P.; three aides to President Obama; and several family members of others killed by the police in various parts of the country, including Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, a man who died after a police officer put him in a choke hold last year on Staten Island.

She said she had come “to stand with the family of Freddie Gray. It’s unfortunate, but I feel we have a connection.” In his eulogy, Mr. Bryant spoke of the plight of poor, young black men like Mr. Gray, living “confined to a box” made up of poor education, lack of job opportunities and racial stereotypes — “the box of thinking all black men are thugs and athletes and rappers.”

“He had to have been asking himself, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ ” Mr. Bryant said. “He had to feel at age 25 like the walls were closing in on him.”

Mr. Bryant insisted that Mr. Gray’s death would not “be in vain.” He vowed that Baltimore residents would “keep demanding justice” but also issued a pointed rebuke to the congregation, telling members that black people must take control of their lives and force the government and police to change.

“This is not the time for us as a people to be sitting on the corner drinking malt liquor,” he roared, as his voice rose and the congregation, clapping, rose to its feet. “This is not the time for us to be playing the lottery or at the horsing casino, this is not the time for us to be walking down with our pants hanging down.”

He said, “Get your black self up and change this city!” and added, “I don’t know how you can be black in America and be silent. With everything we’ve been through, ain’t no way in the world you can sit here and be silent in the face of injustice.”

But as the day went on, the mood changed. The violence appears to have begun inside the Mondawmin Mall. Erica Ellis, 23, who works in a Game Stop store there, said the mall was shut down at 2 pm., not long after Mr. Gray’s funeral cortege left for his burial.

She said she went outside and saw a big line of police officers and hundreds of young people who started throwing rocks and bricks. But police did not respond immediately, she said. “The police officers were trying as hard as they can not to hurt the people’s children,” she said.

At the corner of North Fulton and West North Avenues, looters could be seen breaking into stores and walking out with cases of food and water while hundreds of police officers in riot gear gathered about four blocks away.

When a pair of police cruisers tried to enter the area, young men threw bottles. Several of the men wore surgical masks. Some carried baseball bats, others carried pipes. While several people held signs that said “Stop the war,” protesting peacefully, the rising chaos surrounded them: a broken-down BMW sat empty in the middle of the street, shards of glass from convenience store windows lay on the pavement and a young man carrying bolt cutters walked by.

Residents looked on aghast. Not far from the Gilmor Homes, the public housing development where Mr. Gray was first arrested, Chris Malloy, who lives in the area, said he was angry at the police and the looters — all at once.

“All they had to do was march, but they did this,” he said, sounding disgusted, as the CVS store burned nearby. “You can take stuff out of the store, but why do you have to burn it down?”


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