AFRICANGLOBE – Residents of Baltimore are dealing with the damage left behind by thousands of rioters who looted stores and set buildings on fire.
The governor of Maryland declared a state of emergency Monday as the streets of Baltimore erupted in violence after the funeral for an African-American man who died of injuries he sustained while in police custody.
Just hours after Freddie Gray was laid to rest, protests against excessive police use of force deteriorated into destructive riots with demonstrators hurling rocks at police, destroying patrol cars and looting and torching stores.
“All are going to be OK but sustained heavy damage to their bodies,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said in a news conference late Monday night.
One officer was hit in the head and another suffered severe damage to his knee cap, Batts said.
The police commissioner said at the news conference that he believes that the tensions were on the down side and on their way to dying down.
Batts said it was his understanding that a number of gangs met and decided that each group would “take out a police officer” after the Monday’s funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who suffered a fatal spinal injury after being in custody with Baltimore city police.
Batts implored parents to take control of their children who might be taking part in the rioting and said what troubled him was that the structures that were being destroyed took great effort to erect in ailing communities that need them. Many communities do not survive riots, he said.
“I’ve seen cities that haven’t recovered 50 years later,” he said.
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 protesters “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.
Referring to the protesters, she said during a television interview: “I don’t understand how stealing jeans is going to bring justice to Mr. Gray.”
She said the city would get to the bottom of whether the protesters were from Baltimore or from outside the city. “We won’t stand by and let our community be destroyed,” Rawlings-Blake 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.”
By: William M. Welch and Melanie Eversley
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