State of Emergency Is Declared in Baltimore as Riots Erupt
Days of angry but peaceful protests in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray devolved after his funeral Monday into scenes of rioting, arson and looting that carried into Tuesday, leaving more than a dozen police officers injured and prompting the declaration of a state of emergency as reinforcements arrived to restore order.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said late Monday he activated the National Guard as a “last resort” to tamp down the violence as night fell. “People have the right to protest and express their frustration,” he told reporters, “but Baltimore City families deserve peace and safety in their communities and these acts of violence and destruction of property cannot and will not be tolerated.”
Up to 5,000 troops from the National Guard would be available to keep the peace on Baltimore’s streets, Maj. Gen. Linda Singh told reporters Monday night. Singh, the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, said the troops will be acting at the direction of the Baltimore police.
“We are going to be out in massive force, and that just means basically that we are going to be patrolling the streets and out to ensure that we are protecting property,” she said, according to the Associated Press.
State police said they had also requested an additional 5,000 officers from around the Mid-Atlantic region to assist with the chaos in West Baltimore. Hogan’s statement followed a news conference by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who said a city-wide curfew would go into effect Tuesday, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m, and last for one week. A separate curfew for juveniles is already in place.
“It is very clear there is a difference between what we saw over the past week… and the thugs who only want to incite violence and destroy our city,” she said.
At least two dozen people were arrested by Tuesday morning and 15 officers were injured, including six who were still hospitalized, according to the Associated Press. One officer was unresponsive and others had broken bones, according to police.
Monday’s riots came hours after funeral services were held for Gray. His death on April 19, following a fatal injury sustained in police custody during his arrest one week earlier, has become the latest to ignite the national debate on race and police brutality. Baltimore police denied using force against the 25-year-old; one of the family’s attorneys said Gray’s spine was 80% “severed at the neck.” The Justice Department and the FBI are conducting civil rights investigations into Gray’s death.
On Monday afternoon, a group of 75 to 100 youths making their way toward the Mondawmin Mall were met by officers in riot gear, the Baltimore Sun reports, and the confrontations escalated from there. Projectiles like bottles, bricks, rocks and stickers were aimed at lines of officers, who had protective gear, shields and tear gas at their disposal. Live footage from a news helicopter showed the scene intensify, with people standing atop a police cruiser and smashing in its roof and windows.
Elsewhere in the area, others were seen flooding into local businesses, like a check-cashing store and a liquor store, then returning outside with their hauls. One CVS drug store that was looted was later set on fire, and television cameras captured people slashing the fire hoses to prevent firefighters from putting out the flames. In a live televised interview as footage showed smoke billowing from the store, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings said “We never expected anything like this.”
The escalation prompted the Baltimore Orioles to announce on Twitter that Monday evening’s home game against the Chicago White Sox had been postponed after consultations with city authorities; it will be rescheduled for a later date. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who is a former Baltimore mayor and a presumed Democratic presidential candidate, said he would forego several paid speeches in Europe and return to Baltimore.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued a statement later in the evening, condemning what she called “senseless acts of violence by some individuals,” and said the Justice Department was ready to provide assistance to the city as needed.
Late Monday, a fire began to engulf a senior center that was being built by a nearby church. The pastor, Rev. Donte L. Hickman, told the New York Times that he considered the fire to be set deliberately and was “probably a result of what is taking place because of all the injustice that people feel in the community.”
An attorney for Gray’s family, Mary Koch, said during an interview on CNN that the violence had “completely detracted” from his death and the family’s quest for answers. In a brief statement to reporters at around 11 p.m., local time, Gray’s twin sister, Fredericka, called the violence “wrong” and said “I don’t think that’s for Freddie.”
Around that time, at the scene of one of the blazes around the city, Rawlings-Blake spoke again to reporters. The mayor, who was born and raised in Baltimore, called the scenes of destruction “extremely heartbreaking.”
“This is one of our darkest days as a city,” she said, “and I know that we are much better than this.”
— With reporting by Josh Sanburn / Baltimore and Zeke J. Miller / Washington, D.C.