UPDATED: April 28, 2015 10:47 p.m.
BALTIMORE — A line of police behind riot shields hurled smoke grenades and fired pepper balls at dozens of protesters Tuesday night to enforce a citywide curfew, imposed after the worst outbreak of rioting in Baltimore since 1968.
Demonstrators threw bottles at police, and picked up the smoke grenades and hurled them back at officers. No immediate arrests or serious injuries were reported.
The clash came after a day of high tension but relative peace in Baltimore, as thousands of police officers and National Guardsmen poured into the city to prevent another round of rioting like the one that rocked the city on Monday.
It was the first time since the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 that the National Guard was called out in Baltimore to prevent civil unrest.
Maryland’s governor said 2,000 Guardsmen and 1,000 law officers would be in place overnight to try to prevent a repeat of the unrest that erupted Monday in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and sent a shudder through all of Baltimore.
“This combined force will not tolerate violence or looting,” Gov. Larry Hogan warned.
The city is under a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew, all public schools were closed Tuesday, and the Baltimore Orioles canceled their Tuesday night game at Camden Yards.
The streets were largely calm all day and into the evening, with only a few scattered arrests.
As the 10 p.m. curfew went into effect, protesters remained in the street in the city’s Penn North section near where a CVS pharmacy was looted. Standing shoulder to shoulder, police in helmets and riot shields began advancing toward the demonstrators in an effort to push them back. Some protesters lay in the street or hurled bottles toward the police. Then police used pepper balls and smoke.
Around the same time and in a different neighborhood, police tweeted that they were making arrests in South Baltimore after people started attacking officers with rocks and bricks. At least one officer was reported injured.
Political leaders and residents called the violence Monday a tragedy for the city and lamented the damage done by the rioters to their own neighborhoods.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said: “I had officers come up to me and say, ‘I was born and raised in this city. This makes me cry.'”
Haywood McMorris, manager of the wrecked CVS store, said the destruction didn’t make sense: “We work here, man. This is where we stand, and this is where people actually make a living.”
But the rioting also brought out a sense of civic pride and responsibility among many Baltimore residents, with hundreds of volunteers turning out to sweep the streets of glass and other debris with brooms and trash bags donated by hardware stores.
Blanca Tapahuasco brought her three sons, ages 2 to 8, from another part of the city to help clean up the brick-and-pavement courtyard outside a looted CVS pharmacy in the hard-hit neighborhood where Gray was arrested.
“We’re helping the neighborhood build back up,” she said. “This is an encouragement to them to know the rest of the city is not just looking on and wondering what to do.”
As the day wore on, police fielded rumors of would-be rioters gathering at various places in and around Baltimore, but as of late afternoon, only a few scattered arrests were reported.
The street corner where some of the worst violence occurred resembled a street festival. Musicians played in the intersection, surrounded by an appreciative crowd, street vendors hawked bottles of water, and the crowd largely ignored the line of police in riot gear stretched across West North Avenue.
The crisis marks the first time the National Guard has been called out to deal with unrest in Baltimore since 1968, when some of the same neighborhoods that rose up this week burned for days after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. At least six people died then, and some neighborhoods still bear the scars.
Jascy Jones of Baltimore said the sight of National Guardsmen on the street gave her a “very eerie feeling.”
“It brought a tear to my eye. Seeing it doesn’t feel like the city that I love,” she said. “I am glad they’re here, but it’s hard to watch.”
At the White House, President Barack Obama called the deaths of several black men around the country at the hands of police “a slow rolling crisis.” But he added that there was “no excuse” for the violence in Baltimore, and said the rioters should be treated as criminals.
“They aren’t protesting. They aren’t making a statement. They’re stealing,” Obama said.
The uprising started in West Baltimore on Monday afternoon and by midnight had spread to East Baltimore and neighborhoods close to downtown and near the baseball stadium.
At least 20 officers were hurt, one person was critically injured in a fire, more than 200 adults and 34 juveniles were arrested, and nearly 150 cars were burned, police said. The governor had no immediate estimate of the damage.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Tuesday afternoon her office will be reviewing arrests.
Our primary focus is utilizing our resources to continue our independent investigation into the death of Freddie Gray to determine if criminal charges will be filed. However, the State’s Attorney’s Office worked diligently throughout the night and into today to review numerous arrests from last night’s unfortunate incidents. We will prosecute each case fairly and hold those responsible for the violence in the city accountable. We ask the residents to remain patient and peaceful, and to trust the process of the justice system.
With the city bracing for more trouble, several area colleges closed early Tuesday including Loyola University Maryland, Johns Hopkins University and Towson University.
The violence set off soul-searching among community leaders and others, with some suggesting the uprising was about more than race or the police department — it was about high unemployment, high crime, poor housing, broken-down schools, and lack of opportunity in Baltimore’s inner-city neighborhoods.
The city of 622,000 is 63 percent black. The mayor, state’s attorney, police chief and City Council president are black, as is 48 percent of the police force.
“You look around and see unemployment. Filling out job applications and being turned down because of where you live and your demographic. It’s so much bigger than the police department,” said Robert Stokes, 36, holding a broom and a dustpan on a corner where some of the looting and vandalism took place.
He added: “This place is a powder keg waiting to explode.”
In the aftermath of the riots, state and local authorities found themselves facing questions about whether their initial response had been adequate.
Batts, the police commissioner, said police did not move in faster because those involved in the early stages were just “kids” — teenagers who had just been let out of school.
“Do you want people using force on 14- 15- and 16-year-old kids that are out there?” he asked. “They’re old enough to know better. But they’re still kids. And so we had to take that into account while we were out there.”
The mayor waited hours to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency, and the governor hinted she should have come to him earlier.
“We were trying to get in touch with the mayor for quite some time,” Hogan said. “She finally made that call, and we immediately took action.”
Asked if the mayor should have called for help sooner, however, Hogan replied that he didn’t want to question what Baltimore officials were doing: “They’re all under tremendous stress. We’re all on one team.”
Rawlings-Blake said officials initially thought they had the unrest under control.
Batts said authorities had had a “very trying and disappointing day.”
Police certainly had their work cut out for them: The rioters set police cars and buildings on fire in several neighborhoods, looted a mall and liquor stores and threw rocks at police with riot gear who responded occasionally with pepper spray.
WNEW’s Cameron Thompson reported that a fire engulfed the foundation of a senior center under construction at Lanvale and Chester Streets around 9 p.m.
The nearby Southern Baptist Church was building the center to provide 60 affordable apartments and behavioral counseling for seniors. Officials are still investigating whether there is a connection between the riots and the fire.
Gray was arrested April 12 after running away at the sight of police, authorities said. He was held down, handcuffed and loaded into a police van. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside. He died a week later.
Authorities said they are still investigating how and when he suffered the spinal injury — during the arrest or while he was in the van, where authorities say he was riding without being belted in, a violation of department policy.
Gov. Hogan was temporarily moving his office to Baltimore on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the governor said Hogan would be visiting sites around the city and planned to work out of state offices in downtown Baltimore with cabinet members and senior staffers.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in her first day on the job, said she would send Justice Department officials to the city in coming days.
Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, said up to 5,000 troops would be available for Baltimore’s streets.
“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,” Singh said at a news conference Monday night.
Singh said they will be acting at the direction of Baltimore police.
Col. William Pallozzi, the superintendent of the state police, said a request for up to 500 additional law enforcement personnel in Maryland had been sent. Pallozzi added that the state is putting out a request for up to 5,000 more law enforcement personnel from around the mid-Atlantic region.
Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and about 200 others, including ministers, tried unsuccessfully to quell the violence at one point Monday night, marching arm-in-arm through a neighborhood littered with broken glass, flattened aluminum cans and other debris. As they got close to a line of police officers, the marchers went down on their knees. They then rose to their feet and walked until they were face-to-face with the police officers in a tight formation and wearing riot gear.
But the violence continued, with looters later setting a liquor store on fire and throwing cinder blocks at fire trucks as firefighters labored to put out the blazes.
Monday’s riot was the latest flare-up over the death of Gray and came amid a national debate over police use of force following the high-profile deaths of several black men in encounters with police — from the Brown death in Ferguson to the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Gray was black. Police have declined to specify the races of the six officers involved in his arrest, all of whom have been suspended with pay while they are under investigation. However, a video of Gray’s April 12 arrest taken by a bystander appears to show that at least several of the officers who took him into custody were white.
While they are angry about what happened to Gray, his family said riots are not the answer.
“I think the violence is wrong,” Gray’s twin sister, Fredericka Gray, said late Monday. “I don’t like it at all.”
The attorney for Gray’s family, Billy Murphy, said the family had hoped to organize a peace march later in the week.
Hours before the riots began Monday, mourners filled the 2,500-capacity New Shiloh Baptist church to attend Freddie Gray’s funeral.
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