Update: Riots in Baltimore; 15 police officers injured
BALTIMORE (CNN) — Latest developments:
• While light rail “is operating normally,” three Baltimore subway stations — Mondawmin, Upton and Penn-North — were “temporarily closed” Tuesday morning, the Maryland Transit Administration tweeted. Trains were bypassing those stations. Several “bus diversions” were in place, and the Mondawmin bus station was closed, according to the MTA.
• A lawyer for Freddie Gray’s family condemned Monday’s violence, saying it has turned the focus away from the family’s quest for justice.
“Nobody is talking about all the information that the police have that hasn’t been released. No one is talking about what happened between the Police Department and Freddie Gray,” the attorney, Mary Koch, told CNN. “In order for there to be no more Freddie Grays, we have to investigate this.”
• Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake tweeted Tuesday morning, “Today we are working to ensure that most government services can operate normally.”
Charred cars and buildings. Hospitalized police officers. Looted and damaged businesses. No school, because it might not be safe for children to venture onto the streets.
That was the stark reality Tuesday after a night of riots, fires and heartbreak in Baltimore, parts of which looked more like a war zone than a place where people live, work and play.
“Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who — in a very senseless way — are trying to tear down what so many have fought for,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.
At least 15 officers were wounded in the unrest, six of them seriously, the city’s police commissioner said. Getting them healthier is one top priority. So, too, is making sure that they’re not joined in local hospitals by others — be they more law enforcement officers or civilians — in further unrest.
The violent protests and public discord over the death of an African-American man after an encounter with police echoed what has happened in recent months in other U.S. locales like New York City and Ferguson, Missouri. Protests erupted in those places, and others, after the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, respectively, and the police officers involved were not charged.
Underlying this unrest is what Baltimore City Council Member Brandon Scott called “a long, long, longstanding issue with young African-Americans” in cities around the country.
“We’re talking about years and decades of mistrust, of misfortune, of despair that it’s just coming out in anger,” Scott told CNN. “No, it is not right for them to burn down their own city. But that is what’s coming out of these young people.”
‘They dishonored Freddie’s legacy’
In Baltimore, it’s supposed to be about Freddie Gray. He died on April 19, one week after being led into a Baltimore police vehicle.
His family wants justice, hoping that multiple investigations shed light on why and how he died. They want police to be transparent and be held accountable.
What they don’t want, though, is violence — certainly nothing along the lines of what happened Monday. Gray’s mother, Gloria Darden, had pleaded, “I want y’all to get justice for my son, but don’t do it like this here.”
A lawyer for Gray’s family, Mary Koch, called what Baltimore woke up to Tuesday a distraction from the family’s goals of getting justice for Gray and preventing more people — including other African-Americans — from experiencing their grief.
“The one thing they wanted was some peace and some calm on the day that he was actually buried, and (they) asked the community to do that,” Koch told CNN. “And the community didn’t honor their wishes. And, in that way, they dishonored Freddie’s legacy.”
Riots started with ‘purge’
Pockets of violence broke out Saturday amid protests against Gray’s death. But the spark that ignited Monday’s pandemonium probably started with high school students on social media.
An online flier advertised a “purge” after school Monday, starting at Baltimore’s Mondawmin Mall, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The film “The Purge” is about a dystopian society in which all laws are suspended for one 24-hour period every year.
Baltimore authorities got wind of the plans, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said.
“We had gotten information yesterday that at Mondawmin Mall, we’re going to have a large ‘purge’ of high school students from across the city,” Batts said. “We had pretty close to about 250 to 300 police officers staged in or around Mondawmin Mall at the time the youth got out of school.”
But youths started throwing rocks and other objects at police, Batts said. Police in riot gear took cover behind an armored vehicle as assailants hurled stones at them.
He said many of the instigators appeared to be high school students.
“I think they thought it was cute to throw cinder blocks at police,” he said.
At the same time, officers were dealing with a “credible threat” that gangs were teaming up to try to kill officers.
“The Baltimore Police Department/Criminal Intelligence Unit has received credible information that members of various gangs including the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods, and Crips have entered into a partnership to ‘take out’ law enforcement officers,” police said. “This is a credible threat.”
No officers were killed, but at least two dozen people were arrested in the violence.
There were no immediate reports of injuries among the rioters.
But the melee quickly spread to other parts of the city.
Senior center engulfed in flames
An enormous fire broke out at an affordable housing center for seniors. It was just months away from opening.
Pastor Donte Hickman of the Southern Baptist Church, which owns the facility, said 60 units of senior housing were lost.
The mayor said it’s not clear whether the fire was related to the rioting, and its cause is under investigation.
Regardless, the loss has been devastating.
“My eyes have been filled with tears,” Hickman said. “Someone didn’t understand that we exist in the community to help revitalize it.”
State of emergency declared
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. The mayor of Baltimore said every possible resource was being deployed to “gain control of this situation.”
Rawlings-Blake said the city will impose a mandatory curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily, effective for one week starting Tuesday night.
She stressed that the city already has a mandatory curfew for young people — 9 p.m. for children under 14, while youths ages 14 to 16 have to be inside by 10 p.m. on school nights.
Reinforcements coming in
Up to 5,000 law enforcement officials will be requested from the mid-Atlantic region to help quell the violence in Baltimore, Col. William Pallozzi of the Maryland State Police said Monday night.
And authorities say that about 1,500 members of the National Guard have been deployed.
Maryland State Police ordered an additional 40 troopers to Baltimore to join 42 troopers sent there Monday afternoon. Since last Thursday, more than 280 state troopers have provided assistance in Baltimore.
“Today’s looting and acts of violence in Baltimore will not be tolerated,” Hogan said. “There is a significant difference between protesting and violence, and those committing these acts will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law.”
‘They don’t deserve this’
The violence erupted the same day as Gray’s funeral. The 25-year-old was arrested on April 12 and suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. He died one week later.
For days, protesters peacefully took to the streets, decrying Gray’s death and demanding answers about what happened.
Those answers remain unknown.
Police say five of the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest have given statements to investigators. The sixth officer has invoked his right to refuse to answer questions.
Batts, the Baltimore Police Department commissioner, said the police investigation will be finished by Friday. From there, the case will go to the state’s attorney’s office, which will decide whether or not to file charges against the officers.
But the violence is completely unjustified, including the attacks against officers, Gray family attorney Billy Murphy said.
“They don’t deserve this any more than Freddie Gray deserved it,” he said.
The mayor said the city doesn’t deserve what has happened, either.
“It is so frustrating that people think that this makes sense — to destroy our community,” she said. “People who live there that are already hurting are going to be the ones that pay.”
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