Calm Follows Rioting, Chaos In Baltimore


Tuesday, April 28th 2015, 6:47 am
By: News On 6


Rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos Monday, torching a CVS pharmacy, looting businesses, setting police cars ablaze and throwing rocks and bricks at officers hours after thousands mourned the man who died from a severe spinal injury he suffered in police custody.

The governor declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard to restore order - but authorities were still struggling to quell pockets of unrest after midnight.

Tuesday morning saw relative calm, but firefighters were dousing still-simmering blazes and nerves were on-edge, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues.

The Baltimore mayor's office says there were 144 vehicle fires, 15 structures fires and nearly 200 arrests in the unrest that broke out in the city.

Monday's rioting was the latest flare-up over the mysterious death of Freddie Gray, whose fatal encounter with officers came amid the national debate over police use of force, especially when black suspects are involved. Gray was African-American. 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.

The violence, which began in West Baltimore - within a mile of where Gray was arrested and pushed into a police van earlier this month - had by the end of the day spread to East Baltimore and neighborhoods close to downtown and near the baseball stadium.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in her first day on the job, said she would send Justice Department officials to the city in coming days.

A weeklong, daily curfew was imposed beginning Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the mayor said, and Baltimore public schools announced that they would be closed on Tuesday. At least 15 officers were hurt, including six who remained hospitalized late Monday, police said. Two dozen people were arrested.

Officers wearing helmets and wielding shields occasionally used pepper spray to keep the rioters back. For the most part, though, they relied on line formations to keep protesters at bay.

But Gray's family said violence is not a way to honor him.

"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.

Emergency officials were constantly thwarted as they tried to restore calm in the affected parts of the city of more than 620,000 people. Firefighters trying to put out a blaze at a drug store were hindered by someone who sliced holes in a hose connected to a fire hydrant, spraying water all over the street and nearby buildings.

Later Monday night, a massive fire erupted in East Baltimore that a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake initially said was connected to the riots. He later texted an AP reporter saying officials are still investigating whether there is a connection.

The Mary Harvin Transformation Center was under construction and no one was believed to be in the building at the time, said the spokesman, Kevin Harris. The center is described online as a community-based organization that supports youth and families.

At one point, Baltimore police tweeted a plea for cooperation:

Earlier Monday, the smell of burned rubber wafted in the air in one neighborhood where youths were looting a liquor store. Police stood still nearby as people drank looted alcohol. Glass and trash littered the streets, and other small fires were scattered about. One person from a church tried to shout something from a megaphone as two cars burned.

"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, tearing down businesses, tearing down and destroying property, things that we know will impact our community for years," said Rawlings-Blake, a lifelong resident of the city.

"I'm not going to be as nice as everyone else. I am simply pi--ed off. This is the city I love, this is the city that I chose to dedicate my life to and we cannot stand idly and let thugs - whatever you want to call them - I won't even say they're thugs, we're going to call them cowards, ruin our city," CBS Baltimore quoted Councilman Brandon Scott as saying.

"The whole world is watching us, and some people are even calling us animals," said City Council President Jack Young, according to the station.

Police Chief Anthony Batts said he is "extremely disappointed in this beautiful city tonight. ... This is not protesting, this is not your First Amendment rights, this is just criminal acts doing damage to a community that is challenged in some ways that do not need this and do not need to be harmed in a way that we have today."

Police urged parents to locate their children and bring them home. Many of those on the streets appeared to be African-American youths, wearing backpacks and khaki pants that are a part of many public school uniforms.

Later in the day, people began looting clothing and other items from stores at a mall that became unprotected as police moved away from the area. About three dozen officers returned, trying to arrest looters but driving many away by firing pellet guns and rubber bullets.

On Monday night, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and about 200 others, including ministers and mostly men, marched arm-in-arm through a neighborhood littered with broken glass, flattened aluminum cans and other debris, in an attempt to help calm the violent outbursts. As they got close to a line of police officers, the marchers went down on their knees. After the ministers got back on their feet, they walked until they were face-to-face with the police officers in a tight formation and wearing riot gear.

Early Tuesday, residents of one neighborhood were already showing up with brooms and trash cans to try to clean up the street, a CBS News producer reports, adding that several people with shovels and brooms were outside the CVS. All were volunteers.

Many who had never met Gray gathered earlier in the day in a Baltimore church to bid him farewell and press for more accountability among law enforcement.

The 2,500-capacity New Shiloh Baptist church was filled with mourners. But even the funeral could not ease mounting tensions.

Police said in a news release sent while the funeral was underway that the department had received a "credible threat" that three notoriously violent gangs are now working together to "take out" law enforcement officers.

It's believed the riots may have been the result of fliers that were apparently shared over the weekend on social media asking high schoolers to rally at Mondawmin Mall, reports CBS Baltimore. It was supposed to be a peaceful march for Gray. Instead, things quickly spiraled out of control.

Gray was arrested on April 12 after making eye contact with officers and then running away, police said. He was held down, handcuffed and loaded into a van without a seat belt. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside.

He asked for medical help several times even before being put in the van, but paramedics were not called until after a 30-minute ride. Police have acknowledged he should have received medical attention on the spot where he was arrested, but they have not said how his spine was injured. He died on April 19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report