Baltimore Aftermath: The Rioters Were In Control
Policy + Politics

Baltimore Aftermath: The Rioters Were In Control

© Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Baltimore residents on Tuesday began cleaning up the wreckage from rioting and fires that erupted after the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering a spinal injury in police custody.

Acrid smoke hung over streets where fire crews raced to contain damage from violence that broke out just blocks from the funeral of Freddie Gray and spread through much of the poor West Baltimore neighborhood. Gray's death gave new energy to the public outcry that flared last year after police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere.

Fifteen buildings and 144 vehicles were set on fire, and nearly 200 people were arrested, according to the city mayor's office. Police said 15 officers were injured, six seriously, in Monday's unrest. Looters had ransacked stores, pharmacies and a shopping mall and clashed with police in riot gear in the most violent unrest in the United States since Ferguson, Missouri, was torn by gunshots and arson in late 2014.

Latest Photos: Baltimore Riots—Race Rage and Looting in Charm City

On Tuesday, volunteers in Baltimore swept up charred debris in front of a CVS pharmacy as dozens of police officers in riot gear stood by and firefighters worked to damp down the embers.

"I'm just here to help out, man," said Shaun Boyd, 30, as he swept up broken glass. "It's the city I'm from."

The violence appeared to catch city officials and community leaders off-guard after a week of mostly peaceful protests following Gray's death on April 19.

National Guard troops on Tuesday began to stage around the city, including in front of the police station where officers were bringing Gray at the time he was injured. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, declared a state of emergency on Monday and imposed a one-week curfew in the largely black city starting Tuesday night, with exceptions for work and medical emergencies.

Related: Violence Erupts After Funeral of Baltimore Man Who Died in Police Custody

Baltimore-based fund manager T. Rowe Price Group Inc said it would close its downtown office on Tuesday. Legg Mason, also headquartered downtown, said its office would be open, but it was encouraging employees to work from home.

Answering criticism of not responding quickly enough to Monday's events, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told CNN: "This was an incident that sparked this afternoon ... I think it would have been inappropriate to bring in the National Guard when we had it under control."

On Monday, rioters threw rocks at police, smashed car windows and twice slashed a fire hose while firefighters fought a blaze.

Baltimore schools were closed on Tuesday in the city of 620,000 people, 40 miles (64 km) from the nation's capital.

"When you see the destruction you've also got to realize there's pain, there's pain behind a lot of this," said U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat who represents the region hit by the rioting. Speaking to reporters as police helicopters hovered overhead, Cummings called on Rawlings-Blake to order a new review of law enforcement in the city.

The mayor, he said, should "assure us that the police department be looked at from top to bottom, everything from parking tickets straight up to indictments for murder."

Gray was arrested on April 12 while running from officers. He was transported to the police station in a van, with no seat restraint and suffered the spinal injury that led to his death a week later. A lawyer for Gray's family says his spine was 80 percent severed at the neck while in custody.

Related: Baltimore Police Receive Threat from Gangs to ‘Take Out’ Law Enforcement

Six officers have been suspended, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations.

Much of Monday's rioting occurred in a neighborhood where more than a third of families live in poverty. Parts of it had not been rebuilt since the 1968 rioting that swept across the United States after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Deadly confrontations between mostly white U.S. police and black men, and the subsequent unrest, will be among the challenges facing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in on Monday and condemned the "senseless acts of violence."

Baltimore's race riots were the latest of many in the United States. In 1992, more than 50 people in Los Angeles were killed in violence set off by the acquittal of four police officers who beat black motorist Rodney King. Dozens died in 1968 riots, including several people in Baltimore.

Latest Photos: Baltimore Riots—Race Rage and Looting in Charm City

As he surveyed the wreckage of the destroyed drugstore, 36-year-old longshoreman Dave Johnson called the rioting "ridiculous."

"It's like setting a fire in your own house and then sleeping in it," Johnson said. "It shows parents are not accountable with control of their kids."

Additional reporting by Jim Bourg; Writing by Scott Malone and Curtis Skinner

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