Maryland Declares State of Emergency; Baltimore Mayor Institutes Curfew
BALTIMORE, April 27 (UPI) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergencyMonday and deployed the National Guard in response to violent clashes between police and rioters.
Demonstrations in Baltimore turned violent after the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died after suffering a broken spine while in police custody. Protesters appeared to hurl items at police, and authorities used pepper spray to try to disperse the crowd.
Hogan said the “looting and acts of violence in Baltimore will not be tolerated.
“I strongly condemn the actions of the offenders who are engaged in direct attacks against innocent civilians, businesses and law enforcement officers There is a significant difference between protesting and violence, and those committing these acts will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law,” he said in a statement.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the men and women in uniform who are actively working to stem this violence and several who been injured in the line of duty. These malicious attacks against law enforcement and local communities only betray the cause of peaceful citizens seeking answers and justice following the death of Freddie Gray.”
The governor is sending 500 National Guard troops to Baltimore and asking for up to 5,000 additional troops from neighboring states.
Capt. Eric Kowalczyk told reporters several officers were injured by “lawless individuals.”
“They have broken bones, one of them is unresponsive,” he said. “This is not OK.”
At a news conference held by Baltimore officials Monday evening, Police Col. Darryl DeSousa said 15 officers were injured, two of whom remain hospitalized.
CNN reported one of its photographers was also injured and transported to a hospital.
“We will find the people responsible, and we will put them in jail,” Kowalczyk said. The group of protesters hurled stones, bricks, bottles and other items at officers, WBAL-TV in Baltimore reported. Police used pepper spray and Mace to try to disperse the crowd. Groups of people broke into into businesses, including pharmacies, a check-cashing store, a liquor store and a mobile phone store. One of the first stores looted, a CVS pharmacy, was set on fire around 6:30 p.m. Later in the evening, looters gained access to Mondawmin Mall. Other groups damaged and set fire to multiple police vehicles. Police said some people were setting small fires throughout the area. A large fire broke out before 9 p.m. local time at a new senior center being built by the Southern Baptist Church in eastern Baltimore.
Fire officials have yet to confirm whether the fire is related to the riots on the west side of the city. At the news conference, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made clear there is a sharp difference between the largely peaceful protesters who have rallied over the past week and the “thugs” responsible for the violence Monday. “It is idiotic to think that by destroying your city that you’re going to make life better for anybody,” she said. “We will be holding people accountable.” Both Rawlings-Blake and DeSousa said police would be using camera footage of the riots to track down those responsible. So far, DeSousa said there have been 27 arrests.
The mayor used the time to announced a weeklong curfew in the city for the next week. Starting Tuesday, there is a citywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. There is already a juvenile curfew starting at 9 p.m. for people 14 and under and at 10 p.m. for those 15 to 17 years old. Baltimore City Public Schools announced schools will be closed Tuesday. The mall became the epicenter of clashes Monday after a flier circulated at a nearby high school saying a “purge” would take place there starting at 3 p.m.
The flier referenced the movie The Purge in which all crime is legal one day a year. Kowalczyk declined to link Monday’s protests to the ongoing protests over the death of 25-year-old Gray. The flier announcing Monday’s demonstration at the mall included an image of protesters smashing the windshield of a police car during a protest Saturday over Gray’s death. The mall and its Metro stop closed down at 1 p.m. along with other nearby businesses.
The University of Maryland Baltimore announced its closure at 2 p.m. “Due to reports from the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) concerning scheduled activities today beginning at 3 p.m., UMB will close today at 2 p.m. at the recommendation of the BPD. These activities may be potentially violent and UMB could be in the path of any violence. The safety of our students and employees is of paramount importance please vacate the campus as soon as possible,” the school’s website said. Kowalczyk said the violence is spread out over a large area of the city and it is difficult to determine how many people are involved. “Our officers are working as quickly and appropriately as they can to bring about order in the area of Mondawmin and arrest the criminals who violently and without provocation attacked our police officers,” he said.
Meanwhile newly sworn-in U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with President Barack Obama to discuss the unfolding riots. Obama also spoke with Rawlings-Blake, while White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett discussed the situation with Hogan. “The president highlighted the administration’s commitment to provide assistance as needed and will continue to receive updates on the situation from Attorney General Lynch and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett,” a statement from the White House said. Gray was arrested April 12 for reasons not yet identified, was hospitalized after being taken to a police station and died a week later of a broken spine.
Police have acknowledged Gray should have been secured with a seat belt in the vehicle taking him to the station, but has said little else about the incident. It has provoked daily demonstrations in Baltimore, and six police officers have been suspended, pending an investigation. Gray’s funeral was held earlier Monday.
The Rev. Jamal Bryant, the pastor at Empowerment Temple who gave the eulogy, called for an end to the violence, saying it was disrespectful to Gray’s family. “This is not what the family asked for today of all days,” he said. “The family was very clear that this was a day of sacred closure.” Bryant said religious leaders in the city planned to create human walls throughout Baltimore to put an end to the violence. “This is a peaceful movement, and we plan on maintaining that order,” he said. “Violence is not the answer for justice.” Just before 6:30 p.m., the Baltimore Orioles announced on Twitter that Monday night’s game was postponed due to the violence.
“An announcement regarding a make-up date will be made asap. Fans are encouraged to keep their tickets & parking until more info is available,” the team said.