Rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos Monday, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing 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.
The violence, which began in West Baltimore — within a mile of where Freddie Grey was arrested and pushed into a police van earlier this month — had by the end of the day spread to East Baltimore and neighbourhoods close to downtown and near the baseball stadium.
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.
Monday’s riot was the latest flare-up over the mysterious death of Freddie Grey, whose fatal encounter with officers came amid the national debate over police use of force, especially when black suspects are involved.
Grey was African-American. He 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.
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.
Grey was buried on Monday at Woodlawn Cemetery in Baltimore.
The riots were initially triggered by a confrontation between cops and teenagers on Monday afternoon outside the Mondawmin Mall after a nearby school let out. Police knew to go to the mall because of rumblings on social media about a so-called purge, a reference to a movie where crime is legalised for 12 hours, as The Baltimore Sun reports.
Police arrived at the mall in riot gear and students reportedly started pelting the cops, who threw rocks back and sprayed tear gas, according to the newspaper.
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.
Riots shifted about a mile away from the mall later to the heart of an older shopping district and near where Grey first encountered police. Both commercial areas are in African-American neighbourhoods.
This police officer said he was hit by a brick during clashes with protesters near the mall:
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 CVS 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.
Cars were also set ablaze and smashed.
Later in the day, people began looting clothing and other items from stores at the mall, which 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.
Other stores in the area were also looted.
The situation worsened throughout the evening.
Multiple fires ravaged the city as riots and looting continued, lighting up Baltimore well into the night.
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