Riots, Chaos and Fire as Baltimore Protesters Turn Violent

Riots, Chaos and Fire as Baltimore Protesters Turn Violent

A state of emergency has been declared and the National Guard sent in as officials also ordered a week of overnight curfews in an effort to quell the disorder.

Violence broke out a short distance from the funeral of Freddie Gray before spreading through much of West Baltimore in the most violent US demonstrations since arson and gunfire in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.

Mr Gray's death had prompted several days of peaceful protests and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said those involved in the lootings were "thugs" who had nothing to do with protests over police brutality.

"It's extremely heartbreaking for someone born and raised in Baltimore," she said.

"We know how hard people work to be able to have a city we know and love and watch a group of criminals go through our city with an intent to destroy. You don't get justice for that. What does it solve?"

 

Shopping malls ransacked

Protesters threw bricks at officers and set police cars and buildings ablaze. One fire destroyed an old people's centre at a church in East Baltimore.

Police said at least 27 people were arrested as looting and attacks on officers continued into the night, and Baltimore schools will be shut on Tuesday.

Liquor stores, pharmacies, a shopping mall and a cheque-cashing store were ransacked.

Rioters smashed car windows outside a major hotel and twice slashed a fire hose while firefighters fought a blaze at a CVS pharmacy that had been looted before it was set ablaze.

Officers wearing helmets and wielding shields occasionally used pepper spray to keep the rioters back.

Mr Gray's family said violence was not the way to honour him.

"I think the violence is wrong," his twin sister, Fredericka Gray, said. "I don't like it at all."

David Simon, the creator of HBO hit series The Wire and a veteran Baltimore resident, called for the rioting to end.

"Yes, there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed," he wrote in his blog.

"Changes are necessary and voices need to be heard.  All of that is true and all of that is still possible, despite what is now loose in the streets."

"But now – in this moment – the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray's name needs to cease," he said, adding that the rioting "is an affront to that man's memory".

 

Police killing young black guys for no reason

"If you can't seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore. Turn around. Go home. Please."

An Orioles baseball game was cancelled and businesses and train stations shut down in the city of 620,000 people, 40 miles (65km) from the capital Washington DC.

Mr Gray's death on 19 April revived public anger over police treatment of black Americans, which was sparked last year by the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere.

Tony Luster, 40, who receives disability benefits and was out on the street watching the police line, said: "All this had to happen, people getting tired of the police killing the young black guys for no reason.

"It is a sad day but it had to happen."

A series of deadly confrontations between mostly white police and black men, and the violence it has prompted, will be among the challenges facing US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in on Monday.

By Musalia Wycliffe