Vi­o­lence mars US city protest over po­lice cus­tody death

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JIM WAT­SON

Pro­test­ers ram­paged through the down­town of the U.S. city of Bal­ti­more on Satur­day as the city’s big­gest demon­stra­tion yet over the death of a young African-Amer­i­can man in po­lice cus­tody turned vi­o­lent.

More than 1,000 peo­ple had joined a peace­ful 90- minute rally at city hall de­mand­ing jus­tice for Fred­die Gray, 25, who died last Sun­day from spinal in­juries, a week af­ter his ar­rest in west Bal­ti­more.

But the mood shifted dramatically when scores of pro­test­ers moved to the vicin­ity of the Cam­den Yards base­ball sta­dium, scene of an evening Bal­ti­more Ori­oles-Bos­ton Red Sox game.

Twelve peo­ple were ar­rested, Po­lice Com­mis­sioner An­thony Batts told re­porters.

“My fam­ily wants to say: Please, please stop the vi­o­lence. Fred­die would not want this,” Gray’s twin sis­ter Fred­er­icka said.

She spoke along­side Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake, who said she was “pro­foundly dis­ap­pointed” by vi­o­lence she blamed on “a small group of ag­i­ta­tors.”

Lo­cal t ele­vi­sion f ootage showed a crowd hurl­ing traf­fic cones, soda bot­tles and trash cans at po­lice of­fi­cers, be­fore ran­domly smash­ing store win­dows, loot­ing mer­chan­dise and

van­dal­iz­ing po­lice cars.

Var­ied Tar­gets

Tar­gets in­cluded a 7-Eleven con­ve­nience store, a Michael Kors fash­ion bou­tique and a cell­phone shop in Bal­ti­more’s land­mark Lex­ing­ton Mar­ket.

Street signs were torn down, and one mo­torist got a rock through her car win­dow, lo­cal news me­dia re­ported.

Five po­lice cars were seen by an AFP pho­tog­ra­pher get­ting their win­dows smashed, be­fore ri­ote­quipped po­lice in­ter­vened.

Fans at the base­ball game, which went be­yond the stan­dard nine innings due to a tie, were told to re­main in the sta­dium, “due to an on­go­ing public safety is­sue,” be­fore the gates were opened for them to leave.

One po­lice spokesman blamed the trou­ble on “iso­lated pock­ets” of in­di­vid­u­als who were be­lieved to have come from out of town.

Later in the evening, dozens of po­lice formed a cor­don around the West­ern Dis­trict po­lice sta­tion, scene of nightly protests since Gray died. NBC af­fil­i­ate WBAL re­ported two ar­rests.

Ten­sions have been sim­mer­ing in the blue-col­lar Mid-At­lantic port city of 620,000 as in­ves­ti­ga­tors try to es­tab­lish the cir­cum­stances that led to Gray’s death.

Call for In­quiry

Speak­ers at the city hall rally called for U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to launch a na­tional in­quiry into po­lice mis­con­duct, fol­low­ing a se­ries of fa­tal con­fronta­tions be­tween white po­lice of­fi­cers and African-Amer­i­can men and boys.

“It has to stop. It re­ally has to stop be­cause it could have been any one of us,” a young male adult mem­ber of Gray’s ex­tended fam­ily told the crowd.

In a press con­fer­ence Fri­day, of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged Gray should have re­ceived med­i­cal help at the mo­ment of his ar­rest, when he was seen by by­standers — and caught on video — howl­ing in ap­par­ent pain.

They also re­vealed that Gray, con­trary to po­lice depart­ment pol­icy, was not buck­led into his seat in the van, which made at least three un­ex­plained stops on its way to the West­ern Dis­trict po­lice sta­tion.

AFP

(Left) Demon­stra­tors de­stroy the wind­shield of a Bal­ti­more Po­lice car as they protest the death of Fred­die Gray, an African Amer­i­can man who died of spinal cord in­juries in po­lice cus­tody, in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land on Satur­day, April 25. (Right) Demon­stra­tors raise a black and white U.S. Flag, which is be­lieved to be a call for change and a sym­bol of free­dom of ex­pres­sion, as they protest the death of Fred­die Gray, in Bal­ti­more on Satur­day.

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