Police in spotlight as Baltimore burns
National Guard troops fanned out through the city, shieldbearing police officers blocked the streets and firefighters doused stillsimmering blazes early Tuesday as a growing area of Baltimore shuddered from riots following the funeral of a black man who died in police custody.
The violence that started in West Baltimore on Monday afternoon — within a mile of where Freddie Gray was arrested and placed into a police van this month — had by midnight spread to East Baltimore and neighborhoods close to downtown and near the baseball stadium.
It was one of the most volatile outbreaks of violence prompted by a police-involved death since the days of protests after Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed during a confrontation with a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer.
At least 15 officers were hurt, including six who were hospitalized, police said. There were 144 vehicle fires, 15 structure fires and nearly 200 arrests, according to the mayor’s office.
Aerial footage Tuesday from Baltimore station WJZ-TV showed a firefighter spraying the burntout shell of a large building as an American flag fluttered nearby on an untouched building.
Authorities pledged to restore order and calm to Baltimore, but quickly found themselves responding to questions about whether their initial responses had been adequate.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was asked why she waited hours to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency, while the governor himself hinted she should have come to him earlier.
Rawlings-Blake said officials believed they had gotten the unrest that had erupted over the weekend under control “and I think it would have been inappropriate to bring in the National Guard when we had it under control.”
But later on, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts made it clear events had become unmanageable. “They just outnumbered us and outflanked us,” Batts said. “We needed to have more resources out there.”
5,000 Troops Available
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in her first day on the job, said she would send Justice Department officials to the city in coming days. A weeklong, daily curfew was imposed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the mayor said, and Baltimore public schools announced they would be closed Tuesday.
Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, said up to 5,000 troops would be available for Baltimore’s streets.
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In this frame from video provided by WJLA, smoke rises from a store on Monday, April 27 during unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland.