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Chaos in Baltimore as Riots Spread     04/28 06:11

   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.

   BALTIMORE (AP) -- 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 Gray was arrested and pushed into a police van earlier this month --- 
had by the end of the day spread to East Baltimore and neighborhoods close to 
downtown and near the baseball stadium.

   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 beginning Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the mayor said, 
and Baltimore public schools announced that they would be closed on Tuesday. At 
least 15 officers were hurt, including six who remained hospitalized late 
Monday, police said. Two dozen people were arrested.

   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 
Gray, whose fatal encounter with officers came amid the national debate over 
police use of force, especially when black suspects are involved. Gray was 
African-American. 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.

   But Gray's family said violence is not a way to honor him.

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

   The attorney for Gray's family, Billy Murphy, said the family had hoped to 
organize a peace march later in the week.

   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. He later texted an AP reporter saying officials are 
still investigating whether there is a connection.

   The Mary Harvin Transformation Center was under construction and no one was 
believed to be in the building at the time, said the spokesman, Kevin Harris. 
The center is described online as a community-based organization that supports 
youth and families.

   Kevin Johnson, a 53-year-old resident of the area, said the building was to 
have been earmarked for the elderly. Donte Hickman, pastor of a Baptist church 
that has been helping to develop the center, shed tears as he led a group 
prayer near the firefighters who fought the blaze.

   "My heart is broken because somebody obviously didn't understand that we 
were for the community, somebody didn't understand that we were working on 
behalf of the community to invest when nobody else would," he said.

   Earlier Monday, the smell of burned rubber wafted in the air in one 
neighborhood where youths were looting a liquor store. Police stood still 
nearby as people drank looted alcohol. Glass and trash littered the streets, 
and other small fires were scattered about. One person from a church tried to 
shout something from a megaphone as two cars burned.

   "Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be 
destroyed by thugs, who in a very senseless way, are trying to tear down what 
so many have fought for, tearing down businesses, tearing down and destroying 
property, things that we know will impact our community for years," said 
Rawlings-Blake, a lifelong resident of the city.

   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.

   The riot broke out just as high school let out, and at a key city bus depot 
for student commuters around Mondawmin Mall, a shopping area northwest of 
downtown Baltimore. It shifted about a mile away later to the heart of an older 
shopping district and near where Gray first encountered police. Both commercial 
areas are in African-American neighborhoods.

   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.

   Downtown Baltimore, the Inner Harbor tourist attractions and the city's 
baseball and football stadiums are nearly 4 miles away. While the violence had 
not yet reached City Hall and the Camden Yards area, the Orioles canceled 
Monday's game for safety precautions.

   On Monday night, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and about 200 others, 
including ministers and mostly men, marched arm-in-arm through a neighborhood 
littered with broken glass, flattened aluminum cans and other debris, in an 
attempt to help calm the violent outbursts. As they got close to a line of 
police officers, the marchers went down on their knees. After the ministers got 
back on their feet, they walked until they were face-to-face with the police 
officers in a tight formation and wearing riot gear.

   In a statement issued Monday, Attorney General Lynch said she would send 
Justice Department officials to the city in coming days, including Vanita 
Gupta, the agency's top civil rights lawyer. The FBI and Justice Department are 
investigating Gray's death for potential criminal civil rights violations.

   Many who had never met Gray gathered earlier in the day in a Baltimore 
church to bid him farewell and press for more accountability among law 
enforcement.

   The 2,500-capacity New Shiloh Baptist church was filled with mourners. But 
even the funeral could not ease mounting tensions.

   Police said in a news release sent while the funeral was underway that the 
department had received a "credible threat" that three notoriously violent 
gangs are now working together to "take out" law enforcement officers.

   Gray 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.


(KA)


 
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