BALTIMORE – Gov. Larry Hogan activated the National Guard on Monday and the City of Baltimore announced a curfew for all residents as a turbulent day that began with the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, the nation’s latest symbol of police brutality, ended with rioting by rock-throwing youths, widespread looting and at least 15 police officers injured.,
“We are going to be out in massive force,” Major General Linda Singh, adjutant general of the state’s national guard, said in a televised news conference. Hundreds of troops were on the ground in Baltimore early Tuesday, the Maryland National Guard said on its Facebook page.
T. Rowe Price Group Inc. said its Baltimore headquarters will stay closed Tuesday because of the riots. Legg Mason Inc., also based in Baltimore, encouraged employees to work from home, spokeswoman Mary Athridge said by phone.
The violence began when high school students gathered at the city’s Mondawmin Mall and began throwing concrete blocks and rocks at officers, Baltimore police Commissioner Anthony Batts said. The Mondawmin neighborhood of northwest Baltimore is home to New Shiloh Baptist Church, where more than 2,000 people – politicians, activists, White House officials and civil rights activists including the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and Dick Gregory – had gathered for Gray’s funeral.
Hours after the service ended, angry groups of people threw bottles, rocks and chunks of concrete at officers who lined up in riot gear with shields deployed. Young men surrounded a police cruiser and smashed in its windows in what police described as an organized attack by criminals. Cars were set on fire, and store windows were shattered. A CVS drugstore was looted and set on fire. A check-cashing business was also looted. The cafe portion of the Trinacria Italian Deli, in Baltimore since 1908, was destroyed. By evening, the unrest was spreading, and the police said that at least 27 people had been arrested.
At a news conference Monday night, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew would be imposed for a week beginning Tuesday. “Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs,” she said. The city already has a curfew for juveniles.
The governor, at the request of the city, declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. Officers were also on the way from surrounding counties to back up more than 1,000 city police officers already on the streets and 82 state troopers dispatched earlier in the day.
“Today’s acts of looting and violence in Baltimore will not be tolerated,” the governor said in a statement. He condemned “direct attacks against innocent civilians, business and law enforcement officers,” adding that “there is a significant difference between protesting and violence.”
City police vowed that the authorities would take “appropriate measures” to keep officers and the neighborhood safe.
“You’re going to see tear gas. You’re going to see pepper balls. We’re going to use appropriate methods to make sure we can preserve the safety of that community,” a spokesman, Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk, said at a news conference. Fifteen police officers were injured, some with broken bones, and one was unresponsive, according to the department.
A White House official said President Obama had spoken with Rawlings-Blake and stood ready to “provide assistance as needed,” though officials were not specific.
The police said early in the day that they had received a “credible threat” that members of various gangs had “entered into a partnership to ‘take out’ law enforcement officers.” But officers kept a low profile in the neighborhood during the Gray funeral.
Warned by the police of possible violence, the University of Maryland campus in downtown Baltimore closed early, as did the mall. The Baltimore Orioles postponed their home game against the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
Pastor Jamal Bryant, who delivered Gray’s eulogy, came back to the neighborhood after the burial Monday afternoon to appeal for calm. He said he would send teams of men from his church, the Empowerment Temple, to help keep the peace.
“This is not what the family asked for, today of all days,” Bryant said. “For us to come out of the burial and walk into this is absolutely inexcusable.” He said he was “asking every young person to go back home,” adding, “it’s frustration, anger and it’s disrespect for the family.”
Gray’s death April 19, a week after sustaining a spinal cord injury while in police custody, has opened a deep wound in this majority-black city, where Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts – both of whom are black – have struggled to reform a Police Department that has a history of aggressive, sometimes brutal, treatment of black men.
The death spawned a week of protests that had been largely peaceful until Saturday night, when demonstrators – who had spent the afternoon marching through the city – scuffled with officers in riot gear outside Camden Yards, the downtown baseball park.
At the corner of North Fulton and West North avenues on Monday, looters could be seen breaking into stores and walking out with cases of food and water while hundreds of police officers in riot gear gathered about four blocks away.
When a pair of police cruisers tried to enter the area, young men threw bottles at them. Several of the men wore surgical masks. Some carried baseball bats, others carried pipes. Residents looked on aghast. Along North Avenue, not far from the Gilmor Homes, the public housing development where Gray was first arrested, Chris Malloy, who lives in the area and participated in Saturday’s protest march, shook his head. He said he was angry at the police and the looters – all at once.
“All they had to do was march, but they did this,” he said, sounding disgusted, as the CVS store burned nearby. “You can take stuff out of the store, but why do you have to burn it down?”