National Guard in Baltimore
BALTIMORE (AP) – National Guardsmen fanned out across the city, police with riot shields blocked streets, and firefighters doused smouldering blazes Tuesday after looting and arson erupted in Baltimore following the funeral of a black man who died in police custody.
It was the first time the National Guard was called in to quell unrest in Baltimore since 1968, when some of the same neighbourhoods were convulsed by violence after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The rioting started in West Baltimore on Monday afternoon – within a mile of where Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested and placed into a police van earlier this month – and by midnight had spread to East Baltimore and neighbourhoods close to downtown and near the baseball stadium.
At least 15 officers were hurt, including six who were hospitalised, police said. There were 144 vehicle fires, 15 structure fires and nearly 200 arrests, the mayor’s office said.
The streets were calm Tuesday morning. Residents came out to sweep up the broken glass and other debris. Firefighters could be seen spraying the burned-out shell of a large building.
“We’re not going to leave the city unprotected,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vowed during a visit in the morning to a West Baltimore intersection that on Monday was littered with burning cars, a smashed police vehicle and broken glass.
Gray’s death under still-mysterious circumstances has become the latest flashpoint in the nation’s debate over the use of police force against black men.
The rioting was the worst such violence in the United States since the turbulent protests that broke out over the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer.
The city was under a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew beginning Tuesday, and all Baltimore public schools were closed.
“I understand anger, but what we’re seeing isn’t anger,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lamented. “It’s disruption of a community. The same community they say they care about, they’re destroying. You can’t have it both ways.”
State and local authorities pledged to restore order but found themselves responding to questions about whether their initial response had been adequate.