BALTIMORE – As fires continue to burn in Baltimore, schools and some city and state offices have been closed, a state of emergency and a curfew have been declared, and a few people are beginning the cleanup.
“Every few minutes, you hear a fire engine or police siren,” WTOP’s Nick Iannelli reports from Baltimore. “Some streets are so littered with glass and debris, you can’t even drive on them.“
Meanwhile, hundreds of Baltimore residents have volunteered to help the cleanup begin. Through Facebook, they’re asking people to bring trash bags, trash cans and brooms to Baltimore’s Sandtown section, and some have started picking up debris.
The riots came hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray, a black man who died after suffering a severe spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore, one of a series of recently prominent deaths of black men in police custody nationwide. Gov. Larry Hogan signed the emergency order Monday night at the request of the city, and activated the National Guard to help.
Baltimore City Public Schools will be closed Tuesday. Archdiocesan Catholic Schools in the city are also closed Tuesday, with the exception of School of Cathedral.
Baltimore government agencies will be open Tuesday, with the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework, according to the Baltimore Federal Executive Board. Area businesses, schools and Metro stations have temporarily closed in light of the violence. State offices in Baltimore are closed from 6 a.m. through the end of the day shift, and Baltimore City District Court is reportedly closed.
MARC, Amtrak, the MTA busesand light rail, and the Circulator are all running on Tuesday; the Harbor Connector and Water Taxi will not operate.
Anne Arundel County schools have canceled all field trips to Baltimore through Sunday; Prince George’s County schools have canceled such trips until further notice. Howard County schools are rescheduling or canceling events in downtown Baltimore, including prom for several schools.
Officers from multiple jurisdictions, including Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, have responded to help.
15 officers injured
In all, at least 15 officers were injured in the riots and two remain in the hospital, police say. Two dozen people have been arrested. Reporters covering the events have also reported injuries and theft. At one point WTOP’s Mike Murillo was threatened and told to leave the area he was reporting from.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts held a news conference just after 11:30 p.m. Monday, and said the officers who were injured Monday were “going to be OK.” Batts said shots were fired at police in the northwest district during the day, but no officers were hurt in that incident.
“Rioters outnumbered us and out-flanked us,” Batts said. He said he is disappointed in the behavior of those who turned to violence Monday.
“I’m disappointed in the fact that the damage has been done to these communities. I’m disappointed that we cannot be more responsible … . This is not protesting, this is not your first amendment rights, this is just criminal acts doing damage to a community,” said Batts.
Fires continuing to spread
Police vehicles have been torched and businesses looted and set on fire. In at least once instance, a fire hose was cut during an attempt to douse a fire at a CVS.
Earlier Monday night, at Federal and Gray streets in East Baltimore a massive, 3-alarm fire was burning at what was meant to be a new center for senior citizens. Flames could be seen for miles. A spokesman for Mayor Rawlings-Blake told the Associated Press officials are investigating whether the fire is connected to the riots.
“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,” said Donte Hickman, pastor of a Baptist church that had been helping develop the center.
Overnight, Baltimore police asked drivers to stay away from the area of Fulton and Pennsylvania avenues, as tow trucks were being called to remove damaged cars that they said had been set on fire. Police also tweeted in the overnight hours that they were investigating at least two shootings, and said that they had received reports of people throwing cinder blocks at fire engines making their way to blazes.
Gray family responds
In response to the violence and unrest, the family of Freddie Gray held a news conference late Monday night.
“I want you all to get justice for my son but don’t do it like this here. Don’t tear up the whole city man, just for him. It’s wrong,” said Gloria Darden, Gray’s mother.
“I think the violence is wrong – I don’t like it all,” said Fredericka Gray, the twin sister of Freddie Gray, adding that she thought her brother would have disapproved.
The attorney for Gray’s family, Billy Murphy, said the family had hoped to organize a peace march later in the week.
In a news conference earlier Monday night, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake urged the public to know the difference between “thugs who, in a very senseless way are trying to tear down” and protesters.
Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Baltimore City Council president, said, “this is not what Freddie Gray’s parents wanted.“
“These are thugs who are seizing upon an opportunity to show their anger.”
In a statement, Maryland’s Attorney General Brian E. Frosh called for an end to the violence.
“The line from peaceful protest to looting and violence has, sadly, been crossed. The events in Baltimore are putting first responders and many in our community at risk. Destroying property and injuring citizens and law enforcement officers drives us apart — The violence must stop,” said Frosh.
During the mayor’s news conference, Rawlings-Blake announced that a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. will be in effect starting Tuesday and will last one week. This is in addition to the juvenile curfew Baltimore already has of 9 p.m. for those aged 14 and younger. Students older than 14 have a curfew of 10 p.m.
WTOP’s Andrew Mollenbeck earlier described it as a “dramatic, tense afternoon. It’s just a question where it goes from here.“
“I’m watching young people in front of me break into a mom-and-pop pharmacy.”
At one point, Mollenbeck saw an SUV speed by with people hanging from it and the words “Rest in Peace Freddie” written on the side..
Police are asking that parents locate their children as juveniles have made up much of the violent groups.
The clash started near the Mondawmin Mall and spread out over a wide area as a line of police officers pushed them back.