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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore reeling after night of violent unrest

By Trymaine Lee and Anna Brand

BALTIMORE – Officers in downtown Baltimore took position on street corners as the sun came up Tuesday morning following a night of violent unrest that led to a state of emergency and the activation of the National Guard by the Maryland governor. 
Thousands of schoolkids won’t be in public school as a mass of officers and National Guard troops are set to spread over the 80-square-mile area here with many concerned with a repeat of Monday evening. A city curfew will go into effect tonight at 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., and will remain for at least a week.
Peaceful protests honoring Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died of a severed spine that allegedly occurred while in police custody, had gone on for days before turning dangerous over the weekend – and then on Monday, when demonstrations turned extremely violent. 
There were more than 200 arrests throughout the night filled with looting, destruction on the streets, and fires set to 144 vehicles and 15 buildings.
“It shocked a lot of people,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said at a news conference early Tuesday. “What started out as peaceful protests – and 95% of the people were peaceful and simply expressing their frustrations – shifted yesterday afternoon and evening to roving gangs of thugs whose only intent was to bring violence and destruction to the city.”
Gov. Hogan said the city will see an “overwhelming display of people on the streets protecting the citizens,” as officers make their way into the city. “What happened last night is not going to happen again,” Hogan said. “We’re going to ensure that all parts of the city are safe.”
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who established the curfew Monday evening after two days of allowing officers to step back and let protesters “destroy space,” defended her decisions Tuesday morning. “I understand that from the outside, you can’t see everything that I see. You don’t know all the different moving pieces,” she said, adding that “it’s a very delicate balancing act when we have to make sure that we’re managing, but not increasing or escalating the problem.”
Baltimore on edge following violence after Freddie Gray funeral
Tensions have run high in the city since Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died on April 19 in police custody.
Newly instated Attorney General Loretta Lynch – on the first day of the job – issued a statement denouncing “the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace.” Lynch said that Justice Department officials would “meet with faith and community leaders, as well as city officials,” though timing is unknown at this point. 
Late Monday, the Baltimore Police Department tweeted that “groups of violent criminals are continuing to throw rocks, bricks and other items at police officers.” A senior citizen’s center under construction in Baltimore was seen engulfed in flames, but it was not immediately clear if the roaring blaze was connected to the unrest in the city.
Dozens of neighbors – including children – took to the streets Tuesday morning with brooms, garbage bags, shovels and more to clean up the destruction and restore their community, according to NBC News Correspondent Rehema Ellis on the ground here. 
Community leaders are “literally helping to clean up their own community,” Maryland State Delegate Keith Haynes described of the scene Tuesday morning on MSNBC’s “Jose Diaz-Balart.” “In order for us to move forward, we have to first get this city under control … we have to bring the community together,” Haynes said. 
With the public school system closed, many kids will be out in the city today, a decision the PTA Council of Baltimore City told msnbc it supports. The group’s president in a statement did acknowledge that a number of these students depend on school meals. “It is unfortunate,” the statement read, “but a number of community organizations and churches have opened their doors to provide meals for those who need them.”
Gray’s family took to Facebook via their attorneys to address the unraveling. “Freddie Gray’s family is watching the looting and rioting and is upset, sad, angry. They are begging people to stop this. ‪#‎FreddieGray ‪#‎BaltimoreRiots.”
President Obama spoke to Rawlings-Blake on Monday, according to a press release from the White House. ”The president highlighted the administration’s commitment to provide assistance as needed and will continue to receive updates on the situation from Attorney General Lynch and White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett,” the statement said. Gov. Hogan said he also spoke to the president Monday evening.

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