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lunes, 27 de abril de 2015

State of Emergency Declared as Baltimore Protests Turn Violent Following Freddie Gray Funeral

Baltimore descended into chaos Monday with widespread rioting, arson and looting, just hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray, prompting Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency.

Tensions have been high in Baltimore for a week; Gray died on April 19 with a severed spine that occurred while he was in police custody.

The post-funeral demonstrations became more tumultuous as the afternoon wore on, with a police car and van being torched and several storefront windows broken. A CVS pharmacy, which had been looted after its windows were smashed, was then set ablaze. And the mall where the demonstrations started suffered looting and vandalism throughout the evening.

Another van was set on fire and protesters forced firefighters to retreat from the scene, leaving the vehicle to burn.

Baltimore police later tweeted that demonstrators cut a fire hose to prevent firefighters from putting out a blaze.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the violent looters "thugs." She said there was a difference between the peaceful protesters of days past and "the thugs who only want to incite violence and destroy our city.

"I'm a life-long resident of Baltimore... 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," Rawlings-Blake said. " Tearing down business, tearing down or destroying property. Things that we know will impact our community for years."

"It is idiotic to think that by destroying your city you're going you're going to make life better for anybody."

She said that, starting Tuesday, there would be a weeklong curfew imposed from 10 p.m. until 5 p.m. — in addition to the juvenile curfew Baltimore regularly has.

She said there were only two reasons for anyone to be on the streets during curfew: "medical emrgency or you're going to work."

Col. Darryl DeSousa, Baltimore PD's chief of patrol, said 15 police officers were injured by flying debris; 13 had been treated and released as of 8 p.m.

There had been 27 arrests by Monday evening, but both Desousa and Rawlings-Blake said police would review video of the violence and vandalism and expected that many more arrests would be made.

The Baltimore Sun reported the initial gathering of violent protesters stemmed from a flier distributed on social media calling for a "purge" to take place at 3 p.m., starting at the Mondawmin Mall and ending downtown.

The meme is based on the movie "The Purge," which imagines what would happen if there were no laws, the according to the Sun.

The flier featured an image of protesters breaking the window of a police car in a disturbance on Saturday, the paper said.

The Baltimore Emergency Operations Center was opened and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan put the National Guard on alert in case they are needed to respond.

"I strongly condemn the actions of the offenders who are engaged in direct attacks against innocent civilians, businesses and law enforcement officers," Hogan said in a statement. "There is a significant difference between protesting and violence and those committing these acts will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law.

On the day she was sworn into office, Attorney General Loretta Lynch briefed President Barack Obama on the unfolding events in the Charm City.

"Attorney General Lynch assured the President that she would continue to monitor events in Baltimore and that the Department of Justice stands ready to provide any assistance that might be helpful there," the White House said in a statement.

Police said 15 cops had been injured; at least one had been knocked unconscious.

"We will find the people responsible and put them in jail," said Captain Eric Kowalczyk. "They attacked officers without provocation."

Baltimore cops took to Twitter to try to keep the situation from spiraling out of control.

"Several juveniles are part of these aggressive groups. WE ARE ASKING ALL PARENTS TO LOCATE THEIR CHILDREN AND BRING THEM HOME," read a tweet on the official Baltimore Police Twitter feed.

The Rev. Jamal Bryant, who earlier delivered a eulogy at Gray's funeral, said the violence was not what was needed "just hours out of the burial."

"I'm asking every young person to go home," Bryant told reporters.

He also took to Twitter to ask Baltimore clergy to come to respond to the mall at the center of the mayhem to help calm the situation.

"Clergy!!!.....we need to be in The streets right NOW!!" Bryant tweeted, adding later, "All disciplined brothers both Muslim & Christian we are one army today...we must reclaim this situation! Come to Mindawmin now!!"

Billy Murphy, an attorney for Gray's family,y said they were in shock watching the violence in Baltimore.

"They don't want this movement nationally to be marred by violence," he said. "It makes no sense."

His firm posted the following statement its FaceBook page: "Freddie Gray's family is watching the looting and rioting and is upset, sad, angry. They are begging people to stop this."

Cops initially shooed ticket holders inside Camden Yards for a game between the Orioles and the White Sox, but around 6:30, the Orioles announced the game would be postponed.

And the Maryland State police sent 42 troopers to assist in Baltimore with another 40 set to respond.

Earlier, Baltimore police said several gangs, including the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods, and Crips formed a partnership to "take out" law enforcement officers.

The police said in a press release they consider the gang rumblings a "credible threat," but offered no specifics.

The threats were enough to spur the LAPD to order its officers to ride in pair rather than solo "out of an abundance of caution" for their officers.

At Gray's funeral, Bryant urged mourners to join the protests that have occurred in the wake of Gray's death on April 19.

"Freddie's death is not in vain," Bryant said. "After this day, we're going to keep on marching. After this day, we're going to keep demanding justice."

But some of the protests got out of hand Monday afternoon with police reporting more than 2,000 protesters throwing rocks and debris at officers in the area

Gray was arrested after a foot pursuit on April 12 and was seen on video yelling as he was hauled into a police van. After a stop to shackle his feet, Gray arrived at a police station house with his spinal column 80 percent severed. He died a week later.

Officials have promised an exhaustive investigation with results due on May 1.

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