Baltimore Struggles to Recover After Riots

 

WASHINGTON, BLOKBERITA -- Authorities and civic groups are working to restore order in the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore after Monday night's violence sparked by the death of a black youth in police custody. The port city is under a week-long nighttime curfew, and thousands of troops and police officers are patrolling the streets. Officials and ordinary citizens have condemned the riots, but also have warned that enforcing order will not remove the root causes of the violence.

"Baltimore will recover. I think we will recover. Sure. Sure, but it's going to take people getting involved, getting in the trenches not just behind a lectern, or when the camera's on, or whatever, you gotta get down with the people. This is where the people are. This is where they're hurtin'," said Gerald Miller, a Baltimore resident.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake struck a positive note in an address to citizens Tuesday.



"We saw people coming together to reclaim our city to clean our city, to help heal our city.  I think this can be our defining moment and not the darkest [of] days that we saw yesterday," said Rawlings-Blake.

Baltimore police said the peaceful protests turned violent after members of criminal gangs joined in, something the department had not expected.

"When we deployed our officers yesterday, we were deploying for a high school event. I don't think that there is anyone in the country that would expect us to deploy automatic weapons and armored vehicles to an event with 13, 14- and 15-year-olds," said a police spokesman.



Schools and many businesses were closed Tuesday, and a Major League Baseball game was cancelled for a second consecutive day. Authorities imposed a week-long nighttime curfew, banning anyone from the streets between 10 at night and 5 in the morning, except in an emergency.

The violence started after funeral services for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered fatal spinal cord injuries after his arrest on April 12.



The incident is one of a series in recent months in which mostly white police officers have killed unarmed black men.

"My heart is heavy for the people of Baltimore for this community, and all the other communities. And I'm sad for the young people that are caught up in all of this. I understand that they're angry and they feel like nobody wants to hear them, but with Dr. Martin Luther King - he did it peacefully," said Cynthia Green, who lives in Baltimore.

President Barack Obama said law enforcement alone cannot solve a deeply rooted societal problem.

"We can't just leave it to the police. I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching. But I think we as a country have to do some soul searching," said Obama.

The president stressed, however, that destruction and looting do not constitute protest, and that perpetrators must be brought to justice.


Baltimore Police Commissioner: ‘City is Stable’


The Baltimore police commissioner says the eastern U.S. "city is stable" as authorities enforce an overnight curfew a day after riots over the death of a young black man who died in police custody earlier this month

Police in riot gear confronted a small group of protesters who remained on the street in defiance of the curfew, which took effect at 10 p.m. local time. The crowd was gathered at an intersection in West Baltimore where the worst of the riots occurred Monday.  When police ordered the crowd to disperse, some responded by throwing bottles and jeering at the police. But about an hour into the curfew, the protesters had largely left the area.

Television footage showed dozens of National Guard troops roaming the streets in military vehicles as the curfew took hold.

"The curfew, is, in fact, working," Police Commissioner Anthony Betts told reporters. "The biggest thing is that citizens are safe, the city is stable [and] we hope to maintain it that way."  Betts said a total of 10 people were arrested after the curfew went into effect.

City residents of all races came out Tuesday to clean up, pick up and shed tears for burned out stores and a looted shopping mall that includes a supermarket and a top-name department store -- essential services for one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

As the sun set Tuesday, streets that had been filled with rioters 24 hours earlier were instead filled with music, dancing, and people hugging.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spent much of day visiting some of those neighborhoods. She said she saw a lot of what Baltimore is about -- people reclaiming and healing the city.

Some residents brought food and water to the police officers patrolling their streets. VOA's Victoria Macchi reports that after a brief clash broke out in one part of town, protesters stepped in to form a line between police and angry demonstrators.

Despite a day of relative calm, Baltimore is still under a state of emergency. Police and the National Guard will remain deployed in parts of Baltimore with a history of crime.

A 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will remain in effect all week.

The Baltimore Orioles canceled their baseball game at a downtown stadium Tuesday for the second straight night. A scheduled Wednesday afternoon game will be played, but without spectators allowed into the stadium.

Police arrested 235 people Monday. Twenty police officers were injured. Nearly 150 cars were set on fire.

The violence erupted after the funeral for Freddie Gray, a 25 year-old African American who died from a severe spinal injury earlier this month after police arrested him and threw him into the back of a van, driving him to jail without securing him with a seat belt as required.

The six officers involved are on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.

Many of the protesters say the violence is not just about Freddie Gray, but about what they say is habitual poor treatment of blacks by the police and city officials' alleged unwillingness to do anything about it.

They also are angered over what they see as a lack of economic power, something they say has persisted for decades in black neighborhoods.

President Barack Obama said the protesters have "entirely legitimate concerns" about Gray's death. But he said the rioters should be treated as criminals, saying there is no excuse for violence.

" When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they're not protesting, they're not making a statement, they're stealing," he said. "When they burn down a building, they're committing arson, and they're destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities."

The Justice Department and the FBI are conducting a civil rights investigation into Gray's death. The Baltimore Police Department said more information on the case is expected by Friday.

[ cia / VOA / CNN / bbcom ]
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