Scenes of Chaos in Baltimore as Thousands Protest Freddie Gray’s Death

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from The New York Times,

A largely peaceful protest over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a spinal cord injury in police custody, gave way to scattered scenes of chaos here on Saturday night, as demonstrators smashed a downtown storefront window, threw rocks and bottles and damaged police cruisers, while officers in riot gear broke up skirmishes and made 12 arrests near Camden Yards.

Shortly before 10 p.m., Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake convened a news conference at City Hall, where she appeared with several others — including Mr. Gray’s twin sister, Fredericka; a prominent pastor, Jamal Bryant; and City Councilman Brandon Scott — to appeal for calm. By that time the disturbances had largely settled.

Mr. Gray’s sister, appearing composed less than 48 hours before her brother’s scheduled funeral, spoke only briefly, saying, “Freddie Gray would not want this. Freddie’s father and mother does not want the violence.”

Hours earlier, a racially diverse and mostly calm crowd of hundreds — and by some estimates more than 1,000 — marched through the streets, clogging intersections, carrying signs and shouting, “All night, all day, we’re gonna fight for Freddie Gray!” They made their way from the Gilmor Homes — the squat brick public West Baltimore housing development where Mr. Gray was arrested on April 12 — through the sparkling downtown harbor, a major tourist attraction here, before assembling on a plaza at City Hall.

There, Malik Shabazz, president of Black Lawyers for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based group that called for the demonstration and advertised it on social media, told the crowd that he would release them in an hour, adding: “Shut it down if you want to! Shut it down!”

Mr. Shabazz said in a later interview that his rhetoric was intended only to encourage civil disobedience — not violence — but added that he was “not surprised” by the scattered angry outbursts because people here “haven’t received justice.”

Saturday’s trouble began in the early evening, when a group of protesters, as many as 100 by some accounts, split from the main group as the City Hall rally was breaking up and went on a rampage, throwing cans, bottles and trash bins at police officers, and breaking windows in some businesses. As the breakaway group reached Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles were playing the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night, it was met by police officers in riot gear.

Protesters smashed windows of some cars and blocked the corner of Pratt and Light Streets, a major intersection that is a main route to Interstate 95 and out of the city. The department used its Twitter feed to urge demonstrators to remain peaceful, and blamed the problems on “isolated pockets of people from out of town causing disturbances downtown.” Late in the ballgame, police briefly instructed fans to remain in the stadium “until further notice,” but the crowd was eventually released.

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