Riots erupt across West Baltimore, downtown

Violence and looting overtook much of West Baltimore on Monday, injuring more than a dozen police officers and leaving buildings and vehicles in flames.

As night fell, looters took to Mondawmin Mall and a Save-A-Lot and Rite Aid in Bolton Hill, loading up cars with stolen goods. About 10 fire crews battled a three-alarm fire at a large senior center under construction at Chester and Gay streets, as police officers stood guard with long guns.

About 10 p.m., police confirmed shots were fired at an officer in the area of Virginia Avenue and Reisterstown Road in Northwest Baltimore. The officer was not hit and the suspect fled.

Fifteen police officers were injured in a clash with school-age children that began around 3 p.m., and two remain hospitalized, police Col. Darryl DeSousa said in a press conference Monday night. Earlier, police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said one officer was unresponsive and others suffered broken bones.

Police arrested 27 people, DeSousa said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared a curfew across the city starting Tuesday and for the next week, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for adults and 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. for children aged 14 and younger. She drew a distinction between peaceful protesters and “thugs” she said engaged in rioting Monday intend on “destroying our city.”

“It’s idiotic to think that by destroying your city, you’re going to make life better for anybody,” Rawlings-Blake said.

The incident stemmed from a flier that circulated widely among city school students via social media about a “purge” to take place at 3 p.m., starting at Mondawmin Mall and ending downtown. Such memes have been known to circulate regularly among city school students, based on the film “The Purge,” about what would happen if all laws were suspended.

The flier included an image of protesters smashing the windshield of a police car Saturday during a march spurred by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who suffered a spinal cord injury earlier this month after being arrested by city police.

Demonstrators set a police vehicle ablaze at North and Pennsylvania avenues. Nearby, they looted a CVS drug store, which store officials said had already closed, before it caught fire. Rioters cut the fire hose as firefighters battled the blaze.

Looting spread along Howard and Centre streets as afternoon turned to evening. Another group of people was destroying property around North and Fulton avenues, police said, and a car was set on fire at North Avenue and Pulaski Street.

Kowalczyk called the demonstrators “lawless individuals with no regard for the safety of people that live in that community” and said they would be identified and arrested. Police said via Twitter many of the rioters were juveniles and urged parents to bring their children home.

Police were preparing for rioting to make its way downtown, with officers in helmets and carrying shields stationed at Lexington Market and the Inner Harbor. Maryland State Police sent 40 troopers to the city, said Keiffer Mitchell, a top aide to Gov. Larry Hogan. Several other jurisdictions, including Baltimore and Howard counties, sent officers to assist.

All but one gate to Oriole Park at Camden Yards was closed, with a game set to begin at 7:05 p.m. But team officials postponed the game less than an hour before first pitch was scheduled.

About five stores in the 600 block of Eutaw Street had busted windows and were looted after rioters came through about 4 p.m. Joe Lewis, 41, of Cherry Hill, said he and his brother tried to stop the rioters and urged them to move on.

“If [police] don’t stop what they’re doing, I wouldn’t care if they called Jesus or the law down here,” he said. “They’re going to see a side of them they wish they never brought out.”

Boubacar Sall said looters destroyed his sister’s store, Benita’s. They stole hair extensions, a television set and boxes of hair products.

Rishan George, who lives on the block, said, “you call 911 and nobody answers.”

Full article: Riots erupt across West Baltimore, downtown (Baltimore Sun)

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