BALTIMORE — National Guard troops fanned out through the city, shield-bearing police officers blocked the streets and firefighters doused still-simmering blazes early Tuesday as a growing area of Baltimore shuddered from riots following the funeral of a black man who died in police custody.
The violence that started in West Baltimore on Monday afternoon – within a mile of where Freddie Gray was arrested and placed into a police van earlier this month – had by midnight spread to East Baltimore and neighborhoods close to downtown and near the baseball stadium.
It was one of the most volatile outbreaks of violence prompted by a police-involved death since the days of protests that followed the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed during a confrontation with a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer.
At least 15 officers were hurt, including six who remained hospitalized late Monday, police said. Two dozen people were arrested.
State and local authorities pledged to restore order and calm to Baltimore, but quickly found themselves responding to questions about whether their initial responses had been adequate.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was asked why she waited hours to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency, while the governor himself hinted she should have come to him earlier.
“We were all in the command center in the second floor of the State House in constant communication, and we were trying to get in touch with the mayor for quite some time,” Gov. Larry Hogan told a Monday evening news conference. “She finally made that call, and we immediately took action.”
Asked if the mayor should have called for help sooner, however, Hogan replied that he didn’t want to question what Baltimore officials were doing: “They’re all under tremendous stress. We’re all on one team.”
Rawlings-Blake said officials believed they had gotten the unrest that had erupted over the weekend under control “and I think it would have been inappropriate to bring in the National Guard when we had it under control.”
But later on, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts made it clear events had become unmanageable. “They just outnumbered us and outflanked us,” Batts said. “We needed to have more resources out there.”
Batts said authorities had had a “very trying and disappointing day.”
Police certainly had their work cut out for them: The rioters set police cars and buildings on fire in several neighborhoods, looted a mall and liquor stores and threw rocks at police with riot gear who responded occasionally with pepper spray.
“I understand anger, but what we’re seeing isn’t anger,” Rawlings-Blake said. “It’s disruption of a community. The same community they say they care about, they’re destroying. You can’t have it both ways.”
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