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Baltimore burns: Buildings, police cars set on fire

William J. Gorta
Baltimore police: Several businesses looted

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 at the request of the city's mayor.

Hogan said he spoke to President Barack Obama and signed the order "less than 30 seconds" after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called "and quite frankly we're glad she finally did."

The Maryland State Police, backed by the Maryland National Guard, becomes the lead agency in the struggle to bring order to the city wracked with violence.

Col. William Palozzi, superintendent of the state police, called the governor's action "huge" and said he was asking for deployment of 500 law enforcement officers from throughout Maryland and up to 5,000 law enforcement officers from nearby state to assist his force and up to 5,000 Guardsmen in securing streets and neighborhoods in Baltimore.

Hogan made it plain whence Baltimore cops would receive their orders.

A Baltimore Police officer throws a rock back at violent protesters outside the Mondawmin Mall following the funeral of Freddie Gray April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Getty Images

"The city has asked us to take over," Hogan said. "Bill Palozzi is in charge."

Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, adjutant general of the state of Maryland, stressed that the Guard's presence did not mean the city was under martial law.

But, she said the Guard would be rolling into town in "up-armored HumVees and "highly recommended" people "take cover for the night."

Monday night, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said his department had been overwhelmed by the number of looters.

"They just outnumbered us and outflanked us," Batts said. "We needed to have more resources out there."

Read MoreBaltimore declares state of emergency amid protests

Both Batts and Singh said the plan was for police to clear areas of of demonstrators and for the National Guard to secure the are area as police moved on to clear more territory.

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.

And a massive three-alarm fire erupted at a multi-story East Baltimore construction site. The building was supposed to house the Mary Harvin Transformation Center a facility for the elderly and those in transition. The mayor's office said it was sill under investigation whether the blaze was connected to the rioting and arson in other parts of the city.

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 emergency or you're going to work."

Baltimore City Schools announced there would be no classes held on April 28.

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.

Baltimore police: Several businesses looted

Batts described most of the crowds as "Baltimore youthful residents." who thought it was "cute to throw cinderblocks at the police.

He praised the actions of one embarrassed mom who grabbed her hood-wearing son and started "slapping his head."

"I wish I had more mothers out there like that," Batts said.

Asked what he would say to the residents of Baltimore, Batts said, "This is our city; we have to live in it. For parents: Take control of your kids."

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

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"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.

Lynch condemned the "senseless acts of violence" and promised to "bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing and securing an end to the violence."

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, 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.

"This isn't a white/black issue, this is an issue of how do we treat each other as human beings"

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.