Baltimore Riots: Security Beefed Up After Looting, Fires Engulf City

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A police car and van burned on the streets of Baltimore

BALTIMORE (CNN)– Charred cars and buildings. Hospitalized police officers. Looted and damaged businesses. No school, because it might not be safe for children to go outside.

That was the stark reality Tuesday after a night of riots, fires and heartbreak in Baltimore, parts of which looked more like a war zone than a place where people live, work and play.

“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,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

At least 15 officers were wounded in the unrest, six of them seriously, the city’s police commissioner said. Getting them healthier is the first goal. Another is making sure that they’re not joined in local hospitals by others — be they more law enforcement officers or civilians — in further unrest.

The tumult follows a spate of protests across the country over the deaths of black men following encounters with police: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina. Underlying all this unrest is what Baltimore City Council Member Brandon Scott called “a long, long, longstanding issue with young African-Americans” in cities around the country.

“We’re talking about years and decades of mistrust, of misfortune, of despair that it’s just coming out in anger,” Scott told CNN. “No, it is not right for them to burn down their own city. But that is what’s coming out of these young people.”

‘They dishonored Freddie’s legacy’

In Baltimore, it’s supposed to be about Freddie Gray. He died on April 19, one week after being led into a Baltimore police vehicle.

His family wants justice, hoping that multiple investigations shed light on why and how he died. They want police to be transparent and be held accountable.

What they don’t want, though, is violence — certainly nothing along the lines of what happened Monday. Gray’s mother, Gloria Darden, had pleaded, “I want y’all to get justice for my son, but don’t do it like this here.”

A lawyer for Gray’s family, Mary Koch, called what Baltimore woke up to Tuesday a distraction from the family’s goals of getting justice for Gray and preventing more people — including other African-Americans — from experiencing their grief.

“The one thing they wanted was some peace and some calm on the day that he was actually buried, and (they) asked the community to do that,” Koch told CNN. “And the community didn’t honor their wishes. And, in that way, they dishonored Freddie’s legacy.”

Riots started with ‘purge’ rumors

In some ways, Baltimore has been simmering since Gray died from a spinal cord injury that he suffered while in police custody. Protesters hit the streets for days, asking questions like how did Gray suffer his fatal injuries, why did it take authorities so long to get him medical help and why was he arrested in the first place.

Firm answers are still slow to come on all those fronts, though some may emerge with the anticipated Friday release of a police investigation.

Still, while there were demonstrations and arrests, what unfolded Monday was very different.

It started with rumors of a “purge” after school Monday starting in Baltimore’s Mondawmin Mall. The rumors echoed a film about a dystopian society in which, for one day each year, all laws are suspended for one 24-hour period.

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