Baltimore (US), April 28: Rioters looted stores and hurled rocks and bricks at Baltimore police, injuring several officers just hours after thousands mourned the man who died after suffering a severe spinal injury in police custody.
Seven officers were hurt. Some had broken bones, and one was unresponsive, said Capt Eric Kowalczyk. Television footage showed a police cruiser in flames and stores being overrun by small groups of people.
Officers using shields and wearing helmets used pepper-spray in an effort to keep the rioters back. A helicopter circled overhead as groups of rioters moved through the city yesterday. One group piled onto and rode a car as it drove down the street. Officers for the most part formed lines to keep protesters at bay.
Maryland's governor put the National Guard 'on alert' to respond to the looting and violence and a Major League Baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox was postponed because of safety concerns.
Monday's riot was the latest flare-up over the mysterious death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose fatal encounter with officers came amid the national debate over police use of force, especially when black suspects are involved.
Many of those on the streets appeared to be African-American youths
Gray was African-American. Gray's family was shocked by the violence and was lying low; instead, they hoped to organise a peace march later in the week, said family attorney Billy Murphy. He said they did not know the riot was going to happen and urged calm.
"They don't want this movement nationally to be marred by violence," he said. "It makes no sense." Police urged parents to locate their children and bring them home. Many of those on the streets appeared to be African-American youths, wearing backpacks and khaki pants that are a part of many public school uniforms.
The riot broke out just as high school let out, and at a key city bus depot for student commuters. Many who had never met Gray gathered earlier in the day in a Baltimore church to bid him farewell and press for more accountability among law enforcement.
The 2,500-capacity New Shiloh Baptist church was filled with mourners. But even the funeral could not ease mounting tensions.
Police said in a news release sent while the funeral was underway that the department had received a "credible threat" that three notoriously violent gangs are now working together to "take out" law enforcement officers.