Baltimore police use flash bangs, pepper pellets to clear protesters after curfew

By Amy R. Connolly and Danielle Haynes
Police in riot gear line up with military rescue vehicle while local citizens pushed the limit of the 10 p.m. curfew in Baltimore, Maryland on April 28, 2015. Protests have erupted after death of Freddie Gray. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
1 of 16 | Police in riot gear line up with military rescue vehicle while local citizens pushed the limit of the 10 p.m. curfew in Baltimore, Maryland on April 28, 2015. Protests have erupted after death of Freddie Gray. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

BALTIMORE, April 28 (UPI) -- Law enforcement officers in Baltimore used flash bangs and shot pepper pellets to disperse protesters who remained after a 10 p.m. curfew.

Hundreds of officers created walls with shields to slowly push the remaining protesters from where they were gathered. Some plastic and glass bottles were thrown at police and at least one of the smoke bombs was thrown back toward officers.


It's unclear how many protesters remained after curfew.

As police worked to disperse crowds, a fire was started outside Pratt Library.

Earlier in the evening, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the relative peace experienced Tuesday could be the city's "defining moment," not the violent night before.

"Last night was a very rough period for our city but today I think we saw a lot more of what Baltimore is about," she said Tuesday evening in a news conference with fellow city leaders. "People coming together to reclaim our city, clean our city and help heal our city."


Rawlings-Blake said she spent the morning speaking with business owners and residents whose lives would be damaged by the previous night's riots for a long time.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts called Tuesday "a very good day" with people dancing and celebrating near the epicenter of Monday's riots. He said there were one or two arrests of people "acting up."

He said it's clear there needs to be a change in culture within the Baltimore Police Department.

"We have a lot of things we need to change, and we're willing to go in that direction," he said.

As of Tuesday evening, some 1,700 members of the Maryland National Guard were on the streets in Baltimore.

In the hours before a citywide curfew was set to take effect things remained largely peaceful. Members of the community gathered in the streets to protest the death of Freddie Gray, some marching, some attending a town hall meeting at Empowerment Temple, some even putting on dance performances.

About half an hour before the curfew was scheduled to take effect, though, a police officer was injured when a group of people began throwing rocks and other objects at them. Officers made arrests in that incident.


Law enforcement officials used a bull horn and reverse 911 notifications in the last hour leading up to the citywide curfew at 10 p.m.

The curfew, announced Monday, is expected to last at least through Friday, when Batts said the police department would submit a report on the investigation into Gray's death to prosecutors.

Earlier Tuesday, President Barack Obama condemned the violence in Baltimore, saying there is "no excuse" for the arson, looting and destruction in the aftermath of Gray's April 19 death after an injury suffered while in police custody.

Describing the violence as counterproductive, Obama said, "When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they're not protesting, they're not making a statement, they're stealing. When they're burning down a building, they're committing arson. And they're destroying and undermining business and opportunities in their own communities."

In his first public comments since the violence in Baltimore began, Obama said it is "entirely appropriate" that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Rawlings-Blake work to stop the violence and destruction.

"That is not a protest. That is not a statement," he said. ''That is a handful of people taking advantage of the situation for their own purpose, and they need to be treated as criminals."


The president's comments come as volunteers and workers took to the streets Tuesday to begin the lengthy cleanup. About 235 arrests were made, and 20 police officers were injured, six seriously, when gangs of mostly young men became violent after the funeral for Gray.

Baltimore Police Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said Tuesday that in addition to those arrested overnight, 12 people -- seven adults and five juveniles -- were arrested Tuesday morning.

Several journalists covering the riots were also injured, including a Baltimore Sun photo editor. Federal arson investigators have joined local fire marshals to investigate the 144 vehicle fires and 15 structure fires that began as a result of the unrest.

Kowalczyk said one person was critically injured as a result of one of the structure fires.

Schools were closed Tuesday.

Kowalczyk said officers would be deployed to critical infrastructure sites and other "hot spots" throughout the city.

At the same time, Hogan and Rawlings-Blake walked through the city to assess the damage.

"We are seeing volunteers from across Baltimore joining together to clean up damage from yesterday's shameless acts of violence," Rawlings-Blake said on Facebook. "This is what Baltimore is about. I sincerely want to thank all those out there cleaning up streets and sharing their love for our city."


The city's Department of Public Works crews hit the streets about 5 a.m. with dump trucks, tow trucks, Bobcats, street sweepers and shovels to clean up damage. Several volunteer groups on Facebook organized to help.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles announced Tuesday's game -- like Monday's -- would be postponed. Both games against the Chicago White Sox would be rescheduled as a double-hitter May 28.

Wednesday's game, also against the White Sox, will be played at 2:05 p.m., but will be closed to the public. Games scheduled to be played in Baltimore against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are being moved to St. Petersburg, Fla.

Batts said the problems began Monday evening after a group of teens confronted police. Police learned on social media that demonstrators were gathering at the Mondawmin Mall, a transportation hub for students from several schools, and planned to move to City Hall.

Officials learned "a large purge of high school students" would be there, referring to the 2013 movie The Purge, which is based on the idea of a temporary suspension of the law. Police said they were outnumbered when they arrived at the mall and were pelted with water bottles and rocks.


Early on, businesses and schools learned about the impending violence and began shutting down. Officials at the University of Maryland in Baltimore abruptly canceled classes "on recommendation of the BPD." T. Rowe Price and other employers in the area sent workers home early and remain closed.

As the violence grew, calls for calm came from across the city, including from the rival gangs Crips and Bloods. Crips gang member Charles Shelley, standing arm in arm with a Bloods member named Jamal, said, "We're here to protect our community. We don't want trouble,"

David Simon, the creator of the HBO series The Wire, called for peace in a blog post, saying the violence in Gray's name is "an affront to that man's memory and a diminution of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death."

Obama said the problems in Baltimore are not new and the country needs to do some soul-searching.

"If we really want to solve the problem, we could. It would require everybody to say this is important, this is significant and that we just don't pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, when a young man is shot or when his spine is snapped," he said.


On her first day on the job Monday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that in the coming days, Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and Ronald Davis, director of the DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Services, will go to Baltimore to meet with faith and community leaders, as well as city officials. A peace walk through the damaged areas was planned for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday beginning at the Amazing Grace Lutheran Church.

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