Baltimore Residents Recover After Night Of Violence

Apr 28, 2015
Originally published on April 28, 2015 7:53 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Residents of northwest Baltimore were out in droves cleaning up their neighborhoods today. Last night, they saw the most intense clashes with police since demonstrations began there over a week ago. They came after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. He died of severe spinal injuries a week after being arrested by police. And while residents are hoping for peace, they are bracing for what nightfall will bring. NPR's Juana Summers reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLEANING)

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: That's the sound of glass and other debris, the remnants of destruction outside a CVS pharmacy in Baltimore last night. Some in the crowd of protesters set fires and looted as hundreds of people took to the streets. Resident Laquicha Harper says she's determined that her neighborhood will get back on its feet.

LAQUICHA HARPER: We've been picking up bricks and rocks, hiding them so that if anything happens again, none of the officers will be hurt. Anything that could be used as a weapon, we have dismantled it and thrown it in the trash.

SUMMERS: Yesterday's rioting and looting started at a local mall that serves as a transportation hub, and it's near several local high schools. Police say over 140 vehicles were set on fire and dozens of structures were set ablaze. Nearly 200 people were arrested. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has called for a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew starting tonight. Some 80,000 students were also home today as schools were closed. Many in the neighborhood question the wisdom of that decision, but teacher Melanie Smith understands.

MELANIE SMITH: But at the same time, a lot of our students just need to be in a safe space. Consistency is really key for them, so to be able to go to school and see the teachers that they usually do, continue on with lessons or have safe spaces for those conversations could have been beneficial. So...

SUMMERS: Rawlings-Blake made a special appeal to young people, particularly those that may have played a role in Monday night's violence and looting.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: They have to understand - and we can help them understand - that that pain that they're feeling, they're also inflicting on our community. And it's doing so in a way that's going to take us a long time to recover. But let me be clear - we will recover, and we will be better...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: ...On the other side of this.

SUMMERS: And other state leaders weighed in too, condemning the violence. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vowed to use all resources and all manpower necessary to ensure that there was not another night like the last. And another local leader, who'd been to the Pennsylvania and West North intersection earlier in the day, tried to reason with angry residents discussing Monday night's chaos outside city hall.

CONGRESSMAN ELIJAH CUMMINGS: My name is Elijah Cummings.

SUMMERS: The Democrat has represented Maryland in Congress for nearly two decades.

CUMMINGS: And I live in the neighborhood. I live in the hood. I don't live nowhere - I don't live in the suburbs.

SUMMERS: And earlier in the day, he was in one of the hardest hit areas.

CUMMINGS: I'm going to say what I said up there. There is absolutely, unequivocally, no excuse - none - for burning, beating up on police, looting, criminal activity. There is no excuse for that.

SUMMERS: But while things looked calmer Tuesday, residents continued to brace for nightfall. Juana Summers, NPR News, Baltimore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.