Erica L. Green and Scott Dance, Reuters, April 27, 2015
Seven police officers were injured Monday afternoon in riots that began near Mondawmin Mall and were spreading toward downtown. One officer was unresponsive and others suffered broken bones, police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said.
Smoke filled the air as police responded with shields and a tactical vehicle. Demonstrators pelted officers with rocks, bricks and bottles and assaulted a photojournalist, and officers fired back with tear gas and pepper balls.
Demonstrators set a police vehicle ablaze at North and Pennsylvania avenues. Nearby, they looted a CVS drug store. The largest group of demonstrators had reached Howard and Centre streets shortly after 5 p.m., traveling about 3 miles, according to police reports.
Police said via Twitter many of the rioters were juveniles and urged parents to bring their children home.
The incident stemmed from a flier that circulated widely among city school students via social media about a “purge” to take place at 3 p.m., starting at Mondawmin Mall and ending downtown. Such memes have been known to circulate regularly among city school students, based on the film “The Purge,” about what would happen if all laws were suspended.
The flier included an image of protesters smashing the windshield of a police car Saturday during a march spurred by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who suffered a spinal cord injury earlier this month after being arrested by city police.
Police were preparing for rioting to make its way downtown, with officers in helmets and carrying shields stationed at Lexington Market and the Inner Harbor. Maryland State Police sent 40 troopers to the city, said Keiffer Mitchell, a top aide to Gov. Larry Hogan. Several other jurisdictions, including Baltimore and Howard counties, sent officers to assist.
Earlier Monday afternoon, the threat prompted police to urge downtown businesses and institutions to close, including the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Lexington Market, a city courthouse and businesses including T. Rowe Price and Venable LLP.
Two city recreation centers in West Baltimore, the Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center in Upton and Lillian Jones Recreation Center in Sandtown-Winchester, closed early. All Pratt Library branches closed early.
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young on Facebook urged the community to stop the violence.
“The World is watching us to see if we do what took place in 1968,” he said, referring to riots that crippled the city. “We literally destroyed our neighborhood and business. We never really recovered from that.”
City officials said roads near Mondawmin Mall are closed, as well as and North and Pennsylvania avenues. Downtown streets were also closed, including Fayette St. between President and Gay streets near police headquarters. Also closed is the southbound Jones Falls Express exit for Fayette Street.
The Metro was shut down between the Mondawmin and Lexington Market stations.