Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Monday evening and activated the U.S. National Guard to come to the assistance of Baltimore Police who were clearly outnumbered in facing spreading violence in the city.
A “credible threat” was received Monday that three rival gangs are teaming up to “take out” Baltimore Police. The unprecedented alliance between the Black Guerrillas, the Crips and the Bloods to “take out” a law enforcement agency parallels similar deals between Middle East terror groups in order to attack Israelis.
The warning comes against the backdrop of growing violence that followed another incident in which an African-American man died in police custody after arrest.
Seven Baltimore city police officers were injured Monday – one very seriously – in riots that started last week.
Freddie Gray, 25, was shackled in leg irons and placed in a police van where he rode for 30 minutes following his arrest. When the door was opened, it was discovered that he was badly injured. He was taken to the hospital where doctors found his spine was almost completely severed. Gray died on April 19.
Six police officers were placed on administrative leave with pay while the incident is under investigation. Meeting with reporters over the weekend, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake insisted as hundreds of rioters were roaming the streets that it was important to give rioters “space.”
“I’ve made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech,” the mayor said at a briefing Saturday night.
“It’s a very delicate balancing act, because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”
Given the intensity of the violence following her statement, the mayor tried to clarify the intent of her remarks.
Howard Libit, director of Strategic Planning and Policy, issued a subsequent statement saying “What she is saying with in this statement was that there was an effort to give the peaceful demonstrators room to conduct their peaceful protests on Saturday.
“Unfortunately, as a result of providing the peaceful demonstrators with the space to share their message, that also meant that those seeking to incite violence also had the space to operate. The police sought to balance the rights of the peaceful demonstrators against the need to step in against those who were seeking to create violence.
“The mayor is not saying that she asked police to give space to people who sought to create violence. Any suggestion otherwise would be a misinterpretation of her statement.”
But the thousands of rioters out on the streets were not listening, and what appears to be a well-organized siege of the city is growing.
Clearly outnumbered Baltimore SWAT teams have been responding to anti-police protests of that turned ugly by Saturday after three days of peaceful demonstrations.
Light rail and subway trains, and bus service into the downtown area was suspended in order to stop high school students from reaching the area.
Nevertheless, large groups of juveniles gathered and clashed with police at various locations around the city following Gray’s funeral.
Word of a meme – an online flyer – circulated around schools in the city, advocating for a “purge” – a breakdown of all laws and reference to a movie of the same name.
“We are asking for the media to assist us in relaying this message,” Baltimore Police tweeted on social media during the day. “Due to the large number of juveniles in these violent groups, we are asking for parents to please bring your children home. We don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”