Thursday 29 June 2017

Three shot during Ferguson protest as schools reopen in Baltimore

Members of the National Guard gather at the Mondawmin Mall, where looting occurred during a riot,. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Members of the National Guard gather at the Mondawmin Mall, where looting occurred during a riot,. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Schools reopened across Baltimore and tensions seemed to ease after the city made it through the first night of its curfew without the widespread violence many had feared.

Meanwhile, activists vowed to continue calling for answers in the case of a 25-year-old black man whose death from a spinal-cord injury under mysterious circumstances while in police custody set off riots.

With 3,000 police and National Guardsmen trying to keep the peace and prevent a repeat of the looting and arson that erupted on Monday, the citywide, 10pm-to-5am curfew ended with no reports of disturbances in the early morning hours.

Baltimore's school system said all schools would be open and after-school sports and other activities would also take place. Monday's riots began when high schools closed for the day and students clashed with police near a major bus transfer point.

Looting, fires and gunfire broke out overnight in Ferguson, Missouri, during protests triggered by Freddie Gray's death in Baltimore. Ferguson was rocked by violence last year over the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer.

Ferguson police spokesman Jeff Small said three people were shot during protests over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Grey which began at around 8pm local time on Tuesday in the area of Canfield Drive and West Florissant Avenue.

A protester throws a tear gas canister back at riot police in Baltimore (AP)
A protester throws a tear gas canister back at riot police in Baltimore (AP)
Members of the National Guard enforce a curfew in Baltimore (AP)
A protester yells "register to vote" near the condemned CVS Pharmacy building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore. Photo: Reuters
Members of the community hold hands in front of police officers in riot gear outside a recently looted and burned CVS store in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Reuters

That same area was the site of protests following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, by a white Ferguson police officer in August.

Two victims were shot in the neck, and one in the leg. All three are in stable condition. A 20-year-old man was arrested for shooting the man with the leg wound.

Five people were arrested for looting at a Mobil station in nearby Dellwood.

In Baltimore, the curfew was set to go back into effect at 10pm. And baseball officials announced that the Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards would be closed to the public for safety reasons.

A few dozen protesters gathered outside the office of Baltimore's top prosecutor to demand swift justice in the case of Mr Gray. Organisers said they were rallying in support of Maryland State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who took office in January and pledged during her campaign to address aggressive police practices.

Ms Mosby's office is expected to get a report from police on Friday. She will then face a decision on whether and how to pursue charges against the six police officers who arrested Mr Gray.

The curfew got off to a not-so-promising start when about 200 protesters ignored warnings from police and pleas from pastors and other community activists to disperse. Some threw water bottles or lay down on the ground.

A line of officers behind riot shields hurled tear gas canisters and fired pepper balls at the crowd, which dispersed in a matter of minutes.

Just before midnight on Tuesday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts declared the curfew a success.

"We do not have a lot of active movement throughout the city as a whole ... Tonight I think the biggest thing is the citizens are safe, the city is stable," he said. "We hope to maintain it that way."

Mr Batts said 10 people were arrested soon after the curfew went into effect - two for looting, one for disorderly conduct, and seven for violating the curfew.

In an interview broadcast on The Steve Harvey Morning Show, President Barack Obama said the riots show that police departments need to build more trust in black communities.

He called on police departments "to hold accountable people when they do something wrong" and said Attorney General Loretta Lynch is reaching out to mayors about retraining police and providing body cameras.

The president also said underlying problems such as poor education, drugs and limited job opportunities must be addressed.

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