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Pockets of violence erupt in Baltimore after march to protest black man’s death

Baltimore (Reuters) – Thousands of people marched through downtown Baltimore on Saturday to protest the unexplained death of a black man in police custody but the demonstrations turned violent when some protesters threw metal objects at officers and broke windows.
Saturday’s protests began peacefully, with at least 2,000 demonstrators marching to City Hall for a rally, the biggest since 25-year-old Freddie Gray died six days ago, a week after his arrest. But later, as darkness fell, some protesters fanned out across the city and damaged stores and cars. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the overwhelming majority of the protesters were peaceful but that agitators disrupted the demonstration.“After a week of peaceful demonstrations I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening,” Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference.


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Day of protests in Baltimore for Freddie Gray

With his death, Gray joined a long list of black men who have died under questionable circumstances during police encounters in recent months. The highly

publicized incidents have triggered an outcry over the use of force by law enforcement against African-Americans.Last year, weeks of protests followed the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Eric Garner, a black man in New York City who was placed in a chokehold during an attempted arrest.While the demonstrations in Baltimore were largely peaceful on Saturday, there were pockets of violence, and police said in a Twitter message that 12 arrests were made.Fredericka Gray, Freddie’s twin sister, joined the mayor at the news conference and appealed for calm.

“Please, please stop the violence, Freddie Gray would not want this,” she said. “Freddie’s father and mother does not want violence, violence does not get justice.” Local television station WBAL showed footage of a protester in the afternoon throwing a metal crowd-control barrier at officers, while WJZ showed a young man hurling a flaming metal container at riot-clad police officers. Other protesters jumped on police cars, breaking their windshields. WBAL showed dozens of demonstrators running through downtown streets where they overturned garbage bins and broke at least one storefront window. Video footage on WJZ showed police in riot gear moving in formation and pushing a crowd of a few dozen demonstrators away from a downtown intersection.At various times, demonstrators faced off against officers in front of Camden Yards, home of the Orioles baseball team, whose evening game against the Boston Red Sox began as scheduled. After the game ended, the scoreboard flashed a message saying the mayor and the police department had asked “all fans to remain inside the ballpark until further notice,” according to photos posted to Twitter. Later, fans were permitted to leave.U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, who represents part of the mostly African-American city of Baltimore, told WBAL the disturbances could distract from calls for justice in Gray’s death.”Any little thing can spark the situation to get out of hand and we cannot afford that, we’re better than that,” Cummings said.Six Baltimore police officers have been suspended in the Gray case, and an internal police investigation is under way. “We are all united in our demand to indict the six police officers and convict,” said Sharon Black, spokeswoman for People’s Power Assembly, one of the rally organizers.On Friday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said the officers repeatedly failed to give Gray medical assistance and disregarded department regulations by failing to buckle the man into seat restraints in the van.Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore police union, criticized Batts’ comments. Ryan, president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement the commissioner’s comments were premature and “appear to be politically driven.”Police have said Gray fled when officers approached him in a high-crime area, but he was caught a short time later and placed in the van. He was carrying a switchblade knife, police said.When the van arrived at the police station, an ambulance was called and Gray was taken to a hospital. He died a week later.Batts said on Friday that investigators were still trying to determine what happened inside the police van. Police said their investigation would be completed by May 1, a day before protesters plan another rally in Baltimore. The department will turn over its findings to state prosecutors and an independent review will follow.(Refiles to add Baltimore to headline) (Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Frank McGurty, Frances Kerry, David Gregorio and Michael Perry)


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