herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Hundreds riot after funeral of black man who died in custody

RACE

THe US city of Baltimore erupted in violence following the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering a spinal injury in police custody.

The riots broke out blocks from where the funeral of Freddie Gray took place and spread through much of the city.

Hundreds of rioters looted stores, burned buildings and at least 15 police officers were injured in the most violent protest against police treatment of African Americans since arson and gunfire in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.

A state of emergency was declared by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, who sent in the National Guard, and a curfew was imposed.

LOOTERS

Firefighters battled numerous blazes, while looters sacked liquor stores and pharmacies.

Rioters smashed car windows outside a major hotel and twice slashed a fire hose while firefighters fought a blaze at a CVS pharmacy that had been looted before it was set on fire.

"All this had to happen, people getting tired of the police killing the young black guys for no reason. ... It is a sad day but it had to happen," said Tony Luster (40) who was out on the street watching the police line.

Gray was arrested on April 12 when running from officers. He was transported to the police station in a van, with no seat restraint, and suffered the spinal injury that led to his death a week later. A lawyer for Gray's family says his spine was 80pc severed at the neck while in custody.

Six officers have been suspended, and the US Justice Department is investigating the incident for possible civil rights violations.

Former Governor of Maryland and former Mayor of Baltimore, Martin O'Malley, has had to cancel his visit to Ireland following the rioting in the US city.

The potential US Presidential candidate was due to speak in Dublin at a business lunch hosted by ByrneWallace solicitors today.

The lunch and address had been scheduled for the Royal College of Physicians but was cancelled after news of the rioting overnight.

OUTCRY

Gray's death reignited a public outcry over police treatment of African Americans that flared last year after police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere.

But after several days of peaceful protests, events turned violent on Monday. Democratic Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the looters "thugs" and said they had nothing to do with protests.

Police made at least 27 arrests and Baltimore schools were closed today.

Baltimore has long struggled with high crime and gangs, a reputation that has made it the setting for gritty television police dramas such as The Wire.

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