What’s happening in Baltimore?
The city of Baltimore erupted into violence Monday evening, following days of mostly peaceful protests over the death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured while in police custody. Monday’s violence throughout pockets of the city frustrated those who had sought a day of quiet as Gray’s family laid him to rest.
The Monday afternoon confrontations with police officers, which involved many students, spread rapidly throughout across the city, resulting in a rash of fires, thefts, vandalism, and standoffs between demonstrators and police.
As the situation continues to develop, here’s some background on what led up to Monday’s incidents.
1. What happened to Freddie Gray?
Gray was a 25-year-old black man from West Baltimore. He died April 19, a week after suffering severe spinal injuries during an arrest.
The incident began after Gray made eye contact with police and then ran away, authorities said. He was taken into custody after officers said they found a switchblade knife .
Gray requested medical help as police dragged him into a van. He was unconscious by the time officers took him out about a half-hour later, and a family lawyer has said his spine was 80 percent severed.
Authorities say they’re trying to figure what happened in the van, but have acknowledged that Gray was not buckled in, and that he was wearing handcuffs and leg shackles.
Authorities suspended six officers, with pay, for their role in the arrest, and have acknowledged that Gray should have been buckled up in the van.
Police also said he should have gotten the medical treatment he requested on the spot where he was arrested, and that the officers ignored repeated requests for help.
Officials have not determined whether any officers should be fired or charged with a crime, saying the incident is still being investigated, and that delay has led to broad frustration in the city.
At Gray’s funeral Monday, just hours before violence broke out on Baltimore streets, Billy Murphy, a prominent attorney who is representing the family, called on the officers involved in Gray’s arrest to go public with an explanation.
‘‘This is our moment to get at truth. This is our moment to get it right,’’ Murphy said, according to the Associated Press.
Below is a CNN segment showing footage from Gray’s arrest.
2. What are some of the underlying issues?
Public officials around Baltimore have repeatedly said they do not think that those breaking into stores, clashing with police, and lighting fires Monday night are the same people who demonstrated peacefully for several days after Gray’s death.
But community leaders have noted that it’s difficult to separate the anger over Gray’s death from the persistent problems faced by some of the struggling neighborhoods in the city. Those concerns include police brutality and economic inequality.
Speaking to Fox News, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby condemned the violence, but said the unrest was the result of “young folks of this community showing decades old ... anger, frustration for a system that’s failed them.”
“This is bigger than Freddie Gray,” he said, citing deficits in education and economic opportunity in city neighborhoods. “This is about the social economics of poor urban America.”
Though parts of Baltimore, especially near the waterfront, have seen successful revitalization efforts in recent years, the prosperity has not spread evenly, leaving stark differences in plain view.
A February study of Gray’s neighborhood by the Justice Policy Institute pointed out that more than half of the population age 16-64 were unemployed between 2008 and 2012.
It also said 49.3 percent of high school students were chronically absent in 2012, and 33 percent of residential properties were abandoned.
3. Have the police been accused of brutality before?
Allegations of police brutality have been a significant issue for the city of Baltimore. Mistreatment at the hands of police is among the frustrations that have drawn protesters into the streets in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death.
The Baltimore Sun, which last year published an investigation detailing the social and economic costs of police-misconduct settlements, last week reported that Baltimore had paid out $255,000 in April alone.
Overall, The Sun reported, the city has spent about $6.3 million since 2011 settling such cases.
One of the recent payouts was over an incident in which a man was shot and killed by police in 2012.
Other recent deaths at the police hands have led to protests, though none at the same scale as the response to Gray’s death.
In 2013, for instance, Tyrone West died in a struggle with officers following a traffic stop, in a case that led to months of protest by his family and supporters.
The officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing, after an autopsy determined that an underlying heart condition was the cause of West’s death.
4. Where are the affected areas?
Monday’s unrest began near Mondawmin Mall, a shopping center in the northern part of West Baltimore, then moved toward downtown. Rioters broke into stores and destroyed property along the way.
Several fires were also ignited, including in East Baltimore, where an under-construction senior center was destroyed (by Tuesday morning, the city was still trying to determine whether the fire was connected to the response to Gray’s death).
Property damage was also reported around the nightlife center of Fells Point.
5. What happens next?
The mayor has imposed a curfew in Baltimore from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m., in hopes of preventing additional violence and destruction. Baltimore schools are also closed Tuesday.
A general curfew will be in effect in Baltimore City from 10pm April 28th - 5am May 4th unless renewed or rescinded by order of the Mayor.— Baltimore Police (@BaltimorePolice) April 28, 2015
The city continues its investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, and the US Justice Department is conducting its own investigation.
On Tuesday, the local branch of the NAACP said it would open a satellite office in Gray’s neighborhood, which it said would “serve as a constant presence in the community where people can access information and materials and will work in collaboration with local civic and religious organizations as well.”