A day of peaceful rallies to protest the unexplained death of a black man while in police custody in Baltimore turned violent late Saturday, as marchers began confronting police officers. Two people were hurt and at least a dozen were arrested in what was the largest protest since 25-year-old Freddie Gray died last Sunday. Anywhere between “nearly 1,000 people,” according to the Washington Post and “at least 2,000,” according to Reuters, marched through Baltimore on Saturday. But six hours into what had been a peaceful demonstration, violence broke out as protesters spread out across the city and fought with baseball fans near Camden Yards.
Protesters jumped on police cars and smashed a few windows as “state police in full tactical gear were deployed to the city,” reports the Baltimore Sun. “Protesters shouted ‘Killers!’ and ‘You can’t get away with this!’ and ‘Hands up don’t shoot!’ Some threw rocks and water bottles at police mounted on horses, smashed the windows of businesses and looted at least two convenience stores.”
Gray’s twin sister appeared alongside the mayor asking for calm in what were her first public comments since her brother died on April 19, a week after he suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. “My family wants to say, can you all please, please stop the violence?” she said, according to the Associated Press. “Freddie Gray would not want this. … Violence does not get justice.”
Officials have yet to explain how Gray’s spine was injured, although on Friday, Baltimore’s police commissioner acknowledged that police failed to provide him with timely medical care. The Baltimore Sun carried out its own investigation and “found that police missed the opportunity to examine some evidence that could have shed light on events.” The paper also talked to residents and “found that accounts from residents conflicted with the official version of events, including a police account that Gray’s arrest was made ‘without force or incident.’ ”