State of Emergency as Baltimore Burns

State of Emergency  as Baltimore Burns
State of Emergency  as Baltimore Burns

The US city of Baltimore declared a state of emergency amid violent protests linked to the death of a black citizen fatally injured in police custody. A week-long curfew has been announced and as many as 5,000 National Guard troops could be deployed.

After dark, a community building that was under construction was engulfed in flames. More than 200 protesters were reportedly arrested and more than a dozen police officers were injured, six of them seriously, police said late Monday. One officer was hit in the head and another suffered severe damage to his knee, BBC reported.

African American Freddie Gray, 25, died on April 19 after a week in a coma. The justice department is investigating exactly where and when his spinal injuries were sustained. Officials have suspended six police officers who were involved in the case.

"Acts of violence and destruction will not be tolerated in Baltimore City," Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said, adding that "calling in the National Guard is a last resort" and that he had "not made this decision lightly."

Earlier in the day, Hogan declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to help handle the unrest in Baltimore. The situation escalated dramatically after a group of teenagers began throwing rocks at law enforcement. Officers responded with mace and pepper spray, but the young people involved then moved to set at least two vehicles on fire, as well as a local pharmacy.

"People have the right to protest and express their frustrations, but Baltimore city families deserve peace and safety in their communities," Hogan said. "Destructive acts cannot and will not be tolerated."

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also said it was very clear there was a difference between the "peaceful protests of those who seek justice" and the "thugs who want to incite violence." Authorities were "deploying every resource possible to regain control of the situation," she said.

Later, following violence, looting and fires in various spots across the city of more than 620,000 people, she said, "This destruction we've seen this evening is heart-breaking."

Freddie Gray's death is the latest in a string of high-profile cases where black men have died after contact with the police.

Nationwide protests followed the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.

Baltimore officials likened Monday's violence to scenes witnessed after the 1968 assassination of black civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King and said the city had taken a long time to recover from it, urging calm.

The violence is an escalation of earlier protests. There were 34 arrests as peaceful demonstrations by about 1,200 people outside City Hall on Saturday afternoon got out of control.