That’s how Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, described the rioting that erupted in Maryland’s largest city following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died from injuries sustained while in police custody earlier in April.
“I understand anger. What we see isn’t anger; it’s the destruction of a community,” Rawlings-Blake told reporters April 27.
Gray’s family also condemned the rioting. “I do not want you all to be out here,” Gloria Darden, Gray’s mother, said April 27. “I want you all to get justice for my son, but don’t do it like this here. Don’t tear up the whole city, man. Just for him? It’s wrong.”
Gray suffered severe spinal cord injuries during or shortly after his April 12 arrest. Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Betts said officers were slow to recognize that Gray needed medical attention.
To help calm the city, the mayor declared a weeklong nighttime curfew as police officers from surrounding jurisdictions and members of the National Guard arrived in Baltimore to assist in restoring order.
Overnight, firefighters battled several blazes across Baltimore. On the morning of April 28, residents of neighborhoods marred by rioting emerged from their homes, brooms and dustpans in hand, to help clean up their streets and sidewalks.
Gray’s death comes at a time of national debate about interactions between minorities and police.
On April 28, President Obama said there should be full transparency and accountability regarding the circumstances of Gray’s death, but condemned the “thugs” who rioted. He reiterated his pledge to Baltimore’s mayor that his administration would provide her with any help she needs as she works to restore order.
There is “no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive,” he said, adding that looters are not protesters. “They’re not making a statement; they’re stealing,” he said.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, sworn in just hours before the riots began, issued a statement condemning “the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore.” She promised that the full resources of the Justice Department would be deployed in “protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence.”
The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Gray’s death. The Baltimore Police Department said more information on the case is expected May 1.