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Baltimore Struggles to Recover After Riots

  • Zlatica Hoke

Authorities and civic groups are working to restore order in the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore after Monday night's violence sparked by the death of a black youth in police custody. The port city is under a week-long nighttime curfew, and thousands of troops and police officers are patrolling the streets. Officials and ordinary citizens have condemned the riots, but also have warned that enforcing order will not remove the root causes of the violence.

"Baltimore will recover. I think we will recover. Sure. Sure, but it's going to take people getting involved, getting in the trenches not just behind a lectern, or when the camera's on, or whatever, you gotta get down with the people. This is where the people are. This is where they're hurtin'," said Gerald Miller, a Baltimore resident.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake struck a positive note in an address to citizens Tuesday.

"We saw people coming together to reclaim our city to clean our city, to help heal our city. I think this can be our defining moment and not the darkest [of] days that we saw yesterday," said Rawlings-Blake.

Baltimore police said the peaceful protests turned violent after members of criminal gangs joined in, something the department had not expected.

"When we deployed our officers yesterday, we were deploying for a high school event. I don't think that there is anyone in the country that would expect us to deploy automatic weapons and armored vehicles to an event with 13, 14- and 15-year-olds," said a police spokesman.

Schools and many businesses were closed Tuesday, and a Major League Baseball game was cancelled for a second consecutive day. Authorities imposed a week-long nighttime curfew, banning anyone from the streets between 10 at night and 5 in the morning, except in an emergency.

The violence started after funeral services for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered fatal spinal cord injuries after his arrest on April 12.

The incident is one of a series in recent months in which mostly white police officers have killed unarmed black men.

"My heart is heavy for the people of Baltimore for this community, and all the other communities. And I'm sad for the young people that are caught up in all of this. I understand that they're angry and they feel like nobody wants to hear them, but with Dr. Martin Luther King - he did it peacefully," said Cynthia Green, who lives in Baltimore.

President Barack Obama said law enforcement alone cannot solve a deeply rooted societal problem.

"We can't just leave it to the police. I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching. But I think we as a country have to do some soul searching," said Obama.

The president stressed, however, that destruction and looting do not constitute protest, and that perpetrators must be brought to justice.

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