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Protests in Baltimore turn violent in overnight clashes with police

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  • ALISON STEWART, PBS ANCHOR:

    In Baltimore, a demonstration over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray started peacefully but turned violent last night when protesters clashed with police.

    Authorities arrested 34 people; six officers suffered minor injuries. Fans attending the Baltimore Orioles game were told to stay in place because of safety concerns.

    I’m joined now once again by Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater.

    Luke, do you know why things turned violent?

  • LUKE BROADWATER, THE BALTIMORE SUN REPORTER:

    We don’t know exactly why things turned violent.

    Up until mid-afternoon, it had had been a very peaceful protest. Twelve hundred people has descended on the city hall and people were expressing themselves, and the police were letting them do that.

    Then the march went down to Camden Yards where the Orioles play, and things really got out of control.

    I would say less than 100 people were involved in the violence and the rioting and looting, so it was a small minority of the protesters. But they did a lot of property damage, and some people did get injured.

    They smashed the windows of police cars and some civilian cars, the windows of property — of businesses in the area. There were some (INAUDIBLE), and there were some assaults. So it was not a pretty sight last night in Baltimore.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Can you describe the level of the police force? There have been a lot of discussions about the militarization of the police. How many police officers were there? Were they in combat gear?

  • LUKE BROADWATER:

    Yes. They did not start out in combat gear, but they did acquire it as the night went on. There were, by our estimation, over 1,000, — sorry, over 1,000 police officers.

    Probably about 1,300 from the police force. The state troopers did come in as well and some from the county police force as well.

    They had shields, they had their batons out. They had their helmets, and they did engage in some crowd control tactics that, you know, looked like military operations in terms of pushing the crowd back with the shields.

    They had the police chopper shouting orders to disperse, and then threatened those who did not with arrest.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    The mayor and the commissioner are making a differentiation between the protesters and people they are calling agitators. To whom are they referring?

  • LUKE BROADWATER:

    Yes. You are right. Even before the protests started, the mayor and the police commissioner and faith leaders in Baltimore expressed a lot of concern about outside groups coming in.

    They didn’t mention anyone by name. I believe they were referring to, though, Mr. Shabazz, the former head of the New Black Panthers. They were worried about his influence and others’ influence and the protest potentially turning violent.

    We had had a week of nonviolent protests in Baltimore, and last night was the first real violence that we saw.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Luke Broadwater from “The Baltimore Sun.” Thanks, Luke.

  • LUKE BROADWATER:

    Thank you.

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