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Will Freddie Gray’s death provoke changes in Baltimore?

Hours after a funeral for Freddie Gray -- a young man who died in Baltimore police custody -- violence and looting broke out, resulting in injuries of about a half dozen officers. Judy Woodruff talks to special correspondent Jackie Judd about the memorial for Gray and whether his death with result in change for the city.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    A short time ago, I spoke to NewsHour special correspondent Jackie Judd in Baltimore.

    Jackie, tell us where you are. And what is the situation right now?

  • JACKIE JUDD:

    Good evening, Judy.

    I am standing in front of the Shiloh Baptist Church, where earlier today there was a funeral for Freddie Gray. There were appeals for peace. Within two hours of that funeral ending, just north of here, violence broke out. There were groups of mostly young people. They appeared to be very disorganized.

    They walked around for a bit and then they became violent. They were hurling rocks and stones at the police officers who were riot-equipped. The police, from my eye, they appeared to act in a very restrained manner. We are told about half-a-dozen officers are injured. One is unresponsive, in the words of the police department.

    There has been some looting of stores. We saw from aerial coverage by a local station one police car seemingly unoccupied was pounced upon by probably 30 or 40 protesters. A tactical unit suddenly appeared. The officers raced out, the crowd dispersed. They had one young man on the ground, who most likely has been arrested.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Jackie, I want to ask you how organized this seemed. You said it just appeared to be groups of young people.

  • JACKIE JUDD:

    It didn’t seem to be organized.

    And, to be honest, Judy, hearing the coverage from the local stations around here, who know the ground much better — sorry about that. It’s a crazy environment. You can probably hear the helicopters overhead. There have been some young people walking by in front of the camera.

    But it appears that it wasn’t organized and that suddenly the violence broke out. Something similar happened Saturday night, when there was another demonstration, which was highly organized, but quite peaceful for a long period of time. And then towards the end of the evening, there were again what the police call these pockets of chaos, where there was looting, destruction of several police cars, some minor injuries to some police officers.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, earlier in the day, you were there for the funeral of Freddie Gray. It was a different situation, a different story then.

  • JACKIE JUDD:

    It was very different. And it turned out to be just a brief respite for the community from the tension here on the streets.

    There were about 2,200 people. The White House sent several representatives. There were state and local officials, but most of the 2,200 people who were here, Judy, were just people from the neighborhood who wanted to pay their respects.

    Billy Murphy, who is the Gray family’s lawyer, was one of many who spoke. And he said, “I know most of you didn’t know Freddie Gray, but that most of you or all of you know many Freddie Grays.”

    And what he meant by that, of course, was, they know other young African-American men and in some cases women who have also had violent, unpleasant, whatever you want to call it, confrontations with the local police here. If there was a theme, it was that this is a moment that Baltimore leaders need to seize to introduce some real reform.

    What he spoke about was outfitting police officers with body cams, appointing a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of police brutality, and for the police department to make better efforts at hiring more local people, to train them as officers and let them walk the beats in the communities where they came from.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And is there a sense, Jackie, that those kinds of things are being taken seriously? And, meantime, we know that Gray’s family is saying to the community, don’t commit this violence.

  • JACKIE JUDD:

    Gray’s family has spoken out. They very much want this to be a peaceful protest. They said it over the weekend.

    Some relatives said it again today. One of the ministers who spoke at the funeral just a few hours ago said what’s happened just north of here is absolutely disgraceful.

    Will there be serious efforts, Judy? There have been moments like this in Baltimore’s history in the past 30, 40, 50 years. Not much has changed. There is some skepticism. But also people are hoping that, because since Baltimore suddenly finds itself on this national, international stage even, that maybe this is a moment when there will be real change.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Jackie Judd reporting for us from Baltimore, very close to where there has been unrest on the afternoon of this funeral — Jackie, thank you very much.

  • JACKIE JUDD:

    Sure thing.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And we now know that the brief disruption in Jackie’s interview was caused by a rock being thrown near her location.

    This evening, President Obama spoke to the Baltimore mayor. And Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has put the National Guard on alert to respond as rapidly as needed.

    Also, the Baltimore Orioles have canceled their game tonight.

     

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