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Freddie Gray: At Least 1,000 in Baltimore Protest Death in Police Custody

Police said splinter groups broke windows and threw objects at police during a day of otherwise peaceful protests.
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/ Source: NBC News

Baltimore police arrested 12 people Saturday after "pockets of individuals causing disturbances" broke off from protests over the death Freddie Gray and threw objects at officers and smashed windows near Camden Yards, police said.

"They became very violent, they started to throw objects, they picked up aluminum barricades, they smashed out windows at our bars and pubs that are located on our northwest side, and just wreaked havoc,” Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters Saturday evening.

The violence broke out after hours of peaceful protests over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died in police custody on April 19, a week after he was pinned to the ground and arrested. His family’s attorney said Gray suffered a severed spine.

Five officers suffered minor injuries during the protests, according to NBC affiliate WBAL.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she was "disappointed to see the violence in our city" and called it "unacceptable." Gray's twin sister, Fredericka Gray, called for calm.

"My family wants to say, can you all please, please stop the violence? Freddie Gray would not want this," she told reporters.

Batts said a "splinter group" broke off from the main group of protesters at around 6:30 p.m. and made their way to Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles were playing the Boston Red Sox. They smashed windows and threw objects at officers, and then made their way to a Baltimore mall where more windows were smashed.

A sign at the baseball stadium briefly told fans to remain inside the ballpark “due to an ongoing safety issue."

A group of juveniles also looted a 7-Eleven, Batts said. "We’re going to take those responsible into custody," he said.

Batts on Friday acknowledged that police made mistakes in how Gray was treated. Gray wasn't restrained by a seat belt after being placed in a police van, as required, and Gray should have received medical care before being placed in the vehicle, he said.

Batts said he met protesters earlier Saturday and vowed, "we are making deep, systemic changes in the culture of this organization."

Earlier, more than 1,000 protesters marched to Baltimore City Hall, stopping to stage a "die-in" along the way, according to The Associated Press. The group stopped traffic, but remained largely calm.

One of the organizers of the protest, Malik Shabazz, president of Black Lawyers for Justice, said the crowd exceeded their expectations and that protesters' anger is not surprising.

"This is a problem that has not been solved," he said. "When there's no justice, they tend to want to take matters into their own hands."

In the daylight, police officers approached some protesters, not to control them, but simply to talk.

Shanae Barnes, 24, asked one officer if he thought the situation would get better. "I know it's going to get better," he answered. The two shook hands, and Barnes pointed out to reporters, "we can talk without cursing and profanity."

"I really hope that the message that he gave me was really from the heart," she added.



— Elisha Fieldstadt and Phil Helsel