Photo: Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun, near Pennsylvania and North Avenue on 4/27.
The following is a long excerpt from this morning’s Baltimore Sun, combining reports gathered since yesterday afternoon. Unlike most other media coverage I am seeing or hearing, this report fits the Baltimore I know: a place of multiple, simultaneous, proximate, contradictory realities. If homeland security has any value to offer society, I perceive it will emerge from cultivating a strategic competence that extends beyond each of the legacy professions and can accommodate the tensions outlined in this story.
It started Monday morning with word on social media of a “purge” — a reference to a movie in which crime is made legal. It was to begin at 3 p.m. at Mondawmin Mall, then venture down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Inner Harbor.
With tensions in the city running high on the day of Freddie Gray’s funeral, police began alerting local businesses and mobilizing officers.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore was one of the first institutions to acknowledge law enforcement concerns. With exams about to begin, school officials abruptly canceled classes “on recommendation of the BPD.”
T. Rowe Price sent employees home; Lexington Market closed early. One by one, other businesses shut down.
When 3 p.m. came, 75 to 100 students heading to Mondawmin Mall were greeted by dozens of police officers in riot gear. The mall is a transportation hub for students from several nearby schools.
The students began pelting officers with water bottles and rocks. Bricks met shields. Glass shattered up and down Gwynns Falls Parkway. Officers sprayed Mace. Confrontations bled into side streets, where officers threw bricks back. A heavily armored Bearcat tactical vehicle rolled through the neighborhood.
One officer, bloodied in the melee, was carried through Westbury Avenue by his comrades. Police used tear gas to move crowds down the street.
Vaughn DeVaughn, a city teacher, watched the scene.
“This is about anger and frustration and them not knowing how to express it,” he said. “Everyone out here looks under the age of 25. I’m out here for them.”
Some said the presence of the police antagonized the neighborhood.
“The thing is if the cops never came up here, they weren’t going to [mess] up Mondawmin,” said a young woman who was watching the clash. ” What are they going to [mess] up Mondawmin for? They shop here. This is their home.”
Karl Anderson, who works at a community center in the Mondawmin neighborhood, said he believed students misunderstood what it looks like to fight for civil rights.
“This is going to be their history,” Anderson said. “Not the Rosa Parks, the Martin Luther Kings.’
“They don’t understand that.”
Sandra Almond-Cooper, president of the Mondawmin Neighborhood Improvement Association, said it wasn’t the first confrontation between these students and police.
“These kids are just angry,” Almond-Cooper said. “These are the same kids they pull up on the corner for no reason.”
The crowds at Mondawmin were thinning when police tweeted that a police officer had been assaulted at the busy intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues.
A line of officers looked south as smoke rippled into the sky. Two Maryland Transit Administration vehicles had been set on fire. People were tearing a city police vehicle apart.
People took turns standing on the roof, taking selfies. A group of men located a crowbar and pried open the trunk, where police store equipment.
A CVS store and a check-cashing store were breached. Then, a mom-and-pop grocery store. People walked away with garbage bags full of supplies: diapers, bleach, snack foods, prescription drugs.
Next door, another business remained intact. A man stood in the locked vestibule wielding a shotgun.
“The kids are acting up because there’s no one to hold them accountable,” said Anthony Cheng, who lives on the block.
A group of men who said they were members of the Crips — they wore blue bandannas and blue shirts — stood on the periphery and denounced the looting.
“This is our hood, and we can’t control it right now,” one of the men said.
But another bystander, who said his name was Antwion Robinson, 26, said the outburst had been building.
“They are killing us,” Robinson said. “They are actually killing us, and then they make this seem like we’re out of control. But they’re killing our neighbors and brothers. We’re just supposed to sit back and take that?”
As Robinson spoke, a man walked by.
“Don’t do anything without your face covered,” he said.
Tyrone Parker, 64, watched the mayhem. He said police broke his arm two years ago, but he didn’t approve of what he was seeing.
“They’re [messing] the whole neighborhood up,” he said.
Traffic continued along North Avenue. Sometimes, motorists pulled over to collect items looted from stores, then took off.
As police vehicles screamed through, people threw items that exploded on their windshields. One unmarked police vehicle wobbled back and forth, and nearly fishtailed out of control.
Crowds moved downtown, wandering through Mount Vernon and toward the Inner Harbor, smashing windows along the way.
At least nine businesses were breached by a group of men along Centre Street in Mount Vernon and Eutaw Street nearby.