Crips, Bloods and Nation of Islam unite in Baltimore

A state of emergency has been declared in Baltimore after the city transformed into 'an absolute war zone' following the funeral of Freddie Gray. 

More than 1,000 Maryland police officers, the Maryland National Guard, and 5,000 officers from neighboring states are on standby in the city and the president has been briefed on the situation as violence continues to escalate. It is the same level of reinforcement the city requested during the riots of 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated.

The scenes of destruction were initially billed as anti-police protests to avenge the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal cord injury in police custody on April 12. 

Unprecedented: Members of rival gangs Crips and Blood united with Nation Of Islam in the streets in an apparent show of solidarity.

Unprecedented: Members of rival gangs Crips and Blood united with Nation Of Islam in the streets in an apparent show of solidarity.

But it rapidly mushroomed into uncontrolled riots. 

Fifteen police officers have been injured, many suffering broken bones, and at least one appeared 'unresponsive'. Two of the 15 are in hospital in a serious condition. At least 27 people have been arrested. 

A $16 million nursing home built by a Baptist church, which was due to open in December after eight years of construction, has been burned to rubble on the city's east side as violence spread from the west of the city. Just two blocks away, a housing development was also ablaze.

Officials feared the fires were sparked to pull emergency services from the west side of the city, where rioters continued to loot gun stores, check cashing stores, liquor stores and supermarkets well into Tuesday morning. Balaclava-clad mobs were seen ripping the doors off one rifle shop and passing weapons to people on the streets. 

When a CVS pharmacy was set ablaze, rioters slashed fire fighters' hoses as they tried to battle the flames.

Even as the governor of Maryland pledged the highest level of support available, police continued to be pelted with rocks and families were forced to flee their homes as fires spread from block to block.  

ayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake branded the rioters 'senseless thugs' in a press conference as she announced a week-long 10pm-5am curfew for all citizens starting tomorrow night. 

By nightfall, groups started moving toward more affluent areas near Camden Yards stadium, prompting Monday night's White Sox v Orioles game to be suspended. College students were told to stay in their dorms and all schools will be closed on Tuesday.

Just hours after Gray was laid to rest on Monday at a service attended by 2,500, including luminaries of the civil rights movement, hundreds of protestors started throwing rocks and stones at dozens of police in riot gear. It soon escalated into uncontrolled destruction.

According to a report by the Baltimore Sun, the unrest grew from a dispute between police officers and students earlier on Monday, when the teenagers started looting stores. Photographs and video during the day have captured scenes of officers throwing rocks, prompting many to accuse law enforcement of fueling the situation.

Families were forced to flee their homes in west Baltimore as it approached morning and nearby stores were being set alight. Video footage emerged of a shopkeeper was also seen being pulled from his store and beaten as the riots spread.

'I think the violence is wrong,' Gray's twin sister, Fredericka Gray, said late Monday. 'I don't like it at all.'

Mr Murphy, said the family had hoped to organize a peace march later in the week.

Mary Koch, another attorney for the Gray family, said it was 'terrible' that riots had overshadowed the 25-year-old's memorial service on Monday.

Her words were echoed by Carron Morgan, Gray's cousin, who told the Baltimore Sun: 'This is not justice. This is just people finding a way to steal stuff.

'We didn't even want people to protest today. It was just a time to grieve for Freddie and to celebrate his life.'

He said on Monday that rather than being out protesting, the family would instead be helping with the clean up efforts the next day.

However, the protesters found support in Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner who died while being restrained by police in New York's Statten Island. 

Garner's death sparked outrage that courted international attention, and weeks of protests - but they were incredibly tame in contrast with the scenes in Baltimore on Monday night.

Speaking to CNN's Don Lemon, hours after she attended Gray's funeral in Baltimore, Erica said she does not condone violence but understands the rioters' frustration.

'They had enough,' she said.

'They don't know what else to do. They don't have no [sic] jobs, they don't have proper schooling. These kids have no hope. I'm not condoning what they are doing but they think 'eventually this is going to happen to me, I'm going to be killed by police', so they're making themselves heard.

'Burning down the city is not right but what other choice do we have. We're scared.' 

On Monday morning, three of the city's most violent and dangerous gangs - Black Guerrilla Family, Crips and Blood - announced an unprecedented alliance to 'take out' law enforcement officers, in a move that has prompted fears for police safety across the country.

The gangs - all rivals - announced they have entered into an alliance to 'take out' officers. According to Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, the department received intelligence that long-term rivals Bloods and Crips had a meeting in which they planned to kill one police officer each.

Black Guerrilla Family breeds some of the city's most violent convicts. The man who killed two NYPD cops in December last year, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was believed to have ties to the deadly group.

Crips, whose members wear blue, is one of the largest gangs in the US, and was formed in Los Angeles. Their rivalry with Bloods dates back to the 1960s.

Bloods, whose members wear red, was formed as an alliance for people to seek refuge from Crips, but soon became a crime ring itself. 

However, despite the threat, some of the gang members appeared to be showing solidarity with law enforcement - and one Bloods member pulled a Baltimore Sun journalist to safety during a violent commotion.

Earlier in the day, members of Crips and Blood linked arms with Nation Of Islam leaders in the streets in an apparent bid for peace.

Meanwhile, officers were forming lines across the streets, holding up riot shields as rocks were hurled at them. Armored police vans patrolling the streets were also attacked with rocks, and barricades were set alight. 

Officers on the ground used pepper spray and tear gas on the crowds, but the measures appeared to have little effect: as soon as they left an area, crowds would return to loot the stores or burn the cars.

Fires were left burning by emergency services apparently to expire on their own, further enraging rioters.

As emergency services battled a burning CVS pharmacy, riot police were forced to circle the fire engine as a barrier against rock-throwing protestors.

Looters were nonchalant and showed their faces.

'We went in there and tore it up,' said a 16-year-old who said he was one of the looters inside the CVS.

Just down the street from the smoldering CVS, business owner Daisy Bush, 61, said: 'The sad part about it is that a lot of people from the community were up there in the CVS, stealing stuff out of it. It's a disgrace.'

Earlier in the day youths threw rocks and bricks at police. Six officers were injured seriously, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters.

'This is not protesting. This is not your first amendment rights. This is just criminal acts doing damage to a community,' he said.

Mr Batts said they needed the help of the National Guard because of the sheer number of protestors and scale of unrest taking place on Monday. 

He added: 'They just outnumbered us and outflanked us. We needed to have more resources out there.'

Batts said authorities had had a 'very trying and disappointing day.'

Congressman Elijah Cummings equated the situation to the unrest in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination in 1968, when 5,000 National Guard officers were deployed to control the situation.

He said: 'I was thinking back in 68 and 69 when I was in high schools and I thought about the riots and how businesses were being destroyed. 

'Destroying property or throwing bottles or things at police, that distracts us from the fact that Freddie Gray died and that we need solutions to the problems that we have with our police department.'

Colonel William Pallozzi, the superintendent of the state police, said a request for up to 500 additional law enforcement personnel in Maryland had been sent. Pallozzi added that the state is putting out a request for up to 5,000 more law enforcement personnel from around the mid-Atlantic region.

Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and about 200 others, including ministers, tried unsuccessfully to quell the violence at one point Monday night, marching arm-in-arm through a neighborhood littered with broken glass, flattened aluminum cans and other debris. As they got close to a line of police officers, the marchers went down on their knees. They then rose to their feet and walked until they were face-to-face with the police officers in a tight formation and wearing riot gear.

The situation also has political dimensions. Mayor Rawlings-Blake has been severely criticized for her alleged apathy and failure to act earlier.

In an apparent dig at the mayor, the governor of Maryland told a press conference he had been waiting to issue a state of emergency, and said that he signed an executive order 'within 30 seconds' of the mayor's phone call.  

As the sun sets, dozens of citizens are taking to the streets in an attempt to deter the violent groups, including Vietnam veteran Robert Valentine who said he's lived through the worst and cannot bear to watch the violence.

'I'm very pissed,' he told CNN. 


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