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Violent Protests Erupt In Baltimore After Freddie Gray's Funeral


We begin this hour in Baltimore, where riots have broken out shortly after the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old African-American man who died in police custody a week ago. There's looting in downtown Baltimore, with at least one drugstore set on fire. Baltimore police say at least seven officers have been injured in a violent clash with a large group of youths. One officer is described as unresponsive, while others have broken bones after people threw bricks, rocks and other items at police. NPR's Jennifer Ludden joins us now from Baltimore. And Jennifer, can you describe the scene where you are now - whether the police are starting to get a handle on things.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Yes, where I am now actually is calm. We were told a while ago that the protesters and rioters were about to come right through here, but the police apparently have succeeded in walling them off a bit as the crowds have looked to be dispersed more. A lot of these are teenagers. They're kids. This is like rival gangs talking about, you know, taking on the police. And police have put out appeals to their parents - please get your children off the streets. Although, you know, there are still some looting - there's still some looting going on at damaged businesses. Police spokesman Eric Kowalczyk has said that the police will respond.


ERIC KOWALCZYK: We're going to go back and do an investigation. And we will find the people that are responsible, and we will put them in jail.

LUDDEN: We still hear, you know, sirens now and then, firetrucks, as well as ambulance and police cars going out, and we're told that some police officers from surrounding communities are also sending in extra officers to help.

CORNISH: Can you talk a little bit about city reaction? We're seeing from the Associated Press that the Maryland governor is declaring a state of emergency.

LUDDEN: Yes they - a lot of businesses have shut down early. Remember - you might recall over the weekend on Saturday there was a bit of violence at the end of a protest. A number of businesses closed down. The Orioles game - baseball game tonight has been canceled. We encountered a very careful woman on the street. Robin Barnes (ph) was supposed to do jury duty today, but she says the courthouse shut down and she was spending three hours trying to get a ride home.


ROBIN BARNES: I'm a wreck because I've been waiting for mobility. The driver left me because he said he was fearful for his life. I mean my nerves is on edge because all this foolishness. This is not going to solve the problems that we have with law enforcement.

LUDDEN: And so like you said, we have National Guard now potentially getting involved and President Obama has spoken with the mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore's mayor, to put in his, you know, offers of help. So we really have a city that has gone through a lot. People keep making references to the riots from the 1960s, not having seen anything like this since then. But I think that there's hope that the worst is over for tonight.

CORNISH: Jennifer, this eruption of violence does come somewhat as a surprise given that the family of Freddie Gray made a special appeal for there not to even be protests today as they laid him to rest.

LUDDEN: And there were so many calls for calm and saying that, you know, they did not condone the violence - that that is not going to work to get their message out. I heard a lot of that earlier today when I went to the New Shiloh Baptist Church where there were more than 2000 mourners who turned out to honor Freddie Gray. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.