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'Thugs' ransack Baltimore on heels of peaceful protests for Gray

A state of emergency is in place in Baltimore after unrest erupted to coincide with the funeral of Freddie Gray. Local officials have attributed the violence to opportunistic "thugs."

Tensions remained high on the streets of Baltimore into Tuesday morning after hours of violence and looting. Police in riot gear along with the fire department worked to secure areas of the city which had been under siege for hours by rioters.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters local authorities had been able to secure several locations with the help of police deployed from across the state of Maryland.

"The city is calming itself down slowly but surely other than the car fires and the street fires," Batts said.

"I am extremely disappointed in what has happened in this beautiful city tonight," he added, referring to the violence as an "embarrassment."

He confirmed that the National Guard - deployed earlier in the evening at the request of the city mayor - was currently on the ground and providing support to local authorities.

Some 15 police officers were injured, six of them seriously, over the course of the evening.

Mobs clash with police

In the late afternoon, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets purportedly in response to a social media campaign to "purge," slang for committing random acts of lawlessness.

They first clashed with police, pelting them with bricks and bottles. Within a short period of time, large crowds swept down city streets, where they set police vehicles on fire, destroyed property and ransacking stores.

Krawalle in Baltimore

Clashes escalated swiftly on Monday afternoon after rioters attacked police and set their vehicles on fire

A large number of minors were involved in the unrest.

According to the police commissioner, his department had evidence that gangs fueled the mayhem and had participated with the intent of killing police officers.

Mayor: they were 'thugs'

Over the past week, demonstrators in Baltimore have taken to the streets, calling for police reform over the death of African American Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old died on April 19, a week after sustaining a fatal injury when he was arrested.

According to police commissioner Batts, officers had failed to give the 25-year-old timely medical attention for the spinal injury he suffered while in their custody.

Krawalle in Baltimore

Hundreds of police were deployed to secure the city

However, Baltimore officials and residents swiftly worked to distinguish the protests for Gray from those on Monday, which they said were perpetrated by violent opportunists.

"There is a difference between what we saw over the past week with the peaceful protests…and the thugs who only want to incite violence and destroy our city," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told reporters on Monday evening.

Gray's family also pointed out that it had requested protesters to cease demonstrations for one day to honor his death.

Beginning of Tuesday at 10 p.m. (0000 UTC Wednesday), Baltimore residents are to be subjected to a week-long nightly curfew.

Krawalle in Baltimore

A CVS pharmacy was one of the first stores to be ransacked and burned

Given the 80 square miles (207 square kilometers) of the city, the state police requested the deployment of some 500 police officers from other cities and towns around Maryland, as well as 5,000 personnel from neighboring states.

With his death, Gray joins a long list of black men killed under questionable circumstances during police encounters. His case, as well as the unprecedented violence in Baltimore, has become a national concern in the US. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has vowed to launch an investigation.

kms/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)