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Obama condemns Baltimore violence

April 29, 2015

The National Guard has been deployed in Baltimore after racially charged riots and looting which left dozens of police officers injured. US President Barack Obama has said there was "no excuse" for the violence.

USA Baltimore Ausschreitungen nach Trauerfeier Randalierer Polizeiwagen
Image: Reuters/JS. Stapleton

Thousands of military and police swarmed the streets of Baltimore on Tuesday, a day after clashes which prompted authorities to declare a state of emergency.

The riots erupted after the funeral of Freddie Gray, an African-American man who passed away on April 19. of injuries sustained in while in police custody.

After the clashes started on Monday, the protesters set fire to over 140 cars and 15 buildings, looted stores, and hurled rocks at the security forces. At least 20 police officers have been injured in the riots, and one person was in critical condition as the result of a "structure fire," according to police.

The death of Freddie Gray, whose arrest was captured on video, follows a series of events involving black men dying from police violence.

Obama: 'This is not new'

Speaking from the White House on Tuesday, president Barack Obama called the rioting "counterproductive."

"There is no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday," he said at a White House press conference after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they're not protesting, they're not making a statement - they're stealing."

However, Obama also stressed the need to address poverty and lack of opportunity for minorities.

"We can't just leave this to the police. I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching. I think there's some communities that have to do some soul searching," Obama said.

"But I think we as a country have to do some soul searching. This is not new. It's been going on for decades."

Citizens calming the tensions

Baltimore is the largest city in the state of Maryland and home to more than 620,000 people, most of them black. It is situated only 64 kilometers (40 miles) from Washington, D.C.

Television images from Baltimore on Tuesday showed community volunteers creating a human wall between aggressive rioters and the police. Other volunteers started cleaning up debris from torched buildings and looted stores.

A 68-year-old retiree who gave his name as Clarence told AFP news agency that he hadn't seen Baltimore so tense since the riots of 1968, when six people were killed, hundreds injured and many downtown buildings destroyed.

"The police brutality - that's sad. You have a man handcuffed. You don't beat him," he said. "You've got some good ones out there. But it seems like it's getting worse."

Authorities have declared a week-long night curfew, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has deployed up to 5,000 National Guard troops in the city. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the District of Columbia, which border Maryland, were also sending hundreds of police officers to help restore order.

dj/gsw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)