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Baltimore Protests Turn Violent


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. There was a week of peaceful protests in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, a young African-American man who died in police custody. Those protests turned violent last night. Twelve people were arrested for destroying property and other crimes. Reporter Matt Laslo was there and has the story.

MATT LASLO, BYLINE: Before the chaos, a racially diverse group of protesters from across the community and out of town began their march just after 3:00. As marchers streamed past, 78-year-old Ruby White watched from a bus stop as her cane rested on the bench. She doesn't have much respect for Baltimore police.

RUBY WHITE: They're just sorry. They're just sorry. I'm serious. I'm sorry to say that, but they are sorry.

LASLO: Six officers are now on paid leave, pending the investigation. But protesters think they should be locked up. In her decades in Baltimore, White has seen anger boil to the surface time and again over allegations of police brutality. But she offers this bleak assessment of her elected official's ability to respond.

WHITE: No, ain't nothing changed, ain't anything changed.

LASLO: Younger voices seem louder than White's, though. After a rally at City Hall, the peace gave way in the early evening. Some protesters broke off and turned into a mob scene as they confronted fans outside the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox game. Punches were thrown before some protesters started busting windowpanes at a restaurant. The crowd moved and turned their attention to six police cruisers, smashing in windshields to get inside the cars. Protester Brandon Davis pleaded with people to stop throwing things at officers and focus on Gray.

PASTOR BRANDON DAVIS: We must remain nonviolent. We cannot lose our message. This is a human rights issue. Don't lose the message.

LASLO: Davis is a pastor at a nondenominational church in Baltimore. He says his message is simple and doesn't involve destruction.

DAVIS: That's not what it's about. We have to keep the message that we want justice and that as a people - and that is black, white, red, yellow. I keep telling people this is not a race issue, this is a human rights issue.

LASLO: Kendra McDow is a physician-in-training at the University of Maryland Medical Center Pediatric Department. She broke down after police shoved her while her sweater was caught on a metal fence, and she couldn't move. McDow says on paper, her job is the same as the police force in Baltimore and elsewhere - to protect the community.

KENDRA MCDOW: As a person that loves children and takes care of children to see that kids and young people are dying, it's very painful.

LASLO: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gray's sister, Fredricka, came out at the end of the evening to call for calm. Fredricka pleaded "can y'all please stop the violence?" added her brother, Freddie, would not want that. For NPR News, I'm Matt Laslo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Matt Laslo