Seven Baltimore police officers were injured on Monday as rioters threw bricks and stones and burned patrol cars in violent protests after the funeral of a black man who died in police custody.
The riots broke out just a few blocks from the site of the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in northwest Baltimore and then spread through other parts of the city, after local law enforcement warned of a threat by gangs.
Television images showed looting and a mob of rioters jumping on the top of a police car, after teenaged crowds ignored calls to disperse and clashed with a line of hundreds of police.
Gray’s death reignited a public outcry over police treatment of African Americans that flared last year after the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere.
The rioting in Baltimore was the most violent since the demonstrations in Ferguson last year.
Baltimore Police Captain Eric Kowalczyk said at a police briefing that one of the injured police officers was unresponsive and several had broken bones.
Kowalczyk said police, who initially tried to use restraint, would begin making arrests and using tear gas and pepper pellets to break up crowds.
Gray’s family, pastors and city officials had pleaded for peaceful demonstrations after some arrests and injuries at protests over the weekend.
Earlier, at the funeral, speaker after speaker before the crowd packing the 2,500-seat New Shiloh Baptist Church said the world was watching to see if justice would be done for Gray, who died on April 19 from a spinal injury after police arrested him a week before.
“We hope that it doesn’t get any worse than that, frankly, because Freddie Gray’s family does not want this,” Bill Murphy, attorney for Gray’s family, told CNN in an interview.
U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, one of numerous politicians at the funeral, said Gray’s death had perverted the saying that children were parents’ message to the future.
He vowed that justice would be done. “It is on our watch,” he said. “We will not fail you.”
Also at the funeral were Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Gray’s five sisters and other family members, and clergy from across the largely black city of 620,000 people.
President Barack Obama sent Broderick Johnson, the head of his initiative for minority males.
In a Twitter feed, Baltimore police reported receiving a “credible threat” that several gangs were planning to try to “take out” law enforcement officers.
The department urged officers to take steps to ensure their safety. The gangs included the Black Guerrilla Family, Bloods and Crips.
A police spokesman had no details on the source of the warning or if it was related to the Gray case.
Before the service, Gray’s body, clad in a white shirt, black tie and dark pants, lay in an open white coffin in front of the altar as mourners passed by. The coffin was closed during the service.
Gray’s stepfather, Richard Shipley, read a poem to his stepson that included the lines, “The tears that I cried could fill the earth, but you wiped each one away.”
Gray was arrested when he fled from police in a high-crime area. He was carrying a switchblade knife, and he was put inside a transport van to be taken to a police station.
At some point, Gray suffered the spinal injury that led to his death. City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said on Friday that officers failed to belt him into his seat securely and to give him timely medical attention.
Police have said they would conclude their investigation by Friday and forward the results to state prosecutors. Six officers have been suspended, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the incident for possible civil rights violations.
Baltimore protests have been mostly peaceful, but vandalism and violence flared during a march on Saturday. Thirty-five people were arrested, and six officers were hurt.
Rawlings-Blake and police blamed outside agitators for the unrest.
Sharpton said on Monday he would be in Baltimore this week to meet with activists and clergy to schedule a two-day march from the city to Washington.
The marchers would call for the new U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to intervene in the cases of Gray and others who have died at police hands, Sharpton said in a statement.