Quantcast

Baltimore riots: Emails between city leaders show chaos, confusion

Holly Yan and Janet DiGiacomo | 7/29/2015, 12:30 p.m.
Baltimore officials knew protests could erupt the day of Freddie Gray's funeral but were overwhelmed by the riots that followed.
Freddie Gray was in perfect health until police chased and tackled him in Baltimore over a week ago, his lawyer said. Less than an hour later, he was on his way to a trauma clinic with a spinal injury, where he fell into a coma. (Photo: Family of Freddie Gray)

— He said about 20 officers were injured, and some were hospitalized. And there were signs of more chaos to come.

"As of now, we have information that rioters will continue to target shopping and commercial districts, specifically Security Square Mall and Towson Town Center," he wrote. "Please implore all parents and other members of your community to keep their kids home tomorrow. Thank you."

It also appears that the department was open to having its own actions monitored.

Amnesty International USA sent an email to Batts asking if the organization could send a delegation of observers to make sure that human rights standards were met during policing. The group wanted their monitors to be exempt from the citywide curfew. A Baltimore Police Department memo was issued May 2 laying out guidelines on what to expect from 10 Amnesty International employees who planned to visit.

Confusion over the curfew

The decision by Rawlings-Blake to enact a weeklong curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. drew an array of responses.

"I am wondering if you can provide any information on the curfew," wrote Abigail Janssens, co-owner of The 8x10 music venue. "We don't open our tavern until 8:00 PM so this is huge for us. Losing a week of business is equivalent to losing at the very least ¼ of my income for the month."

Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth of Baltimore's Board of Liquor License Commissioners responded a few hours later.

"At this point, we understand the curfew to be for all operations and all ages throughout the City of Baltimore," she wrote on April 28. "I know that this poses a hardships to many of our licensees but, due to the recent events this is something that we must follow. We are asking that licensees follow the directives of the City to ensure public safety."

Deputy Mayor Colin Tarbert also clarified the rules, saying anyone who had to work in "essential business operations" past 10 p.m. must have documentation from his or her employer.

"Non-essential business operations should be suspended from 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.," Tarbert wrote on April 28. "This includes restaurants, entertainment venues and bars, which should be closed during these times. Please ensure visitors and patrons have enough time to travel before the curfew begins."

The curfew was lifted May 3.

Businesses devastated

The emails also highlighted the loss of income to businesses and tourist attractions during the upheaval.

The National Aquarium suffered an 80% drop in visitors and a $500,000 loss the week after the riots, CEO John Racanelli wrote. The Maryland Science Center saw a 90% drop in attendance, he said.

Several people warned about rioters turning business' outdoor furniture into weapons. Sarah St. Clair of Baltimore's Waterfront Partnership wrote that "people are using the furniture to break windows."

"Our window at Columbus Center got smashed too," Laurie Schwartz of the Waterfront Partnership added.

One of the most disastrous sights was the looting and arson of a CVS store. But perhaps those who suffered the most were the small, local businesses.

"This event has been devastating to the City as a whole, and in particular to our small business community," City Council member Eric Costello wrote on May 1. "This is an unprecedented time in Baltimore City and our Nation. We all want to return to a state of normalcy as soon as humanly possible. I realize that this response may be frustrating, but please know that I have advocated for your positions."

By the time the protest violence stopped, more than 480 people had been arrested and more than 110 officers had been injured, Baltimore police said.

And about 200 Baltimore businesses, many of them minority-owned and also lacking insurance, were lost in the April 27 riots.

CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton, Dave Alsup, Dominique Dodley, Joshua Berlinger, Miguel Marquez, Ralph Ellis and Sarah Jorgensen contributed to this report.