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Baltimore officials discussed 'riot' an hour before first brick was thrown

The Baltimore Sun
Why Baltimore officials used "riot" in an email an hour before the first brick was thrown.

The worst of Baltimore's unrest began unfolding at Mondawmin Mall around 3 p.m. on the Monday Freddie Gray was laid to rest.

But city officials — many of them made aware of a possible student protest earlier in the day — began discussing a "riot" before 2 p.m.

In an email marked "URGENT" sent at 1:52 p.m., Olivia D. Farrow, a deputy health commissioner, said the agency had "received reports that children will possibly riot after school starting at 3p down from Mondawmin to North Ave and to downtown. Staff at Druid becoming concerned. May need to close early. Waiting to see if rumor or if something seems to begin happening."

Minutes later, another health official wrote to the city's labor commissioner, saying, "There is a desire to close druid because of the children rioting on the West Side. When will you hear back from City Hall?"

Other city officials expressed frustration with a perceived lack of communication among city officials as the unrest unfolded.

The riots began at Mondawmin about 3 p.m., when students fresh from school threw rocks and water bottles at police in riot gear. The chaos spread to the intersection of Pennsylvania and North avenues, where a crowd burned and looted a CVS pharmacy, and to spots around the city, where looters breached businesses and set fires.

At 4 p.m., top officials believed police would be able to control the unrest without the help of the National Guard.

Kaliope Parthemos, the mayor's chief of staff, resisted calls for the Guard, writing "State troopers have been assisting. National guard is only when there is a state of emergency."

Rawlings-Blake called Hogan about 6:30 p.m. and asked him to deploy the Guard.

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