Mayor, commissioner denounce work of agitators

Mayor, commissioner denounce work of agitators in Freddie Gray protest.

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for calm late Saturday as more than 1,300 police officers worked to take control of the city after agitated protesters incited violence after a day of peaceful marches.

"I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening," Rawlings-Blake said at City Hall.

Batts said "splinter groups" from outside the area threw metal barriers at officers and smashed windows of bars and restaurants. A group of juveniles looted a downtown convenience store, he said. Agitated protesters engaged more than 300 officers around Camden Yards, he added.

"They wreaked havoc," Batts said as he spoke in front of police headquarters.

The mayor and Batts called separate news conferences late Saturday.

"Now is a time for calm, for peace and for prayer," the mayor said.

Rawlings-Blake was joined by Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, Councilman Brandon Scott and the Rev. Jamal H. Bryant of the Empowerment Temple.

Freddie Gray's twin sister, Fredericka Gray, also attended and appealed for peace, saying her brother would not want violent protests.

To help keep peace, Batts said, the city brought in officers from the Maryland State Police and Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

As of 9 p.m., police had arrested at about a dozen people. Rawlings-Blake and Batts both praised Baltimore residents for stepping between officers and agitators in order to ward off more violence.

"I'm very proud of the residents of Baltimore in taking pride in our city and making sure it's safe," Batts said.

Before the marches started Saturday afternoon, Batts said, he went into the crowds at City Hall and at the Western District station. He told protesters about the reforms the department is undertaking to improve the agency.

"I shared with them that we are making deep systemic changes into the culture of this organization," Batts said.

"All the protests today went extremely peaceful on the front end," he said. "People marched down there and had good conversation here. They expressed there thoughts and opinions."

mpuente@baltsun.com

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