Baltimore communities cleaning up after riots

Dancers and musicians took over the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Ave for a brief period Tuesday afternoon. (Baltimore Sun video)

Thomas Rhodes walked across North Avenue carrying long shelves from a small convenience store gutted by looters the night before, passing between a line of state troopers wearing helmets and holding shields.

Rhodes dumped the shelves on a pile of trash that had swelled Tuesday morning, just hours after stores in the area were ravaged by rioters and later by flames.


Rhodes, of Lauraville, was among residents from all over Baltimore who came to clean up following Monday's riots, which occurred more than a week after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody.

While residents swept and hauled away trash, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Larry Hogan surveyed the damage around North and Pennsylvania avenues, the hardest hit area of the city.


"It's my city and it breaks my heart," Rhodes said, while ducking into the First Start Grocery store. By 10 a.m., he and others had cleared the floors, where bags of chips, bottles and other items were scattered after looters rushed the narrow shop. Volunteers carried brooms, snow shovels and boxes of trash bags brought from their homes.

The city Public Works Department opened its Emergency Operations Center at 4 a.m. to assess debris removal efforts. By 7 a.m., crews had already cleared debris from along the heavily damaged Fulton Avenue between North Avenue and Division Street, as well as Pennsylvania Avenue between North Avenue and Bloom Street, officials said.

Volunteers who want to help the city's cleanup efforts are asked to dial 311.

Stacey Duncan, 50, and her daughter came from East Baltimore. They headed to the area of the violence that they watched on TV the night before and began picking up debris at the grocery store.

"You couldn't walk on the steps," she said, as she held open a clear plastic bag while her daughter dropped in a shovel-full of trash.

"It looked as if a tornado hit in here. Every single section of the store was ransacked. It was terrible," said her daughter, Sequoia Alexander, 31.

Alexander and her mother said they hoped Monday's rioting would be the worst of it. But both worried about future violence, especially Friday, when Baltimore police are expected to hand Gray's case over to the state's attorney's office.

Jeanetta Riddick showed up with her friend, Jonita Forney, and their young daughters and spent several hours cleaning up the area near the CVS across from the grocery. Forney, who lives in Windsor Mill, said she couldn't sit and watch TV coverage anymore and had to be proactive.

"You sit in the house and watch the news. It's devastating," she said, "I need to do something."

Riddick, who grew up in the neighborhood, said she worked at the CVS while in high school.

"It's sad to know they will be without a job," she said of the employees of the store.

Imani Rose brought her 9-year-old son to see the damage.


"I just came to show my son what happens when you're mad and you go about it the wrong way," she said.

"Why did they?" her son, Kalif Rose-Holman, asked. He stared at the charred store, where the shelves had been cleared, the floors were covered in debris and overheard lights had melted.

"They got mad," Rose said. "When we get mad, are we supposed to break other people's stuff? No. You can be angry and upset but you don't tear up people's things."

"God gave us this," he said.

"You're right, baby. God gave us this. We shouldn't destroy it."

On the other side of the city, in Highlandtown, business owners say pharmacies, convenience stores, cellphone stores and jewelry shops were targeted by smash-and-grab looters on Monday.

John Nunez, owner of Tops in Cellular in the 400 block of Highland Ave., said a neighbor scared off the perpetrators before they could do more than smash his window and door.

As volunteers worked to clean up the broken glass and board up his door, Nunez passed out water. Aid to those cleaning up was as abundant as the aid itself. Neighbors brought coffee to the volunteers, and nearby Matthew's Pizza brought food.

A few blocks west on Eastern Avenue, the Sneaky Feet soccer shop was vandalized and looted overnight, with boxes of shoes strewn across the floor.

John Beason of Canton said he was heartened by the number of people who have cleaned up the damage in the East Baltimore community.

"Our neighbors need help, and when you live over here, you get it," Beason said.

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