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After Baltimore riots, violence, a push for calm

BALTIMORE -- A pallor reminiscent of an earlier desperate era hung over this city Tuesday as National Guardsmen with rifles, and police in riot gear, looked on while buildings smoldered, burned cars were towed away and rocks hurled by rioters were swept from streets.

Smoke and tensions lingered, as they had in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington during the tumultuous decade of the 1960s.

Late Tuesday night, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said only 10 people were arrested after the citywide 10 p.m. curfew: two for looting, one for disorderly conduct and seven for violating the curfew. "The city is stable," he said.

As the curfew took effect Tuesday at the city's Penn North section, near where a CVS pharmacy had been burned and looted a day earlier, tensions between police and several dozen peaceful protesters became heated. A loudspeaker message from a hovering helicopter urged people to go home.

The request was met with expletives, and rocks were thrown at a line of police in riot gear. Police unleashed smoke canisters and shot pepper balls. The line moved forward slowly, while officers banged their shields. Some in the crowd tossed plastic or glass bottles and shouted profanity. But most of the crowd dispersed with the show of force, and the mood began to ease.

Shortly before the curfew, police arrested three to four juveniles in South Baltimore after people started attacking officers with rocks and bricks, authorities said. At least one officer was reported injured.

Earlier, soldiers dressed as if for combat and police in full riot gear patrolled the streets, along with military Humvees and police squad cars. Many offices and public institutions were closed Tuesday or sent workers home early. But the city was generally subdued and even turned hopeful as a band played in the street and people sang and prayed. Merchants and neighbors helped clean up shattered stores and street debris.

There was no repeat of Monday's violence in which dozens, many of high school age, pelted police with rocks and bottles, looted several stores and set things ablaze.

The toll from Monday's unrest was staggering. More than 235 people were arrested, including at least 34 juveniles; 15 buildings were set on fire; 144 vehicles were destroyed; about 20 police officers were injured, including one who was hit in the head with an object and remained hospitalized yesterday, Batts said. At least one civilian was in critical condition as a result of a building fire, police said.

Talk of the rioting supplanted the primary conversation about the controversial death of Freddie Gray, who succumbed to injuries a week after he was taken into police custody April 12. The outburst of lawlessness that erupted after his funeral Monday seemed inextricably linked to his death, but city leaders and Gray's family said it was born out of a more general frustration that found voice in his death.

"It breaks my heart," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Tuesday. "We will recover. We will be better on the other side of things." She said she regretted having called the rioters "thugs" Monday, but she added, "They're going to regret what they've done, but it's too late."

Gov. Larry Hogan was less charitable about the rioters Tuesday, calling them "roving gangs of thugs" and warned that "criminal activity will not be tolerated."

He said 2,000 Guardsmen and 1,000 law officers would be in place overnight. City schools were scheduled to open as usual today.

With AP and TNS

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