Severe rioting in Baltimore on Monday afternoon as a result of the death of Freddie Gray placed the entire city of Baltimore on high alert on Monday afternoon and Tuesday, and the frum community was no exception.
Rioting on Monday was especially heavy around Mondawmin Mall, where many stores were looted and cars lit on fire. The toll of Monday’s rioting was 144 vehicle fires, 15 structural fires, 235 arrests, and 15 police officers injured; one is reported to be in critical condition.
Many city offices closed early on Monday afternoon due to the rioting. One frum young lady who works in Baltimore City Community College, located just one block from Mondawmin Mall, describes the unsettling feeling of seeing helicopters circling and clouds of smoke from tear gas, which were visible from her work area, and the closed roads that she encountered while making her way home.
However, she emphasized that most of the city’s blacks are not involved — and are quite upset by the riots. “I work with many blacks, and they are very pained by what is going on. They have nothing to do with this. One of my co-workers commented, ‘I am ashamed to be a black person right now.’”
As a result of Monday’s activities, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a city wide curfew to be held nightly from 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m, beginning on Tuesday evening and lasting for one week, until Monday, May 4. Police announced that no one will be excused, even for religious purposes. Consequently, shuls across Baltimore rescheduled their late Maariv minyanim, with all minyanim ending before 10:00 and shuls to be locked after that.
On Tuesday, much of the city was shut down, including city offices, Baltimore City public schools, universities, and even tourist attractions such as the museums in the famed Inner Harbor. Several shopping malls were also closed, for fear that they would targeted for looting.
One member of the frum community who runs a shop in the downtown area was doing business as usual on Tuesday, even as the streets were much quieter. “The National Guard, which is surrounding City Hall only one block away, is keeping things calm,” he said. Two of the other stores on his block had their windows smashed; luckily his store was spared, due to the special plexiglass windows that were recently installed.
Credible reports were received that rioters were spreading messages via social media that more rioting would be held on Tuesday afternoon, beginning at about 3:30. Targeted areas included those surrounding the frum community. Consequently, the community day schools closed early, as did the Jewish Community Center, and messages from the Northwest Citizens’ Patrol urged community members to remain alert and not allow children outside unsupervised.
As of this writing, the situation appears to be relatively quiet, with no incidents reported nearby. Let’s hope and pray that with siyatta diShmaya it stays that way.