Thousands of police and National Guard troopers have been ordered to back up beleaguered officers in the US city of Baltimore after riots were triggered by anger over alleged police brutality.
Stone-throwing mobs clashed with police and attacked local businesses on Monday after the funeral of a black man who died of spinal injuries apparently suffered during his arrest earlier this month.
Despite appeals for calm from 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s family, gangs of mainly African American youths fought street battles with police that left 15 officers hurt. Twenty-seven people were arrested.
Several businesses were looted and police vehicles burnt out as disturbances spread through the port city, causing Maryland to declare a state of emergency.
While most of the violence was in the west of the city, as night fell, a large building was also ablaze on Baltimore’s east side.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appealed for calm and imposed a night time curfew in the city of 620,000 from 10pm on Tuesday (1200 AEST Wednesday).
Maryland police superintendent Colonel William Pallozzi said he had ordered 500 police to the city and requested 5,000 more from the broader mid-Atlantic region.
National Guard commander Adjutant General Linda Singh said she had 5,000 troopers ready and would deploy them in “massive force” to protect people and property.
Rioters prowled the city in small roving gangs, ransacking shops. Looters queued outside a shopping mall, stealing armloads of merchandise, and then drove away.
Rioting erupted soon after Gray was buried – possibly spurred by a cryptic social media message declaring an after-school “purge” street slang for random acts of lawlessness.
Tensions have been on the rise in Baltimore since Gray’s death, which his family’s lawyers say was caused when his spine was mostly severed following his arrest.
Six officers have been suspended with pay pending the outcome of a police investigation that is to be submitted to state prosecutors by Friday.
The US Justice Department, which was already looking into Baltimore’s use of force, has also opened a federal civil rights probe.