The NAACP, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, pleaded Tuesday for an end to the Baltimore violence that left more than a dozen police officers injured, local businesses looted and buildings burned Monday night. "The city of Baltimore now burns in the flames of violence that may leave more dead," Cornell Williams Brooks, the group's president and CEO, said in a statement.
Brooks condemned the agitators, saying they used the police-involved death of Freddie Gray as an excuse to spark riots across the city. Gray, 25, was arrested April 12 and suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody. He died one week later. Monday's riots occurred in the hours after Gray's funeral.
"The loss of more lives will neither comfort Mr. Gray’s family nor explain the incidents that led to his death," Brooks' statement continued.
On Monday night, groups of city residents and other protesters seemed to disregard Gray's family's calls for peace, setting afire 144 vehicles and 15 buildings, the office of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. Police made more than 200 arrests.
"Looting and violence do not represent flowers or a sympathy card to the grieving family of Freddie Gray," Brooks said in the statement.
The NAACP, which has its national headquarters in Baltimore, implored legitimate protesters to transform their anger over Gray's death into a nonviolent quest for justice. "As we invoke the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and so many others great practitioners of democracy, we understand that protests don't need to be violent to be powerful," Brooks said.
Nearly two-dozen representatives of the NAACP attended Gray's funeral Monday. That night, civil rights leaders gathered with Gray's family, clergy members and members of local street gangs at New Shiloh Baptist Church, in a show of solidarity against the night's violence.
"We must continue to manifest our moral outrage into peaceful protests that seek to garner meaningful change," Brooks said in the statement. "Since the inception of our country, the right of the masses to peacefully assemble has shaped who we are as a nation, just as it will shape who we can become.”