Were Baltimore rioters mimicking ‘The Purge’?
WATCH: Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts downplayed the idea of “purging” the city through a riot, inspired by a movie series, and said it may have started from a social media posting.
For 12 hours the people of a major U.S. city ran amok, with law enforcement’s hands tied to stop anyone from committing crimes and creating mayhem.
That was the plot of the 2013 Ethan Hawke film, The Purge, but it was also the word Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts used to describe what was set to happen on Monday, in the hours following the funeral for Freddie Gray — a black man who suffered a spinal injury in Baltimore Police custody and died a week later.
His death fuelled new protests over the police-involved deaths of black men, in cities across the U.S. And while protests were expected to follow the 25-year-old’s death, his family pleaded for people to not carry out acts of violence.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Batts didn’t actually explain what he meant by the comment, but he said high school-age students planned a “purge” at the Mondawmin Mall, in the northwest corner of the city, the New York Times reported.
Whether or not the rioters used the film as a modus operandi for the a looting and violence spree is unclear. But according to the Baltimore Sun, talk of a “purge” originated with a flyer that “circulated widely among city school students via social media.
The flyer “included an image of protesters smashing the windshield of a police car Saturday during a march spurred by the death of Freddie Gray,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
The Purge is set in Los Angeles in 2022. In the film, a hard-line U.S. government, led by a group called the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), takes on rampant crime by letting people get it out of their system. Crime and homicide drop significantly thanks to one lawless night a year — a 12-hour period where all crimes, including murder, are legal.
“The same complacent thinking that dragged America into an era of poverty, violence, and crime WILL NOT fix our nation. This is why the NFFA established The Purge, the night that saved our country. By recognizing the inherently violent nature of mankind, the NFFA has succeeded in creating a lawful, healthy outlet for American outrage. We pride ourselves on being the only party that will never ask you to deny your true self,” a statement reads on the NFFA website — a fictious site promoting the movie’s 2014 sequel, titled The Purge: Anarchy.
WATCH BELOW: Official trailer for The Purge. GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING.
The so-called “purge” in Baltimore was set to get underway at the shopping mall at 3 p.m. and continue to the city’s downtown.
Police took talk of a “purge” seriously and were at the ready when a large group of young people arrived at the shopping centre at about that time. The Mondawmin Mall shut down ahead of time, according to WBAL TV.
Several other Baltimore businesses, schools and even the Baltimore Orioles home field, Camden Yards, shut down in response to the rioting.
The mall, a downtown CVS drugstore and several other businesses ended up looted, damaged or destroyed in the violence Monday afternoon and evening. A seniors centre was set ablaze and destroyed, as fire fighters exhausted their resources at multiple sites throughout the day and faced attempts to thwart their efforts. As firefighters tried to extinguish a fire at the CVS drugstore, earlier in the day, one rioter cut open the firehouse with a knife.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake decried the violence and instituted a curfew for the rest of the week. Children 14 and under will be required to remain off the streets between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., while a curfew for adults will be in effect between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
“It’s idiotic to think that by destroying your city, you’re going to make life better for anybody,” the Baltimore Sun reported Rawlings-Blake saying.
In response to the violence, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan called in the National Guard and declared a State of Emergency.
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