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Mayor, Clergy and Gray's Sister Calls For Peace After Violent Night

City and religious leaders asked for calm Sunday after protests over the death of Freddie Gray that started peacefully Saturday turned violent.

More than two dozen religious leaders joined Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in a statement asking citizens “to honor and continue [a tradition of peaceful and respectful demonstrations] as we pray for the family of Freddie Gray."

Among the leaders was the Rev. S. Todd Yeary, of Douglas Memorial Community Church, Minister Carlos Muhammed of Muhammed Mosque Number Six and Rabbi Andrew Brusch of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

In addition, City Council President Jack Young said in a statement issued Sunday evening that "the righteousness of the many was perverted by the misdeeds of a few."  Young further asked "anyone not interested in peacefully seeking justice to please leave our city."

Gray, 25, died April 19 from severe spinal cord injuries suffered while in police custody. Protestors have demonstrated every night since, mostly without incident.

City police said they arrested 34 people during Saturday’s demonstration and six officers suffered minor injuries after some protesters grew agitated and started to get physical with police.

The protesters damaged several police vehicles and vandalized multiple store fronts. Among the stores vandalized, a 7-Eleven at Howard and Saratoga Streets was looted.

In a news conference late Saturday, Rawlings-Blake praised those who demonstrated peacefully but said she was "profoundly disappointed" to see the violence that took place.

"Unfortunately a small group of agitators intervened and turned what was otherwise a peaceful demonstration into a violent protest," she said.

Gray was arrested April 12, handcuffed and put in the back of a police van.  He was unresponsive when the van arrived at the Western District Police Station.  Officers called an ambulance to take him to the shock trauma unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where he died a week later.

A wake Sunday drew protesters to the Vaughn C. Greene Funeral Home on York Road in North Baltimore despite requests from family for no protests.  Funeral Services are scheduled at 11 a.m. Monday at New Shiloh Baptist Church on North Monroe Street in West Baltimore.

Fredericka Gray, Freddie Gray's twin sister, asked for calm on behalf of her family Saturday.

"Can y'all please, please stop the violence," she said during the mayor's news conference. "Freddie Gray would not want this; Freddie's father and mother does not want violence.  Violence does not get justice."

How things turned violent

Hundreds of people marched peacefully at midday Saturday from the Sandtown neighborhood in West Baltimore to City Hall where several protest groups gathered.

Some protesters started to march toward Camden Yards at around 6 p.m. as crowds were starting to fill the stadium to see the Orioles-Red Sox baseball game.

Tensions escalated before 6:30 p.m. when an officer tried to talk to a protester in front of the Sports Legends Museum adjacent to the stadium.

Five Baltimore Police officers in riot gear stood in a line before they were pulled back.

As officers moved away, protesters moved in.  Some threw bottles at officers.  Reinforcements charged to the scene when a couple of people in the crowd decided to get physical at Howard and Camden Streets.

More officers in riot gear arrived as someone threw a road cone, then a cooler.  The scene drew attention from people in the upper decks of the ballpark and those standing in the skywalk above Howard Street.

The mayor and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, in a separate news conferences Saturday, thanked those in the crowd who tried to keep things calm.

"Residents put themselves between police officers and this agitated crowd.  And asked for calm and asked for peace; which was very good to see," Batts said while giving an update on the situation.

Local activists said it was important for protests to remain peaceful.

PFK Boom, with the group Out For Justice, reined in demonstrators during their protest Friday evening when some tried to antagonize drivers on Light Street.

Boom said he didn't want anything more added to what he said was Baltimore's negative national image.

"National attention is being brought to Baltimore," he said, "With 'The Wire; and many other things that are happening in my city, my city gets a bad taste from the national spotlight that we do not know how to handle our business in our backyard properly."