Obama: "No excuse" for violence in Baltimore

Apr 28, 2015 12:56 PM by CBS News, Photo via CBS

President Obama condemned the riots that took place in Baltimore Monday, saying, "there's no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw."

"When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot they're not protesting. They're not making a statement. They're stealing. When they burn down a building they are committing arson. And they're destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area," the president said.

He called the actions taken by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to quell the violence "entirely appropriate."

The president added that those behind the violence and destruction were taking advantage of the situation and "need to be treated as criminals." In particular, he said it was unfortunate that their actions had distracted from the multiple days of peaceful protests led by community leaders and clergy.

"One burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion," he said. "The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore I thin have handled this appropriately."

The president's remarks came during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is making an official state visit to Washington. The two nations are highlighting the close working relationship developed over 70 years, following the end of World War II.

The biggest issue on the agenda for the two countries is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The U.S. and Japan did not announce any breakthroughs during the visit, and they're still negotiating specific agreements on Japanese cars and U.S. agricultural products.

The trade deal will be difficult to sell in Congress, since many Democrats are convinced the agreement would send more American jobs overseas, hurt wages at home, and harm the environment.

The press conference Tuesday was the first time Mr. Obama has spoken publicly about the violence in Baltimore. Riots broke out in the western part of the city Monday afternoon after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody earlier this month.

Hours of clashes between police in riot gear and mostly young protesters left parts of the city smoldering and destroyed. At least 15 officers were hurt, including six who were hospitalized, police said. There were 144 vehicle fires, 15 structure fires and nearly 200 arrests, according to the mayor's office. Several businesses were looted amid the chaos.

Mr. Obama spoke with Rawlings-Blake Monday and said the administration would provide assistance as needed. He also spoke with Hogan.

Hogan activated the National Guard and by morning troops had fanned out across the city to help police and firefighters restore calm and contain the damage.

By Tuesday morning, peace had largely been restored and some of the city's residents came out to begin helping clean up from the damage.

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