Baltimore Rioters Not Just ‘Thugs’ and ‘Criminals’

"The peaceful stuff is not working," a young protester said.

They "are what we call opportunists," Gomez said. "They recognize that there's a lot of frustration ... and they took their opportunity."

"These people are clearly wanting to make a statement,” he added.

Terique, one young West Baltimore protester who declined to give and his last name and to confirm whether he witnessed Monday night's violence, said the events went too far, “But the city only respects violence. The peaceful stuff is not working.”

He added: “All the little mom and pop stores, I’m upset about them. That wasn’t supposed to happen because we need those little mom and pop stores that ain’t CVS. That’s messed up. But if people hadn’t done that, man, nothing would have happened.”

Police Capt. Eric Kowalczyk declined to speculate Monday on the reason for the violence, but called the group "criminals."

"Right now it is a group of lawless individuals with no regard" for safety, he added.

Gomez, who was an agent with the FBI during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, said the demonstrators in California had a similar goal.

"They were trying to make a statement that they are tired of the way the system is treating them, their community," he said. "They're not just going to protest and exert their first amendment right... They're going to take it a step further to really get some notice.

"[It's the] same thing in Baltimore," he added. "Whether they are thugs, gang members, or people that are frustrated... they want to take it a step further... they want to be heard and are willing to get arrested for it."

Baltimore resident William Tyler cited a lack of opportunity in the area.

"It's a lot anger that's been piled up," Tyler, 41, said. "They don't know how to talk."

"I have kids. They need to learn to do what I didn't, to go to school," said Tyler, who was carrying his 3-year-old child on his shoulders through a crowd in Baltimore today. "If we don't do that, this is what they do. We have parents who are doing nothing.

"I take the blame," Tyler said. "I should have told them, showed them. This is not us."

Looking forward, Gomez said, "I don't think that they're going to listen to anybody other than their parents or someone in their family that they respect."

"If there is a sports figure from Baltimore," he added, "That's the kind of person that could potentially come in and work with community leaders... could maybe get these rioters to slow down and to change their way of expressing themselves."

Get real-time updates as this story unfolds. To start, just "star" this story in ABC News' phone app. Download ABC News for iPhone here or ABC News for Android here.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events