Baltimore rally celebrates charges in Freddie Gray police custody death
Activists call for end to citywide curfew as 'victory rally' marks charges against police officers
Chants of "no justice, no peace, no racist police" echoed through the streets of Baltimore Saturday during a march that organizers billed as a "victory rally" a day after a prosecutor charged six officers involved in the arrest of a man who died in police custody.
State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby on Friday charged the six with offences ranging from assault to murder in the death of Freddie Gray. He died from spinal injuries a week after his April 12 arrest. It provoked riots on the streets of West Baltimore and quickly became a rallying cry against police brutality and social inequality in the city.
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The march Saturday was supposed to be a mass protest of Gray's custody death, but after Mosby's announcement, the tone had changed to more celebratory.
Shortly after noon at Gilmor Homes, a group of demonstrators gathered to march, both black and white. There were grown-ups, kids and a dog.
"Are you ready to march for justice?" Kwame Rose, 20, of Baltimore, said. The crowded chanted, "Yes."
"Are you all ready to march for peace?" Rose asked. "Yeah," the group answered.
Black Lawyers for Justice was expecting at least 10,000 people to show up downtown. Smaller groups of what looked to be several hundred gathered all around Baltimore and made their way through the streets to join the thousands at the main rally at City Hall.
They carried homemade signs, calling for peace, as well as printed ones asking for justice. Others wore T-shirts that read, "Black Lives Matter."
Calls to end curfew
Some people renewed calls Saturday to end a 10 p.m. curfew in the city, established after Monday's unrest. The curfew is currently set to be in place through Sunday night.
Some restaurant and bar owners have also chafed against the restrictions, particularly in light of Saturday's scheduled pay-per-view boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, which would have been a draw for some establishments. The fight is set for midnight Saturday, Eastern time.
Malik Shabazz, the president of Black Lawyers for Justice and one of the organizers of a Saturday march to City Hall that drew hundreds, called on officials to lift the curfew Saturday night.
Shabazz said, "Nobody out here is going to go out here and start any violence because they're waiting on the trial. They have gotten some justice. This curfew is oppressive. This curfew needs to be lifted tonight."
Illegal and unjustified
Mosby said that after reviewing the results of a police investigation turned over to her just one day before, she had concluded Gray's arrest was illegal and unjustified. She said his neck was broken because he was handcuffed, shackled and placed head-first into a police van, where his pleas for medical attention were repeatedly ignored as he bounced around inside a small metal compartment in the vehicle.
The officers missed five opportunities to help the injured and falsely imprisoned detainee before he arrived at the police station no longer breathing, Mosby added. They even rerouted the van to pick up another passenger, she said.
The police accused him of having an illegal switchblade when in fact it was a legal pocketknife, and failed to strap him down with a seatbelt, a direct violation of department policy, Mosby said.
Others saw Gray's arrest and death as a reflection of Baltimore's broad social and economic problems and the announcement of charges prompted celebrations in the streets Friday.
Walter Dorsett and Kasey Lee, both 18 of North East, Maryland, joined the crowd outside City Hall Saturday. Dorsett carried a sign that read, "Having a badge should not exclude you from the law."
Dorsett said the charges seemed accurate, though, "it doesn't mean they're going to be found guilty, but it's a start."
Gray's stepfather, Robert Shipley, said the family charges were "an important first step" and reiterated a plea to keep all public demonstrations peaceful.
"If you are not coming in peace, please don't come at all," he said.
"The people of Philadelphia, New York, Cincinnati, and in numerous cities and towns are expressing their outrage that there are too many Freddie Grays," Murphy said. "If Freddie Gray is not to die in vain, we must seize this opportunity to reform police departments throughout this country."
The six officers charged are:
- Officer Caesar R. Goodson, Jr.
- Officer Garrett E. Miller
- Officer William G. Porter
- Officer Edward M. Nero
- Lt. Brian W. Rice
- Sgt. Alicia D. White
All six of the officers were later released on bonds of between $250,000 and $350,000, according to court documents.
- An earlier version of this story erroneously said all six police officers were charged with felony offences. In fact, only four of the officers face felony charges, and two officers have been charged with misdemeanour offences. The earlier version of the story also mistakenly reported that state's attorney Marilyn Mosby said there was no reason for police to stop Freddie Gray. In fact, Mosby said only that Gray was illegally arrested.May 07, 2015 8:43 PM ET