Large crowds converged on War Memorial Plaza near Baltimore City Hall, and demonstrators rallied on the streets of the city on Saturday, a day after six police officers were charged in the death late last month of Freddie Gray, which spurred protests, looting and burning in Baltimore. The Saturday demonstration was billed as a “victory rally” after Friday’s charges.
— Yvonne Wenger (@yvonnewenger) May 2, 2015
“We’re hoping that this seminal moment is resonating with everyone around,” said the Rev. Alwin Gwynn, a Baltimore pastor, on CNN. He encouraged open dialogue between police and the community after Gray died of spinal injuries a week after he was arrested and put in a police van. Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby claimed Gray, a 25-year-old black man, was unlawfully arrested, and a medical examiner ruled his death as a homicide.
People were holding signs that included “Justice for Freddie Gray” and “It Is Right to Rebel” as they stood in the plaza to applaud Mosby’s decision to charge the officers. While the crowd was cheering the charges, they cautioned that the indictments were only a first step. “It’s going to be a long road,” 47-year-old Chrystal Miller told the Associated Press. “Nothing is going to happen overnight.”
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was out Saturday helping distribute food in the Penn North neighborhood, which was decimated by riots and looting earlier in the week, said she was focused on confronting issues with police brutality and excessive force in the city. “I want to be a full partner in reforming our police department, and that’s where we’re headed,” she said.
Violent riots rocked the city on Monday following Gray’s funeral. Multiple buildings were burned down and looted, including a CVS in Penn North. But the demonstrations grew calmer throughout the week after Baltimore instituted a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew to ease tensions. A spokesman for the mayor said it was “possible” but “not likely” that the curfew could end on Saturday night, Paul Gessler, a reporter for Baltimore’s Fox affiliate tweeted.
The six officers involved in the Gray incident were suspended. The charges against them ranged from second-degree murder to false imprisonment.