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article imageBaltimore: Tensions boil, thousands protest Freddie Gray's death

By Megan Hamilton     Apr 26, 2015 in Crime
Baltimore - A protest over the death of Freddie Gray, a young man who suffered a spinal cord injury in police custody that would ultimately result in his death, erupted into violence after starting out peacefully.
Some demonstrators came from Ferguson. Others came from New York, and earlier in the day a racially diverse and calm crowd of demonstrators marched Baltimore's streets, clogging intersections and bearing signs, The New York Times reports.
"All night, all day, we're gonna fight for Freddie Gray!" they shouted, and after a while, peace turned to restiveness that simmered like cold water over burning stones. Finally restiveness turned into frustration that boiled over.
One officer suffered minor injuries nearing the end of the protests for Freddie Gray, WBALTV reports. The officer was injured in the area of the Western District police station where three dozen police officers wearing riot helmets and shields were lined up. Now the crowd was sparse, and some people came out of their homes, many throwing items, perhaps rocks, at the officers.
Two people were hurt in the resulting mayhem and police arrested more than a dozen. The trouble brewed near Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles were playing against the Boston Red Sox. Near the end of the game, fans were instructed to stay in the stadium due to public safety concerns. Prior to the game, demonstrators and fans fought at a local bar.
Protesters have been holding demonstrations almost daily this week and promised their biggest march one day after the Baltimore Police Department admitted that it failed to give Gray the medical attention he needed after he was arrested, Fox News reported.
Vowing to "shut down" the city, the protesters planned to march through the streets and stop traffic. One man, who is the president of a black lawyers' group predicted thousands of people would attend the demonstration. Good weather was predicted for the game.
"Things will change on Saturday, and the struggle will be amplified," Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice said. "It cannot be business as usual with that man's spine broken, with his back broken, with no justice on the scene."
At one point on Saturday, a group of as many as 100 protesters — by some accounts, split from the main group as the protest was nearing the end. These people went on a rampage — throwing cans, bottles, and trash cans at police and breaking windows of some businesses. As the group reached Camden Yards, they were met by police officers dressed in riot gear. It's reported that some cars parked at the stadium were damaged, The New York Times reports.
Shabazz is calling for the arrest of the six officers involved in Gray's arrest, who died Sunday, one week after suffering a spinal injury while in custody. The officers have been suspended with pay and are under criminal investigation by their own department. The U.S. Justice Department is also reviewing the case, and Gray's family is also conducting their own probe, Fox News reports.
The names of the officers involved in Gray's arrest were released last Tuesday, and this is a standard procedure after an "in-custody death," Baltimore Police Department Spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk told CNN. This doesn't mean that the officers did anything wrong or that they were the only officers involved, he said.
The officers are: Lt. Brian Rice, 41. Rice joined the department in 1997; Officer Caesar Goodson, 45. Goodson joined in 1999; Sgt. Alicia White, 30, who joined in 2010; Officer William Porter, 25. Porter joined in 2010; Officer Garrett Miller, 26. Miller joined in 2012; Officer Edward Nero, 29. Nero also joined in 2012.
Three of the officers who responded were on bikes when they initially approached Gray, Kowalczyk said.
One officer joined the arrest after it had started, while another officer drove the police van, he said.
On Friday, Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said that Gray should have received medical attention on the spot where he was arrested, before being put inside a police transport van while handcuffed and without a seat belt, in violation of the Police Department's policy.
Gray was arrested April 12 when he made eye contact with a police lieutenant and then ran, according to a police account, The New York Times reports. He was tackled by police officers, who pinned him down and handcuffed him before dragging him over to a police van. Gray's arrest was recorded on video by a bystander who used his cellphone.
Before Friday, in the efforts to find out how and when Gray was injured mainly focused on what happened inside the van, and The New York Times reports that a lawyer for the officers involved kept trying to play down the suggestion, based on the cellphone video, that Gray was hurt before he was placed inside the van. Gray can be heard on the video asking for help while he was on the ground and then screaming as he was being dragged to the police van.
Baltimore police acknowledge there are gaps in the timeline involving three stops made by the police van. Police Department accounts say that at the first stop, officers placed leg bars on Gray. The accounts say he had become irate; the second stop was made to pick up another arrestee. Gray had to be picked up off the floor during the third stop, The New York Times reports.
Gray died at a hospital last Sunday. His family reports that his spinal cord had been 80 percent severed and his voice box had been crushed.
An article that appeared in the Atlantic that was written by Conor Friedersdorf shows that Baltimore police have committed truly shocking acts of brutality. Not all of the victims who were brutalized were black men, either.
Here is an excerpt:
"Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson. Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed, others were thrown to the pavement."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has demanded to know why police didn't follow procedures for transporting arrestees and why they didn't get timely medical attention for Gray, The New York Times reports.
In her first public comments since Gray's death, his twin sister, Fredericka Gray, appealed for calm as she appeared with the mayor at a news conference.WBALTV reports.
"My family wants to say, can you all please, please stop the violence? Freddie Gray would not want this. Freddie's father and mother did not want nobody ... Violence does not get justice."
For some, however, family is what drew them to the protest.
Baltimore resident Tanya Peacher, 36, had never attended a protest in the city, but watching a video of Gray's arrest motivated her, she told WBALTV.
"I looked at my son," she said, "and thought 'that is my son.'"
At one point during the protest, the crowd stopped for a moment of silence in front of Shock Trauma, the hospital where Gray died. After that, they headed to Camden Yards.
Some staged an impromptu "die-in" at a downtown intersection.
Dante Acree, 33, was also at the protest, wearing a sign around his neck that said "I am Freddie Gray." He joined thousands of others who stood outside City Hall. He came to the protest, he said, because "it could have been one of my kids."
"It could have been my brother, my father," he said. "I'd want the same support."
Funeral services for Gray will be held on Monday at New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore, The New York Times reports.
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