National Beat Reporter
Baltimore’s chief prosecutor announced Friday that the officers involved in Freddie Gray’s arrest will face criminal charges, including second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. The announcement comes as a victory for many of those who have protested against police brutality, not only in Baltimore, but also in cities like Ferguson and New York where cases of police brutality and misconduct have led to the deaths of young men of color.
Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, was arrested on April 12 after he started running away unprovoked after seeing a police car, according to law enforcement. Gray was dragged by police and thrown into the back of a police vehicle as he allegedly struggled to breathe. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing Gray get beaten by police batons. Gray was not properly buckled in the vehicle, which is against police protocol. The same day, Gray was hospitalized for spinal cord injuries and fell into a coma. A week later, on April 19, Gray died after succumbing to his injuries.
The Turning Point
The day after Gray’s death, April 20, Baltimore city officials announced that the six police officers involved in the arrest would receive paid suspension. Officials also revealed that Gray had repeatedly asked for medical assistance several times during his arrest. Gray mentioned to police officers that he had asthma and that he needed his inhaler. This, along with the release of bystander footage of officers dragging Gray into the police vehicle, sparked a multitude of demonstrations in Baltimore and in cities across the country calling for justice in the case of Gray’s death.
As early as April 22, protestors started rallying outside the Baltimore police station. The following day, more protestors marched to City Hall, and candlelight vigils were held for Gray throughout the city. After the announcement from the Baltimore Police Commissioner admitting to mistakes made by police officers in Gray’s arrest, including the fact that Gray was not properly buckled in the police vehicle, some protests turned violent as evidence of police brutality and misconduct became more apparent.
Demonstrations continued well into the weekend, with few turning violent. Cars and buildings were damaged, businesses were looted, and up to 200 arrests were made by the end of the week. The civil unrest continued even after Freddie Gray’s funeral on Monday, April 27. That same day, the Governor of Maryland, Lawrence Hogan, declared a state of emergency in Baltimore, sending in about 5,000 National Guard troops and instituting a mandatory week-long curfew.
Protests outside Baltimore also took place in other U.S. cities. In New York City, 143 people at Union Square were arrested for blocking traffic and refusing to relocate. On the same day, outside the White House in Washington, D.C., nearly 500 people demonstrated without any arrests or violence. In Denver, 11 people were arrested as protesters started getting physical with law enforcement officers. Other protests took place in cities including Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, and Seattle.
On April 28, President Obama made a statement in reaction to the rioting and looting, saying there was “no excuse” for the riots and violence. “It is not a protest. It is not a statement,” Obama said. “It’s a handful of people taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.”
The President also expressed the need for some serious “soul searching” in order to break the cycle of violent clashes between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
The same day, Baltimore residents and organizers took the streets for a citywide cleanup effort to pick up the damage brought on by the riots.
Baltimore’s chief prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, declared on May 1 that the death of Freddie Gray was a homicide and announced charges against six of the officers involved in his arrest. This announcement came the day after the Baltimore Police Department concluded its own internal investigation.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced on May 3 that she was lifting the mandatory 10 PM-5 AM curfew imposed nearly a week earlier. National Guard troops will also be leaving Baltimore in the coming days.
The U.S. Justice Department is currently conducting its own civil rights investigation into the death of Freddie Gray to determine if any civil rights were violated in his arrest and subsequent death.