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Decision to Prosecute Baltimore Police Officers Sparks Celebrations

  • VOA News

Residents of the Sandtown neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland react to the State's Attorney's announcement ruling Freddie Gray's death a homicide, May 1, 2015. (Photo: C. Simkins / VOA)

Residents of the Sandtown neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland react to the State's Attorney's announcement ruling Freddie Gray's death a homicide, May 1, 2015. (Photo: C. Simkins / VOA)

The decision to bring charges against six Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray set off jubilant reactions across the city Friday, in stark contrast to Monday’s violence.

Maryland state prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby announced that the officers would face charges ranging from second-degree murder to assault and manslaughter in Gray’s death.

A large crowd in a festive mood marched through downtown early in the evening, passing lines of police officers at intersections and other officers on horseback. Armored National Guardsmen and police in riot gear waited some distance away.

The line of mostly young, racially diverse marchers stretched for several blocks, making the demonstration one of Baltimore's largest since Gray's death. It moved quickly, punctuated by shouted chants and the honking horns of passing motorists' vehicles.

The procession began at Baltimore’s harbor and at one point passed the intersection of Pennsylvania and North avenues, where Monday's violent protest largely took place. By dusk, the crowd had grown to more than 1,000 people. One marcher called the mood "joyous."

Marchers eventually gathered at City Hall. As a 10 p.m. curfew approached, the mood was still jubilant.

However, Baltimore police arrested a group of protesters who remained in a plaza near City Hall after the curfew took effect. Scuffles occurred, but the situation remained largely peaceful.

The protesters who defied the curfew complained there was no longer a need for the curfew after the charges against the police officers were announced.

Some observers said the police took a more aggressive posture Friday night with demonstrators than they had earlier in the week before the charges were announced.

Elsewhere, hundreds of people rallied in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Friday afternoon in support of the Baltimore protesters, as well as in defense of protesters who were charged in a demonstration by the organization Black Lives Matter in December.

In Chicago, parents took children to a demonstration to teach them how to them to react to police officers.

In other cities, traditional May Day demonstrations were expected to be rededicated to support Black Lives Matter. May Day has traditionally been a day when the labor movement demonstrated for workers’ rights.

More protests were expected Friday night.

'Ecstatic' about the charges

Earlier in the day in Baltimore, at the location of Monday’s worst rioting, there were also horns honking and people in the streets cheering.

Among those cheering was Keona, one of the citizens who videotaped Gray's arrest. She said she was very pleased with the decision to charge the police officers.

WATCH: Keona talks to VOA's Victoria Macchi.

"I am shocked that they were charged, but I am happy they were charged," James Crump, 46, a medical technician, told the Associated Press. "People are happy and celebrating, and it's not even New Year's Eve."

Ciara Ford of Baltimore told AP she was surprised by the decision to prosecute the police suspects.

“I'm ecstatic,'' she said. “I hope this can restore some peace.''

Ted Sutton, a community activist, was surprised by how quickly the decision to prosecute was made.

“She took the time to critique the evidence,'' he told AP, referring to the prosecutor. “To have each person charged with what they actually did, to have it come out this quick … this is something else.''

Residents of the Sandtown neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland react to the State's Attorney's announcement ruling Freddie Gray's death a homicide, May 1, 2015. (Photo: C. Simkins / VOA)

Residents of the Sandtown neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland react to the State's Attorney's announcement ruling Freddie Gray's death a homicide, May 1, 2015. (Photo: C. Simkins / VOA)

However, not all Baltimore residents were satisfied with the charges.

Renee Mikins, a Baltimore resident, told VOA that the charges should have been more severe. She said the charges were a "whitewashing" and that the officers should have been charged with first- and second-degree murder.

VOA's Chris Simkins and Victoria Macchi contributed to this report from Baltimore. Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.

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