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Baltimore 'Victory Rally' Follows Charges in Detainee Death

  • VOA News

Thousands of protesters marched to Baltimore City Hall on Saturday, chanting "no justice, no peace" amid heavily armed police and National Guard troops, a day after the announcement that six police officers had been charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

The mood throughout the day was largely celebratory, but law enforcement officials said the 10 p.m. curfew would stay in place. Some protesters defied the curfew shortly after it went into effect, and police made several arrests.

The Associated Press reported that police detained one man at Pennsylvania and North avenues, the site of a riot and looting earlier in the week. The handcuffed man had been pepper-sprayed, and police were pouring water into his eyes to try to ease the effects of the spray. A medic was summoned.

Baltimore police were standing in front of the media pen, discharging pepper spray to keep protesters back, the AP said. A woman was also detained and handcuffed with plastic ties, but was not in any visible distress.

The nightly curfew was put in place after the disturbances sparked by the death of Gray, a 25-year-old African-American who suffered spinal injuries while in police custody April 12. His death on April 19 led to days of protests, which turned violent on April 20 after his funeral. Clashes that day and night between police and protesters led to the arrests of more than 200 people and injuries to at least 20 police officers.

Late Saturday, law enforcement officials said their top priority was to keep everyone safe, and they asked for patience. They also described the violence in Baltimore on April 20 as "unprecedented."

Saturday's rally was the largest organized gathering since State's Attonrey Marilyn Mosby filed the felony charges — ranging from assault to murder. Organizers described it as a "victory rally."

Baltimore resident Kwame Rose, 20, said, "So, today's just to show the world that the youth that were displayed on the media on Monday night and Saturday night, as thugs and criminals, that we are actually peaceful citizens marching for productive change in the city."

As those gathered prepared to observe a moment of silence, Rose told them, "A moment of silence for Baltimore, a moment of silence for the world, a moment of silence for black lives. But most importantly, a moment of silence for the gentleman [Gray] that brought us all together and put Baltimore city on the forefront thoughts of America."

Mosby said Gray "suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained" by a seat belt in a police van used to transport him.

But many warned that the charges, including second-degree murder and manslaughter, were just a first step toward justice. The six police officers were arraigned and posted bail Friday.

Gray's stepfather, Richard Shipley, told reporters Friday that the family was "satisfied" with the indictment of the three black officers and three white officers and appealed to demonstrators for calm.

"If you are not coming in peace, please don't come at all," he said.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said he hoped to see the continuation of the four days of calm in the city that followed Monday's violence.

While crowds were largely happy after Mosby announced the filing of charges, police reported 38 protest-related arrests and 15 curfew-violation arrests Friday night.

More than 100 people gather outside Los Angeles City Hall to protest police mistreatment of minorities, May 2, 2015. (Credit: Michael O'Sullivan/VOA)

More than 100 people gather outside Los Angeles City Hall to protest police mistreatment of minorities, May 2, 2015. (Credit: Michael O'Sullivan/VOA)

Protests also occurred in other U.S. cities on Saturday, some in conjunction with May Day-related demonstrations aimed at calling attention to workers' rights and immigration issues.

The Gray case drew more than 100 people to Los Angeles City Hall at midday to protest against police mistreatment of minorities.

In another development, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is planning to hold a hearing on law enforcement accountability this month. A statement from Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said recent "news reports of excessive force by law enforcement and attacks on police officers have raised our nation's conscience about how law enforcement interacts with our nation's citizens."

He added that the hearing would also focus on aggression toward law enforcement, public safety concerns and solutions to address the problems.

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