BALTIMORE - Hundreds of protesters gathered Thursday in downtown Baltimore, in the eastern U.S. state of Maryland, to again demand changes to the justice system following the death of a 25-year-old man taken into police custody last week.
Officials arrested two people for disorderly conduct in what was otherwise a loud but peaceful protest as the city awaits more information from authorities about how Freddie Gray died.
With hands and voices raised, demonstrators marched for hours around Baltimore.
Starting between City Hall and police headquarters, the crowd stopped traffic to demand accountability from local officials for what they allege was an act of police brutality.
Among the protesters: Pastor Jamal Bryant, who helped organize the event. He wants improvements for the majority-black-city's residents, and changes across the country.
"This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. This isn't a new incident. We're seeing the same thing from Sanford, Florida, to Ferguson, Missouri [and] now right here in Baltimore that there's got to be an overhaul of the complete system," Bryant said.
Also at the rally was Kiona Mack, who pulled out her phone to record as police arrested Gray on April 12 and dragged him to a police van.
"There's a lot of Freddie Grays and this is not the first time that the police violated somebody's rights and murdered somebody," said Mack, of Sandtown.
Later in the afternoon, area families joined vocal but nonviolent protesters outside the heavily guarded police station, just blocks from where Gray tried to run from police before he was handcuffed.
The demonstration is a teaching moment for Ahmed Royalty and his 11-year-old son.
"My father has brought me here today to learn about racism that actually still exists to this very past day, 'cuz [because] if I didn't know about this, then I wouldn't have been alive right now," said King Zahir Royalty, 11, of Sandtown.
His father, Ahmed, said, "The goal is to make sure that by all means within my realm that my son is not the next one, or myself."
Answers from police
Baltimore police officials say they will have more answers for the public next week about what happened to Gray while he was in their custody.
No matter the outcome of the local and federal investigations under way, local NAACP President Tessa Aston-Hill said massive change is needed to undo the damage to the community.
"It didn't have to happen. If people get locked up, then they need to get taken to central booking and not to the morgue," Aston-Hill said.