CAPITOL HILL - Several U.S. lawmakers and President Barack Obama have reacted to the unexpected announcement that all six Baltimore police officers involved in the detention of Freddie Gray face serious charges stemming from his death while he was in custody.
Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat who lives in Baltimore near the place where Gray, 25, was apprehended, said Friday's decision marked a new day in the sometimes troubling history of police interactions with African-Americans.
At a news conference at City Hall, held after the charges were announced, Cummings said he wondered whether the police who detained Gray ever really took notice of him.
"Did anybody see this man?" he asked. "Did they see this man, who was a mother's child? Did they see this man who was just trying to get through life? Did they see him as a human being? And I have come here today to thank God that [Baltimore prosecutor] Marilyn Mosby and her team saw him, saw him!"
Cummings said that many of the people in Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods have never had any kind of victory, and this announcement was one, because it made them feel as if they were being seen and heard.
'A message has been sent'
Cummings praised Mosby, saying, "I think a message has been sent by our state's attorney that she treasures every life, that she values every person. And so let the wheels of justice roll, and it is good that they are rolling, as opposed to standing still."
Cummings stressed that the charges were just the beginning of a process. He said that the issues in some Baltimore neighborhoods go far beyond just policing problems, to a lack of access to a good education and a lack of job opportunities.
Obama reacted to the Baltimore decision at a White House round-table on another issue, saying transparency and accountability are keys.
"It is absolutely vital that the truth comes out on what happened to Freddie Gray," he said. "It is my practice not to comment on the legal processes involved. That would not be appropriate.
"But I can tell you that justice needs to be served. All the evidence needs to be presented. Those individuals who are charged obviously are also entitled to due process and rule of law. So I want to make sure that our legal system runs the way it should."
Boehner on 'Meet the Press'
NBC News reported that Republican House Speaker John Boehner also commented in an exclusive interview with "Meet the Press" to be broadcast Sunday, saying the alleged actions by the six men named in the criminal charges, if true, were outrageous and unacceptable.
Asked whether he believed that tensions between African-Americans and police officers had reached the level of a national crisis, the Ohio Republican said he did.
On Thursday, Boehner said he disagreed with Obama on the best way to tackle the underlying issues of poverty and inequality, saying more taxpayer dollars were not the answer.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said they disagreed with Boehner and criticized a draft budget just passed by the Republican-majority House of Representatives. They said such budgets are part of the problem, because they cut social programs to communities like the ones in the spotlight in Baltimore that need them the most.