BALTIMORE — Hundreds of Baltimore residents rallied peacefully Saturday following the arrest a day earlier of six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.
Marchers converged on City Hall after walking from the Gilmore Homes housing project, where Gray was arrested.
Demonstrators, some carrying signs with messages like “Justice for Freddie Gray” and “It is right to rebel,” moved through the streets of Baltimore to War Memorial Plaza outside City Hall, where hundreds of others gathered for the rally, which had the atmosphere of a block party.
A biracial couple, Devan Sutherland and Joe Savage, attended the rally with their 7-year-old son, Liam.
“It means everything to me and my family,” Sutherland said. “I was born and raised here. I care a lot about my city. I love my city.”
The rally, organized by the Washington-based Black Lawyers for Justice, came after a week of demonstrations, some marred by arson and looting.
A smaller number of demonstrators remained in the streets after the city curfew went into effect at 10 p.m. Some protesters were arrested a short time later.
The curfew, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., was announced less than three hours before it went into effect.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ended the citywide curfew Sunday, saying in a statement that her “goal has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary.”
Maryland National Guard Gen. Linda Singh said she was eager to send her troops home.
“I want to make sure we can close out tonight in a safe, peaceful … manner,” she said.
National Guard troops and police stood near the plaza Saturday, but the scene differed from clashes between officers and protesters earlier in the week.
“What really touched me was hearing the youth speak and telling America that they are not thugs,” demonstrator Daudi Henderson said. “We can’t demonize the victim.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan urged protesters to remain nonviolent.
“The right to demonstrate is a fundamental part of our society, but damaging property or putting innocent bystanders in danger will not be tolerated,” he said.
In response to the unrest earlier in the week, Hogan said 3,000 National Guard troops, 578 state troopers and 432 law enforcement officers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey had been deployed throughout the city.
City prosecutor identifies six officers
Six police officers have been charged in the death of Gray last month, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Friday.
The 25-year-old died after suffering “a severe and critical neck injury” while being transported “handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained” inside a police van, she said. It is against police policy to transport a prisoner without proper restraints such as a seat belt.
The police union called for an independent prosecutor, saying Mosby has conflicts of interests. They also criticized her for not waiting until police were done with their inquiry.
“We are disappointed in the apparent rush to judgment, given the fact that the investigation into this matter has not been concluded,” said Gene Ryan, president of the police union. “Our officers, like every other American, are entitled to due process.”
The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police said the officers did nothing wrong.
“No officer injured Mr. Gray, caused harm to Mr. Gray, and they are truly saddened by his death,” said Michael Davey, an attorney for the union.
Rawlings-Blake called for the immediate suspension of all the officers facing charges.
Police officers arrested Gray on April 12. He slipped into a coma after suffering a series of injuries and died a week later.
Mosby said the incident began when two police officers on bike patrol “made eye contact” with Gray, who then ran.
When officers caught up to him, he surrendered and was placed on the ground, arms handcuffed behind his back. He said he couldn’t breathe and asked for an inhaler, but he did not get it, according to Mosby.
Police found a knife in Gray’s pants, but of a type allowed by Maryland law, and police had no reason to detain him, the prosecutor said.
Still, they loaded Gray, in handcuffs, into a police van.
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. stopped the vehicle four times over the course of the approximately 40-minute ride to the police station. At the first stop, officers took Gray out, put shackles on his ankles and placed him, still handcuffed, headfirst and on his stomach in the back.
At the last stop, Goodson picked up another man who was put in the back of the van on the other side of the partition that keeps prisoners separated.
Mosby said the officers were “grossly negligent” for failing to get Gray medical help, despite his requests, until they arrived at the Western District Police Station.
By then, he was no longer breathing, she said.
Gray was rushed to a hospital, where he underwent surgery.
He died a week later.