An unlikely coalition of gang members, pastors and community activists successfully turned away would-be trouble-makers before they even crossed the street.VPC
BALTIMORE — Thousands massed outside City Hall on Wednesday in protest over the death of a man injured in police custody, and the outrage spread to New York City where another large throng gathered in Union Square.
The demonstrations in the two cities saw droves of chanting protesters lining city blocks and spilling over into nearby streets. The crowds waved signs seeking justice for Freddie Gray, whose death triggered protests that led to violence, burning and looting Monday in Baltimore and provoked a week-long emergency nighttime curfew.
There were only small crowds left on the streets of Baltimore a half hour after the curfew took effect for a second night at 10 p.m.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said 18 people were arrested Wednesday, including two juveniles. Police in New York arrested more than a dozen people.
"We are asking that they remain peaceful,'' Baltimore police Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said.
Larry Hogan said he was "very encouraged'' by the relative calm. Some 2,000 National Guard troops and more than 1,000 law enforcement officers were on hand to enforce the curfew and maintain order.
"We're not out of the woods yet,'' Hogan said.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that it obtained a police document saying that Gray was "banging against walls" inside the police wagon after his arrest, a period when Baltimore police officials contend he must have sustained his fatal spinal injury earlier this month. A prisoner sharing the police van with Gray told investigators he believed that Gray "was intentionally trying to injure himself,'' according to the document.
The prisoner was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him, thePost reported. His statement was contained in an application for a search warrant, sealed by the court but obtained by the newspaper under the condition that the prisoner not be named.
In New York, several hundred people gathered at Union Square in Manhattan, chanting "no justice, no peace" and "hands up, don't shoot."
New York police officers watched and a police helicopter hovered overhead. A police loudspeaker warned the protesters that they would be arrested if they marched in the street.
The Baltimore protesters also demanded a deeper look at how police treat black men in the city. Signs included "End Police Brutality Now," Justice and Equality For All" and "Stop Police Militarization Killings."
Many were students clad in sports uniforms, t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts from their colleges and high schools.
"This is an important issue," said Jillian Tse, a senior at Johns Hopkins University. "It's more just than just police brutality. I think it's systemic racism."
Ten days of confrontational protests have focused national attention on the death of Gray, 25, a black man who suffered a severe spinal injury and died in police custody April 19. Tension exploded into violence Monday, when clashes between police and demonstrators resulted in injuries to at least 20 officers and arrest of more than 200 protesters.
On Tuesday night, some protesters hurled objects at police, and officers responded by firing pepper pellets and smoke canisters into the crowd. The tension quickly eased, and the crowd mostly dispersed. Some protesters remained until police in riot gear advanced down the street. Kowalczyk said 35 arrests were made Tuesday.
The latest protests came two days before police investigators are scheduled to turn over their findings to prosecutors. Six officers have been suspended with pay pending the investigation that could result in criminal charges.
Cheryl Stewart, spokesperson for Mayor
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the findings will not be made public anytime soon. The state's attorney's office will review the report and decide whether to charge anyone in Gray's death, she said.
"The misconception is that this report will be released publicly and it will not be," Stewart said. "We just want to make it clear that releasing too much information could be harmful to the investigation and to justice."
"Everybody is pinning on Friday like this is going to a big verdict or something and that's not going to happen," Stewart said. "I understand people want the details. But giving it to the public could jeopardize whether charges will be brought."
Yvonne Rice, 55, said she was stunned that the police findings won't be made public immediately.
"They are hiding something," Rice said. "People need to know what's going on or the National Guard will be here forever. People are going to act out."
Romero Lavalais, 45, a building engineer, said he traveled from his home in Accokeek, Md., to call attention to what he sees as an unequal American justice system.
"You have to force change," he said. "It's not going to happen with us staying in our luxury homes."
Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., helped organize the rally and said the city must continue to focus on Gray's death and police department changes. He said too often young men of color are mistreated and face discrimination from police and in their daily lives.
"We cannot wait for justice," Coates said. "We're here to say enough is enough. We are tired. We need all hands on deck to eradicate this problem."
Also Wednesday, schools CEO Gregory Thornton welcomed students back to classes with an open letter thanking "the thousands and thousands of students who made good decisions (Monday) and avoided the violence and law-breaking."
The letter also warned that students who did participate in Monday's violence will be held accountable.
"Principals and teachers are planning activities that will help students learn from the past days' events," Thornton said. "Counselors, social workers, and psychologists will be on hand to support students' emotional needs."
The city was far from normal. National Guard troops roam the streets. The Baltimore Orioles won their Major League Baseball game Wednesday afternoon in an empty stadium where spectators were excluded. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra played a free, outdoor concert.
Contributing: John Bacon