Cheers erupted on the steps of the War Memorial building in Baltimore when State Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that the six police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray will have charges brought against them.
Mosby announced the charges after the medical examiner declared Gray’s death a homicide, caused by a spinal chord injury sustained while being transported in a police van without a seat belt. The charges range from second-degree “depraved heart” murder to misconduct in office.
Residents, students, and others from across the country gathered to celebrate on May 1. They cheered as passing cars honked their horns outside of Penn North metro station, blocks from where Gray had lived. Groups of protesters marched to City Hall and rallied there throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
Yet the situation on the streets remained tense on Friday night. Hundreds of police, some called in from other states, as well as members of the National Guard, lined the streets where people gathered. A line of armored vehicles and police cars blocked the street in front City Hall. When curfew passed at 10:00 p.m., police began arresting protesters who refused to disperse and asked journalists to remain in a roped-off area. According to CBS Baltimore, police arrested 30 people for protest-related incidents and another 15 for violating curfew throughout the city.
That the six police officers will be arrested and charged in connection with Gray’s murder is seen as a victory for protesters. But many in Baltimore are calling for greater systemic changes, particularly on the issue of police accountability.
We spoke with those celebrating in Baltimore. Here is some of what they said.
Lydia Mesekale: “The issue is police accountability and our deaths mattering to people enough that someone will get in trouble for it. It’s not ‘game over,’ it’s ‘game on.’ Now, we can actually start to see things happening.”
Mark Daniels: “I think that the officers being indicted is a fabulous thing, and something long overdue in regards to other cases that we’ve seen nationally.”
Mia Henson: “With a situation like this, where we did get national attention, this should be the start of other things coming into place. Because once everything is done and over with, there’s still going to be drug activity. It’s still going to be black-on-black crime. It’s still going to be law enforcement versus the low-income people.”
Todd Burns: “We’re going to get justice. This is one big celebration.”
Diane Connelly-Duggan (center): “It’s a possibility for everyone. It’s like a Rosa Parks moment. That began a whole possibility forward from here, and that’s what this moment is.”
Frances Graham: “I’m out here for my son, my daughter, my nieces and nephews. I’m out here for the family of Freddie Gray and for all those who have died at the hands of law enforcement.”
Danny Marrow: “I think that the state’s attorney did their job. [But] things will change only if the police get with the community and explain to them things like probable cause and showing ID.”
Ebony Evans: “It will be known that we will not continue to tolerate police brutality. There are not many [officers] who have ever been charged and sentenced. So, this is just the first step.”
Mary Marston (left): “In an ideal world Freddie Gray would be alive. But at least in this case cops have been held accountable, which we haven’t seen. I think that’s a step in the right direction in accountability for cops to actually protect who they’re sworn to protect.”
Jordan Britton (left): “I felt like we’re moving in the right direction, particularly in Baltimore, with our justice system. I hope there’s actually a conviction.”
Brandy Youngson (right): “It’s a great first step. We need to make sure we get justice in this case.”
Tamika Torrence (mother of the girls pictured above): “It’s awesome that they charged them. It’s justice. Not just for Freddie Gray, but for all [killed by police]. It’s finally something that needed to be done.”
“I asked my daughter what she thought we were down here for, and she said to blow up cars. And I said not today. We want to see the good of everybody coming together. It’s just coming out good; we haven’t seen this in a long time. It makes me want to cry. We can come together as a community. It’s a peaceful day.”
Mary Hansen is a reporter for NPR Illinois and a former contributing writer for YES!
Araz Hachadourian is a former online editorial intern at YES!