As the court date approaches for the six officers who have been charged in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, activists in Baltimore are preparing to protest outside of the courthouse and throughout the city.
On Wednesday, hearings will begin in front of Judge Barry Williams to determine whether the case against the officers should be dismissed, or if he should recuse State Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby. If the officers are tried, Williams will also decide if trials will be conducted together or separately. At a second hearing on Sept. 10, it will also be established whether the case will be moved outside of the city.
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the police transport van that carried Gray before his death, is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder. Sgt. Alicia D. White, Lt. Brian W. Rice, and Officer William G. Porter have been charged with manslaughter. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller, who were also involved in Gray’s arrest for allegedly possessing an illegal switchblade, have lesser charges of second-degree assault.
The police department has been preparing for protesters and canceled leave for all officers during this week’s court appointment. According to the Baltimore Sun, police spokesman T.J. Smith said the leave cancellation was determined not because they anticipate violence, but, “out of an abundance of caution, just so we’re not caught flat-footed in case there is a need.”
In addition to police officers, the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office – which provides security for the Calvert Street Courthouse – is also expected to have an “increased presence” on Wednesday. Baltimore authorities have also met with other officials from surrounding jurisdictions in preparation.
Sharon Black, a member of a group planning protests at the downtown Circuit Court, told The Baltimore Sun:
“Our message is pretty obvious. Do not drop the charges. No change in venue. Do not recuse Marilyn Mosby,” she said.
“Our demands are pretty simple. We want to keep the attention on those three issues.”
Black, part of the Black People’s Power Assembly, believes that if Mosby is removed from the case, it will send the wrong message to the public and will only intensify protests.
Duane “Shorty” Davis, an organizer of Baltimore BLOC, says he encourages members of the community to engage in nonviolent protest and minimize any civil disobedience. Davis does not plan to protest in West Baltimore, where the events surrounding Gray’s death took place. Instead, he urges protesters to go downtown and to wealthier areas and spread awareness about the injustices perpetuated against Black bodies.
Via The Baltimore Sun:
“I want you to go to Canton, Fells Point, the Inner Harbor, the Orioles’ games,” Davis said. “We’re not just going to go in the Black community and wave our hands. We’re going to the White communities.”
In April, Baltimore police were upbraided by The Fraternal Order of Police for the way in which they handled the protests, aggressively pursuing protesters and even school children. Over 100 officers were injured, so now officials have ordered new protective wear in case the protests escalate.
Police spokesman Smith stated that people “have a right to protest,” and said law enforcement surrounding the court will not be wearing riot gear. Police are asking the public to help encourage peaceful protests.
At a public safety forum on Monday night, Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said, “police will treat a protest like a protest and a riot like a riot,” and that officers “can’t afford to get those two mixed up.”
SOURCES: The Baltimore Sun | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
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