Residents welcome US prosecutor’s decision to charge police officer with murder and five others with lesser crimes.
A march planned by activists to protest the death of a black man in police custody is now being dubbed as a “victory rally” after criminal charges were slapped against the officers involved.
The march on Saturday follows a decision by Baltimore’s top prosecutor to file criminal charges against the six police officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death.
The officers turned themselves in at the city jail on Friday afternoon. All were later released on bonds of between $250,000 and $350,000.
Maryland State Attorney Marilyn Mosby said on Friday that Gray’s arrest was illegal and unjustified, and that his neck was broken because he was handcuffed, shackled and placed head-first into a police van.
Mosby’s announcement triggered celebrations across the same Baltimore streets that were hit with unrest just four days earlier, when Gray’s funeral led to riots and looting.
People danced in the streets, chanting “Freddie” to celebrate the charges. Some were later arrested by police, however, for refusing to disperse after a curfew went into effect at 10pm for the fourth night.
The thousands of protesters who are expected to attend over the weekend will now do so to celebrate the decision by Mosby to charge the officers with felonies ranging from assault to murder.
Gray’s death from spinal injuries a week after his April 12 arrest became a rallying cry against brutality and social inequality in the city.
The swift decision by Mosby, who has been in the position only since January, to charge the six officers caught many by surprise in a city hit on Monday night by its worst civil unrest in decades.
The police had no reason to stop or chase after Gray, Mosby said. “They falsely accused him of having an illegal switchblade when in fact it was a legal pocketknife.”
|Baltimore: Anatomy of an American City|
The officer who drove the police vehicle in which Gray was taken after his arrest was charged with second-degree murder, which could put him in prison for 30 years if convicted.
Mosby, who rejected the police union’s call for a special prosecutor, earned praise from protesters and Gray’s family.
“We are satisfied with today’s charges,” Gray’s stepfather, Richard Shipley, told a news conference. “These charges are an important step in getting justice for Freddie.”
But a lawyer hired by the union insisted the officers did nothing wrong. Attorney Michael Davey said that Mosby has committed “an egregious rush to judgment”.
“We have grave concerns about the fairness and integrity of the prosecution of our officers,” Davey said.