BALTIMORE – First responders from Prince George’s County and its municipalities have left Baltimore while clergy and some residents stayed around to pray for healing and rally after the city’s state’s attorney decided to press charges against six police officers involved in the death of a 25-year-old man who died in police custody. Riots and […]
BALTIMORE – First responders from Prince George’s County and its municipalities have left Baltimore while clergy and some residents stayed around to pray for healing and rally after the city’s state’s attorney decided to press charges against six police officers involved in the death of a 25-year-old man who died in police custody.
Riots and looting last Monday night led to Governor Larry Hogan declaring a state of emergency in the city, authorizing the use of 3,000 National Guardsmen, 578 state troopers and other allied law enforcement officers; and 283 law enforcement from Pennsylvania and 149 from New Jersey after residents protested following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died on April 19, a week after police arrested him following a foot pursuit. Gray suffered a severe spine injury and a crushed voice box while in police custody.
At the time, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III promised the county’s full cooperation. The county police department sent 30 officers while Greenbelt sent nine city police officers and Laurel sent 10. The county fire department sent 55 personnel, eight engine companies and two ladder trucks, according to Mark Brady, a department spokesman.
“We send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Baltimore as they begin the healing process,” Baker said. “Prince George’s County is here to assist, volunteer and support in the rebuilding efforts. I am committed to providing not only public safety assistance, but any and all resources from the Prince George’s County government to help the city’s residents. In the days to come, it will be incumbent upon us all to work with the people of Baltimore as they recover from this tragic situation. This is not just a Baltimore issue, it is an American issue and when we recognize this, we can truly begin to heal this city, this state and this country.”
As of Tuesday, all personnel from Prince George’s County had left Baltimore.
In the wake of the riots and looting, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake implemented a 10 p.m. – 5 a.m. curfew, which ended Sunday. During the curfew, officers continued to form riot lines at the intersection of North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore. Officers fired tear gas after a protestor allegedly threw firecrackers, and officers fired rubber bullets at those who approached their lines.
On Friday, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges against six Baltimore City police officers for their alleged role in Gray’s death following an independent investigation into the matter upon receiving notice of the incident.
The officers charged— Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, Edward M. Nero, Garrett E. Miller and Alicia D. White—consist of three white men, two black men and one black woman. The charges include second-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, false imprisonment and misconduct in office.
Following the announcement of the charges, clergy conducted prayer vigils throughout the city and Baltimore County. The congregation at Liberty Seventh-day Adventist Church, which includes residents from Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, conducted a vigil and also collected toiletries and other items to donate to residents of West Baltimore.
Craig Davis, a Baltimore resident and member of the church, said the charges against the officers will allow the community to heal.
“Indicting (the officers) places value on the good officers on the force,” Davis said. “If bad officers are not held accountable, good officers pay the price.”
Pastor Mark McLeary, who lives in Montgomery County, said the charges bring “some relief” to the community that the system worked. However, he said police need to be able to do their job safely, and he hopes the department provides more training to officers on how to handle tough situations. He also said he is working to organize a symposium with officials, police and residents.
“Let’s use this as an opportunity, rather than a stopping block,” McLeary said. “This is more than just a race issue—it’s a human rights issue.”
Rocky Twyman, a civil rights activist and founder of the Pray at the Pump movement, said he wants President Barack Obama to make a visit to Baltimore because the city needs to know it has the support of the country’s leader. He also said it was wrong of the mayor and Obama to call protestors who participated in the riots “thugs.”
“We need (Obama) to physically make a presence. I’m making a passionate plea,” Twyman said. “It would make a big difference. Baltimore is only 40 miles from the White House.”
Keith Paul, a member of the congregation from Beltsville, said he was not surprised three of the cops charged are black.
“We are harder on our own sometimes and want to do enforcement,” Paul said.
He also said he could see a case of police brutality occurring in Prince George’s, but he thinks the police department does a good job for the most part because the officers live in the community.
“They are hiring faces you see in the supermarket. You see them in person and on the beat,” Paul said.
Later on Saturday, thousands gathered near City Hall to participate in a rally. There, people could be heard reciting several chants including, “Indict! Convict! Send those killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!”
Malik Shabazz, the national president of the Black Lawyers for Justice, spoke to the crowd, leading chants of “No justice, no peace!”
Shabazz praised the high schoolers who participated in the riots at Mondawmin Mall earlier in the week in West Baltimore, calling them “the greatest youth of our generation.” He asked for change from the government, including elimination of bail and amnesty for all those who are locked up in prison. He also asked the mayor to lift the curfew and asked Hogan to remove the National Guard.
Shabazz also read out the charges of the six officers, with support from the crowd, and praised Mosby for “having the courage” to indict the officers.
“Baltimore police, your feelings are hurt. But don’t take it out on us,” he said. “Your day of justice has come.”
Julian Sadur contributed to this report.