Rally over Freddie Gray aims to 'shut down' Baltimore on Saturday

"For those that are planning civil disobedience ... I will not be trying to stop them," said Malik Shabazz, of Black Lawyers for Justice.

Ed Adamczyk and Doug G. Ware
Protesters upset about the death of Freddie Gray, who received a fatal injury April 12 while being transported to a police station, plan larger demonstrations for Saturday, April 25, 2015, that they hope will shut down the city of Baltimore. Photo: @deray/Twitter.
Protesters upset about the death of Freddie Gray, who received a fatal injury April 12 while being transported to a police station, plan larger demonstrations for Saturday, April 25, 2015, that they hope will "shut down" the city of Baltimore. Photo: @deray/Twitter.

BALTIMORE, April 25 (UPI) -- After a week of passionate protests over the death of Freddie Gray, protest organizers said Friday that Baltimore hasn't seen anything yet.

Angry residents and supporters pledged to run rallies Saturday that will "shut down" the city -- and deliver a stark message to city officials, the city's police department, and the entire United States that police brutality will not be accepted.


The angry protests began after cellphone video surfaced that showed police arresting the 25-year-old Gray and placing him inside a police transport on April 12. NBC Washington reported that Gray was arrested after trying to run from police.

During transport, Gray remained unbuckled inside the Baltimore police van and at one point during the trip asked for medical assistance. Paramedics were reportedly summoned 30 minutes later and medical professionals discovered that Gray had suffered a mysterious spinal injury.

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He was hospitalized with a fractured spine and died a week after his arrest.

Gray's injury may have resulted from the lack of a seat belt while being transported -- a violation of department policy -- a lawyer said Friday.

Baltimore authorities have launched an investigation and six police officers have been suspended with pay for the duration of the probe.

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An attorney said despite rules demanding that detained passengers in police vans wear seatbelts, Gray was not belted in.

Gray was wearing handcuffs and leg irons as he was taken from the scene. Assistant Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez has said Gray was secured by leg irons after he became agitated, but did not mention a seat belt.

The department's policy of buckling in prisoners for transport, officials said, is a direct result from a near identical incident a decade ago.

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In 2005, Dondi Johnson was arrested by Baltimore police for urinating in public. He was cuffed and placed in a police van to be taken to a police station. Like Gray, he sustained a fractured spine en route and died two weeks later.

"The reason we have the policy around seat belts in the police vans is because of an incident that happened previously," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "I still want to know why none of the officers called for immediate medical assistance despite Mr. Gray's apparent pleas."

The police investigation results will be turned over to prosecutors, who will then determine whether to file criminal charges.

About 200 people in Baltimore, protesting the arrest and death of Gray, snarled downtown traffic with a march in the streets Friday evening. Police, along with reinforced members of the Maryland State Police, scuffled briefly with demonstrators and two people were taken into custody on charges of disorderly conduct and property destruction.


More protests and a greater turnout of supporters are expected Saturday, and rally organizers hope it will be so large that it will virtually shut the city down.

"Things will change on Saturday, and the struggle will be amplified," Malik Shabazz, of Black Lawyers for Justice, said.

"For those that are planning civil disobedience, I am only interested in being their attorney and helping them to get out," he was quoted by WBAL-TV. "I will not be trying to stop them."

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday commended the peaceful protests so far and urged demonstrators to maintain restraint during the weekend marches.

"To date, the nature of these demonstrations have been a testament to Baltimore's strong character and our common commitment to peace and justice," he said. "It is my hope that events planned for this weekend continue to reflect positively on the community."

The protests this week largely centered on six police officers, involved in Gray's arrest. Although they began as peaceful demonstrations, tensions have been simmering since police union president Genre Ryan warned the crowds could become "lynch mobs."

In a statement, Ryan said, "They (demonstrators) are calling for the immediate imprisonment of these officers without them ever receiving the due process that is the constitutional right of every citizen, including law enforcement officers."


Gray's mysterious death while in police custody, and the following protests, has put Baltimore in the debate over police conduct after incidents in Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland and North Charleston, S.C., in recent months.

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