Freddie Gray protests small, peaceful

Baltimore Police suit up in tactical gear as protesters gather near Inner Harbor amid Freddie Gray hearing.

Protests on the day of the first court hearing in the death of Freddie Gray were small and mostly peaceful, but they briefly turned heated when police arrested an activist at the Inner Harbor.

"Tell the truth and stop the lies, Freddie Gray didn't have to die!" chanted a few dozen demonstrators who gathered outside the Baltimore courthouse Wednesday morning.

The lone arrest came around 9:15 a.m., after protesters marched to the Inner Harbor, where groups of uniformed officers were posted on street corners. Police said they arrested Darius Rosebrough, 21, after he attempted to stop the free flow of traffic and claimed falsely to be struck by a motorist. The charges include second-degree assault and disorderly conduct.

Rosebrough is a community activist and hip-hop artist better known by the name Kwame Rose.

Police said an officer suffered minor injuries while assisting with the arrest.

City and police leaders said they were pleased with how the demonstrations went.

"Today's actions were peaceful, respectful, and an example of democracy in action," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said outside police headquarters late Wednesday afternoon. "And it shows people what Baltimore is really about."

"Today was a good day for Baltimore," added interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. "The world, certainly the nation, saw the Baltimore Police Department at its best today."

Protesters and members of the news media began to descend on the courthouse at 8 a.m., 90 minutes before the court proceedings began. Several dozen protesters gathered at Calvert and Lexington streets carrying signs and a bullhorn.

"We want to put pressure for these officers to be held accountable for the murder of Freddie Gray," said Colleen Davidson, with a group called Fight Imperialism Stand Together.

Sheriff's deputies in bulletproof vests stood watch outside the courthouse as workers put up barriers to block a lane of traffic.

"Freddie, Freddie, Freddie!" protesters chanted as morning rush-hour traffic passed. "Books, not bombs; schools, not jails!"

Adam Jackson, 27, of the group Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, waited in line in front of the courthouse and said he wanted to be informed throughout the proceedings.

"One of the issues that's happened in other places that we don't want to see repeated here is a bunch of national media attention that's kind of obscured ... justice and the local organizing that needs to continue to happen," the West Baltimore man said.

Baltimore officers were assisted by the Maryland State Police and officers from Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Police urged marchers — estimated by police at between 50 and 75 — to remain on the sidewalk as they encountered the last of the morning rush-hour traffic on Pratt Street.

Davis said the department learned from the protests over Gray's death in April, during which there were skirmishes between police and protesters.

"We treated a protest like a protest," he said Wednesday. "From a law enforcement perspective, I think we spoke with clarity this time around."

Still, some protesters said they felt the police presence was excessive for the small crowds Wednesday.

"There are officers on every corner of this block," said Lawrence Brown, an assistant professor of public health at Morgan State University, as he stood outside police headquarters with a small group. "No one's out here attacking police."

Witnesses gave varying accounts of Rosebrough's arrest. Some said he was injured when he was hit by a car. Others said that story was fabricated. An officer held a Taser to Rosebrough's back during the arrest. Police later said they did not Tase him.

Rosebrough's attorney, Anthony Butler, said his client was treated at a local hospital and released, and was waiting to go before a court commissioner at Central Booking on Wednesday afternoon.

"We're still gathering facts," Butler said.

Sharon Black with the Peoples Power Assembly, a group that organized Wednesday's protests, said Rosebrough was handcuffed by officers without being administered medical attention.

Max Masinter, who said he witnessed the encounter, said protesters embellished the story. Masinter said the man was with the group of protesters walking toward the Inner Harbor and was crossing the street and stopped in front of a car on Calvert Street. He said the man was not hit or injured before police arrested him.

"He was not hurt and he lashed out at the police," Masinter said. "I witnessed it myself."

Hours after the hearing concluded, about 100 people gathered outside the courthouse for another rally. Some had returned from the morning protests. Others had come for "West Wednesdays," in support of Tyrone West, another man who died in police custody.

Tawanda Jones, West's sister, said that if police officers are held accountable, "it'll be peace. The unrest will be gone. That's it."

The West family has protested weekly since his death in 2013.

Black encouraged the group to return to the streets Sept. 10, when prosecutors and defense attorneysin the Gray case are scheduled to argue a motion to move it out of Baltimore.

"We don't want it," she said. "They should be tried in Baltimore City."

Baltimore Sun reporters Colin Campbell and Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

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