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After charges against officers, Hopkins' students call for continued protests, dialogue on Freddie Gray

After charges against officers, Hopkins' students call for continued protests, dialogue on Freddie Gray
About 25 Johns Hopkins University students gathered at the corner of North Wolfe Street and Monument street to discuss the protests surrounding Freddie Gray's death. The students encouraged each other to keep the protests going and change the discussion to focus on broader racial inequality and police violence. (Photo by Chase Cook)

Johns Hopkins University students assembled Friday to discuss — and in some ways celebrate — the charges filed against the six officers involved in the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray, and to encourage continued protests for change in what they described as "systemic" issues in Baltimore.

About 25 students formed a circle at the corner of North Wolfe Street and Monument Street where they discussed plans to participate in a rally later Friday, and debated the next steps for the movement launched by Gray's death.

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Gray, 25, died April 19 after suffering a spinal cord injury while in police custody.

The small meeting was planned before charges were filed against the six officers, and so the gathering became a platform to discuss social justice issues.

"We need to stand together and fight," said public policy master's student Juan Ferre, 34, of Charles Village. "This won't be solved in one week."

In between wailing fire engine sirens passing the group, some students — who noted they were representing their own opinions, and not the school's — expressed skepticism about the multiple charges announced by State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby against officers involved in the Gray case.

Others said they hoped the charges would lead to the city lifting its curfew, which has been in place since Monday's riots, and would also prompt the release of people arrested during the protests.

Alexis Toliver, 21, of Charles Village, said the charges are only "winning a battle, not the war," and he encouraged protesters to continue until there are convictions.

The neuroscience and bioethics student said she marched in other rallies for police violence victims, but doing it in Baltimore hits home.

"It hurts even more (here)," she said.

Doctoral student Cory Bradley, 36, told students the city faces a long road as they push for more equality. He said he was glad charges were filed, but it is only the beginning of dialogue between Baltimore's African-American community, the police and the city.

New policies and rules won't work unless authorities change the way they view the African-American community, Bradley said.

"We've been here before," Bradley said. "We have to keep making a fuss. It is about dialogue."

The facts of Freddie Gray's case detailed by Mosby allege that he called for a medic while he was transported in the police van, a fact not lost on the health care professionals in training.

Tracy Kwon, 30, of East Baltimore, is studying nursing and said she supported the calls to continue protests. She said won't matter what medical help students can provide to victims of police violence if they don't work to push back against such incidents in the first place.

"We are just going to be running behind the ambulances," Kwon said. "We need to address the root cause."

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