March on Baltimore: 'All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray'

A day of mostly peaceful demonstrations against the death of Freddie Gray turned confrontational as dark fell over Baltimore Saturday evening, as protesters blocked traffic near the Inner Harbor, smashed police car windows and shouted, "Killers!" at officers in riot gear.

More than 100 officers — wearing helmets, gloves and vests and carrying batons — formed a wall along several blocks of Pratt Street, and began to make arrests. State police in full tactical gear were deployed to the city.


Protesters shouted "Killers!" and "You can't get away with this!" and "Hands up don't shoot!" Some threw rocks and water bottles at police mounted on horses, smashed the windows of businesses and looted at least two convenience stores.

At the intersection of Howard and Pratt streets, police chanted "Move back. Move back."


Some protesters indicated that they didn't expect to retreat anytime soon. The Orioles, playing a night game that went into extra innings at Camden Yards, asked fans to stay in the stadium until further notice, as police were clearing crowds on downtown streets with riot shields.

"People are not leaving," London Hall said. "We are tired. We are not going to show them that they got the muscle and the power. We're the voice of the street. These streets belong to us."

With crowds estimated at times at 1,200, it was the largest of the demonstrations that protesters have staged every day since Gray died last Sunday. The 25-year-old sustained spinal cord injuries while in police custody following his arrest April 12 near Gilmor Homes in West Baltimore.

At the Gallery at HarborPlace around 7 p.m., a window at the Michael Kors store was smashed and shoppers were evacuated. Customers, who held coats and scarves over their faces, reported hearing a loud bang as the window was smashed with a trash can.

Leila Rghioui, 20, of Randallstown had stopped by the mall after protesting with friendsearlier in the day.

"All I remember is the security guards started barricading doors and everyone started losing their minds coughing," Rghioui said. She said pepper spray made her throw up.

Faith Demby of West Baltimore was shopping at The Children's Place with her daughter, a third-grader, when the crowd was disrupted. Amena Demby-Ajadi earned the trip to the mall by making the honor roll.

"I know the next time something like this happens — if they are protesting or something — I'll stay home," the girl said.

"I knew when I saw that many people something was going to happen," her mother said. "It was just too many people."

Demonstrators clashed with police outside Oriole Park.

A few protesters jumped on police cars and smashed their windows with trash cans and traffic cones. They grabbed police caps from the cars and posed atop them to cheering and howls of laughter. The group quickly dispersed, sprinting away as a line of police officers came running down the street.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she was "profoundly disappointed."


"I am grateful to the many demonstrators who sought to make their concerns heard in a peaceful and respectful manner," she said. " "A small group of agitators intervened and turned what was otherwise a peaceful demonstration into a violence protest. This is something that was unacceptable to me and everyone who lives in Baltimore."

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said more than a dozen people were arrested, and more arrests were expected into the night.

He said protests were "extremely peaceful" for most of the day. He blamed the trouble on a small number of agitators.

"Baltimore residents were telling people in the crowd to calm down and relax," Batts said. "Residents put themselves between police officers and this agitated crowd and asked for calm and asked for peace, which was very good to see. There appeared to be conflict between the agitators."

Aides to Gov. Larry Hogan said he skipped the White House Correspondents Association dinner in Washington Saturday night to monitor the situation.

In a statement, Sen. Ben Cardin asked demonstrators to remain peaceful.

"As our community watches what was a meaningful and justified protest descend into an ugly scene we have seen all too often across the nation, I make an earnest appeal for peace in Baltimore," he said. "I ask for those involved to not work against our shared goal and distract from seeking justice for Freddie Gray."

Trouble popped up across Downtown Baltimore.

Several people smashed the front door of the 7-Eleven on Light Street at about 9:20 p.m. One person entered the store and took several items while tossing others on the ground.

Donald Kelly, one of the owners of Pratt Street Ale House, watched as protesters took over downtown. Police asked him to move patrons inside.

"We just hope it's a safe night for everybody involved "Normally this is a busy Boston baseball weekend for us, and this is troubling that."

The crowds began to assemble about noon at the site of Gray's arrest near Gilmor homes in West Baltimore. Some participants came from as far as Ferguson, Mo. Most of the marchers, estimated by the Fire Department at 1,200, were from Baltimore.

From Gilmor, they marched in the afternoon to the Western District Police Station, where about 50 officers formed lines around the building.

Twelve-year-old Charles Sheppard leaned against the barricade, holding a sign with a quote from James Baldwin: "Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy of justice."

His mother, Tina Commodore, yelled toward the line of officers: "He's a murder! He's a murder!"

"You know how a volcano erupts?" Charles asked. "That's how I feel inside about this."

Batts, who a day earlier defied calls to step down, walked briefly into a crowd of a hundred or so outside the station. He told reporters he had been working to change the culture of the Police Department.

Some demonstrators shouted: "There's blood on your hands!" and "sellout!"

Before he walked back behind the police line, Batts paused to give 52-year-old Resa Burton a hug.

Burton, a lifelong West Baltimore resident, said she had a message for Batts: "We need justice."

"They killed a man," Burton said. "It could've been me! It could've been me! It could been my brother, my nephew! It could've been you!"

After the protesters crossed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, they stopped for a moment of silence outside Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where Gray fell into a coma before dying. As drivers honked, a bullhorn-carrying leader, Malik Shabazz, president of Black Lawyers for Justice, he told the crowd to hold the intersection.

They then headed to Oriole Park, where Shabazz said, "Let's shake it up."

Protesters began running toward the stadium, kicking parked cars. Shabazz tried to stop them.


One stomped across the top of a police cruiser, and another stood on it.


Gray's brother Juan Grant and cousin Carron Morgan were among the hundreds gathered there early in the day. They helped calm the crowd.

Seventy-five officers stood in unison at the entrance of Camden Yards. Protesters stood steps away, calling them killers.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!" one man shouted. "You like breaking people's necks!"

Another man shouted: "Some of you are good people. It's just the ones who do stupid stuff that we don't like."

As the crowd moved through the intersection of Howard and Camden streets, a group of men and teenagers grabbed soda, water and chips from a hot dog vendor and ran away.

"Hey! That stuff isn't free!" the vendor yelled.

Tywan Paige, 12, marched with his uncle from the Western District.

"The police are gonna keep beating people up!" he shouted.

Police greeted the marchers on Fayette Street near police headquarters. Officers kept helmets strapped to their legs in case violence erupted.

With hundreds of protesters in front of City Hall, organizers shouted into a microphone to energize the crowd.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, raise your hand if you think Freddie Gray was murdered," Shabazz yelled. Hundreds and hundreds of hands went reached for the sky.

"We see black men dropping like files," he said. "We see them all across the United States of America."

Shabazz called on leaders from President Barack Obama to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to address the violent relationship between black communities and law enforcement. He criticized Rawlings-Blake for not getting answers about the Gray case.

"How can you be the mayor and you can't even get a police report from the Police Department?" Shabazz said.

He said the Black Lawyers for Justice are planning another mass rally for next Saturday.

"We're going to keep having these rallies until we get answers," Shabazz said. "Next time we'll have a bigger sound system."

City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the public safety committee, said he went to City Hall to support the citizens of Baltimore, and urged protesters to show up in as much force as possible to lobby to change laws in Annapolis, including the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights.

"We have to formulate this energy and turn it into positive change," Scott said in an interview. "We have to galvanize and have the rest of the state agree with us that those laws should change."

Jowan McKoy, 21, of East Baltimore held a sign that stood out among a sea of messages against the police: "We Kill Each Other Everyday."

"We need to look at ourselves in the mirror," McKoy said. It's not all about police brutality, it's about ourselves and the fact that we kill each other every day. There's never a protest or a march."

Baltimore Sun reporters Colin Campbell and Erica L. Green contributed to this article.


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