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Protests intensify over Gray's death

Sights and sounds of the protest about the death of Freddie Gray while in Baltimore police custody.

Protests continued Wednesday over the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, with demonstrations at the Western District police station and City Hall downtown.

While the protests drew fewer people than the previous day, when several hundred marched from Gilmor Homes, where Gray was arrested, to the police station where he was taken, they were at times more tense.

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Gray, 25, died from a spinal cord injury Sunday morning, a week after he was chased and arrested by police. Police have not said how he was hurt, but city officials have said it happened during his 30-minute ride in the back of a police van.

One protester was detained at the rally of about 100 people outside the Western District station, causing others to swear, press forward into the bike rack barriers and toss bottles of water and Gatorade at the police officers.

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Dozens of officers held their line, with more scrambling to back them up, five of them on horses.

Police did not return a request for information about the protester who was detained.

Demonstrators pulled back, but the anger remained palpable. They filled the air with a call-and-response chant: "What happened to Freddie Gray?" "They murdered him!"

Later Wednesday, a group of 150 to 200 protesters who had marched from the police station moved through downtown, blocking traffic along the way as the police tried to anticipate their moves, en route to City Hall. Young children walked with their mothers, teens rode bikes, and older residents strolled arm in arm, chanting "No justice, no peace," and "All night, all day, we gon' fight for Freddie Gray."

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Through most of the protest, police were stoic, and protest organizers worked to keep things civil and calm.

At one point, marchers moved against organizers' wishes toward the ramp onto the northbound Jones Falls Expressway from Gay Street, where police had set a line of officers to block their path.

On the elevated ramp, a tense moment occurred as loud marchers and the silent officers stood about two feet apart, with only a few organizers between them calling for peace. Behind the front line of marchers, others sat all over the top of a police car.

"We did not come for war," one organizer told protesters.

Before the demonstrations, police union President Gene Ryan expressed concern about the "rhetoric of the protests."

"The images seen on television look and sound much like a lynch mob in that they 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," Ryan said in a statement.

The statement drew an immediate reaction from William "Billy" Murphy, the attorney for the Gray family.

"We've been the victims of the lynching and now we're the lynch mob?" Murphy asked. "The president of the police union called peaceful protests and the anger at the death of a man to severe and unfathomable injuries while in police custody a lynch mob? It doesn't get more insensitive or insulting than that. These remarks illustrate why black people and the police don't get along."

Murphy called for "an immediate apology and a retraction."

Asked repeatedly at a news conference about the "lynch mob" reference, Ryan said, "Maybe I need to reword that." But he continued to back the officers he said had committed no crime.

More protests are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall and 5 p.m. at the Western District station.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin George contributed to this article.

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