Several dozen protesters marched through downtown Baltimore Friday evening, joining other demonstrations across the nation in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
The group in Baltimore marched up Pratt Street chanting Floyd’s name and “Black Lives Matter" while wearing face masks and carrying signs as they passed cars, many of whose drivers honked their horns in support.
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One woman at Baltimore’s march carried a sign that read “I can’t breathe,” echoing comments made by Floyd captured by bystander video as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was observed holding a knee to Floyd’s neck.
Prosecutors in Minnesota announced charges against the officer earlier Friday. Protests spread across the country on Friday, with video showing destruction of a police car in Brooklyn, and crowds gathered in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. In Houston, a police van’s window was smashed, while in Milwaukee, an interstate was briefly shut down by protesters, according to local television reports. Marches were also held in Detroit and Atlanta.
“We are tired of seeing violence against black people and people of color,” said Jessie Link, of Ellicott City, who had come to express her concern. The protests should continue until police change their behavior, she said.
There are protests planned for Saturday and Monday in Baltimore as well, and some of those who came to Friday’s protest said they believed those protests would have larger crowds.
About a dozen people initially gathered at the Inner Harbor. Shortly after 7 p.m. a man led the protest and began a march along Pratt Street and up Charles Street. The group stopped in intersections and blocked traffic for five or 10 minutes.
“I am tired of seeing videos of people who look like me who are murdered on the street,” said Tyler Barron, a recent college graduate who lives in Federal Hill.
The crowd was diverse and included Lauren Modisette, a white woman who carried a flag with a picture of the Earth and a sign that read, “Police the Police.”
“I came her to stand with people of color and to participate and to effect change,” said Modisette who recently moved to Baltimore from New York.
Baltimore resident Triana Johnson, who is black, said she was there because she has sons and brothers. “I am afraid for their lives,” said Johnson. “I want everyone to be peaceful.”
At one point, the group in Baltimore stopped and took a knee on Light Street blocking traffic. Police largely stood aside and detoured traffic. The group later marched to nearby City Hall and police headquarters as a police helicopter circled above. The group remained peaceful. Outside of City Hall, a leader who declined to identify himself, began chanting with the protesters, talking to a line of police officers standing in front of City Hall.
Later in the evening, about 9:30 p.m., the group moved back to the Inner Harbor and continued to block intersections.
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Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said earlier Friday that the department was preparing to handle both small- and large-scale demonstrations this weekend. He said he’s been in contact with the Maryland State Police, as well as chiefs from across the country.
“We prepared for it,” Harrison said. “There are lessons learned from 2015.”
[ As Baltimore reacts to the death of George Floyd, memories of Freddie Gray weigh heavily ]
Baltimore received national and international attention after rioting broke out in April 2015, following the death of Freddie Gray who died a week after he was taken into police custody.
Minneapolis this week saw large-scale protests and rioting, prompting a National Guard presence and an 8 p.m. curfew in the city, measures that were similarly taken in Baltimore in 2015.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Friday he hopes any such local demonstrations remain peaceful “without committing any rioting or burning down stores.”
“To destroy property is just totally unacceptable,” he said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson and Talia Richman contributed to this story.