The Vanguard Justice Society, a group for black police officers, held a press conference Wednesday to voice support for Sgt. Alicia White, one of 6 officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)
Protesters will march in Baltimore this weekend during the Preakness, but unlike those outside Camden Yards during an Orioles game last month and near the Army-Navy game at M&T Bank Stadium in December, organizers do not plan to interfere with traffic near Pimlico Race Track.
More than 100 are expected to meet at 3 p.m. Saturday at McKeldin Square and march through the Inner Harbor demanding amnesty for those arrested during the Freddie Gray protests in the past month, said the Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Gray, a 25-year-old West Baltimore man, died on April 19, a week after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury in police custody. All six officers involved in Gray's arrest have been criminally charged.
In a statement, the Baltimore Police Department pledged an "increased police presence in the surrounding neighborhoods" this weekend but did not specify how many officers or say how they would deal with any unannounced protests outside the racetrack.
"The plan is what it always is — to ensure the peaceful expression of people's First Amendment Constitutional rights," police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said.
During the April 25 Orioles game, lines of officers blocked the northeast entrance to Camden Yards, preventing marchers, and some fans, from entering the ballpark. Scuffles broke out nearby at Camden and Howard streets soon afterward.
Protesters who marched toward M&T Bank Stadium during the Army-Navy game in December were met at Lombard and Greene streets by a phalanx of city officers, state troopers and a police van, preventing them from going anywhere near the football stadium.
School walk on Friday
A separate group on Friday evening will walk from Langston Hughes Elementary School, which is slated for closure by the Baltimore City school board, to Pimlico Elementary/Middle School, where many of the students would have to relocate.
The walk is intended to demonstrate the difficulty of the potential commute for those students, a long one through violent, drug-ridden areas, said George Mitchell, the Langston Hughes Neighborhood Association president.
Mitchell said his group recognizes the benefits the Preakness brings to Baltimore and wants to make a point without interrupting the event.
"We know the race is a positive for Baltimore, so we don't want to be known as disruptive," he said. "But we want them to know that education is important to kids here in Baltimore — more important than a horse race."
"There's a very important issue when you talk about closing down schools," he said. "That affects the next 20 to 30 years of their life."
No Boundaries meeting Saturday
A neighborhood group and several other city organizations will hold the first of several public hearings on alleged police misconduct in West Baltimore at a local church.
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The West Baltimore Commission on Police Misconduct will listen to testimony of those who say they've been mistreated by police at noon Saturday at Sharon Baptist Church.
The commission is led by the No Boundaries Coalition, along with the Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, the Greater Baltimore Urban League and the NAACP.
No Boundaries volunteers have gone door-to-door, speaking with more than 250 residents since Gray's death, according to officials. The group plans to interview residents, report their findings and push for policy changes, spokeswoman Rebecca Nagle said.
"We're trying to basically understand what the problem is and collect evidence so that we'll have a lot of power behind the work," she said.