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Protesters march through downtown on first day of Gray trials

Freddie Gray protesters: "If we don't get it, shut it down!"

Protesters marched more than a mile through downtown Baltimore's tourist areas on the first evening of the trial of Officer William Porter, one of the six charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.

Chants of "If we don't get it, shut it down!" melded with Christmas music playing over the public address system at the Pandora Ice Rink in the Inner Harbor as the protesters passed.

The group stopped outside the World Trade Center 9/11 memorial, where activists led by Tawanda Jones gave speeches demanding justice for Gray and others — including Jones' brother Tyrone West — who they claim were victims of police brutality.

Gray, 25, died in April from a severe spinal injury sustained in police custody, setting off a week of anti-brutality marches like Monday's that erupted into rioting on the day of his funeral. All six officers charged in Gray's arrest and death have pleaded not guilty.

The protesters continued to chant as they passed the National Aquarium and walked to PowerPlant Live before winding their way up Gay Street past The Block en route to City Hall. City police flanked the march and stepped in to assist PowerPlant security in keeping the protesters from entering the venue's outdoor area. The protest was nonviolent, and no arrests were made.

"Cell blocks for killer cops!" Jones shouted through a megaphone, with the rest echoing her. "This is what democracy looks like!"

The march, which lasted more than an hour, followed a smaller protest outside the courthouse Monday morning.

"All night, all day, we gonna fight for Freddie Gray!" protesters chanted, holding signs that said "Stop Racism Now!" and "Baltimore Stands with Minneapolis & Chicago!"

Participants in both the morning and evening demonstrations called for investment in Baltimore communities and said they stood with protesters against police violence around the nation.

"There is a systemic problem of racism," said Sharon Black of the People's Power Assembly. "It's a structural problem within our police department. There's a problem of neglect in our communities."

As the evening protest ended and the group made its way back to the Circuit Courthouse, they pledged to keep the pressure on throughout all six trials.

"We're not done!" several shouted as the group dispersed for the night.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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