The pastor of an East Baltimore church said Tuesday that "a few hundred" people will go to the intersection of Pennsylvania and North avenues to keep peace after the verdict in the trial of the first officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray is announced.
Bishop Angel L. Nunez of Bilingual Christian Church on Erdman Avenue said he helped organize clergy, business leaders, police officers, community activists and gang leaders to come to the intersection that saw the height of rioting and arson after Gray's death in April.
"We are embracing arm to arm and our purpose is to show unity and embracing our city in love instead of violence," Nunez said. "My position is protest, but keep the peace."
In the midst of the rioting in April, anti-violence group the 300 Men March linked arms to form a human buffer between police and protesters at Pennsylvania and North avenues. Authorities have been preparing for the possibility of more unrest after the verdict is announced in the trial of Officer William G. Porter, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment in the death of Gray, who sustained a spinal cord injury in police custody and died a week later. The jury began deliberating Monday.
City Councilman Brandon Scott, a co-founder of 300 Men March, said some 60 members of the group "have been on standby since April" in case of further unrest.
"Just like in April they'll do whatever is necessary to help keep the peace and help do whatever is needed to do," Scott said. "I expect people in Baltimore to act as a majority of them did in April and not cause any trouble, but you have to be prepared because you never truly know how someone else is going to act."
Nunez said he met with members of different clergies on Monday night to discuss the peace-keeping plan. He said "the order has gone out" to avoid rioting among leaders of five different gangs, which he did not identify.
"Why burn down the place we live?" Nunez said. "You burn down the place you live, you got to go back to it after everybody's gone."
Nunez was also among a dozen city council candidates and ministers in their 20s and 30s who held a press conference in McElderry Park Tuesday morning to encourage young people to speak out peacefully.
"We can voice our opinions and say what we want to say without rioting, without looting, without the violence," said Jamie Frierson, a candidate for the 9th district city council seat, in front of the McElderry Park Community Association Resource Center. "Let's not show them that we are a product of our environment, but let's show them that there is a better way."
The group walked to East Monument Street in front of a Downtown Locker Room store that was among the businesses damaged in the April riots. They huddled and prayed for peace and a just verdict.
The verdict "might not be in our favor," said Mark Montgomery, a minister at Bethel AME church. "But if we protest with purpose, passion and power, we can see change."