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Lone protester at start of Goodson trial finds hope in nonviolent message

The Baltimore Sun
The lone protester on the first day of Officer Caesar Goodson's trial spreads nonviolent message

The people of Baltimore walk by Arthur B. Johnson, Jr. on a mild June morning. Those in suits balance leather cases alongside cups of coffee. Others pass in jogging shorts and bright shoes.

They move along Calvert Street, while Johnson stands, holding his sign: "Justice for Freddie Gray."

Johnson, 65 and retired from Bethlehem Steel, was the lone protester outside the Baltimore Circuit Courthouse on the first day of the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson, Jr., the van driver during the April 2015 arrest of Freddie Gray. Goodson's case carries the most serious charge – second-degree depraved-heart muder – of the six officers charged.

"I would like to see (Goodson) be found guilty, of something," Johnson said, "Just to show the world that our system isn't that flawed."

The first trial, of Officer William Porter, resulted in a hung jury and mistrial last December. The second, of Officer Edward Nero, resulted in an acquittal on all charges.

As the lone protester, Johnson is not discouraged. The positive comments from passersby keep him motivated.

"The fact that people are taking notice helps me to come out here every day," he said. "That's enough for me."

Yet, there are moments when Johnson is left to his own thoughts. "I wonder if any justice is going to be served this time. That goes through my mind quite a bit," he said.

The lifelong Baltimore resident wants his message to reach young people, who he said can create change by voting, using social media and following his example of nonviolent protest.

"You can sit there on your couch and shake your head, but what are you doing? So, hopefully what I'm doing will have some impact on somebody somewhere. … There are so many ways you can protest without being violent."

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