Sunday 4 December 2016

Protesters take to the streets of Baltimore after death of black man Freddie Gray in custody

Ian Simpson

Published 23/04/2015 | 23:24

Jeff Johnson delivers a speech in front of City Hall during a protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. The U.S. Southern Christian Leadership Conference will independently investigate the death of Gray in police custody, with the local head of the civil rights group saying it lacked confidence in a police probe into the death. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Jeff Johnson delivers a speech in front of City Hall during a protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. The U.S. Southern Christian Leadership Conference will independently investigate the death of Gray in police custody, with the local head of the civil rights group saying it lacked confidence in a police probe into the death. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
A demonstrator delivers a speech in front of City Hall during a protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Demonstrators gather in front of City Hall to protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Demonstrators take to the streets of downtown after a protest in front of City Hall against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Demonstrators halt traffic in downtown after a protest in front of City Hall against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Demonstrators gather in front of City Hall to protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015.
Demonstrators halt the traffic in downtown after a protest in front of City Hall against the death in police custody of Freddie Gray in Baltimore April 23, 2015. Gray, 27, was arrested on April 12 and died on Sunday. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
A protestor holds a sign outside of Baltimore's City Hall before a march for Freddie Gray, Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Angela Hazel reacts during a moment of silence before a protest march for Freddie Gray, Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Protestors gather outside of Baltimore's City Hall before a march for Freddie Gray, Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore police are mounted on horses as they guard the department's Western District police station during a march for Freddie Gray, Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Marchers raise their fists in front of Baltimore police guarding the department's Western District police station during a march for Freddie Gray, Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Rev. Westley West leads a march for Freddie Gray to the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station, Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A man is restrained by fellow marchers as he yells at the Baltimore police guarding the department's Western district police station during a march for Freddie Gray, Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Robert Dunn is hoisted up to speak to the marchers around the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a march for Freddie Gray, Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The U.S. Southern Christian Leadership Conference will independently investigate the death of a black Baltimore man in police custody, with the local head of the civil rights group saying it lacked confidence in a police probe into the death.

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The man, Freddie Gray, 27, was arrested on April 12 and died on Sunday. A preliminary autopsy showed he died of a spinal cord injury. His death has sparked outrage and days of protests in this largely black city of about 620,000 people.

Hundreds of protesters marched at the City Hall against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody today.

Cortly Witherspoon, head of the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said the SCLC had hired Cherry Hill, New Jersey, investigator Terence Jones to look into Gray's death.

Jeff Johnson delivers a speech in front of City Hall during a protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. The U.S. Southern Christian Leadership Conference will independently investigate the death of Gray in police custody, with the local head of the civil rights group saying it lacked confidence in a police probe into the death. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Jeff Johnson delivers a speech in front of City Hall during a protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. The U.S. Southern Christian Leadership Conference will independently investigate the death of Gray in police custody, with the local head of the civil rights group saying it lacked confidence in a police probe into the death. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz

"We're here to fight for justice for Freddie Gray," Witherspoon said on the street corner where Gray was arrested.

He said Baltimore residents had no faith in the ability of city police to investigate themselves and officers had not asked local residents about Gray's death.

Demonstrators take to the streets of downtown after a protest in front of City Hall against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Demonstrators take to the streets of downtown after a protest in front of City Hall against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz

Police said Gray fled when officers approached him in a high-crime area, and they found a switchblade knife in his pocket. He was put in a police van to be taken to a station.

When Gray was taken out he was unresponsive and transported to a hospital. Six officers have been suspended with pay.

A protestor holds a sign outside of Baltimore's City Hall before a march for Freddie Gray, Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A protestor holds a sign outside of Baltimore's City Hall before a march for Freddie Gray, Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Police have said they will conclude their investigation by May 1. The results will be turned over to state prosecutors and followed by an independent review. The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a separate probe into possible civil rights violations.

Witherspoon said police had repeatedly failed to carry out thorough investigations into the deaths of Baltimore residents in police custody. In two police death cases that prompted independent review boards since 2012, the panels had concluded that police had acted appropriately.

Residents of the neighborhood, an area of boarded-up and abandoned rowhouses, echoed Witherspoon.

Gray "shouldn't have been arrested. He didn't have nothing. The police around here are just crazy, man," said Kedrick Jones, an unemployed 25-year-old outside a grocery with a sign on its door saying, "Do not enter with hoodie or mask."

The Western District police station, where Gray was taken, has been a flash point for protests. The streets around it were closed off by barricades guarded by officers.

Gray's death follows a series of killings of unarmed black men by white police that have raised concerns including in Ferguson, Missouri, and North Charleston, South Carolina.

Reuters

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