Saturday 20 January 2018

Protests turn ugly after another black man dies in custody

Protesters push against riot police during a rally in Baltimore, Maryland
Protesters push against riot police during a rally in Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore residents Dominick Williams (L) and Ricardo Flood encourage passing cars to honk during the wake of Freddie Gray who died while in police custody
Baltimore resident Caira Byrd encourages passing cars to honk while she protests in Baltimore, Maryland

Skip Foreman

A peaceful protest turned ugly as thousands of people took to the streets of a US city to demand answers in the case of a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody.

Pockets of protesters smashed police car windows and storefronts.

The protests in Baltimore came a day after Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said Freddie Gray should have received medical attention at the spot where he was arrested, before he was put inside a police van handcuffed and without a seat belt, a violation of the department's policy. He suffered a fatal spinal injury in custody.

Gray's death on April 19 has intensified a national debate over police treatment of African-Americans. It has been compared to those of unarmed black men who died at the hands of police in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri, cases that sparked social unrest around the US.

Gray was arrested after he made eye contact with officers and ran away, police said. Officers held him down, handcuffed him and loaded him into the van. While inside, he became irate and leg cuffs were put on him, police have said.

Authorities have not explained how or when Gray's spine was injured. Video showed him being dragged into a police van, and police have said he rode in it for about 30 minutes before paramedics were called.

Residents voiced their anger at how the department and the city's officials are handling the investigation into Gray's death.

Protesters threw cans and plastic bottles in the direction of police officers. One protester broke the window of a police cruiser, grabbed a police hat inside and wore it while standing on top of the cruiser with several other protesters.

A small "splinter group" of protesters looted a convenience store and threw tables and chairs through storefront windows, authorities said. Police said a total of 34 people had been arrested and six officers suffered minor injuries. In her first public comments since Gray's death, his twin sister, Fredricka Gray, appealed for calm.

"My family wants to say, can you all please, please stop the violence?" she said at a news conference with the mayor. "Freddie Gray would not want this."

Irish Independent

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