Outrage over the unexplained death of a black man in Baltimore, Maryland prompted nationwide protests against police brutality on Wednesday from Houston to Boston.
Baltimore has been the scene of near-nightly protests ever since the April 19 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who is believed to have been fatally injured while in police custody.
However, the most dramatic protests Wednesday night happened in New York City, where a group of activists started an illegal march. According to the New York Post, more than 120 protesters were arrested by police officers trying to maintain order on the streets.
Activists started gathering after 5pm in New York’s Union Square, and quickly grew to more than 1,000. All the while, police warned over loud speakers that they would start making arrests if the group moved out of the park.
Cops followed through on that threat when defiant leaders of the group started moving the masses onto the street–blocking traffic during the city’s rush hour.
Despite initial clashes with cops, the protest re-grouped several blocks to the west where they started marching northbound on the sidewalk of a major highway. Police appear to have left the protesters pretty much alone, escorting them on their march and only intervening when they stepped out into the streets.
At one point, the group formed a line at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel on the city’s west side–one of the major exits off the island to New Jersey.
The student-led protest in Baltimore began around 5:30pm at John Hopkins University and quickly grew to include more than 1,000 as they made their way to city hall holding signs reading ‘black lives matter’ and ‘black youth are not thugs’.
In one segment of the demonstration, protesters could be heard chanting: ‘Back up, back up, we want freedom. All these racist-a** cops we don’t need them.’
Gray’s death is just the latest to be connected to the national issue of police violence towards African Americans, inspiring protests not only in Baltimore but in several other major cities across the country. As the youth of Baltimore marched Wednesday evening, twin protests sprung up across the country following demonstrations in Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri the night before.
‘It’s great, the young people are doing what they should be doing. They should be sending a message that they want answers,’ Baltimore Councilman Brandon Scott told the Baltimore Sun.
Diondre ‘Grim’ Jackson was one of the students marching Wednesday night, and he said he is ‘living proof there is goodness. . .in this community.’
‘Everyone says youth have no voice. This is showing them youth are willing to use their voice for justice,’ the senior at Frederick Douglass High School told the Baltimore Sun.
Towson University student Koren Johnson, 19, one of the march’s organizers, added: ‘We do have opinions. We’re the ones getting murdered in the streets.’
Gray, 25, was arrested on April 12 for carrying a switchblade and within an hour was in hospital for serious spinal injuries. He died a week later, and the Department of Justice is currently investigating whether the cops who arrested Gray are responsible for causing his fatal injuries.
After similar demonstrations turned to rioting and looting Monday night, Gov Larry Hogan instituted a mandatory 10pm to 5am curfew. About 2,000 National Guardsmen and 1,000 police officers will be enforcing the curfew.
For the second night in a row, the citizens of Baltimore complied with the curfew and the streets were cleared by the designated hour.
At an afternoon press conference, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said there were no major incidents on Wednesday. Batts’ press conference came just minutes after it was announced that about half of the protesters arrested in the rioting on Monday would be released without being charged. However, Batts said these individuals could be hit with charges later.
In solidarity with Boston, other demonstrations also look place in Washington, DC and Boston.
The protest in Boston started just before 8pm Wednesday night outside police headquarters, and the group of about 1,000 then moved towards Dudley Square with some chanting ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ and ‘no justice, no peace’.
The Boston police commissioner issued a statement, asking the protesters to remain peaceful.
‘We are concerned about the kids who show up at these protests hell bent on causing problems,’ Comissioner William Evans said. ‘It’s the small splinter groups such as Occupy. . . . We see them out at every protest.’
Meanwhile, a group in the nation’s capitol, just a half-hour north of Baltimore, marched from Chinatown to the White house to make their statement against police brutality.
‘I’m out here tonight because change has to happen,’ Maryland resident Sherita Sweeney, 30, told the Washington Post. ‘Sitting behind your laptop, tablet or cellphone complaining–you’re part of the problem, not the solution.’
In downtown Indianapolis, more than two dozen protesters marched around Monument Circle chanting ‘no racist police’ and carrying signs with slogans that included ‘I’m not scared of the apocalypse. I’m scared of a copalypse.’
Several dozen people have demonstrated at a busy Houston intersection to protest the death of a black man in the custody of Baltimore police.
About 50 people gathered Wednesday evening at the intersection near the south Houston campus of historically black Texas Southern University. Some were holding placards bearing such slogans as ‘Honk For Justice’ and ‘America’s Worst Nightmare.’
The protesters were outnumbered by the police presence that included officers mounted on horseback and flying overhead in a helicopter. An ambulance and a bus were on standby.
Earlier in the day, the Baltimore Orioles played the Chicago White Sox to an empty Camden Yards Stadium–after it was decided to ban spectators from the event due to safety concerns.
It was the first time in Major League baseball history that a game had been held without fans.