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Demonstrators Jubilant After Baltimore Police Charges

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Demonstrators Jubilant After Baltimore Police Charges

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Demonstrators Jubilant After Baltimore Police Charges

Demonstrators Jubilant After Baltimore Police Charges

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Protests turned to celebrations in Baltimore after a prosecutor announced charges against six police officers for the death of Freddie Gray. The police union is crying foul.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The news yesterday that six Baltimore police officers would be charged in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray brought joy and relief to a lot of residents there. Reaction to the announcement of criminal charges was peaceful. But police did make arrests last night for curfew violations. Organizers call a demonstration planned for today a victory rally, although the accused officers are a long way from being convicted of any crime. Still for some, yesterday's announcement was a first step toward the city's recovery, as NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: The neighborhood in West Baltimore where violence broke out Monday night turned into a spontaneous outdoor celebration yesterday as the news spread. Car horns blared and residents cheered as National Guardsmen and police in riot gear stood by outside a row of burnt out stores. Residents who'd feared the worst - that there would be no charges and more violence in the streets - were overjoyed. Dannette Barksdale stood in the doorway pumping her fist in the air.

DANNETTE BARKSDALE: So what I feel is what she has done her job. She did the right thing. I feel blessed that our people has come together. We are out here in a positive note. We are not rowdy. And hopefully it stays this way all through the rest of the night.

FESSLER: And by she, Barksdale meant State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who had just announced that Gray's death from the spinal injury he received while in police custody was a homicide, that the police had acted illegally when they arrested Gray and failed to answer his calls for medical assistance. Barksdale says she hopes the day's news is a sign that things might finally be turning around for her impoverished neighborhood.

BARKSDALE: Get this behind, then we can overcome anything else. We can do anything else. And if the crime could go down, jobs can go up. People can, like, live for their children and children can grow up in this world in the city knowing they could be safe and do what's right.

FESSLER: Nearby, Wayne Baker waved at passing cars. He was happy but not quite so optimistic.

WAYNE BAKER: This is a blessing, but remember, this is part one. We need part two.

FESSLER: Baker says he's thrilled that the officers have been charged - one for second degree murder, the others with involuntary manslaughter and assault. But he is going to wait to see what happens next before declaring victory.

BAKER: I really want now - I want them to have a trial. And I want the trial to be seen and heard by all of us. And if the trial comes out like we know that it will - that we know what they've done, and that they do decide to convict them, then they're finally doing the right thing.

FESSLER: Baker says many other residents here besides Freddie Gray have been the victims of police brutality. But at this intersection, on this day, at least, everyone seemed on pretty good terms. Some residents even went out of their way to thank police for their work.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You all did - you all had a job to do.

FESSLER: There were other celebrations, too, around the city with hundreds of people marching through downtown streets for hours. But not everyone was so happy. At an afternoon news conference, representatives of the police union questioned the speed with which the charges have been brought against the six officers. One of their attorneys, Michael Davey, denied that they had done anything wrong, and said they would be vindicated in court.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL DAVEY: We believe that the actions taken today by the state's attorney are an egregious rush to judgment, and we have grave concerns about the fairness, integrity of the prosecution of our officers.

FESSLER: Earlier in the day, the fraternal officer of police raised questions about Mosby's impartiality, noting that she's married to a city councilmen and received campaign donations from the Gray family's attorney. They asked that she appoint a special independent prosecutor to take over the case. But Mosby denied there was any conflict.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARILYN MOSBY: As the city's chief prosecutor, I've been sworn to uphold justice and to treat every individual within the jurisdiction of Baltimore city equally and fairly under the law.

FESSLER: And those on the streets, at least, seem to believe her. Many carried signs thanking her for the job she's done so far. Pam Fessler, NPR News, Baltimore.

SIMON: And elsewhere in the program we will hear from the member of Baltimore city council.

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The news yesterday that six Baltimore police officers would be charged in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray brought joy and relief to a lot of residents there. Reaction to the announcement of criminal charges was peaceful. But police did make arrests last night for curfew violations. Organizers call a demonstration planned for today a victory rally, although the accused officers are a long way from being convicted of any crime. Still for some, yesterday's announcement was a first step toward the city's recovery, as NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

FESSLER: The neighborhood in West Baltimore where violence broke out Monday night turned into a spontaneous outdoor celebration yesterday as the news spread. Car horns blared and residents cheered as national guardsmen and police in riot gear stood by outside a row of burnt out stores. Residents who'd feared the worst - that there would be no charges and more violence in the streets - were overjoyed. Dannette Barksdale stood in the doorway pumping her fist in the air.

BARKSDALE: So what I feel is what she has done her job. She did the right thing. I feel blessed that our people has come together. We are out here in a positive note. We are not rowdy. And hopefully it stays this way all through the rest of the night.

FESSLER: And by she, Barksdale meant State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who had just announced that Gray's death from the spinal injury he received while in police custody was a homicide, that the police had acted illegally when they arrested Gray and failed to answer his calls for medical assistance. Barksdale says she hopes the day's news is a sign that things might finally be turning around for her impoverished neighborhood.

BARKSDALE: Get this behind, then we can overcome anything else. We can do anything else. And if the crime could go down, jobs can go up. People can, like, live for their children and children can grow up in this world in the city knowing they could be safe and do what's right.

FESSLER: Nearby, Wayne Baker waved at passing cars. He was happy but not quite so optimistic.

BAKER: This is a blessing, but remember, this is part one. We need part two.

FESSLER: Baker says he's thrilled that the officers have been charged - one for second degree murder, the others with involuntary manslaughter and assault. But he is going to wait to see what happens next before declaring victory.

BAKER: I really want now - I want them to have a trial. And I want the trial to be seen and heard by all of us. And if the trial comes out like we know that it will - that we know what they've done, and that they do decide to convict them, then they're finally doing the right thing.

FESSLER: Baker says many other residents here besides Freddie Gray have been the victims of police brutality. But at this intersection, on this day, at least, everyone seemed on pretty good terms. Some residents even went out of their way to thank police for their work.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You all did - you all had a job to do.

FESSLER: There were other celebrations, too, around the city with hundreds of people marching through downtown streets for hours. But not everyone was so happy. At an afternoon news conference, representatives of the police union questioned the speed with which the charges have been brought against the six officers. One of their attorneys, Michael Davey, denied that they had done anything wrong, and said they would be vindicated in court.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVEY: We believe that the actions taken today by the state's attorney are an egregious rush to judgment, and we have grave concerns about the fairness, integrity of the prosecution of our officers.

FESSLER: Earlier in the day, the fraternal officer of police raised questions about Mosby's impartiality, noting that she's married to a city councilmen and received campaign donations from the Gray family's attorney. They asked that she appoint a special independent prosecutor to take over the case. But Mosby denied there was any conflict.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MOSBY: As the city's chief prosecutor, I've been sworn to uphold justice and to treat every individual within the jurisdiction of Baltimore city equally and fairly under the law.

FESSLER: And those on the streets, at least, seem to believe her. Many carried signs thanking her for the job she's done so far. Pam Fessler, NPR News, Baltimore.

SIMON: And elsewhere in the program, we'll hear from a member of Baltimore City Council.

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