Hundreds take to West Baltimore streets to protest Freddie Gray's death

On Tuesday night, two days after Freddie Gray died from injuries he received a week earlier under unknown circumstances while in police custody, hundreds of Baltimoreans turned out for a protest, march, and vigil in West Baltimore. 

Helicopters and vans from local and national media outlets, including CNN and MSNBC, clustered around Western District police headquarters as protestors, many of them alerted by Baltimore Bloc's Twitter feed, gathered there Tuesday afternoon. Representatives from People's Power Assembly and FIST Youth Group held banners that said "Black Lives Matter," while many in attendance carried signs that said "Justice 4 Freddie." Reverend Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple on Eutaw Place spoke to the crowd.

At around 6:15 p.m., the group marched from the district headquarters to the site where Gray was taken into custody, reportedly for running away after making eye contact with police officers, near the Gilmor Homes in Sandtown-Winchester. They were joined by dirt-bike riders—including Pug, featured in the movie "12 O'Clock Boys"—who rode through the march popping wheelies and slapping hands.

At the site, there were balloons and a sign where people wrote "get well" wishes for Gray, written before he died on Sunday, addressing him as both Freddie and his nickname Pepper.

Reverend Westley West, the pastor at Faith Empowered Ministries, a church just blocks from Gilmor Homes, led the march and stopped protestors at several points to speak to the crowd and ask for moments of silence for Gray. "We're gonna start a Freddie movement," he said at one point. "We want some justice, we want some peace, we got children that need to grow up on these streets."

In an interview with City Paper, he explained how he got involved in the protests. "People in the community are not happy with what's taken place, so, me being a pastor in the community, I heard the cries of the people that said, 'Hey, this is necessary,'" he said. "We wanted to walk in the community where Freddie Gray is from, so we'd go around the whole community."

As the protestors walked north on Mount Street, east on North Avenue, and then south on Pennsylvania Avenue, cars honked horns in support, while many residents sat on stoops, stood in doorways, and hung out of windows.

Protesters Shaquita Huntley and Tracey Jones took a minute to rest on a stoop.

"I knew him," Huntley, who lives in Sandtown-Winchester, said of Gray. "He lived on my block, like, when he was younger. But I haven't seen him in a long time."

"But we have sons," added Jones, who said her 23-year-old son is also in the march.

"He could've been one of ours," said Huntley.

By around 7:15 p.m., marchers returned to the station, where an impassive line of officers manned a barricade that blocked off nearby Riggs Avenue. Two officers wearing flak jackets watched from a station window, taking pictures of the crowd.

Protesters chanted "No justice, no peace, no racist police" and "Tell the truth and stop the lie, Freddie Gray didn't have to die." Some held up middle fingers at the officers, while others openly smoked marijuana. Some lit candles in memory of Gray, others tried to engage the officers in conversations, but none were seen responding.

One woman spoke to the crowd. "I'm scared for my babies," she said. "A mother is about to bury her child—as a mother, that's the worst thing you can imagine. We gotta stand up for him. We gotta stand up for ourselves."

By 10 p.m., the crowd had begun to disperse, but planned to return for another protest today and, according to Baltimore Bloc, "every day" this week at 5 p.m.

Check out our photo coverage of the protests here

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