Protesters Pledge To 'Shut Down' Baltimore Over Police Custody Death

Earlier this week, protesters marched for Freddie Gray through downtown Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. A larger protest is planned for Saturday afternoon. (AP)
Earlier this week, protesters marched for Freddie Gray through downtown Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. A larger protest is planned for Saturday afternoon. (AP)

Protesters who have turned out in the streets of Baltimore for several days to express anger over the police custody death of Freddie Gray have promised their largest demonstrations to date this afternoon.

Organizers and supporters, who vowed to "shut down" the city, were using social media to share video of crowds gathering to protest the April 12 death of Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in custody.

Gray died last Sunday, a week after officers chased him down and arrested him in the Gilmor Homes project in West Baltimore. Police say he had a history of violence and drug dealing and that he fled when officers approached him.

His death has sparked city-wide demonstrations protesting police brutality. NPR's Scott Simon visited West Baltimore to talk with residents about their impressions of Gray and police practices.

The Associated Press quotes the president of a black lawyers' group as saying thousands would turn out for today's protest.

"Things will change on Saturday, and the struggle will be amplified," said Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice. "It cannot be business as usual with that man's spine broken, with his back broken, with no justice on the scene."

As we reported on Friday, Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis acknowledged during a news conference that officers had handcuffed Gray after an arrest and placed him in the back of a police van without buckling him in. Davis, however, said it had not yet been determined whether Gray's fatal injury was sustained in van or at the time of arrest.

Also on Friday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Black held a news conference in which she demanded answers at the same time she urged the public to be patient.

"In order to have justice and not just seek justice, the investigation needs to follow procedures," she said. "We have to be able to follow up on leads and they have to be as thorough as possible."

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