Baltimore Riots Update

The United States Justice Department announced May 7 that they would be conducting an investigation on the Baltimore City Police Department at the request of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The request came days after Baltimore chief persecutor Marilyn Mosby filed charges against six Baltimore City police officers involved in the the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, after receiving a report from a medical examiner who ruled Gray’s death a homicide.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department’s investigation would go beyond the death of Freddie Gray. The Justice Department rarely declines such a request from a mayor or police chief.

The announcement follows civil unrest erupting in Baltimore in reaction to the death of the 25-year-old, an African American resident of the city.

Gray was arrested April 12 for possession of a switchblade. According to police, Gray attempted to flee, unprovoked on foot before officers chased and tackled him. The circumstances of the arrest are unclear, though several eyewitnesses said the use of “excessive force” was the cause of Gray’s severe spinal injury that resulted in his death a week later. Mosby, however, believes Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while being transported in a police van rather than during his arrest, attributing the injury to the failure of officers to put a seatbelt on him.

“”It was clear that recent events, including the tragic, in-custody death of Mr. Freddie Gray, had given rise to a serious erosion of public trust,” Lynch said.

Through demonstrations following Gray’s funeral April 27 were initially peaceful, they took a violent turn after protesters began pelting police officers with rocks. Threats of gang violence, as well as the burning and looting of local businesses amidst the demonstrations resulted in Gov. Larry Hogan signing an executive order the same day, declaring a state of emergency in Baltimore until further notice. Hogan also activated the Maryland national guard and issued a curfew in effect until May 3.

The demonstrations continued well into the week, resulting in the arrests of over 200 people, injuries of 100 police officers, damage to 20 public places and the closing of Baltimore County Public Schools April 28.

“I understand their feelings and I think it is awful things have turned to this,” junior Clarissa Libertelli said. “I just hope now people listen so that things like this won’t happen in the future.

The riots and protests coincide with the explosive trending topic and movement, “#Blacklivesmatter.” The actions in Baltimore echoes the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. earlier this year following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black male. Demonstrations were held in solidarity with Baltimore across the country in major cities such as New York City, Washington D.C and Boston.

Balitimore resident Surafel Makonnen said, “I feel the police now realize their actions will be watched closely and now know they cannot get away with how they treat citizens a�� this was a very eye opening experience for the Baltimore area, especially for the corruption and how the justice system needs to be checked.”