baltimore riots

First Freddie Gray Trial Begins As More Baltimore Riots Feared

The first Freddie Gray trial begins as Baltimore braces for riots to occur once again. Gray, 25, suffered some type of “mysterious injury” while being transported by police on April 19 and died shortly later. Black Lives Matter and other activists engaged in protests over alleged police brutality as the Baltimore riots took over the city earlier this spring.

Six Baltimore police officers were indicted in the Freddie Gray case. Jury selection for the first trial in the case began on Monday morning. Officer William Porter is the first officer to be tried in connection with Gray’s death. If Officer William Porter is acquitted on the charges levied against him, both residents and local officials fear Baltimore riots could once again take control of the streets.

Officer William Porter faces charges of manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. Baltimore prosecutors reportedly chose to try him first because they want to use him as a witness in the other Freddie Gray trials, USA Today reports.

“Everything is at stake. The future of the city is at stake,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.

The Freddie Gray protests remained primarily peaceful for a few days after his death made national headlines, but the tone of the gatherings changed sharply upon his burial. During the Baltimore riots, stores were looted and burned down. Exactly why the protesters chose to burn stores that provided jobs in the community to highlight their concerns over police brutality remains unclear.

The Baltimore riots cost the city millions of dollars in property damage. The homicide rate soared in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death, according to ABC News. The news agency also reports that blood spilling on the city streets has maintained at a pace not experienced in the city in decades.

William Porter is accused of failing to get medical help for Gray when the police van made “several stops” during its 45-minute trip. When the van reached its final destination, Baltimore police officer found Freddie Gray to be unresponsive. He was later transported to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries a week later.

When placed inside the van, Gray was reportedly already handcuffed. Later, during the police van trip, he was then shackled and placed back on a bench without a seatbelt — a violation of department policy.

Officer Porter told investigators that any time they arrested Gray, it was “always a big scene.” During prior arrests, Porter said Gray had tried to kick out the windows of the law enforcement vehicle.

“You know, so he was always, always, like, banging around,” Officer William Porter said in an official statement. “It was always a big scene whenever you attempted to arrest Freddie Gray.”

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was criticized for her handling of the civil unrest, which turned into rioting. She did not appear publicly for about five hours as the city burned and images and videos of the destruction appeared on television screen across the United States. In August, Rawlings-Blake announced that she would not seek re-election.

“There’s definitely a lot of pressure but it’s hard to say what’s at stake. I know what’s important: that we have order in the city,” Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “I’m prayerful that justice will prevail and the officers will be given a fair trial by a fair and impartial jury, and that the citizens of Baltimore and the police can respect the decision.”

The absence of an incumbent in the mayoral race has created opportunities for others. Sheila Dixon, the city’s former mayor who was forced to resign after being convicted of embezzling about $500 in gift cards meant for poor children, announced her candidacy in July.

Controversial state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby is the wife of Baltimore councilman Nick Mosby. He announced he would be running for mayor almost immediately after Rawlings-Blake pulled out of the race.

Defense attorneys in the Freddie Gray case used statements Marilyn Mosby made during the Baltimore riots to argue that she was biased against the police and should recuse should herself from the case.

“To the youth of the city: I will seek justice on your behalf,” Marilyn Mosby said. “This is a moment, this is your moment. Let’s ensure we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause. And as young people, our time is now.”

Do you think the outcome of the first Freddie Gray trial could provoke more Baltimore riots?

[Photo by Jeff Roberson, File/AP Photo]