Baltimore is bracing for the possibility of riots after the trial of the first officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray ended Wednesday in a mistrial.
Police officer William Porter was on trial for manslaughter, assault, misconduct, and reckless endangerment charges in the death of Gray, a young black man who died in police custody. A jury declared on Wednesday that they were deadlocked, leading Judge Barry Williams to declare a mistrial.
Porter’s trial was seen as critical as he was the first of six officers facing trial in Gray’s death.
Freddie Gray had been arrested on minor charge, and within hours had died of a severed spine. Critics said his death was the result of a “rough ride,” with police purposely driving recklessly to intentionally injure him and then failing to give proper medical attention afterward. Six were ultimately brought up on charges.
Gray’s death led to days of protests in the city, with some turning violent. It was these protests that brought the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has taken on police abuse and the deaths of young black men at the hands of police.
In the wake of the mistrial, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for calm.
“Twelve Baltimore residents listened to the evidence presented and were unable to render a unanimous decision,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement (via USA Today). “As a unified city, we must respect the outcome of the judicial process.”
The city of Baltimore appears to be ready for more riots. Baltimore’s police department has already canceled all vacation time for officers ahead of the verdict, and Rawlings-Blake appealed to protesters to remain peaceful.
“In the coming days, if some choose to demonstrate peacefully to express their opinion, that is their constitutional right. I urge everyone to remember that collectively, our reaction needs to be one of respect for our neighborhoods, and for the residents and businesses of our city,” said Rawlings-Blake, who has also opened an emergency operations center in the city.
She is not the only one calling for a measured reaction to the verdict.
“We must be just whether we agree or disagree with a jury’s verdict in a single criminal trial,” U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said at a press conference Tuesday. “We will all be on trial in the days and weeks ahead.”
City officials were also working closely with public transportation officials to minimize service disruptions, but these officials said train and bus routes could be diverted if large-scale protests were to break out.
Schools have also warned that students who walk out will be disciplined, with Baltimore schools CEO Gregory Thornton writing a letter warning students not to join in on violence or vandalism.
This drew a sharp response from the ACLU of Maryland, which responded, “The school system’s letter assumes that students would engage in violent acts, assumes that students only want to express their emotions, not rational views about the conduct of police and lack of accountability, and it misses an opportunity to affirmatively engage students who want to be politically engaged on these issues.”
While there were not yet any reports of riots in Baltimore, many protesters have already gathered and police appeared prepared.
Couple dozen Baltimore police officers on the scene, no riot gear. pic.twitter.com/syNB7kfQiT
— Scott Calvert (@scottmcalvert) December 16, 2015
— Steve Burns (@StvBurns) December 16, 2015
While the threat of riots loom over Baltimore, the trials regarding Freddie Gray’s death remain ongoing. There are still five more officers to face trial, and officials have not yet said if William Porter will face a re-trial.
[Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images]