Around the country, protesters took to the streets Wednesday night in solidarity with those who have done the same in Baltimore in response to the unexplained death of Freddie Gray, an unarmed 25-year-old black man who died in police custody. Sizeable demonstrations took place in New York City, Boston, Minneapolis and Washington, DC. The were also protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in many ways the catalyst for the most visible anti-police brutality activism over the last several months.
There were reports of police in riot gear in New York City, where one of the largest rallies was held. (AlterNet’s images from the NYC rally can be found throughout this article.) The New York Times reports that more than 100 people were arrested and that those detained “were seen being thrown roughly to the ground and handcuffed by the police.”
As the protests were unfolding, more than 100 protesters in Baltimore who had been arrested and held since Monday were finally being released. They represent less than half of the 235 detained, 34 of whom are juveniles. Following legal wrangling throughout the day, the protesters were freed around 7pm. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, detainees were reportedly “held in cramped and dangerous conditions,” with cells designed to hold eight people stuffed with up to 15. Those released hadn’t had charges filed against them.
Deputy public defender Natalie Finegar, speaking to the Times said, “It looks like a lot of folks were just flat-out illegally detained, from our perspective.” In another interview with the Guardian, Finegar said the way the cases were handled threatened to “further shake the confidence in the criminal justice system for those arrested.”
Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose approval ratings recently hit their lowest since his time in office, sent state troopers to Baltimore to back up the massive number of law enforcement already on the ground. Christie told press he sent the officers “for the same reason that states all around sent troopers here and other officials when we had Hurricane Sandy. When there’s an emergency in another area in our region and folks reach out for help, we’re going to reach out and give that help.”
Several officers from New York City’s Intelligence Division and Counter Terrorism Bureau have also reportedly traveled to Baltimore to “observe and learn from the mistakes that may have caused the protests.” The officers claim they are there to ensure that protesters have no plans to target the NYPD, perhaps as a way to shoehorn the idea of terrorism into this whole thing.
A Change.org petition against sending New Jersey troopers “to join the occupation of Baltimore and the repression of the youth-led uprising” can be found online.
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