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Baltimore heads into weekend of rallies after officers charged

BALTIMORE: A jubilant Baltimore headed into a weekend of rallies on Saturday after six police officers were criminally charged over the arrest of a 25-year-old black man whose death led to rioting earlier in the week.

Demonstrations are expected to continue around the United States through the weekend, with a massive rally planned for Baltimore city hall with marchers leaving from the Gilmor Homes housing projects where the victim, Freddie Gray, was arrested.

Many in the largely black city erupted with joy on Friday after the officers were charged with crimes ranging from murder to assault and misconduct in Gray’s death on April 19 from severe spinal injuries while in police custody.

Baltimore has largely followed the 10 p.m. curfew put in place after unrest that broke out after Gray’s funeral. Dozens of buildings and vehicles were burned, 20 police officers were injured and more than 200 people were arrested in that unrest.

U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, who represents the area where Gray died and has worked to calm Baltimore’s streets the past four nights, said he was glad to see charges filed.

“It feels good, it’s a relief,” he said. “They have to let it play out. It will take time. But so often there are no charges and the process never begins.”

The charges served as counterpoint to other police killings of unarmed black men over the past year in cities including Ferguson, Missouri, and New York, where authorities cleared the officers involved. Those cases also led to sometimes violent demonstrations across the country.

Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby brought charges on Friday hours after the Maryland state medical examiner had ruled the death a homicide and a day after police handed her office the findings of its internal review of Gray’s April 12 arrest.

Caesar R. Goodson Jr., a black officer who drove the police van, was charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. He and three others also face a charge of involuntary manslaughter and all must further answer to other lesser charges.

All six officers – three black and three white, five men and one woman – posted bond after their arrest Friday and were released from custody. Their union denounced the charges as an “apparent rush to judgment.”

While the charges brought relief to the city of 620,000, residents said they needed to see justice served, not only in Baltimore but in other communities where minorities are disproportionately targeted by police.

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