Five Signs Baltimore Is Bracing For Riots Over Impending Freddie Gray Verdict

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Casey Harper Contributor
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Jurors could arrive at a decision any moment in the trial of the first of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray’s death sparked city-wide riots in April, and as the jury deliberates on a verdict, the city is bracing for a possible second round of riots if the officer is acquitted.

Here are the five signs the city expects possible rioting this week.

1. No vacations for police. Any police officers hoping to have an extended vacation leading up to Christmas had their plans ruined. Baltimore police cancelled all vacation time for officers this week so they have all hands on deck to deal with protests and possible riots.

“The community has an expectation for us to be prepared for a variety of scenarios,” Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said statement.

2. A nervous mayor. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has set up an emergency command center to respond to the ruling. She has begged demonstrators to keep their cool.

“If some choose to demonstrate to express their opinion, that is their right, and we respect that right, and we will fight to protect it,” Rawlings-Blake said. “But all of us today agree that the unrest from last spring is not acceptable.”

3. Making room in jails. Jail officials have cleared out rooms in the jails in case protests and riots lead to a high number of arrests, The Baltimore Sun reports.

“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.”

4. Schools warning students. Schools are anticipating possible disruptions over the verdict and have warned students that walk-outs will be met with consequences.

City schools CEO Gregory Thornton informed students and parents that “walkouts, vandalism, civil disorder, and any form of violence are not acceptable.”

5. Public transit preparation. City transportation officials are preparing for chaos if protests break out. They warned drivers that protesters could clog the streets.

“MTA is closely monitoring the Officer Porter trial and travel conditions downtown and will adjust services as necessary due to the potential for heavy pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic,” MTA said in a statement.

Police arrested Gray in April and transported him in the back of a police van. The details are unclear with conflicting accounts, but Gray appeared healthy when arrested but was severely injured within an hour after his encounter with police. His spinal cord was severely damaged and he died a week later from the injuries.

Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, 26, is the first of six officers to be tried. All will be tried separately. Porter, who is black, is charged with reckless endangerment, misconduct, assault and involuntary manslaughter. Although he did not arrest Gray, he is accused of not properly buckling him into the van, which may have allowed him to slide around in the back, potentially causing the injury.

The other five trials are scheduled for next year. The jury in the trial sent a note to the judge Tuesday saying they were deadlocked. If the trial remains deadlocked, the judge will likely declare a mistrial. From that point, the charges will either be dropped or the case will be retried at the prosecutor’s discretion.

A failure to convict could spark unrest.

“We feel if we get this one right, we’ll set a tone for the rest,” Davis said at a press conference Tuesday.

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