As the jury prepares to deliver a verdict in the trial of the first of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore police department is taking pains to reach out to the community and signal that it is ready to respond to any outcome, including protest. Community activists, meanwhile, say that distrust of the police still runs deep. Some are promising to return to the streets if the courts cannot deliver the justice they seek.
The death of the 25-year-old Gray in police custody sparked intense protest in Baltimore last April. As rioting escalated, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency. The National Guard was called in to quell unrest. Along with other high-profile confrontations between black men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner and police officers, Gray’s death has fueled a national protest movement against police brutality.
A verdict could arrive as soon as Tuesday for William Porter, one of the police officers who stands trial in the case. Activists who want to see a conviction intend to make their voices heard no matter what the outcome.
“We’re preparing to be out there and once we hear the verdict, we’ll react,” said Sharon Black, an organizer with the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly, a coalition of activists fighting police brutality. “We have no way of predicting things, but all I can say is the underlying structural problems that led to the uprising in April, those things have not changed.”