Baltimore protesters plan to shut down the city Saturday with their biggest rally yet over the death of Freddie Gray, who went into a coma and died of a spinal injury last Sunday after being arrested by police. After daily protests and growing public outrage, the Baltimore police department admitted Friday that the officers made mistakes in their treatment of 25-year-old Gray.
A video of the arrest shows Gray screaming as officers press him into the ground and handcuff him. A witness said police folded his body “like origami.” In the video, police drag Gray to the police vehicle with his legs limp.
In a press conference Friday, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said Gray should have received medical treatment immediately. He also said Gray was unbuckled in the transport wagon, which could mean officers took him for a “rough ride,” when police deliberately drive erratically to injure unbuckled and handcuffed passengers.
“We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been. No excuses for that, period,” Batts said. “We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.”
Though the police commissioner stressed he was taking the investigation seriously, the head of the police union seemed less contrite earlier this week, likening the Freddie Gray protests to “a lynch mob.” The officers who arrested Gray are currently under internal investigation and suspended with pay.
An investigative series by the Baltimore Sun recently uncovered massive systemic abuses by Baltimore police. The report described frequent, sometimes fatal beatings by officers who almost always went unpunished. Meanwhile, the city of Baltimore paid out $5.7 million from 2011 to 2014 to settle lawsuits over police misconduct.
Protest organizers held their own press conference Friday, calling for criminal charges against the six officers involved in the arrest. Malik Z. Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice said they expect thousands at Saturday’s rally and plan to “shut down” the city.