BALTIMORE: Thousands of people demonstrated in major US East Coast cities Wednesday demanding equal treatment for all by police, after a young African American died of injuries sustained in custody in Baltimore.
The biggest show of people power was in Baltimore itself — epicenter of the latest racially tinged unrest to convulse the United States — where several thousand mostly young demonstrators paralyzed city blocks in a major rally through downtown to City Hall.
Thousands more protested in New York, the capital Washington and Boston in solidarity, as simmering anger over alleged police brutality against blacks and discrimination again bubbled to the surface.
The protests were overwhelmingly peaceful and good-natured, although New York police said they had arrested more than 60 demonstrators. Emotions were running high, with scuffles breaking out.
What appears to be a growing movement for change was focused on Baltimore, where a rally that started at the main train station included black and white demonstrators, some of them linking arms and chanting: “No justice, no peace! No racists, no peace!”
Many in the march were high school or college students.
“We’re protesting the ongoing injustices that police have perpetrated on black men particularly. Police are trigger-happy and we need to stop that,” Jonathan Brown, 19, a student at Johns Hopkins University, told AFP.
Some in the huge crowd held placards, one reading, “Killer cops deserve cell blocks.” A few wore shirts with the words, “Amnesty International observer.”
The 2,000 National Guard personnel who have flooded Baltimore this week kept a low profile and only small knots of demonstrators remained on the streets when a curfew swept into effect for a second night from 10:00 pm (0200 GMT Thursday) to 5:00 am.
The Baltimore rally and largely quiet streets after the emergency curfew was a far cry from the violence and looting which flared there following the funeral of Freddie Gray, 25, on Monday.
The circumstances surrounding Gray’s death are unclear, but six officers have been suspended with pay.
Adding to the confusion, The Washington Post, citing a police document, said a prisoner sharing a police transport van with Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself.”
The prisoner, who is in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him, the report said.