On Wednesday, the first shoe dropped in the ongoing trials of six Baltimore police officers for the killing of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody on April 19th. As NBC Washington details, one of the charged officers, William Porter, has had a mistrial declared, with the jurors unable to come to a unanimous decision on any of the charges against him. And that hasn't been well-received by the countless people who've been moved to protect and activism since Gray's death — there are already photos from the William Porter mistrial protests that are making the rounds on social media, making sure the issue stays alive in the public consciousness.
Porter was charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and second-degree assault, as well as an additional misconduct charge in connection the Gray's death, who suffered a fatal spinal injury while riding in the back of a Baltimore police van. Only one of the officers, the van's driver, has been charged with depraved-heart murder, while the rest of the officers (like Porter) are facing, at worst, manslaughter and assault charges.
Needless to say, the mistrial announcement has stoked a considerable amount of outcry — Baltimore was the site of some of the biggest and most sustained demonstrations in the country following Gray's death, and from the looks of things, that same spirit was in full swing on Wednesday afternoon.
In what's become a pretty predictable ritual since the Black Lives Matter movement in particular has thrust police violence and protest into the spotlight, officials and community leaders alike have pleaded for calm with the announcement of the mistrial. Although these pleas can sometimes have troubling implications — in particular, stigmatizing black anger in the midst of an existential threat to black communities — the bouts of chaos that erupted in Baltimore earlier this year are likely looming on people's minds.
The mistrial does not mean that Porter is out of the woods just yet, make no mistake. He'll be retried by Marilyn Mosby, the State's Attorney of Baltimore; the date of the new trial will reportedly be set on Thursday. It'll be up to Mosby and her team to decide how to proceed, given that they were unable to convict Porter on these four initial charges.
Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement following the announcement of the mistrial, stating that "we must respect the outcome of the judicial process," and that "our reaction needs to be one of respect for our neighborhoods, and for the residents and businesses of our city." She also said: "In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond."
As the afternoon turned into evening, protesters who had first been marching on sidewalks began spilling into the streets. While everyone stayed peaceful around 6 p.m., police were still concerned people might attempt to get onto Highway 83 and block traffic. Police formed lines to prevent people from entering on the highway, and other law enforcement agencies were on standby in case anything got out of control.
Near City Hall, the group of about 50 protesters continued marching.
As the night wore on, protests continued, with some protesters blocking traffic.
Images: CBS News