Minutes after a judge found Baltimore police officer Caesar Goodson not guilty of the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a protester staged a mock lynching outside the Baltimore Circuit Court in response. As news of the latest Freddie Gray verdict spreads, protests are growing slowly, as demonstrators gather outside the courthouse to express their dissatisfaction.
Gray sustained fatal spinal injuries while being transported in a police which van Goodson was driving, after being arrested for possession of what police alleged was an illegal switchblade. Of the six Baltimore police officers charged in Gray's death, Goodson faced the most serious set of charges, including second-degree "depraved heart" murder. He was found not guilty of all seven charges after Judge Barry Williams concluded that prosecutors had failed to prove that Goodson drove with the intention of providing Gray, who was shackled but not secured with a seat belt, a "rough ride," thus causing the injuries he died from a week later. A medical examiner reported that Gray had suffered a broken neck and compressed spinal cord.
Thursday's verdict comes as a serious blow to those in the community looking to see someone held accountable for Gray's death. Goodson is the third officer to stand trial over the incident, and the third to not be convicted. A trial for officer William Porter ended with a hung jury in December, and officer Edward Nero was acquitted of all charges against him in May.
Demonstrators who massed outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced Thursday reported a heavy police presence, despite their initial low numbers. State officials and civil rights organizations have called on demonstrators to remain peaceful and nonviolent, in an effort to keep scenes like the violent riots and looting which erupted the day of Gray's funeral from occurring again. Aides for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told The Baltimore Sun that the National Guard was "standing by" to respond if protests got out of hand and a state of emergency was declared.
But protests have so far been peaceful Thursday, with demonstrators holding signs reading "Justice for Freddie Gray" and chanting slogans such as "We can't stop, we won't stop, 'til killer cops are in cell blocks." Although only a dozen protesters were initially on hand, it was a sizable increase from the lone demonstrator who stood in nonviolent protest on the first day of Goodson's trial. "Hopefully, what I'm doing will have some impact on somebody somewhere," the 65-year-old told The Baltimore Sun on June 9. "There are so many ways you can protest without being violent."