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Protests Continue In Baltimore Over Death Of Freddie Gray


Protests continue in Baltimore over the death of a 25-year-old black man. Freddie Gray died last Sunday of a severe spinal cord injury a week after he was handcuffed, shackled and placed in the back of a police van. What happened inside that van is at the center of a formal investigation by police and the Department of Justice. And today Baltimore's police chief, Anthony Batts, acknowledged that the arrest of Gray was mishandled. NPR's Jennifer Ludden is in Baltimore and joins us now.

And Jennifer, what are the police now saying?

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Well, Commissioner Batts, as you said, acknowledged that when Freddie Gray was transported in the back of that police van, that officers did not follow procedure.


ANTHONY BATTS: We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been. No excuses for that. Period. We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.

LUDDEN: Now, medical attention meaning that Freddie Gray asked for an inhaler. He apparently had asthma. And not being seat-belted in, that is something that a lawyer for the police officers had raised before this week. He said that, you know, sometimes it's considered dangerous when officers are trying to buckle-in a person who's resisting. On the other hand, he acknowledged that a lot of residents say that they have experiences, they call it rough rides. And it's their feeling that the police are doing it on purpose to kind of, you know, jostle people around while they're being taken to the station.

SIEGEL: Now, this afternoon the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, met with clergy and community leaders at City Hall. What did the mayor have to say after those meetings?

LUDDEN: She was also looking for answers and she met with faith leaders to really put out the word that they want the protests to be peaceful. And she says she understands there's impatience with the pace of the investigation, and she's frustrated as well.


MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I still want to know why the policies and the procedures for transport were not followed. I still want to know why none of the officers called for immediate medical assistance despite Mr. Gray's apparent pleas. The one thing we all know is that because of this incident, a mother has to bury her child.

LUDDEN: And the mayor said that, you know, in terms of the - Freddie Gray not being buckled-in and seat-belted, she said, you know, this has happened before in this city. In fact, The Baltimore Sun has reported the city has lost two cases when people who were paralyzed on such rides sued them. But at the same time, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, look, if you want justice you have to be patient. The investigation needs be thorough and needs to be given time to play out.

SIEGEL: Now, it's expected that the protests are going to be stepped-up with more people coming from out of Baltimore to join them. How are people in the neighborhood where all this happened - what are they saying about that?

LUDDEN: You know, some of them appreciate all the attention and all the people going out in the streets. Obviously there's a little concern that with people saying that they're going to come from other cities that it could turn a little more violent. But by no means is everyone taking part. You know, I ran into a man who was with his toddler son. He hasn't taken part at all. He says, I'm not judging until all the facts come out. I know it could go either way. He goes, I'm a black man, I know we get treated unfairly. At the same time, there's a lot of black-on-black crime in Baltimore. And he actually expressed hope - and I've heard this from a few people - hope that somehow with all the spotlight here, the city will do whatever it takes to really address this long-standing problem that's really felt worse in these neighborhoods where Freddie Gray was arrested.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Jennifer Ludden in Baltimore.

Jennifer, thanks.

LUDDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.