Several hundred people gathered at City Hall in Philadelphia Thursday to protest Freddie Gray’s death from injuries he suffered while in Baltimore police custody and to raise concerns about police and community relations in their own city. Several of them clashed with police.
Chants of “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter” filled Dilworth Plaza. Several dozen uniformed police officers stood guard while plainclothes officers patrolled nearby.Police officers holding batons formed a line blocking access to a street. Protesters rushed the police line. Police held them off for a few minutes but then relented and let them proceed.
Objects were thrown at police officers, who struck back with their batons.
Veteran and former city employee Damon Johnson spoke up at the rally about the country’s spending priorities.
“Why would you cut after-school programs and build a juvenile jail?” he asked the crowd.
The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore after Gray’s death. Gray died from a spinal injury a week after his April 12 arrest.
Baltimore police say Gray died of a “significant spinal injury.” An attorney for Gray’s family says his spine was “80 percent severed in the neck area.”
Police in Baltimore completed their investigation into his death on Thursday and sent it to the city’s chief prosecutor to weigh charges. They also disclosed that the van carrying Gray after his arrest made four stops before it reached the police station, where he was found unresponsive.
Some people at the Philadelphia rally raised concerns about the December death of Brandon Tate-Brown, who was fatally shot by police. Police have said he was reaching in his car for a gun when an officer shot him, and the city district attorney has declined to press charges.
His mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson, filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging officers planted the gun. She wants police to turn over surveillance video and the names of the officers involved.
“The minute I get the video I want the world to see it,” she said at the Philadelphia rally. “It’s killing me not to show everybody the pictures of my son’s body. They beat the hell out of my baby.”
Tiffany Williams, who is black, held up a sign: “Stop killing us.”
“We don’t feel protected. The people, they feel afraid,” she said. “All we want is for the police to take care of the community instead of taking from us.”
Amalek Rogers also carried a sign: “Equal justice for all, including me.”
“It starts with a protest, peaceful protest,” she said. “You’re not given what you don’t ask for.”