Mostly peaceful protests have marked the first day of the pretrial of six US police officers over the death of a black man in police custody – a case that sparked out of control riots in Baltimore in April.
The protesters, including activist Courtly Witherspoon, stood outside the courthouse in Baltimore in solidarity with 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from a spinal cord injury sustained while in custody in April.
They chanted “tell the truth and stop the lies – Freddie Gray didn’t have to die”
Gray had been arrested on April 12 after being chased by police on foot, suspected of carrying a switch blade. He sustained the severe spinal injury while being transported in a police van. Police later admitted he had not be secured by a seatbelt and his request for medical help was denied.
Inside the courthouse Baltimore City judge Barry Williams refused to agree with defence lawyer’s attempts to drop the charges against the six police officers.
Lawyers also tried to file a motion to have State Attorney Marilyn Mosby removed from the case. According to The Guardian the lawyers claimed that Mosby, by reading the probable cause statement in a press conference on the day her office filed charges, became a witness and should therefore be prevented from the case.
Williams said the attempt to remove Mosby was “mind-boggling” and dismissed it.
Gray’s death, which was ruled a homicide, is one of several involving black Americans and police officers which has sparked unrest and national debate over police brutality and race relations. On the day of Gray’s funeral there was unrest across Baltimore with looting, fires and riots.
According to BBC News the officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which range from false imprisonment to involuntary manslaughter.