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The crowd at the Baltimore solidarity action Minneapolis was estimated at between 1,500-2,000. (Photo: Black Lives Matter Minneapolis/Facebook)

'Same Story Every Time': Baltimore Solidarity Actions Sweep U.S.

Thousands marched—mostly peacefully—in cities including Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Deirdre Fulton

Widespread protests over police brutality, systemic racism, and the recent death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray took place across the U.S. on Wednesday night, with demonstrators demanding justice, accountability, and reform.

In Baltimore, the epicenter of the most recent uprising, around 2,000 people rallied near City Hall on Wednesday night, before marching to Penn Station and then dispersing well before the nightly 10pm curfew came into force.

But outrage over 25-year-old Gray's death in police custody has spread far beyond city or state lines. In other places around the country, people expressing solidarity with Baltimore, and with the Black Lives Matter movement overall, took their anger to the streets.

An estimated 1,500 people marched through downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday night, while in Boston, more than 1,000 protesters gathered in front of the police headquarters chanting: "Being black is not a crime, same story every time," and "Every night and every day, join the fight for Freddie Gray!"

The Star-Tribune reported that in Minneapolis:

Black men carrying a black coffin led the march.

"We have a lot of work to do, and we are not immune to the problems that have plagued major cities in the last few months," Nekima Levy-Pounds, a University of St. Thomas law professor and civil rights activist, said while marching down Washington Avenue.

"Black people in Baltimore have experienced decades of income inequality, extreme poverty, inadequate access to jobs and education and police abuse," she said earlier in a written statement.

"The cries for justice of the people of Baltimore and around this country can no longer continue to fall on deaf ears."

The Guardian reports that there were other gatherings in Ferguson, Missouri, and in Washington, D.C., where people "staged an impromptu sit-in at the junction of 14th Street and U—the site from which the famous 1968 riots spread out after the assassination of Martin Luther King."

The solidarity rally in New York City began in Union Square and, according to the New York Times, "spilled into the street and disrupted traffic." 

Participants in the New York action said police response to the demonstration was excessive.

"It felt like we are just not allowed to protest anymore, in any way, at all," New York City writer and political organizer Keegan Stephan, wrote at his blog. "Except in pens with permits. Maybe."

Elena L. Cohen, president of the National Lawyers Guild's (NLG) New York City chapter, was also at Wednesday's protest in New York and reports that there were 135 confirmed arrests, including media, NLG lawyers, and others who "did not consider themselves arrestable" from 7:30pm to 1am.

The arrests caused "a significant amount of injuries... They were really violent, really rough," Cohen told Common Dreams by phone. The heavy law enforcement presence was likely "an intense overreaction" to protests and so-called "rioting" in Baltimore, she added, noting that there was a "really big change in the feeling" of the hands-on police response compared to other recent actions.

Meanwhile, the Denver Post reports that a protest in downtown Denver, attended by about 100 people, turned violent and police used force and pepper spray on demonstrators, resulting in 11 arrests. 

And the protests go on.

In just one example, organizers with the Chicago Unity Coalition for Justice—the group behind the December 12, 2014 Black Lives Matter protest in that city—are calling for supporters to join a group of elementary school students, along with their parents and teachers, for a solidarity rally on Friday at 8:30am.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Malik Shabazz, the Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who helped plan protests that began peacefully but ended in violence Saturday in Baltimore, announced Tuesday that  another, even larger rally would take place this Saturday.

The Sun reports: "Shabazz said the 'massive national rally' would address 'the burn behind the burn'—the anger over social disparities and injustice that he suggested led to Monday night's unrest."

Also Wednesday, the Baltimore Police Department was forced to release about half the detainees who had been arrested during that unrest. More than 100 of those detained in connection with the protests and ensuing conflict were released without charges, and many reported poor conditions and lack of due process while they were in custody.

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