It's Been 1 Year Since The Protests Over Freddie Gray's Death — Here's What's Happened Since

Update: This week marks the first anniversary of the protests that erupted in response to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. Ahead, a look at where things stand in Baltimore today.

This story was originally published on April 12, 2016.

Tuesday, April 12 marks the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Freddie Gray.

That arrest of the Baltimore man ended in his death, which in turn sparked civil unrest, impassioned protest, and a new chapter in a movement shining a light on racial tensions and issues surrounding police brutality nationwide.

Gray, 25, encountered three police officers on a street corner in West Baltimore. He ran, they chased. Gray was arrested and placed in the back of a police van — the 45 minutes he spent in the vehicle led to injuries that ended his life. An excerpt from Gray’s autopsy, acquired by The Baltimore Sun, concluded that his death was caused by a severe spinal injury, likely from being thrown around the inside of the police van. The medical examiner ruled Gray’s death a homicide.

Gray’s death tapped into widespread unrest that had begun the previous year in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed teen named Michael Brown was shot and killed by police, and became a focal point of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Here’s a look back at the case and the developments that have happened in the year since his death:
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Rain falls on the Sandtown neighborhood where Freddie Gray, 25, depicted in a mural with civil rights leaders, lived and was arrested before being fatally injured in police custody on April 12, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.
The 2015 Baltimore Protests

Protests in response to Gray’s arrest began only a few days after his April 12 arrest and hospitalization. After his death on April 19, the demonstrations intensified. Cable news feeds and front pages of newspapers and websites nationwide filled with images of burning buildings, police in riot gear, and protesters being tear gassed. Despite the images of violence, there were also examples of civility and unity shared, and Gray’s family denounced the violence. The protests were heavily covered on social media, using the hashtags #BaltimoreRiots and #BaltimoreUprising.

Gray's family lawyer and many others criticized authorities on social media for using racially loaded language that fueled tensions. In a statement a few days after Gray’s death, the president of Baltimore’s police union, Gene Ryan, likened the protests calling for officers involved to be charged, to a lynch mob. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued an apology for calling protesters “thugs” in a press conference on the day of Gray’s funeral, when she also announced a citywide curfew. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and dispatched the National Guard to the city the same day. The curfew lasted until May 3. The National Guard was withdrawn the following day, and the state of emergency was lifted on May 6.

It is amazing that we're coming up on a year and, regrettably, not much has changed.

The Rev. Jamal H. Bryant
The Black Lives Matter movement expanded past its social media beginnings.

While hardly a niche movement in the two years that followed the high-profile deaths of Black men and youth like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, the Black Lives Matter movement expanded after Gray’s death. One study from American University’s School of Communication showed the changes in the movement's social media networks in the month and a half after Gray’s death, as it retained focus on previous incidents as well as the situation in Baltimore.

“This is the mark of a maturing movement: even when other police brutality incidents were dominating the headlines, participants did not lose sight of earlier events,” the study found.

Since then, the movement has continued to grow and adapt. One of the most prominent faces associated with Black Lives Matter, DeRay Mckesson, recently announced that he would be running for mayor of Baltimore, his hometown. In an interview with Refinery29, he said that he wants to push the city to be better than it is. “It's important that people challenge the government to be the best it can be. That is part of what it means to be a democracy, that is essential.”

The officers involved are going to trial.

In May 2015, Maryland State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that the six officers involved in Gray’s death, three of whom are Black, faced charges ranging from assault to second-degree murder. The first of the officers to stand trial, William Porter, was charged with manslaughter for neglecting to buckle Gray into the back of the police van, despite police regulations that required he do so. His trial ended with a hung jury in mid-December of 2015, after three days of jury deliberations didn’t return a verdict. His retrial has been scheduled for September 6.

The other officers involved will also see their court dates coming up throughout the rest of 2016, NPR announced. The next officer to go to trial will be Edward M. Nero, on May 10. He’s charged with misconduct, second-degree assault, and false imprisonment for arresting Gray without probable cause. The most serious charges — of second-degree murder — were laid against Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the van. He is scheduled to go to trial on June 6.
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Protestors participate in a vigil for Freddie Gray down the street from the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station, April 21, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray, 25, died from spinal injuries on April 19, one week after being taken into police custody.

Activists plan peaceful protests to mark the anniversary.

One year after Gray's arrest and death, activists are turning their attention to what they say is a lack of progress in improving the lives of Baltimore's Black residents. The Rev. Jamal H. Bryant, who leads a congregation of 12,000 in northwest Baltimore, points to a dearth of good jobs, blocks of vacant homes, and high drug addiction rates as issues that still need significant work.

"It is amazing that we're coming up on a year and, regrettably, not much has changed," he said in an online post, according to The Baltimore Sun. "We're still looking at a whole lot of things that we believed would have been corrected by now. But because they have not [been], then we're going to have to take alternative measures."

Bryant is planning a peaceful march on Sunday, April 24.

"Come in from D.C., from Virginia, from Delaware, from Philadelphia, from New York. Come on, y'all. Stand with Baltimore," he said. "Let's make a change. Let's change this city. Let's change the narrative. Let's change the generation."

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