She said, “Accountability, you’re getting it today,” and the celebration followed.
That was the reaction after Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said those words Friday morning during a press conference announcing that six officers would be arrested and charged in the suspicious death of Freddie Gray.
Mosby, who spoke to the crowd of reporters with authority, wound up sending Baltimore into a celebratory frenzy. At Pennsylvania and North avenues, blaring horns, hugs between strangers, impromptu songs and even a few coordinated dances reflected the mood, a rapid change from the riots, fires and frustration that lined the same block just a few days before.
During a press conference late Friday afternoon, Richard Shipley, Gray’s stepfather, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the investigation by Mosby. “These charges are an important step in getting justice for Freddie,” he said, also urging protesters to remain calm in the face of the charges. “The last thing that Freddie would want would be to see the hardworking people of Baltimore lose their jobs and businesses because of his death.”
In the jubilant crowd on Penn-North who celebrated for most of the day, the overwhelming sentiment was cautious optimism. Joseph Kent, a student and well-known organizer who was arrested the first night of the imposed curfew, was happy to be out of prison and back in the community. “I’m just trying to make an impact,” Kent said. “If I had to die or go to jail for people to really recognize police brutality, I would do it again.”
Some revelers were out-of-towners coming to show their support. Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, stood beside the Rev. Jamal Bryant as she offered encouraging words to the Gray family. “We didn’t have the independent investigation,“ Fulton said about her son’s case. “We have to keep pressing on because this issue won’t go away. It’s open season on African Americans. When will the season be over? It seems like this country is in a war, a war against ourselves.”
Juan Grant, who is related to Gray’s sister through marriage, talked about how he could rest easy, at least for tonight. “[Mosby] put a warrant out for them like criminals, like it’s supposed to be,” he told the crowd around him. “I feel like I can sleep again. I haven’t slept in days.”
Many spoke of feeling empowered to fight other problems plaguing the community.
“We are here rejuvenated,” said activist Kinji Scott. “We have an expectation of change, and I think it can happen.”
Gray, Mosby said, received his fatal injuries from not being properly secured in a police wagon. Officers, who had no legal basis for arresting him, according to her report, also failed to seek medical attention despite his repeated requests. The six officers—Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, Officer Edward M. Nero, Officer Garrett E. Miller and Sgt. Alicia D. White—were slapped with a variety of charges, including manslaughter and false imprisonment. The most serious, “second-degree depraved-heart murder,” for Goodson, the driver of the van, could carry a sentence of 30 years.
Mosby’s husband, Nick Mosby, a first-term City Council member who represents the district where Gray died, joined in the celebration as revelers thanked him and his wife and gave him hugs and pounds. Nick Mosby became an Internet celebrity earlier this week when he shut down a Fox News reporter who didn’t want to listen to the root causes of the riots.
“One thing about this movement, folks feel that they never get an opportunity to see victory,” said Nick Mosby as he watched the cars blaring their horns. “Many young guys that were on the corner and up to other things because of the environment they live in really joined this movement and took it by the bullhorn. I’ve been to so many rallies, and it was guys in the neighborhood protesting. I think it’s an amazing time in American history.”