Marches in New York, Boston, Ferguson and Washington, while authorities in Baltimore back down after holding people for days without charge.
Protests over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray spread across the US overnight as the city at the centre of the storm used national guard troops to help maintain a curfew and authorities were forced into an apparent backdown after holding suspected rioters for days without charge.
Gray died last weekend in Baltimore with a severed spine after apparently being injured in police custody.
Baltimore on Monday had been the scene of widespread rioting and destruction but on Wednesday night the protests, while large, were mostly good-natured.
People dispersed in the lead-up to the 10pm curfew, instituted on Tuesday by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. It was enforced by 1,000 extra police officers and almost 2,000 national guard troops brought into the city after Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency on Monday night.
Also on Wednesday, after a flurry of legal challenges, more than 100 people were freed from police custody, having been been held since Monday under what amounted to a suspension by Hogan of the writ of habeas corpus – the right to be released from an arrest made without lawful cause.
Baltimore: hail of habeas corpus petitions leads to release of riot suspects
Finegar said the decision to hold so many “without any respect for due process” could “further shake the confidence in the criminal justice system for those arrested”. She said many of those detained had complained of the harsh conditions in jail. Some said they went 18 hours without food and later were given inedible pieces of bread.
After darkness fell New York became the scene of the most vigorous protests. A crowd gathered over the course of the afternoon in Union Square and marched north towards Harlem, chanting “Black lives matter!” and “Freddie Gray!”.
The New York march was splintered several times by police, with some people heading north towards Harlem and others gathering in Times Square. It was largely peaceful but there were some clashes with police. The NYPD said there were more than 60 arrests.
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!” Students linked arms and families peered out of low-income housing along Shawmut Avenue.
About 1,500 more reportedly rallied in Gold Medal Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and marched across town, led by protesters carrying a coffin.
There were other gatherings in Ferguson, Missouri, and in Washington DC 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.
In Baltimore on Wednesday night around 2,000 people rallied near City Hall and marched to Penn Station but dispersed well before the nightly order to leave the streets came into force.
At the intersection of North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore a small group of protesters congregated as the curfew loomed but gradually departed, leaving empty streets. The intersection had the location of much of the looting that occurred on Monday and where on Wedneday protesters were dispersed with teargas.
In New York, Arafa Speaks, 60, who stays in a nearby homeless shelter, spoke to the Guardian a block east of Times Square, where a small group of protesters had split off. “We know the pain of death,” she said, holding a sign saying: “Is life a white privilege?”
As the evening unfolded, media and social-media attention focused more tightly on the events surrounding Gray’s death – though the facts remained elusive.
A Washington Post article published on Wednesday revealed vague details of a police document that quoted a prisoner who had been placed in the same police van as Gray – though in a separate compartment – as saying Gray had been “trying to injure himself”.
The paper said the other prisoner could not see Gray because of a metal partition and it was unclear whether any other evidence backed up his account.
Jason Downs, an attorney for the Gray family, told the Post: “We disagree with any implication that Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord.”
Baltimore television station WBAL interviewed a person that it described as a relative of one of the officers in the van.
“Does the officer believe he did anything wrong?” asked WBUL investigative reporter Jayne Miller. “No. No. In their minds they did the right thing,” the relative replied, adding that the subsequent backlash hurt the officers “more than anything”.
Resource: The Guardian, April 30, 2015