- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Baltimore Police are bracing for riots this weekend as residents protest the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died this week from severe spinal injuries after being in police custody.

The entire Baltimore police force received an email early Thursday morning instructing them to come into work on Saturday with their riot gear, regardless of whether Saturday was their day off.

The email, obtained by The Washington Times, shows that the mandatory order would put more than 3,000 officers on the street.

On that day, protestors plan to gather at the Baltimore Police Department’s Western District station in larger numbers than before. A Facebook event page shows that more than 600 people already plan to show up at the Western District station Saturday.

“All members whose H Day are cancelled will report to their respective commands for roll call,” the email states. “All members must have all issued riot gear and be prepared for redeployment on a citywide basis.”

Tension between police and protestors has been high in Baltimore since April 19, when Mr. Gray was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Daily protests have extended into the night, have included the presence of children lighting candles to honor Mr. Gray, and have blocked traffic at busy intersections.

The six police officers who detained Mr. Gray in West Baltimore on April 12 were suspended with pay earlier this week as the Baltimore Police Department conducts an internal investigation into how Mr. Gray sustained his deadly injuries.

The Department of Justice will be mounting a civil rights investigation into the incident.

Based on preliminary information, the Department of Justice has officially opened this matter and is gathering information to determine whether any prosecutable civil rights violation occurred,” department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in a Tuesday statement.

Several Maryland federal lawmakers — Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, along with Reps. Elijah Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes — requested the investigation on Tuesday.

In a joint letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the five lawmakers, all Democrats, asked for the department to “swiftly conduct all necessary investigations” into the death of Mr. Gray and provide to the public the facts that will restore their confidence in the police.

Freddie Gray’s family and the residents of the City of Baltimore deserve to know what happened to him while he was in police custody,” the letter states. “We need answers. While the majority of police officers act within the law to serve and protect their communities, incidents like this degrade the trust necessary to maintain the relationship between law enforcement and communities.”

Mr. Gray’s death comes just as communities across the nation are starting to push back against what they see as police brutality and excessive force against citizens.

Baltimore residents who say they are sick of the aggressive behavior of local law enforcement have banded together to bring attention to what they see as an unjustifiable “murder.” But even when everyone is asking collectively for justice, there has been the occasional scuffle.

On Wednesday night, a fight broke out among protesters as they ended a citywide protest near Mr. Gray’s memorial. Sharp shouts of dismay and anger pierced the night as the group struggled to help a protester who was injured by another member.

Hostility brewed as police pushed into the group to defuse the situation, but that hostility was aimed at the protester, perceived to have broken common bond on the cause.

The protesters have received the ire of the local cops union, Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3.

The union publicly defended its officers Wednesday and issued a statement saying that had yet to see any indication of any criminal activity among its officers.

In that same statement, the union painted Baltimore citizens as a “lynch mob” that calls for justice for a dead man while denying it to the six officers who are under investigation in his death.

While we appreciate the right of our citizens to protest and applaud the fact that, to date, the protests have been peaceful, we are very concerned about the rhetoric of the protests,” the statement reads. “In fact, the images seen on television look and sound much like a lynch mob in that they are calling for the immediate imprisonment of these officers without them ever receiving the due process that is the Constitutional right of every citizen, including law enforcement officers.”

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