Weary of protest, Baltimore activists seek change elsewhere

From The Associated Press:

BALTIMORE (AP) — Under the beating summer sun, retired steelworker Arthur B. Johnson Jr. stood outside the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore, clutching the fraying wooden handle of a homemade sign.

“Justice for Freddie Gray,” it read. Inside, a fourth officer was about to be cleared of criminal charges in Gray’s death last April, a week after Gray’s neck was broken while he was handcuffed and shackled but left unrestrained in the back of a police van. Johnson has shown up for every trial, in pouring rain and sweltering heat.

Thousands took to the streets last spring. The refrain of “No justice, no peace” rang through corridors on the city’s east and west sides for more than a week; after a riot broke out, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted a 10 p.m. curfew. The National Guard rolled into town to restore order.

But these days, Johnson and his sign typically stand alone.

The most recent acquittal, for Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking officer charged in Gray’s death, was rapidly preceded by two others, including Officer Caesar Goodson, who drove the wagon in which Gray’s spine was snapped.

Still, where once the streets exploded in fire and fury, the sidewalks are calm; the flames extinguished and the palpable rage dissipated.

Some activists say the anger many citizens feel is simply manifesting itself in different ways, and that the focus has shifted from the streets of Baltimore to the state’s capital: due to increasing pressure, this year lawmakers enacted reforms to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights for the first time since its inception nearly 40 years ago. Others say the feverish momentum of last spring was simply unsustainable.

But all agree on one thing: …

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