Baltimore May Release Arrested Protesters to Meet Legal Requirements – NBCNews.com
Dozens of people arrested in violent demonstrations this week in Baltimore were being released early Wednesday evening because police were unable to complete their paperwork in time, the state public defender’s office said.
The 101 detainees began walking free without charges about the same time that Baltimore police announced that their report into the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man who died in police custody this month, wouldn’t be made public Friday as promised.
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts set a deadline of May 1 to make the police report public in a move to calm tension in the city. But Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said late Wednesday afternoon that the report would remain closed and would be turned over to state investigators to protect the integrity of the inquiry.
“We know that there are a lot of people who want answers who have concerns they want addressed, and we have an obligation to do our best to be accountable,” Kowalczyk said. But “we cannot release all the information from the investigation to the public.”
Thousands of people crammed the area around City Hall in a so-far peaceful rally Wednesday night ahead of a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew that was imposed Tuesday. The curfew was ordered after protests turned violent Monday night after Gray’s funeral.
The public defender, a government agency that represents suspects who have no lawyer, had filed habeas corpus petitions demanding that the 209 people arrested Monday night be released if they weren’t formally charged within 48 hours. No court has “amended or changed the rules that require these important safeguards,” it said.
The deadline arrived early Wednesday evening, and 101 of those detained began streaming out of the Baltimore City Central Booking and Intake Facility even as others were lining up in court to answer charges.
The releases were the result of a logjam for police who were scrambling to pull the necessary paperwork to file charges at the same time they were trying to keep peace on the city’s streets, Kowalczyk said. Earlier Wednesday, he’d told reporters that it was possible that about 100 people who were taken into custody would be released because “we do not want to violate anyone’s individual rights.”
Kowalczyk said investigators would continue to collect the necessary paperwork on those who had been freed, including information from the arresting officers and documents detailing the probable cause for arrest.
Kowalczyk’s comments followed earlier statements in which Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sought to soften her description of people involved in the unrest as “thugs.”
“When you speak out of frustration and anger, one can say things in a way that you don’t mean,” the mayor said on Twitter. “That night we saw misguided young people who need to be held accountable, but who also need support. And my comments then didn’t convey that.”
Meanwhile, the White House has weighed in on the video of Toya Graham, the Baltimore woman who chased her son away from confronting police on Monday, calling it “a powerful expression about the role that parents can play.”
“The thing that resonated with me is — was her expression that she was concerned about her son facing the same fate as Freddie Gray,” spokesman Josh Earnest said. “And while I’m sure that it was not the immediate reaction of her son to feel like she was looking out for his best interest, there is no doubting that her reaction was one that was rooted in her concern for his safety and his well-being and her love for her child.”
More than 3,000 National Guard, Maryland State Police and other law enforcement officers remained on alert before the second night of the curfew. Gov. Larry Hogan welcomed the peaceful response to the curfew Tuesday, but he said early Wednesday evening: “We are not out of the woods yet.”
Similar protests were being organized in other cities. Hundreds of protesters marched Tuesday night through Washington, D.C., and the South Side of Chicago. And in New York, a rally in Union Square was under way Wednesday night “to show the people of Baltimore that we stand in solidarity with them and with their resistance,” the group Millions March said.