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Freddie Gray Death: 'Relief and Joy' in Baltimore Streets After Charges Against Officers

"Things could possibly change because the police tactics are put out on the forefront for the world to see."
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/ Source: NBC News

Hundreds of people spilled into the streets of a riot-torn neighborhood in Baltimore on Friday after the city’s chief prosecutor announced criminal charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

Crowds celebrated in front of City Hall, some praising Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who made the announcement hours earlier. "From The Grave Freddie Says Thanks To You Marilyn Mosby," read a sign held by 68-year-old Taabuabar Wali of West Baltimore.

"It brought tears of joy to my eyes because [police] have a habit of getting away with harassing, hurting and killing black folks," Wali said.

At a burned-out CVS drugstore, the crowd hugged, high-fived and fist-bumped. Some preached on megaphones, and members of the Bloods and Crips gangs tied their bandannas together and held them in the air to show solidarity.

"I feel relief and joy that the justice system has prevailed," said Curtis Hardy, 33, who has lived in Baltimore all his life. He said that the prosecutor "has done the right thing."

He also expressed hope: "Previously this neighborhood was a hot spot for police to do what they want, but now things could possibly change because the police tactics are put out on the forefront for the world to see."

Some people shook the hands of National Guard troops who have patrolled Baltimore since the riots on Monday night.

The prosecutor said that the six officers had illegally arrested Gray, who suffered a spinal cord injury and died on April 19, a week after his arrest. She also said that officers denied him medical help and falsely claimed that he had a switchblade when he only had a pocket knife.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said five of the six officers are in custody. At least three of the officers were being held at the Baltimore City Detention Center Friday evening, according to records.

Cazembe Ato, 18, who was born in Baltimore, said that when he heard about the charges, he thought: "Yeah, all of them got what they deserved."

"If I killed a white person, nobody would see me again," he said. "We’ve seen that white people can get away with murder, but now it’s different, and a good thing for Baltimore."

On Monday night, fires and looting broke out, and authorities later imposed an overnight curfew. The CVS where people were celebrating on Friday sustained some of the worst damage.

"This is not premature celebration. This is absolutely needed," said Shadawn Boyd, 43, also a lifelong resident. "We cried together on Monday when communities were destroyed. People were beaten on Monday, but today we celebrate a small victory."

Tameeka Torrence brought her 3- and 4-year-old daughters out to celebrate the charges against the officers. Her oldest, Madisyn, shouted "no justice, no peace," to which Torrence responded, "We got justice now baby girl."

"The whole week she's been hearing 'no justice no peace' and today I didn't want her to think we were here because of that. There's justice now," Torrence said.

Some people fretted that things would be different when the national media left town. Others worried that the officers would be beat the charges.

"To see people in the street is wonderful, but I wonder at the end of the day are they all going to stay together," said Alicia Smith, 50, who raised her children in west Baltimore. "This is just a start, but we have to keep going with it."