Freddie Gray’s Baltimore Neighborhood Watches Trial Warily – By JOHN ELIGON DEC. 13, 2015


A mural of Freddie Gray, who died from an injury suffered in police custody in April, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore. Matt Roth for The New York Times 

BALTIMORE — The tattered city blocks are bouncing to their usual beat. Men are milling between street corners and bodega doorways, buses are chugging along and young men are popping wheelies on dirt bikes.

But something new has sprung up here in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in the months since Freddie Gray’s fatal encounter with the police in April led to fiery unrest: large, colorful, hand-painted murals that cover several buildings and speak to this city’s rich black history. Billie Holiday and Ta-Nehisi Coates on one. President Obama on another. And, yes, Mr. Gray, gazing earnestly and flanked by protesters, on yet another.

It is a reminder that Mr. Gray remains baked into the collective consciousness here. He was certainly on the minds of Ricky McCarter and Thomas Easter as they lounged on a townhouse stoop around the corner from the mural on a recent morning, pondering the latest phase in the saga of Mr. Gray: the trial, nearing a close, of William G. Porter, the first of six officers charged in the death to have his case heard. He faces manslaughter and other charges on allegations that he ignored Mr. Gray’s pleas for medical attention after his arrest.

A block of boarded-up rowhouses on North Fulton Avenue in Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. Matt Roth for The New York Times 

The response to the trial has been fairly muted, without mass demonstrations or round-the-clock news coverage. A tense calm lingers over the city. But residents are watching warily, skeptical about what the result will be, deeply aware of the drumbeat of police killings nationally, most with no officers punished.

“I really don’t want to be disappointed,” Mr. McCarter, 27, said as he leaned back on the top step beneath peeling red paint, explaining why he has not followed the trial closely. “I feel like I know how the trial going to go.”

“Around the nation, we watching a lot of officers get off on other cases,” said Mr. McCarter, who works as a security guard and was a regular at the spring protests. “So we kind of expect them to get off.”

Mr. Easter, Mr. McCarter’s 63-year-old uncle, brought up Chicago, where Officer Jason Van Dyke was recently charged with murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

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