Thousands cheer in Baltimore after officer charges

Thousands cheer in Baltimore after officer charges

BALTIMORE - A spontaneous street party of thousands of people erupted in Baltimore on Saturday a day after six police officers were charged over the death of an African-American man in their custody.

People marching, singing and dancing in the streets cheered the surprise charges of the officers - three of them black. They face a range of charges, including second-degree murder and manslaughter.

A 10:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew in place since Tuesday will be enforced Saturday, police announced.

"Peace and calm is always better than violence," Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters.

"My hope is that we work towards a new level of partnership in all parts of our community as we move forward." The Maryland National Guard said on Twitter it had nearly 3,000 soldiers and airmen ready to help "keep the peace" in the city.

But in contrast to the violence and looting that flared after Freddie Gray's funeral on Monday, there was a festive atmosphere in Baltimore, as demonstrators - white and black - gathered at City Hall, the focal point of rallies in recent days.

"I am so inspired and encouraged by what I see," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told CBS television affiliate WJZ.

"I think that there's a lot of hope that in peace we can seek justice." After the rally, protesters marched toward the neighborhood where Gray was arrested on April 12. He died a week later from his injuries.

"Whose streets? Our streets!" they chanted.

'Stop police brutality'

"It's been a frustration, what's going on. Now we want to stop police brutality, we want peace," Autumn Hooper, a 25-year-old African American woman, told AFP.

The death of Gray, 25, at the hands of police has reignited simmering resentment in the United States over law enforcement tactics, particularly in their dealings with African Americans.

Gray was then seen hustled into a police van that made several stops en route to the Western District police station, from where an ambulance rushed him to a shock trauma unit.

He died seven days later with 80 per cent of his spine severed at the neck, lawyers for his family have said.

On Friday, police made at least 15 arrests when some protesters defied the curfew, underlining persisting anger at alleged police brutality and racism.

Demonstrations have erupted daily in Baltimore this week.

There have also been rallies in many other major American cities, including New York, Philadelphia and the capital Washington, in echoes of the protests that broke out across the United States last year over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

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