Protesters swarmed outside a Baltimore courthouse Wednesday, as the first hearing in the case of six police officers charged in the arrest of Freddie Gray, a black man who died after suffering injuries in custody, got underway.
"Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail,” they chanted. “The whole damn system is guilty as hell."
Dozens of sheriff’s deputies were on patrol around the courthouse as protesters held up signs that said, “Stop racism now.”
Police said at least one arrest has been made as a group of 50 to 75 people were asked to move off the roadway and “remain on the sidewalk,” The Baltimore Sun reports.
Mr. Gray was arrested on April 12 after a foot chase in West Baltimore.
“He was dragged hand-cuffed into a police van, and carried unrestrained for about 45 minutes, with several stops,” reports The Christian Science Monitor shortly after Gray's death. “Police declined Gray’s calls for medical assistance during the ride.”
After his arrest, Gray died from a severe spinal injury he had sustained, and a medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
As protests led to riots, arson, and looting in Baltimore, Gray’s death became another chapter in the ongoing nationwide debate on police brutality against minorities.
Some police officers agreed that the cops involved would have to explain themselves.
"You know, this whole thing is bigger than Freddie Gray," protester Lee Paterson told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "It's about poverty."
Mr. Paterson said he was worried the charges would be dropped.
Charges against the officers involved in his death include second-degree "depraved-heart" murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, and misconduct, reports Reuters. Three of the officers are white and three are black.
Wednesday’s hearing centers on three key arguments: whether State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and other prosecutors should be removed, whether the officers should be tried together or separately, and whether charges should be dismissed.
Defense lawyers argue that Ms. Mosby violated the fair trial principle when she announced the charges in a news conference as the largely black city was in turmoil.
They also say that prosecutors carried out their own probe instead of going on the official police investigation.
Prosecutors say defense attorneys are trying to divert attention from the officers' role in Gray's death.
This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.