Baltimore mayor commends peaceful protests following Porter mistrial

BALTIMORE (WBFF) - Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake activated the city's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Dec. 14, as the first officer trial in the Freddie Gray case neared an end.

The day after a mistrial was declared, Rawlings-Blake said city officials will make a decision on when to close the EOC as circumstances continue to evolve.

In an interview with FOX45 Morning News on Thursday, Rawlings-Blake praised the amount of cooperation the city received from regional partners, including the MTA, Maryland State Police, Baltimore County officials, the sheriff's department and school police, saying that everyone worked together to maintain peace in the city throughout the course of the trial.

"I think that was shown through the motions, during the trial and upon the decision of a mistrial," Rawlings-Blake said.

Demonstrations remained peaceful Wednesday night, with a prayer vigil forming at Penn North, the epicenter of April's violent unrest. The mayor says many of the protesters reflected "the best of our tradition."

"They were upset, they wanted to be heard, but they were also peaceful and respectful," Rawlings-Blake said. "My expectation--and I think the community's expectation--is that will continue."

Rawlings-Blake says the different tone is partially due to improved police training.

"I said from the beginning, after the unrest it was very clear that we needed to do a better job of training our officers to respond to public demonstrations," Rawlings-Blake said. "Through the motions and through the decision yesterday you've seen that improved training at work. I told the officers yesterday it looked like choreography, they were so well prepared."

A mistrial was announced late Wednesday afternoon when jurors remained deadlocked, unable to reach a verdict on any of the charges. Around 3 p.m. Judge Barry Williams said it was clear the group was unable to reach a consensus.

At least two arrests were made outside the courthouse after the verdict was read; 21-year-old Darius Rosebrough, an activist known as Kwame Rose, and a 16-year-old juvenile. The sheriff's office says both are charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a law enforcement officer's command, and disturbing the peace by using a bullhorn outside the courthouse while court was in session.

Protesters marched through Baltimore's streets, with a group of at least 50 chanting at times, "all night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray." The march began on Fayette Street, headed in the direction of Baltimore Police Headquarters, before moving on to Baltimore and President streets. There were no arrests made during the march and no physical conflicts with police. Officers lined sidewalks and temporarily blocked drivers coming in from I-83.

"The commissioner and I speak with one voice when we say that we appreciate and respect the protesters' right to be heard, but we won't have violence in our streets," Rawlings-Blake said Thursday.

Porter, the first of six Baltimore City police officers to stand trial in the Freddie Gray case, faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault/second degree and misconduct in office. The Gray family attorney called the mistrial "a temporary bump on the road to justice" and Gray's stepfather made a plea for peace saying, "We are confident there will be another trial with a different jury. We are calm, you should be calm, too."

Judge Barry Williams will meet privately with attorneys for the prosecution and defense in his chambers on Thursday. It is expected that a new trial date will be set for Porter.

Trials for the five other officers facing charges in the death of Gray are scheduled to begin between January and March.

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