“To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace.’”
Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s words were greeted with cheers as she announced that the prosecutor’s office has ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and has filed charges against the six Baltimore police officers involved.
USA Today has a full list of the charges against the officers, several of which carry maximum sentences of 10 years in prison. Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the police van driver, has been charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years.
In Friday’s news conference, Mosby said prosecution had “probable cause to file criminal charges” and that officers not only abused Gray several times, but also repeatedly failed to seek medical attention. Mosby said injuries suffered from riding in the police van with no seatbelt are believed to be the cause of Gray’s death.
For many of the Baltimore protestors, the move by the state attorney’s office has been a long time coming. The Huffington Post reported that in 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action complaint that alleged a pattern of false arrests from the year prior. More than 76,000 people were arrested in Baltimore throughout 2005, but prosecutors declined to charge more than 30 percent (about 25,000) with a crime.
However, Mosby said the accusations against the officers involved in Gray’s death was not “an indictment [of] the entire force.”
“I can tell you that the actions of these officers will not and should not in any way damage important working relationships between police and prosecutors,” she said.
Mosby, who at 35 is the youngest chief prosecutor in a major city, also spoke to younger protesters and called for peace:
To the youth of this city: I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment; this is your moment. Let’s ensure that we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause. And as young people, our time is now.
For both Baltimore residents and viewers across the nation, Mosby has taken center stage for both her decision to press charges as well as her press-conference announcements, with many hailing her as a hero.
Marilyn Mosby is my new favorite Avenger
— Pixie Casey (@pixie_casey) May 1, 2015
@macie_shae I hope you are a tenacious and courageous attorney like Marilyn Mosby! She is my hero and one bad a** chick!
— Shelly Anderson (@sanderson22mm) May 1, 2015
Marilyn Mosby is the real life Olivia Pope
— aryanna (@aryannahemphill) May 1, 2015
Marilyn Mosby should inspire us all to go to law school tbh
— Jennifer Schaffer (@jmschaff) May 1, 2015
Thanks to the courage of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the people of Baltimore and #FreddieGray’s family will get the truth.
— Sen. Barbara Boxer (@SenatorBoxer) May 1, 2015
Washington Post contributor Jonathan Capehart explained the powerful effect that Mosby’s remarks could have on Baltimore’s protests:
By using her personal story, Mosby planted her feet firmly in both camps. Her family’s deeply rooted history in law enforcement allowed her to say implicitly, “I know you” to Baltimore’s police. Her own standing as a young person, especially as a young African American woman born and raised in inner-city Boston, allowed her to say, in essence, “I am you.” The sincerity of her words and their emphatic delivery will go a long way in keeping Baltimore calm in the months ahead.
Mosby’s remarks stand in contrast to a Thursday press conference with members of the Baltimore Police Department, during which it was announced the investigation had been turned over to the state attorney’s office. Details were few, and the police department took no questions.
Baltimore Police Department’s response was fairly standard, however, according to Jarvis Stewart, chairman and chief strategist for IR+Media. He says the challenge for government officials is to “manage their public comments in the face of agitated protestors and the watchful eye of state and federal politicians.”
“With the exception of a natural disaster, most local political and law enforcement leaders are not prepared for the onslaught of media attention—and often appear disconnected and lack transparency,” Stewart says.
Police had a media briefing scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern time, but postponed it. Almost all the updates on the police department’s Facebook page Friday involved the movements of protestors. None of them addressed the charges against officers.