It had been a day for cleaning and reflection, of pulling together to bring some sense of normalcy to a community that had seen many businesses destroyed just the day before.
As day turned to evening in West Baltimore, a young man gave a dance performance to Michael Jackson music for those living near the Gilmor Homes community where Freddie Gray was raised. A group from Diva T Fitness gave a dance performance of their own near the intersection of W. North and Pennsylvania avenues, dancing in front of a line of police in riot gear who were standing in front of armored and other police vehicles.
That line of police with shields was thinner than it had been earlier in the day, when tensions between community members assembling near the corner of W. North Avenue and N. Carey Street and the police occupying the intersection of North and Pennsylvania were much higher.
Around noon, a group of women began to form a prayer circle as a way of easing the tension, directing the energy of those around them into a constructive demonstration before an aggressive show of force. The morning had largely been marked by sustained cleanup efforts, and by this point in the day, there was scant evidence on the street of what had occurred the evening of April 27.
That day the corner businesses at the intersection of W. North and Fulton avenues had been broken into and looted, by a number of young men, many of them still teenagers relishing an opportunity to express their frustration in a way the city might actually respond to. Cars were set on fire up and down North Avenue as the looting continued in area businesses.
“We’ll sacrifice [the community] to be treated humanely,” said Taharka Bey, 42, near North and Carey, giving his sense of the message those youth were sending with their actions on Monday.
At the same intersection, 22-year-old Javonte Ferguson also spoke to the frustration that many of his peers feel after a lifetime of humiliating interactions with police, describing being stripped naked and searched on what often feels like the arbitrary whim of an officer.
“You’re getting your pride and respect taken and you can’t do anything about it,” said Ferguson of the experiences that informed Monday’s unrest.
Police stayed lined up throughout the day, but did not engage community members save on occasion to clear a path for an incoming or outgoing police vehicle. Community members continued to express frustration with their presence, with many commenting on how ridiculous it seemed to see officers dressed for an apparent war zone when so much of the previous day’s havoc had been caused by teenagers.
“They were all wearing khakis,” joked one man, referring to the ubiquitous uniform pants of Baltimore City public school students.
Various groups and organizations arrived throughout the day to show support and help with cleanup efforts, a presence that also helped ensure a relatively calm tenor to the day’s events.
Men wearing Phi Beta Sigma, Kappa Alpha Psi, and Alpha Phi Alpha insignias helped with the cleanup efforts throughout the day. Two women with Be The Change New Jersey drove from Newark to spend time with community members and show support. Coppin State University students handed out lunch bags and coloring books to community members.
Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-Baltimore City) also made an appearance, speaking to pastors, police officials, and residents as she surveyed the situation. On Monday, Pugh had also come to Mondawmin to survey the damage.
“I just want our community to understand that we understand their frustration, but violence certainly is not the way,” said Pugh. “And that we’re going to work, in terms of just trying to make sure we bring justice, not just for Mr. Gray but for anyone and everyone who’s had to be victims of this kind of crime. And more importantly, I think that as we look at moving forward, we’ve got to think about what this community needs. You can see the boarded up houses in the community, you can see the need for jobs, and job training, and wealth creation in these neighborhoods, and the fact of the matter is with the loss of the Bethlehem Steels and all these things, we don’t have that kind of job generating companies here in the city, and we need that.”
Around 4:55 p.m., a group of demonstrators marched north up N. Fulton Avenue. A half hour later, another group of demonstrators gathered near the spot on N. Mount Street and Presbury where Gray had been arrested on April 12.
A group of Gray’s friends gathered at a car nearby, with some expressing frustration that certain people had taken advantage of Gray’s death – on the day his family and friends buried him no less – to loot and steal.
One friend, Tony Montana, pointed out that police did not allow things to get out of hand on April 25, when some took advantage of a large demonstration to destroy some police vehicles and vandalize some businesses in and around the Inner Harbor, the way they did on Monday when the violent activity occurred in a poor Black neighborhood.
“They pushed all those people from Mondawmin down Pennsylvania [Avenue] and let them go crazy,” said Montana.
The demonstrators gathered at Gilmor soon headed off to the intersection of North and Fulton before continuing on down North Avenue. Residents along N. Fulton Street sat on their steps, children playing football nearby, all relieved that the rioting that occurred the night before was behind them and hoping to enjoy a quiet evening in West Baltimore.