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After Police Are Charged In Gray's Death, Baltimore Awaits Next Steps


Yesterday, Baltimore city's top prosecutor declared the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and announced charges against six of the officers involved in his arrest. The question for many people who live close to where Gray lived is what happens now? NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: Several dozen people gathered in Gray's West Baltimore neighborhood for the start of a march on City Hall, something organizers were calling a victory rally. But leader Kwame Rose told marchers that much more needs to happen before victory can be declared.



KWAME ROSE: Are you ready to march to get these murdering cops off our streets?


ROSE: To finally get some money poured into black neighborhoods?


FESSLER: Not only are people in this community waiting to see whether the officers are ever convicted, but whether all the talk in recent weeks about fixing up this neighborhood will turn into something more than talk - whether anything will be done to address the poverty, unemployment and in some cases despair that residents say is all around.

Just a few blocks away at the Mondawmin Mall, where riots broke out Monday night, Ward Burris was not optimistic. He says the area's been in bad economic shape for a long time.

WARD BURRIS: Because you have a lot of the youth now is just hanging out on these corners and things like that. They need jobs. They need constructive things to do.

FESSLER: But he isn't sure where the jobs will come from. Burris was at the mall with his 3-year-old grandson Niki, who pushed himself about on a green scooter and was wearing a purple Baltimore Ravens warm-up outfit.

BURRIS: I'm wishing for better things for him, but it just don't look too bright right now.

FESSLER: Nearby, cab driver Brian Jordan stood outside one of the few grocery stores in the area. He thinks the city's economic problems come from decisions made far away from here, like trade agreements that help fuel the exodus of middle-class jobs. Jordan says the answer is for people to get more politically involved.

BRIAN JORDAN: I mean, look at all the people that you see out here now over the Freddie Gray thing. Imagine if people did that for jobs, if they did that for homeless. Just like people died so we could have the right to vote - but people don't vote.

FESSLER: For now, he's also worried about all the money he's been losing with a city-wide curfew in effect after last Monday's riots. But Jordan says it's a small price to pay if things get better.

JORDAN: Sometimes when you deal with change, things happen. I mean, you're going to have casualties. And that's, I guess, one of the things you've got to deal with with change.

FESSLER: Fellow cab driver John Scott thinks he has the answer - doing something about the tens of thousands of boarded-up homes around the city that add to the feeling of despair. He says big investors need to come here and start fixing things up.

JOHN SCOTT: If they start tearing down these abandoned houses, the people in the neighborhood can get some of the jobs to help rebuild their own neighborhood.

FESSLER: But to be honest, I mean, you said that big businesses come here, you know, and start rebuilding, but after what's happened the past week, don't you think they're less likely to come here?

SCOTT: That'd be crazy. That'd be crazy. Baltimore's on the map now because of that.

FESSLER: He says right now the whole world knows about Baltimore.

SCOTT: And all of us are the same. All of us are human.

Y'all need a hack?

FESSLER: Scott abruptly calls out to a woman with groceries. She looks like she needs a cab.

SCOTT: Well, come on then. You need a ride on the black man's side? Come on.

FESSLER: Pam Fessler, NPR News, Baltimore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.
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