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In the Media: Baltimore Prepares for Primary, Remembers Freddie Gray

Jamal Bryant speaks at the Unity March, commemorating the one year anniversary since Freddie Gray died in police custody.
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Jamal Bryant speaks at the Unity March, commemorating the one year anniversary since Freddie Gray died in police custody.

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Washington Post: In Baltimore, a battered city seeks a new mayor who can heal its wounds

"Elder C.W. Harris was strapped to a lawn chair as early voting took place in this city’s tense mayoral primary. His lawn chair, in turn, was tethered to an AC unit on a narrow rooftop in West Baltimore. By leaning out — carefully — he could look over the blocks that had been aflame with rioting exactly 51 weeks earlier.

"'Vote!' the 66-year-old pastor periodically hollered down to the residents of Sandtown-Winchester. 'Vote me off this roof!'

"One year after the violence that followed the death of Freddie Gray, and one week before the city would select its next leader, the pastor of Newborn Community of Faith Church had climbed up with a tent, a port-a-potty and a pledge: He wouldn’t come down until at least 500 of his neighbors had gone to the polls for early voting.

“'We cannot be ignored anymore; we have to take part in the process,' Harris said, leaning back under the shade of a beach awning and gesturing toward some of Baltimore’s poorest and most frustrated citizens. 'If something doesn’t change, they are going to tear this city apart.'

"His rooftop vigil was part of what Harris called 'the craziness,' a year that started with an uprising, led to the mayor deciding not to run for reelection and is ending with a chaotic campaign of more than a dozen candidates vying to run a city that remains deeply troubled.

"The winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary, almost certain to be elected mayor come November in overwhelmingly Democratic Baltimore, will take office with police and black residents still wary of each other. The city is braced for the trials of the six officers charged in Gray’s death and still struggling to slow its soaring homicide rate — 344 killings in 2015 and a 16 percent jump so far this year over last year. More than 16,000 houses sit vacant, and public schools rank at or near the bottom of many state measures.

"Harris and other activists say they don’t know if there’s a savior in the field of candidates, which includes a disgraced former mayor, a millionaire investor, multiple City Council members and a nationally known Black Lives Matter leader."

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: Donald Trump, Bill Clinton campaign in Maryland ahead of primary

"The leading Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns put a heavy emphasis on Maryland on Sunday as both sought to reinforce their frontrunner status here and across the nation ahead of Tuesday's primary elections.

"Donald Trump, who polls show has a significant advantage in the state, rallied thousands of supporters in a massive aircraft hangar in Hagerstown. Former President Bill Clinton took to the pulpit at African-American churches in Baltimore on behalf of his wife.

"The five states voting Tuesday — Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware — have the potential to shape an election that has remained competitive longer than most anticipated. If Trump and Clinton sweep on Tuesday, as polls predict, it will advance the sense of inevitability both long have sought to project.

"'We're going to beat Hillary Clinton,' Trump told an audience that roared in response, just as the crowd at a similar rally on the Eastern Shore did last week. 'She's easier to beat than many of the people that we have systematically beat.'

"Bill Clinton attended services at two churches on Baltimore's west side — Bethel AME in Upton, and Carter Memorial Church of God in Christ in Hollins Market — before visiting Southern Baptist Church in Broadway East. He noted the one-year anniversary of the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Baltimore man who died after suffering injuries in police custody.

"Ohio Gov. John Kasich is planning to make his third visit to Maryland on Monday, with a town hall in Rockville. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has appeared in the state twice, but now appears to have shifted much his focus to Indiana, which will vote May 3. The two campaigns said Sunday they are collaborating to deprive Trump the delegates he needs."

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: At ‘Unity March’ to remember Freddie Gray, hope and politics collide

"As a crowd of several hundred local residents, clergy, politicians, police and media convened at the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues in West Baltimore Sunday for a march in remembrance of Freddie Gray, two themes emerged — one intended, the other perhaps unavoidable.

"First was the sense of hope that organizers, including the Rev. Jamal Bryant, wanted to project for the city one year after Gray's death after suffering injuries in police custody.

"Chants of 'One Baltimore, one vision!' erupted as marchers moved from the burned-down and since-rebuilt CVS pharmacy at the center of last year's unrest to the Freddie Gray Empowerment Center opened by Bryant's Empowerment Temple for local youth.

"Second was an almost overwhelming atmosphere of politics two days before Maryland's primary elections, as candidates running for a range of offices turned the march into one of their many weekend meet-and-greets and their staffs peddled campaign fliers.

"The combination spoke to the outsized influence that Gray's death last year, on April 19, and the riots that followed have had on the elections. Attendees said the combination was fitting — as the hope for Baltimore's future is inextricably linked to those leaders who are elected to usher it in.

"'Here we are a year since Freddie Gray's death, and we're in the midst of the most contentious political season our city and state has seen in a very long time,' former NAACP leader Benjamin Jealous said in front of the CVS, his 3-year-old son, Jack, atop his shoulders.

"He said the primary elections for mayor, City Council, the House and Senate are about all the things that protesters were calling for last year, including more jobs, better educational opportunities and a revival of Baltimore's black communities, which made the city a vibrant hub of black American culture in the not-too-distant past."

Full Article