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After Freddie Gray, Baltimore Residents Continue To Criticize City's Police


Baltimore might be at a turning point. It's been just over a year since a young black man named Freddie Gray died in police custody. That, of course, resulted in protests and then curfews and mass arrests. Now after delays, the officers charged in Gray's death are set to go to trial. And tomorrow, city residents head to the polls to elect a new mayor.

Andrea Seabrook reports from Gray's West Baltimore neighborhood where people are still wary that change will come.

ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: This morning, Rhonda Connaway waiting for her bus just a couple of blocks from where Freddie Gray was arrested.

RHONDA CONNAWAY: Ain't no justice been done, you understand?

SEABROOK: This part of Baltimore called Sandtown-Winchester is busy in the morning - people rushing to work. Others catch up for a minute. And Rhonda Connaway says there's always at least one cop car circling the area and getting a lot of doubting looks from people here.

CONNAWAY: The neighborhood know it wasn't right that they did what they did, but where do you start at, you know?

SEABROOK: One thing is clear. People here are watching, watching the upcoming trials of the police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death, watching the candidates for mayor as people decide who to vote for in tomorrow's election and watching to see, says Rhonda Connaway, if anything will change.

CONNAWAY: Somebody gots to pay. Somebody really do.

OLIVIA MORRIS: Nothing will change until the police officers get convicted and Baltimore sees what's really going on.

SEABROOK: Olivia Morris is on the opposite corner outside the subway station. Racism, she says, not just in Baltimore but in all of the United States - if Americans really want peace, says Olivia Morris, systemic racism has got to be dealt with.

MORRIS: Because if we don't, it's going to keep happening. It's going to just keep happening.

SEABROOK: City buses drop off and pick up. Cars fly through the intersection. And small groups of young men sit and talk.

WADE BROWN: These guys are not bad people. They trying to survive.

SEABROOK: Wade Brown, an Army veteran, tells me, yes, some of these kids are selling drugs. But Brown also says that doesn't mean they deserve the kind of treatment Freddie Gray got.

BROWN: All they want is justice. The police been getting away with it for years. Come on, Man - beat that boy to death, you know? And they're tired of it. That's basically what it comes down to.

SEABROOK: There's a kind of hyper awareness here in Sandtown-Winchester, Freddie Gray's neighborhood. It's a singular moment a year after Gray's death in police custody, a day before the city picks a new mayor and a pregnant pause before the start of new trials that people here hope will bring some justice to the case of Freddie Gray. For NPR News, I'm Andrea Seabrook in Baltimore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.