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Hundreds languish behind bars without charges or a shower as Baltimore struggles with mass arrests

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Demonstrators chant on Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 28, 2015, a day after violence and looting erupted following the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died after suffering severe spinal injuries during a police arrest (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

Maryland state law requires that people who have been arrested receive a court appearance within 24 hours. But although police arrested hundreds of protesters in Baltimore on Monday, 235 of them had not been formally charged by early Wednesday, leaving them in legal limbo and still behind bars.

Katie D’Adamo, a lawyer with the Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore, tells BuzzFeed that — as of Wednesday morning — adults arrested in this week’s demonstrations “are being held in tiny cells” in Baltimore’s Central Booking and Intake Facility and “have not been able to shower.” The 34 juveniles swept up by police, meanwhile, “are being held in a separate facility across the street.”

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Baltimore city courts and the state attorney’s office were closed on Tuesday in response to mass protests surrounding the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the local police. Thus were hundreds of citizens who’d been arrested the day prior left to languish behind bars.

Rochelle Ritchie, director of communications for the state’s attorney’s office, tells BuzzFeed that a bare bones staff showed up on Tuesday and that “some” people were indeed formally charged in court. Ritchie doesn’t specify how many, however.

With Baltimore’s judicial branch open again today, dozens of jailed protesters showed up at the John R. Hargrove Sr. Courthouse, several miles away from central booking, to receive charges for their alleged crimes.

Overwhelmed by this morning’s case load, Maryland Public Defender Paul DeWolfe reached out to private attorneys for help in representing the hundreds of people arrested in Monday night’s rioting in Baltimore.

“We’re seeking volunteer attorneys from the private bar,” DeWolfe told the Daily Record. The public defender’s office offered rates of up to $50 an hour to private attorneys.

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Natalie Fineger, Baltimore’s deputy public defender, tells Vocativ that, for a typical day in court, her office needs “between seven and 15 attorneys to represent indigent arrestees at bail hearings.” Today, she and her colleagues planned to have some 40 attorneys on hand, supplemented by volunteers.

D’Adamo tells BuzzFeed she is planning to file a lawsuit on behalf of 50 people who, even after dozens of protesters finally got a court date this morning, remain unaware of the charges against them.


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