“Many organizers at the forefront of the protests are women, and many members of the Gilmor Homes community with key involvement in the protests are very young people. On Saturday, women marshaled the march along, maintaining energy, leading chants from megaphones, and even ensuring that a female member of Freddie Gray’s family, who joined the march in her wheelchair, was able to stay on the front lines.
However, the visibility, or lack thereof, of black women in the protest narrative has also been problematic; early in the week, religious leaders explicitly called for men to march in front of women, for the purpose of protection, which the women in the crowd largely ignored in favor of a more egalitarian marching formation. Some male organizers made similar suggestions at Friday night’s small demonstration, stating that men should walk in front and on the sides of Saturday’s march to prevent women and children from being grabbed by law enforcement officials or hit by cars whose drivers became agitated during demonstrations that disrupt traffic.
A female member of Baltimore Bloc, one of the groups protesting the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, who wished to remain anonymous explained that this behavior likely occurred without people within organizations realizing their implications. A Baltimore organizer since 2007, and a marshal at Saturday’s protest, she said it is “kind of a natural habit to not realize the lack of acknowledgment of women,” but that those habits vary from group to group, and that media tend to focus on the presence and actions of men more than those of women.”