Baltimore’s Top News Stories of 2015

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IMG_1128Taken together, Baltimore’s biggest news stories of 2015 signify a momentous year in Charm City. Let’s take a look back at the big headlines:

The historic moment of the year unfolded on April 27, as protests gave way to riots following the funeral of Freddie Gray. The world watched on CNN. But as residents know, the story is much bigger than one day. Protests were already ongoing at that point following Gray’s April 19 death in police custody. Peaceful protests directed at police continued the week after, and sprang up with moments like a sit-in at City Hall. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement of charges against six police officers set a new tone and gave her glossy notoriety. For the rest of the year, city residents responded with new energy toward understanding and addressing the structural issues undergirding the riots. The police department took lessons from a pair of reports, and continues to be under a federal investigation that has yet to fully conclude. Baltimore begins 2016 with six trials still looming, and efforts to make change ongoing.

At least in terms of changing faces, 2015 also set up a shift in politics. Gov. Larry Hogan took office in Annapolis, beginning a Republican term after eight years of Baltimore Democrat Martin O’Malley. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake decided not to run for re-election, opening up the 2016 mayor’s race. And U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced she will be ending a storied career as U.S. Senator, and picked up the country’s highest civilian honor. In two of these cases, the next stage is elections. For the first part of the year, all political eyes will be focused on Maryland’s Democratic primary on April 26.

As far as what the politicians will be addressing, 2015 offered up plenty of issues. The number of people killed by gun violence soared to a record high. A sextortion scandal shook the city’s public housing, as maintenance workers were accused of demanding sexual favors for repairs. Hogan’s decision to cancel the Red Line and close the men’s jail also underscored the importance of state collaboration going forward. Baltimore also stepped into the national debate about Confederate symbols. Robert E. Lee Park was renamed, but a commission is still figuring out what to do with others.

The courtroom docket was equally long. Former Episcopal bishop Heather Cook was sentenced for the crash that killed cyclist Tom Palermo. Ex-Ravens cheerleader Molly Shattuck is reporting to a Delaware prison on weekends in connection with sex assault charges against a teen. And the case that gained fame from Serial has outlived the podcast’s first season, as Adnan Syed will get a chance to present new evidence to the court early this year.

Baltimore also saw a few milestones. Chef Spike Gjerde brought home the city’s first James Beard Award. And the Washington Monument celebrated had a big 200th birthday, with one of two time capsules discovered during the restoration are back in its cornerstone.

The capsule for 2015 is set to be sealed, but these stories won’t be put away. The shifts at heart of many of these stories mean they will continue to come up in the New Year, and likely for years to come.

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