March Against Police Brutality and For Jobs & Recs Ends in Two Arrests

March Against Police Brutality and For Jobs & Recs Ends in Two Arrests

Reverend CD Witherspoon arrested by Baltimore City police. Photo by Steven Ceci.
Reverend CD Witherspoon arrested by Baltimore City police. Photo by Steven Ceci.

A People's Assembly formed over a month ago to address the pressing matter of police brutality and abuse here in Baltimore which has grown to include our Baltimore County neighbors as well. The assembly includes members from communities all over the city, including victims of police brutality and abuse along with their family members.

On August 6, 2012 , the first ever Unity March was held against police brutality and for jobs and rec centers. About eighty people met at the Shot Tower to gather for the rally. They carried signs that read, “Stop police abuse now!” on one side and “Fire Officer Fred Murray” on the other.

Marcella Holloman’s son , Maurice Johnson, who was killed by police, also joined today's march. She was there because she wants justice for her child's murder. (below)

Brian Keith Easley, lifelong Baltimore resident and community organizer, said, “ I've seen various initiatives that didn't involve people at the street level. I like this council because of the diversity and we are of one accord.” (Below)

“I support the rec centers. This current administration in Baltimore is irresponsible government,” Renee McCray, said. (below)

 “I'm here because I'm against the criminalization of black youth,” explained Alana Smith from Occupy Rec Centers. (below with Nicolas Davenport also of Occupy Recs)

Members and supporters of the assembly marched from the shot tower to City Hall where the rally took place.

 

“I see many news reports. There is no due process to shoot people. Young black men are being targeted,” said Sarupta (above on left), a PHD student from India.

Barbara (above on right) is an Occupy Baltimore member. “Police harass young people for no reason. Moms are seeing their kids killed before their own eyes by cops. I'm realizing that the presumption of guilt police have isn't true,” she said.

Reverend Cortly “ CD” Witherspoon, who helped establish the People's Assembly, was one of the lead organizers of the rally. He was arrested at the end for refusing to leave City Hall until a letter written by him and Sharon Black was delivered in-person to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Sharon Black, also a member of the People's Assembly, was arrested with CD Witherspoon while trying to deliver the letter to the mayor.

Sharon Black being arrested- photo credit, Bill Hughes

The rally at City Hall lasted almost two hours as supporters waited outside anxious to see if the mayor would receive the letter. Several victims of police brutality spoke to the crowd. David Yimm's mother spoke. Yimm was shot four times by Officer Fred Murray.

Another mother, Chris Brown, who's seventeen year old son Christopher, was killed by an Officer in Randallstown, also spoke today. She wants justice for her son.

During the rally, updates about the letter to the mayor were being provided. The letter called for the following: immediate termination of Officer Fred Murray, for the charges against Thomas Thrreat to be dropped, for rec centers and fire stations to remain open, and for the creation of several jobs programs.

The rally ended shortly after CD Witherspoon and Sharon Black were arrested. Police would not divulge the charges.

Andre Powell of Worker's World, who chaired today's rally, provided me with a phone update. “Sharon Black called me and said they were charged with trespass and doesn't expect to be released until Tuesday night.”

Both CD Witherspoon and Sharon Black were released on August 7.

 

Letter to the Mayor

Baltimore Peoples Assembly

2011 N. Charles St.

Baltimore, Maryland 21218

410-500-2168 or 410-218-4835

To Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake:

We are writing you on behalf of the Baltimore Peoples Assembly to convene an emergency meeting with you and your office for the purpose of putting forward critical issues, demands and needs that were identified by the people of Baltimore.

As you are aware, the City Charter mandates that the Mayor and the City Council must protect the interests of all of its people and not just the banks and big business.

There are three immediate demands that were unanimously voted on at the June 30, 2012 Baltimore Peoples Assembly:

1. COMMUNITY CONTROL OF POLICE NOW! END POLICE KILLINGS, BRUTALITY AND ABUSE.

The breadth and depth of police brutality, abuse and even killings in the community is shocking and egregious. It must end now! Just this week, another police killing brought the figure to seven people killed in this year alone. This is one person killed a month.

We demand Community Control and an end to police killings, brutality and abuse. We were frankly stunned that when you announced a panel to pick the next police commissioner, not a single independent community representative was chosen, not one leader of the civil rights movement or the unions was included, let alone the victims of police abuse or representatives of the Peoples Assembly. Instead, the panel consists primarily of businesses and representatives who do not even reside in Baltimore.

Concretely, we want the police involved in the shooting of David Yimm, Maurice Johnson, Kevin Cooper and other victims fired and properly charged. We will present evidence to back this demand along with hundreds of petitions from the community.

We also want the police who brutalized and unjustly arrested the four jobs protesters this past March 29, 2012, fired and charged appropriately. The actions of the States Attorney’s office in continuing this prosecution is unwarranted, unprecedented and politically motivated. Drop the charges now!

We want a people’s investigation of how personal property is improperly taken and not returned -- this includes those who are arrested and those not arrested. This is a widespread problem in Baltimore city. Victims need compensation and their rightful property returned.

We want a full investigation by the people of the gross under reporting of “stop and frisk” cases. Baltimore City Police claim only 11 cases of “stop and frisk” took place in a year.

In addition, we demand major changes to the so-called Civilian Review Board. In all of these three areas we have concrete evidence.

2. JOBS FOR ALL!

Churches United and many others have been conducting a heroic fight to make sure that local residents in Baltimore’s community be hired on major construction projects. They along with union workers have helped to train community residents who are eager to work on these projects. Business entities like EBDI (East Baltimore Development Inc.) that receive tax breaks from the city must be required to hire in those communities that are already devastated by unemployment and foreclosures, which are primarily African- American neighborhoods. At present they have failed to live up to their agreements.

We are calling for a full training program for all workers – the extent of it and details will be presented in an addendum to this letter.

We demand a public works jobs program citywide. It must as its first goal target youth joblessness. Baltimore’s youth unemployment rate is over 50%. It is a form of bankruptcy to provide jails instead of jobs for the people. No new youth jail! Full employment for all!.

3. NO RECREATION CENTER CLOSINGS OR PRIVATIZATIONS; NO FIRE STATION CLOSINGS!

This is an emergency that needs to be acted on now. The Mayor can reverse this immediately with an executive order. The money is there! It’s an insult to the people to assert otherwise. Money can be found for projects and businesses in the Inner Harbor; tax breaks to major entities like the Maryland Stadium Authority and Johns Hopkins, that give very little back to the people, continue to be implemented, and the banks and other billionaires pay almost nothing for the privilege to continue to rip us off.

Mayor: Our recreation centers must stay open, they belong to the people.

Our firefighters need to protect us especially in the neighborhoods where utility shutoffs are more likely and fires more prevalent. The poor need service too.

And No! Mayor: we can’t allow some private company to ransack any of our recreation centers. Let the dedicated staff and city workers continue to serve our youth and children.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rev. Cortly CD Witherspoon and Sharon Black,

On behalf of the Baltimore Peoples Assembly

Bonnie Lane writes for  Baltimore's newest street paper, Word on the Street. She has an associate of arts degree in public relations/journalism. Lane is a full-time writer, advocate and activist for the homeless and the 99%.