Photo Essay: Schools Not Jails Occupation

Photo Essay: Schools Not Jails Occupation

On Monday, January 16th, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, Schools Not Jails, in collaboration with Occupy Baltimore and the Baltimore Algebra Project, began a 5 day occupation at the site of a proposed youth detection center.  Demonstrators took to the streets of East Baltimore in an effort to raise awareness on the struggle against the State of Maryland's plan to build the 104 million dollar facility, the budget for which could easily supplement and expand the City of Baltimore’s education funding, and prevent the city's recreation centers from being closed or privatized.

The group entered the site and built a schoolhouse to illustrate their desire to see a city and state that invests in education, rather than jails.  Participants demonstrated peacefully throughout the occupation's week-long duration, holding teach-ins on the prison industrial complex, prison abolition, and nonviolent resistance.

The week culminated with a demonstration in front of City Hall, where the group turned the plaza into a temporary recreation center to stress the importance of a city which prioritizes prevention rather than incarceration, and bring light to the city's recent plans to close and privatize recreation centers.

Day 1: January 16th, Rally and March to the Proposed Youth Jail Site

Schools Not Jails Rally, Lester Spence

Lester Spence, Asst. Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, speaks at the opening rally of the Schools Not Jails Occupation in front of Central Booking .

Schools Not Jails Rally, Maryland Shaw (Baltimore Algebra Project)

Maryland Shaw of the Baltimore Algebra Project, a partner in the Schools Not Jails Occupation, speaks about the importance of preventing the proposed youth detention center from being built.

Schools Not Jails Rally, Nicole Cheatom (Baltimore Algebra Project)

Nicole Cheatom of the Baltimore Algebra Project.  BAP has been actively leading the fight to stop the youth jail for years in Baltimore.

Schools Not Jails Rally, Doc Cheatham

Hon. Marvin L. ‘Doc’ Cheatham, Sr.,  former president of BaltimoreCity NAACP
1/16/12 - March to the proposed youth jail site

Around 200 people marched from the rally at Central Booking over to the proposed youth jail site.

1/16/12 - Schools Not Jails Occupation Begins!

Four people entered the property of the proposed youth jail, later joined by two more.

Building a school

Members of the crowd handed supplies over the fence to set up the occupation.

Gregg Hill, of the Baltimore Algebra Project, helps assemble a symbolic schoolhouse on the site of the proposed youth detention center.

The six participants were told they would be arrested and charged with trespassing.

Building a school

Mike McGuire, of Occupy Baltimore, builds a roof on the symbolic schoolhouse.  

Tent for shelter

The group set up a tent to host their planned activities throughout the week.


Books were brought in for the school house, so that a Baltimore City Public School teacher could teach a class.

Arrests Begin

State Troopers arrested the six on the site, as protesters chanted "Don't Jail the 99%".

Riot Police keep media out

Riot police arrive to keep out the media...

Riot Police to remove tent

...and take down the tent!

Trashing the School

The city had the school house torn down and removed by waste management.

Day 2: January 17th, Teach-In by Leaders of  a Beautiful Struggle

Dinner on-site

Throughout the week dinner was served and teach-ins were held every night.

Leaders of a Beauitful Struggle Teach-In

Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle held a teach-in on Youth and the Prison Industrial Complex.

Day 3: January 18th, Teach-in by IVAW and Civilian Soldier Alliance and music by Ryan Harvey, Comrade, and Emmanuel Jackson

Civilian-Soldier Alliance and IVAW Teach-In

Sergio Espana, from the Civilian-Soldier Alliance.

Gregg Hill, Baltimore Algebra Project

Gregg Hill, Baltimore Algebra Project.

Maryland Shaw, Baltimore Algebra Project

Maryland Shaw, BAP, announces that the youth jail was not included in the Mayor's budget for 2012.

Emmanuel Jackson

Emmanuel Jackson

Ryan Harvey

Ryan Harvey, Riot Folk

Chris Goodman, Comrade Muzic

Chris Goodman, Comrade Muzic

Day 4: January 19th, Teach-in on Prison Abolition by Polly Riddims and Occupy Baltimore General Assembly

Polly Riddims, on Prison Abolition

Polly Riddims, long-time prison abolition activist, on alternatives to the current industry of incarceration in the United States.

Day 5: January 20, Recreation Occupation! Public Recreation Day at War Memorial Plaza!


On the final day of the occupation, demonstrators converged in front of city hall and turned the plaza into a temporary outdoor recreation center to critique the planned privatization of over 18 city recreation centers.


Participants planned to bring in a facade of a recreation center, reading the mayor's slogan "A Great Place to Grow".


Greeted by a strong police presence, the participants were told they would not be allowed to take the sign in front of city hall.


Police confiscated the sign, an action which the Maryland ACLU states was "spectacularly improper."


The Rec Center prop was taken away by the city in a trash truck.

Day 6: January 21, Mayor's Budget Meeting

Schools Not Jails activists planned to attend the Mayor's Budget hearing and engage in a public dialogue with city officials on budget cuts, but the hearing was canceled due to inclement weather.  The hearing has been rescheduled for February 4th at 10am at Cylburn Arboretum.

For more information, visit

Casey McKeel is a community organizer and photo journalist. She is a worker/owner of Thread Coffee and collective member of Bearings Bike Project.  She is also a member of Another BDC is Possible.  She splits her time between her love of photography, coffee, and bicycles.