The Baltimore Action Legal Team (BALT) reports that on Saturday, Baltimore Police arrested 65 peaceful protesters including legal observers, bystanders, and 10 children. After their arrest, more than 30 people spent more than seven hours trapped inside police vans with their hands painfully cuffed behind them in violation of police procedure and international human rights standards. One protester passed out and vomited inside the wagon.
“The targeted arrests of peaceful protesters and Legal Observers is a shameful tactic that demonstrates that the Baltimore Police Department’s goal was not to uphold the law, but to silence dissent. Any person who favors freedom should be outraged by these arrests and the treatment protesters received,” said Jenny Egan, Baltimore Action Legal Team.
Protesters from Baltimore Bloc, City Bloc, Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Baltimore, along with other concerned community members called on city officials to commit to creating a civilian review board for police investigations and to reallocate 10% of the policing budget away from mechanisms of community surveillance and intimidation and to return that money instead to community-directed programming.Baltimore spends $450 million or 50% of its budget on police compared to 15% of the budget in both Washington D.C. and New York City. Baltimore spends less than $256 million on education.
Four BALT Legal Observers were on site to monitor the treatment of protesters. Three of the four were arrested despite not participating in the protest. Those legal observers reported that everyone was arrested even though the vast majority of people did not enter I-83, block traffic, or otherwise break any laws. There were no warnings given before police arrested the protesters and then trapped those people who were trying to leave. Some of the people arrested were kept in the back of police vans for the next seven hours, with their hands cuffed behind their backs. One young woman reported being sexually harassed during her detainment. People trapped in the vans reported that officers turned on the heat, despite soaring temperatures. Detainees were not provided with water for hours and requests for necessary medication were denied.
“Last night the #Afromation protesters were subject to some of the craziest conditions seen in this city since the uprising. One of the more pressing issues is the 6 plus hours that I and other protesters spent in the back of police wagons with flex cuffs on, leaving our bodies bruised and sore. Ultimately, we only received citations but we were detained with no way for family and friends to check on our whereabouts, leaving some of us in a black hole where we could’ve easily disappeared,” said Ralikh Hayes of Baltimore Bloc.
Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC) is notorious for its mistreatment of people, inhumane conditions, and violation of prisoners’ rights. Working with other community-based organizations and political activists, the BALT support team will continue to support community activists throughout their trials.
“After this brutal neglect and disorganized detainment, all 55 adults were released with only citations. Some people were detained for 7 hours and some for 18 hours or more, but there was no reason or explanation for the disparity. The brutality and indignity endured by protesters and legal observers is a window into the treatment that people of color in Baltimore face at the hands of law enforcement everyday,” said Iman Freeman of BALT. “The police response was disorganized and dangerous. As lawyers and community members, we must stand up and stand behind the people of Baltimore and demand immediate change.”