On May 1, 2015, Mayday,the occupation of Baltimore by the National Guard and out of state cops completely failed to deter protesters from taking ov A march so large that nowhere could both ends be seen marched on the jail, on City Hall, and on the Western District police station in West Baltimore near wher Freddie Grey was murdered. Later that night protesters staged a sit-in at City Hall in defiance of the Mayor’s curfew. Police reponded with beatings and arrests to the sit-in.
All day, the mainstream press was buzzing with news that the six killer cops reponsible for Freddie Grey’s death had been indicted, one of them for second degree murder. This is proof that protest works, though convictions will be difficult to get unless prosecutors’ feet are held to the fire. Although this was reported to change the mood of protesters in many places to one of celebration, there were still out of town cops and National Guard at places the Mayor cares about. On Mayday, however, these occupation troops were badly outnumbered.
At about 5PM, one group of protesters was in a “protest pen” in the Inner Harbor area. They were mostly surrounded by waist-high, hurdlable “bicycle rack” fence, police, and National Guard troops. A gigantic second group arrived from City Hall, marching down the street. The police helicopter attempted to order them out of the street, but instead the first group swarmed out of the protest pen to join them. Riot cops quickly settled into defensive tactics, blocking access to certain blocks and especially to on-ramps to I-83. The march went around the defended areas, back past City Hall-and right to the jail, which the riot cops must not have known was a target. The protest was very loud at the jail to ensure that everyone inside could hear the voices of solidarity on the outside!
Next up was a march through West Baltimore. The crowd seemed to be growing, occupying 4 and six lane streets plus both sidewalks as far as the eye could see both forward and back from where I was at one point. Few cops were to be seen, except for armored vehicles and small contingents on a few corners. The march passed an Ace Cash Express (check cashing and payday lending in some states) with new glass over boards. It was at an Ace Cash Express on Ga Ave in DC back in 2008 that Reverend Hagler threated to whip the manager with his belt during the sucessful campaign to limit payday lenders to 24% annual interest in DC. This shut down payday lending entirely in DC, though Ace and similar shops still cash checks for fat fees.
At the Western District police station, the march flowed over concrete barricades as though it was water over a sandbar, then simply kept going through the neighborhood. All over West Baltimore the march was greeted with cheering crowds, many people no doubt joining the march. Eventually the march reached Martin Luther King Boulevard and headed back downtown, bypassing Camden Yards on a route through the Inner Harbor as night fell.
Shortly after 10PM things turned ugly: DC’s own Legba reports managing to slip out of police lines just as they were starting to grab people at City Hall. Marchers went there to stage a sitin in open defiance of the Mayor’s fascist curfew. For people under 18 this curfew is 24 hours a day, so all the younger marchers had been in defiance from the start. Shortly after 10PM, the helicopter started broadcasting warnings over some kind of sound system, possibly a low powered LRAD or similar device. Shortly therafter police were ordered to raise their shields and attack.
Apparently the cops were not able to simply kettle and arrest everyone, presumably due to numbers. Police pushed the media away first, going so far as to revoke “peacekeeper” passes issued to mainstream media. Next, they waded into the crowd beating people. There was a report of people pursued away from City Hall by riot cops, and other reports of arrests. Someone from Anonymous published a photo of arrestees at City Hall, defeating police attempts to block all documentation.
Declaring a curfew was a serious mistake by the Mayor, as night after night it has forced police to commit themselves to fighting with protesters who had not engaged them up until that point. On Tuesday night (4-28) this escalated all the way to rubber bullets.
Here are reports from DC’s own Legba and from the Baltimore Block the City Hall curfew sit-in on May 1, in roughly chronological order:
A sit-in has started up at City Hall in anticipation of curfew. Surrounded by riot cops
Threats of arrest broadcasting from hovering police helicopter
Riot police moving in to force crowd away from City Hall
Riot cops swarming in, beating ppl
Just managed to slip out NW side exit before cops grabbed ppl
After North & Penn confrontations, just a line of riot cops & Natl Guard remained, protecting the already trashed CVS
Hearing 20-50 arrests, including medics after curfew tonight
(Baltimore Bloc): People being chased by riot police at Penn North – caught us off guard from different angles. We in small groups now
58 arrests today, 13 for curfew violations. Stay safe! Consider helping with jail solidarity 4 our friends in custody
Protesters and two armored vehicles in West Baltimore
Protesters march by the jail in solidarity with all previous arrestees at protests or for defying the fascist curfew
Occupation forces: Iraq 2005 or Baltimore 2015?
Photo posted by unknown Anonymous operative of an arrest by City Hall for defying the curfew.
Patrick Chappatte cartoon published over Twitter