After Judge Barry Williams declared a mistrial in the William Porter case, dozens took to the streets in peaceful protest. Aside from two questionable arrests (see: Sheriff's Office below), the demonstrations went off without a hitch and showed that activists who have been involved in the call for justice are in for the long haul. While there was once again a strong showing of force by police, including staged drills with riot gear in Druid Hill Park earlier in the week, activists remained vocal. The fight goes on.
Is Officer William Porter a liar? Or is he a reliable witness? Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow told jurors in Porter's trial last week that the officer "lied to you." The remark, part of the closing statement in this first trial of the six officers charged in Freddie Gray's death, may have made strategic sense at the time since Porter gave differing accounts of events in his immediate interview with investigators and his later testimony at trial. But calling Porter a liar may jeopardize the upcoming trials. Presumably prosecutors want Porter on the stand to map out the sequence of events as the other officers go on trial—but it's not going to look good to have them on the record calling their own witness a liar. Whoops.
As word quickly spread about a mistrial in the Porter case, deputies in the Sheriff's Office quickly moved to form lines between Courthouse East and a small-but-vocal group of protesters assembled outside. After the activists started moving, deputies swarmed in to apprehend noted protester Kwame Rose. Then, they targeted a 16-year-old on the sidewalk and slammed him to the ground, a scene that went viral after it was captured by CBS News. What crimes did these two commit? Apparently, unlawful "use of a bullhorn" near the courthouse. Considering the peaceful nature of the protest, these two arrests came off as entirely too aggressive.
Department of Public Works
The department reported two more substantial sewage leaks in the past week, a 12,000-gallon dump on Waterview Avenue and a 32,000-gallon leak on Falls Road. Repairs to that 10-inch sewer line were completed on Dec. 16. But that's not even a tenth of the problem: The Environmental Integrity Project reported a massive underreporting of leaks by the city in violation of a 13-year-old consent decree with the EPA. Officially, Baltimore has nine days to complete its overhaul of the 100-year-old system under that decree. The city is trying to get the deadline extended another decade. The EIP is pushing for 2020.
The long-lingering plans for a controversial trash incinerator in South Baltimore just won't die. The Maryland Department of the Environment had sent the owner of the site, Energy Answers International, a letter in November saying the company needs to provide evidence by Dec. 7 that its work permits hadn't expired. Opponents of the incinerator, who say emissions from the incinerator would harm the health of surrounding communities, protested last week at the MDE, telling the Baltimore Brew that the department has allowed the company to drag its feet and stall. Given that Energy Answers has had permits for the incinerator since 2010 and the last substantial work on the site appeared to happen in 2013, MDE pulling the plug on these permits seems way past due.