Joseph Kent, a Morgan State University student and activist who was a major leader in local police-brutality protests back in November, was filmed by CNN getting arrested in dramatic fashion after curfew last night. A video of his arrest, which shows police rushing up to him as a humvee-style truck blocks media view, then him disappearing into the truck as it pulls away, went viral, with national news outlets picking up the story and #JosephKent trending on Twitter. After the outcry, local criminal defense attorney Steve Beatty went to Baltimore Central Booking & Intake Center (CBIF) to track him down, and confirmed this afternoon with City Paper's Baynard Woods that Kent is still at CBIF, still awaiting processing.
Beatty met with Kent, and reported, "He has very minor abrasions on the backs of his hands [from] when they jostled him around with the equipment, the Plexiglas shields, rough take-down." Kent is in "very good spirits, very positive, looking forward to getting out. He was amused when I explained that he had created a national frenzy. When I explained that everyone was showing such concern for him being snatched up on national television like that, he wanted me to get the message out that he was OK. The way he put it is that he didn't want anyone chanting his name."
Kent had been a major presence during the local protests surrounding the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, and had worked with police and led protesters to keep the protests nonviolent. At one point, longtime organizer Rev. Heber Brown III described him as "Martin Luther King with tattoos and gold fronts." But Kent has not been visible in local activist work since then, until his dramatic arrest last night. When asked about Kent's lack of visible involvement in activism lately, Beatty said, "The impression I get, I think he has remained very active on campus, I don't think he has been involved in ways that would have come to our attention."
Beatty reported that "The jail is also getting backed up. They would not let me onto the booking floor. They brought him to me in an interview room. I did not get to see what those look like." He described the jail as very crowded; walking through it was "like weaving a basket, legs crossing in and out."
"What I'm hearing is that people aren't getting processed in any timely way," he said. The Guardian reported earlier detention without charge to 24 hours.