A protest in front of the Mitchell Courthouse during today's motions hearing in the Freddie Gray case turned into a march through downtown streets and an attempted street closure that led to at least one arrest, of activist Kwame Rose.
The protest, organized by the People's Power Assembly, began around 8:15 a.m. with a series of rousing speeches from local activists to a crowd of around 50 people split down the middle between protesters and media. Netta Elzie and DeRay McKesson, noted activists and team members of Campaign Zero, the recently formed policy platform of the Black Lives Matter movement, were in attendance for the slate of speakers, which included Pastor Westley West, Tawanda Jones, PPA's Lee Patterson, Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, and Rose.
Around 9:20 a.m., Pastor West returned to the bullhorn only to quickly dash down Lexington Street with Rose and protesters following. They shouted, "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" West led the group on an impromptu march that moved down Guilford Avenue and eventually to the intersection of Calvert and Pratt streets. In front of the Gallery on Pratt, Pastor West was nearly struck by a truck that refused to stop for the march as it entered the intersection. Protesters interlocked arms across Pratt Street, blocking the thoroughfare; almost immediately, the protest was declared illegal from Foxtrot flying overhead.
Coming up Pratt from the east was a line of officers with riot helmets and from the west more police officers. At some point, on Calvert Street near the Gallery, Rose was seen down on the ground in the middle of the street—some say he was hit by a car, others immediately claimed he was faking it. He was handcuffed, arrested, and then picked up and moved toward a police van. This upset the protesters more as Rose was placed in front of the van, which immediately had protesters making comparisons to the Freddie Gray arrest. An ambulance arrived approximately 10 minutes later and took Rose, who appeared to be in pain, causing more people to claim he was hit by a car.
A media update sent from the police at 11:48 a.m. said "one person," who was undoubtedly Rose, "was arrested for blocking a roadway in the area of Pratt St. and Calvert St. and failing to leave after being warned to do so."
The police were particularly aggressive this morning, in sharp contrast to the way protests as recently as the one held on Aug. 8 by the PPA were handled by police. City Paper spoke to at least four people who were struck or shoved by police, and one officer in particular was pointed out by numerous protesters for being particularly aggressive. As they became increasingly agitated, proesters began talking at the police, including a woman who flashed fists full of money at the police and told them it was her bail.
Pastor West, who had in effect started the march, appeared to have left soon after police arrived, something that a number of activists angrily noted. As some readers may recall, West was a polarizing figure back in April when he took a group of people, including many teens, from Gilmor Homes up to I-83 near City Hall during a march. Many questioned his methods, which often involved sprinting ahead of the group he was leading, and others criticized him for opportunism.
There was an attempt by Rev. Witherspoon to move what was left of the group away from Pratt and toward the police station, though most protesters hovered around the Gallery. Police spread out and stood in front of local businesses. Employees from the Starbucks on Pratt Street were told to take in chairs and tables from outside and told City Paper Photo Editor J.M. Giordano it was because they were afraid they might be "thrown" through the shop's windows by protesters.
Another PPA protest is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Mitchell Court House, and the usual West Wednesday, a weekly protest organized by Tawanda Jones to protest the death of her brother Tyrone West in police custody in July 2013, begins at 6:30 in the same location.