As City Paper reported earlier today, Faith Empowerment Pastor Westley West was arrested last night for attempting to incite a riot, malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct, disturbance of the peace, false imprisonment, and failure to obey during the Sept. 2 Freddie Gray demonstration near the courthouse. West has been a leader—albeit a somewhat controversial one—in many Baltimore protests this year.
Police released Foxtrot footage of West stopping a car at an intersection with his hands on the hood of the vehicle.
Strangely—conveniently—Baltimore Police waited exactly a week to arrest West, just as activists were gearing up for a second protest at today's change-in-venue hearings. "It took us a week to confirm his identity," said Baltimore Police Det. Chakia Fennoy.
This, though photos and video of him have been plastered all over the press for months. (See City Paper profile on West that ran in April.)
And say we give cops the benefit of the doubt? Maybe it really did take the hordes of police in riot gear—cops that appeared to outnumber protestors—nearly a week to track down West.
According to a police statement, the warrant for West's arrest was issued on Sept. 8. Still, cops waited until Sept. 9 to make the arrest.
The beauty of Baltimore's bond and bail system is that the wheels of justice turn slowly, reliably. Detainees can count on waiting up to 24 hours before seeing a bail commissioner. Once bail is set and posted, the paperwork can take a few more hours before a prisoner goes free. (As of 11 a.m. this morning, West was sitting in Central Booking waiting for his moment before a commissioner, according to Capt. Monica Jenkins.) Delaying West's arrest until Sept. 9 made it a sure bet he would be out of the game, sitting in jail rather than gripping his bullhorn at the head of a crowd.
But if police had arrested West on Sept. 8 when the warrant was issued, he might have been out in time for today's protest. The law says he must go before a bail commissioner within 24 hours of his arrest.
The timing was perfect.
And why would police want West off the streets? When asked on Sept. 2 about the reaction to a change-in-venue for the Freddie Gray trials, West was forthright: "I think Baltimore will see another unrest."
(UPDATE: At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Interim Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis denied the timing of West's arrest had anything to do with today's protest.)