Aggressive arrests end peaceful day on last night of curfew

It is peaceful an hour and a half before curfew on Saturday night at Penn North, where the CVS burned earlier in the week. Several African-American women police officers stand around the intersection in a small group of people, actually conversing. To the side, Captain Douglas, who runs the Community Engagement Unit, stands with a civilian. They are talking but it isn’t a rushed, PR kind of talk. The men speak for a moment and fall into silence as each takes in the scene.

On the next block, at N. Carey St., Baltimore DJs United is hosting a dance party. Call and response: "Baltimore Youth/ Fuck the system" the crowd chants as kids jump up and down waving their hands. At 8:30 the DJs wrap it up and urge everyone to go home and not violate the curfew which had been in effect since Tuesday. Everyone raises fists. "We are all one Baltimore."

Moving between these two scenes—the DJs and the community-relations cops—organizer Joseph Kent starts singing into a bullhorn, slowly walking and gathering a crowd. "I gotta feeling/ I gotta feeling/ I gotta feeling, that somebody’s trying to hold us back/ and there ain’t gonna be no stuff like that."

He is wearing an Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask on the back of his head. The front of his shirt features a picture of Freddie Gray. The back, one of Joseph Kent.

The crowd around him continues to grow as he calls people over. Everyone is singing and clapping, but he urges and exhorts and dances. Two women make appreciative, if perhaps objectifying, remarks about his appearance. He is charismatic.

He tells the group he is not going to get arrested again. But he reads out the legal aid phone number so people who might can write it on their arms.

Soon, Kent is leading the group of about 60 down North Avenue, singing the same song. A woman named Angel takes the megaphone and sings with the power of Nina Simone. White kids in floppy hats and anonymous masks ride skateboards and wave flags.

Once they got into Station North, at N. Howard St., City Paper photo editor J.M. Giordano and I decide to go back to Penn North for curfew. When we get to the car, we hear reports from the police scanner that their highest priority was at Greenmount and Preston.

There’s a long line of police cars a few blocks up, but just before curfew at Preston, there are no cops and the stoops are full of angry people, a couple singing Lil’ Boosie’s "Fuck the Police, which was everywhere last week.

"Fuck this shit, I don’t care about shit!" someone yells. One of the guys we saw in Kent’s march turns the corner and disappears into darkness.

Walking underneath the jail cells, people call out the window. It is a lonesome sound, a heartbroken sound, the true sound of Baltimore under curfew. The helicopters circle over.

Closer to the Intake Center, near Greenmount and Madison, police have Joseph Kent himself in handcuffs.

"Hey yo, get this," he says, turning his face towards us. I step forward to film. An officer approaches me, waving a pepper spray canister. "You are going to get pepper-sprayed, get off the street." I step on the sidewalk. The canister is in my face. "Sir you’re going to get locked up if you don’t follow."

"I’m on the thing here," I yell, referring to the curb. I’m standing right on the edge. He glances down, seems to get it. "I’m on the thing here. What’s your name? I’m on the thing here."

"Sir, back up please," he says, but he is already walking off.

"Look for yourself in City Paper, buddy," I say stupidly.

Another cop comes running up. "Get away from my car," he yells. 

"We're press, we on the sidewalk," Giordano says.

"I don't care who you are," he says and gets in the car and drives off. 

But during all that, we miss part of what is happening to Kent and to the group of street medics and legal observers with the National Lawyers Guild who are also handcuffed now. I call Kent’s lawyer to see if he knew there was a plan for this and I let him know Kent is in jail.

A fire truck and an ambulance pull up and block the view. The street medics and legal observers are led across the street in handcuffs (look for updates on this story, which we are reporting now).

The air starts to quake with a rhythm coming from the cells up above us. Then there are faint words. “All night all day, we’re gonna fight for Freddy Gray.”

Copyright © 2019, Baltimore City Paper, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Privacy Policy