Freddie Gray Activists Arrested During Vote at Baltimore City Hall

by Erik Ortiz and The Associated Press /  / Updated 

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A small group of demonstrators were arrested overnight for refusing to leave Baltimore City Hall, police said early Thursday, after dozens had camped out in opposition to the appointment of a new top cop.

The municipal building was largely quiet by 5 a.m. following several hours of intense chants.

Baltimore police said the arrested protesters were charged with trespassing, and there were no immediate reports of injuries to them or officers. At least 12 people were seen being taken from the building into police transport vans and other vehicles around 4:30 a.m. ET, The Associated Press reported.

Others watching the police operation shouted at the officers: "It is our duty to fight for our freedom! We have nothing to lose but our chains!"

Activists with a grassroots group called the Baltimore Bloc began occupying the upper gallery of City Hall on Wednesday night as a city council subcommittee prepared to vote to make interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis a permanent appointment.

The members have demanded concessions from top officials, calling for police to avoid using military tactics and chanting the name of Freddie Gray, the black man who died after suffering an injury in police custody in April.

"All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray!" the activists chanted amid calls to postpone the vote. "No justice, no peace!"

Three of the subcommittee's five members voted in favor of Davis. Police spokesman T.J. Smith said in an email earlier in the night that less than 50 protesters were inside and that police were "monitoring the situation."

A spokesman for the group said the protesters would not leave until Davis and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake agreed to a list of demands. Among them, that police avoid using military-type equipment and only use riot gear as a last resort.

In the interest of constitutional rights, the protesters said, they also want officers to always wear badges and name tags. And they want to be able to protest in larger areas and for longer periods of time than "would normally be tolerated."

In addition, they are asking police to be "more tolerant of minor law breaking," such as the throwing of water bottles, "when deciding whether to escalate the use of force."

Image: Freddie Gray
Freddie Grayvia WBAL

Davis was appointed interim commissioner in July after his predecessor was fired amid the most severe violent crime spike the city had seen in 43 years. The spike followed unrest and rioting in April prompted by the death of Gray.

Six officers prosecuted in connection with Gray's death are currently awaiting trial.

Following the subcommittee's vote, Davis called Wednesday night's protest an "act of civil disobedience" that "is just part of this moment."

"It's all part of the healing process," he said. "The fact that this occurred isn't upsetting. It's just part of where the city is right now. I understand where they are. I understand their frustration."

If approved by the full council, Davis will earn $200,000 a year. His contract will run through June of 2020.

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