E-Alerts & Press Releases

Baltimore City Police Sued for Unlawful Arrests and Harsh Detention of Protesters

For Immediate Release
July 14, 2017
Ralikh Hayes, Baltimore Bloc, bmore.bloc@gmail.com, Rhayes2992@gmail.com, 443-469-7057
Debra Gardner, Public Justice Center, gardnerd@publicjustice.org
410-625-9409, ext. 228
BALTIMORE – A class action lawsuit filed today seeks to hold the Baltimore City Police Department accountable for unlawfully arresting and detaining 65 people at a peaceful protest held during the Artscape festival last July. Members of the community organizing group Baltimore Bloc and others arrested during the protest allege that they were held for six to eighteen hours in deplorable conditions and charged without legal justification.

Baltimore Bloc organized a peaceful march, called Afromation, in downtown Baltimore on July 16, 2016, to protest police mistreatment of African-Americans. Protesters and bystanders were arrested after a handful of people entered Interstate 83 via a ramp already closed for Artscape. Police assured protesters that no one would be arrested if people left the highway. Despite protesters’ compliance, police then trapped everyone who was on the ramp, including mere bystanders and legal observers, and began a mass arrest. Those arrested were issued citations that the State’s Attorney’s Office dropped a few days later.

Baltimore Bloc leader Ralikh Hayes described how police treated those arrested: “On a day when it was over 90 degrees, police held us in hot, cramped police vans with little to no access to water, food, or toilets. One person even threw up and fainted because of the heat. The handcuffs were so tight that many people lost feeling in their hands and shoulders for several days.”

The plaintiffs seek to compel the Baltimore City Police Department to develop and enforce policies that prohibit “kettling” protesters, require officers to issue clear warnings to disperse at demonstrations, and give people an opportunity to comply before carrying out arrests. The complaint also calls for a court order to bar police from subjecting people arrested for minor offenses to harsh and lengthy detention.

Debra Gardner, attorney for the plaintiffs and Legal Director at the Public Justice Center, described why this case is important: “BPD’s targeting of protesters because they exercise their right to free speech to call attention to police mistreatment is unconstitutional, and bad policy besides, in a city where the need for police reform is well-documented and acknowledged. The treatment of those arrested during Afromation was unconscionable. We hope that this case will help ensure that BPD respects everyone’s right to speak out against injustice.”

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