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Police cite 11 for blocking traffic at Poor People's Campaign protest in Annapolis

Eleven protesters were issued criminal citations Monday when they blocked traffic in front of the State House in Annapolis, civil disobedience planned as part of the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign.

Protesters marched from Lawyer’s Mall onto College Avenue to stop cars. After Maryland Capitol Police gave three warnings that protestors in the street faced arrest, officers detained 11 people.

They issued citations for obstructing free passage and failure to obey a lawful order, said Nick Cavey, spokesman for the Maryland Department of General Services.

Cavey said organizers contacted police for a demonstration permit last week and explained civil disobedience would be part of the rally.

He said they specifically asked what would need to happen for demonstrators to get arrested.

Police were told members of the group intended to protest “until they got arrested,” Cavey said. Several dozen people turned out for the rally.

The Rev. Janelle Bruce, one of the leaders of the protest, denied Cavey's description.

“The police were the ones asking the questions, and we did not answer all of them. We told them we would be planning to engage in civil disobedience," she said.

"We did not tell them or ask for permission about an arrest."

Cavey said police contacted the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s office for advice and to inform prosecutors about possible citations.

The Maryland Poor People’s Campaign announced Monday it would be participating as one of 37 similar actions groups planned across the country over the next 40 days.

The goal was to use civil disobedience and “voter mobilization” to revive the civil rights campaign of 1960s, according to a statement issued hours before the event.

After the event, Bruce said the day’s events went well, but the group has more work to do.

“There’s a moral crises that needs to be addressed,” Bruce said. “Today we were able to the hear the stories of women who work every day, some several jobs and have struggled through poverty and homelessness throughout their lives...We have to talk about and deal with the evils of poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation, the war economy and the distorted moral narrative.”

More than half a million Maryland households making up one fourth of the state live above the federal poverty level but "below a basic survival threshold," a report released last year by the United Way said.

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