About 50 Baltimore demonstrators gathered outside City Hall to stand in solidarity with Missouri protesters demonstrating against the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Organizers of the demonstration meet regularly at an event called "West Wednesdays" in honor of Tyrone West, a man who died while being detained by police at a traffic stop last year. They broadened their cause Wednesday and increased turnout, using the events in Ferguson to call attention to what they said was police brutality in Baltimore.
"The police are standing behind us but not in support of us," West's sister Tawanda Jones told the crowd through a megaphone. "They are itching to shoot us."
She said she does not dislike all police, who are needed to protect residents, Jones said. The problem, she said, was that the "bad apples" face no legal or administrative consequences when they make fatal mistakes. Officers involed in the incident where West died were cleared of criminal wrongdoing.
At least 20 police officers stood behind bike-rack fencing at City Hall as protesters held signs that included photos of officers who have shot people.
"Our job is to make sure and maintain public safety," said Baltimore police Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, who engaged several protesters in quiet conversations as he monitored the crowd. "Make sure their rights are protected (including) freedom of speech."
Protest speakers called for a civil and non-violent march, and demonstrators moved peacefully through downtown shouting "Hands up, don't shoot" as police officers on bicycles held traffic as the group moved south along busy Light Street.
"We're gonna march and we're gonna be nonviolent," activist Duane "Shorty" Davis, Sr., said.
Elsewhere, some residents are traveling to Missouri to be part of Ferguson demonstrations.
Rocky Twyman, a Rockville resident, said he is planning to fly standby Thursday to St. Louis, where he will join a vigil to pray for peace and healing. Twyman is a founder of the Maryland Pray at the Pump movement that prays for lower gas prices but has also embraced other causes.
Twyman said he's not seen as much prayer at rallies and protests in Ferguson as there was during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He said the vigil he plans to join will pray for Brown's family — but also for the family of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who Missouri authorities identified as Brown's shooter.
"We think there needs to be more prayer and less shouting and screaming and holding up hands and all that and everything," he said. "We're going to pray for Darren Wilson's family also because this is what Christianity is all about. Yes we do sympathize with Michael Brown's family but we also have sympathy for the other family too because this is what God would want us to do. This is what made Dr. King so great."
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