Shouting "Tell the truth and stop the lies!" and "Hands up, don't shoot!" about 60 people denounced the outcomes of recent high-profile cases of alleged police brutality as they marched more than a mile Tuesday night through East Baltimore.
The protesters held signs bearing the names of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old shot to death by police in Ohio, and Sandra Bland, who was found dead in a jail cell in Texas. Each death led to a national outcry and unsuccessful calls for police in the cases to be charged and indicted.
The lights of a police escort lit up the demonstrators' faces as they walked from East 33rd Street down Greenmount Avenue to East North Avenue.
"We are being told that black lives do not matter," the Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon told the protesters as they blocked part of the North Avenue intersection. "They don't tell us verbally, but they tell us when a grand jury in Ohio doesn't [indict] those officers for killing a 12-year-old child."
Antonio Muhammad, 20, of Upton said he hadn't heard about the protest Tuesday night until he saw the activists carrying signs in the street.
When he heard the group and realized why they were marching, he joined them.
"People are fed up with police brutality," said Muhammad, who goes by the nickname "Blaze." "I'm here to support the struggle."
He said the war on drugs is a main reason for the hostility between police and poor communities of color. Muhammad said he has been harassed by officers who "do everything under the sun when nobody's looking."
He said the march was inspiring.
"We haven't seen black unity like this since probably the '70s," he said. "It feels good."
Shawn Thomas, 35, of East Baltimore identified himself as a gang member. But he told the crowd over the microphone that the Baltimore Police Department is "the biggest gang in the city."
"We want to be heard," he said. "They ain't hearing us."
He and his friends walked ahead of the large yellow People's Power Assembly banner being carried down the street. They marveled at the sight of the protesters marching through what one of them called "the trenches."
The chants turned heads along the poverty-stricken east-side thoroughfare, and drew cheers and honking horns as the protesters passed.
Danielle Longchamp, 28, an organizer with the People's Power Assembly, called it "so empowering" to see residents supporting the cause.
"As important as it is to go downtown and affect business as usual, it's just as important to go into communities that have been conditioned to accept this, just this military presence, that infiltrates their lives," Longchamp said. "People of privilege have never encountered that."