Protesters object to activist Kim Trueheart's arrest

Protesters object to activist Kim Trueheart's arrest (Baltimore Sun / Luke Broadwater / January 30, 2013)

Holding cut-outs of activist Kim Trueheart's face, protesters objected at Wednesday morning's Board of Estimates meeting to her ban from City Hall.

"I was with Kim Trueheart a week ago when she was arrested trying to attend this very meeting," fellow activist Mike McGuire said. "As anyone who has been around City Hall knows, Kim is quite a fixture. With her banning from City Hall, and her subsequent arrest, she couldn't be here. We wanted to make sure she was present at least in spirit."

Trueheart, a vocal critic of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration, was arrested and jailed a week ago. Trueheart, 55, faces charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and failing to obey an officer's command. Police officers assigned to City Hall told Trueheart on Wednesday that she'd been banned from the building for previous "disorderly" behavior.

Rawlings-Blake said the ban "was a decision that the police department made."

"If it were up to me, the charges would have been dropped," she said. 

Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said in an email that the mayor "wasn’t in the building when the incident occurred." 

"The Police use their discretion to ensure a safe environment for city workers, public officials and citizens," he wrote. "The Mayor has always said City Hall is the people’s building and everyone is welcome to attend public meetings. In this case, she thinks the charges should be dropped, but that’s not her call because this was a police matter. Regarding the protest today, everyone appreciated that they respectful and not disruptive, that’s all we can ask for.

At District Court Wednesday morning, Trueheart rejected a deal that would have put her charges on an inactive docket and a judge ordered the ban lifted.

Administration and police officials have not identified who had ordered the officers to prevent Trueheart from entering, but said it was not the mayor's doing. Top police officials said they were investigating whether such a ban was legal.

Trueheart frequently speaks out at government and education meetings in Baltimore. She regularly attends sessions of the City Council, Board of Estimates and school board, and testifies on wide-ranging subjects.

According to the police report, Trueheart was asked Jan. 16 not to come back to City Hall by Lt. Rob Morris after she disrupted a Rawlings-Blake news conference, though she was not arrested or charged with a crime. On Wednesday, "Ms. Trueheart refused to leave the location when asked several times to and warned," Officer Samuel Thomas wrote in his report. "Ms. Trueheart was then placed under arrest."

"It's questionable on who's authority she was banned from City Hall," McGuire said Wednesday. "What manner of redress does a citizen have?" 

After the judge's order, Trueheart attended at 10:30 a.m. mayoral news conference. The event went off without incident.

Baltimore Sun reporters Eric Cox and Ian Duncan contributed to this post.

Luke.Broadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater