In the midst of the Baltimore Ferguson protest, Commissioner Batts shows a steady hand
By By Baynard Woods
Nov 26, 2014 | 3:37 PM
Both sides of the street at Fayette and President were blocked by hundreds of protestors around 6 p.m. yesterday as Baltimore City police were joined by a phalanx of state police officers, who stood in a line across the road, everything bathed in the flashing red of police lights. Helicopters circled overhead. The crowd chanted "No justice, no peace. Fuck the police."
One African-American woman in black boots and pink leggings stood with both hands flipping birds at the cops as the chant turned to "Hands up, don't shoot," which has become a standard chant around the country in protests surrounding the shooting of Mike Brown by the Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. The protests, which began at Morgan State University at 11:30 a.m. and continued throughout the day, joining up with another protest organized by the Baltimore Bloc, an activist collective, were prompted by the previous night's announcement that the grand jury would not indict Wilson. The theme of the day's protest was "shut it down," blocking roads nationwide.
"No justice, no peace. Fuck the police." The chant was growing louder. People were angry.
"This is bullshit," one Baltimore police officer muttered to another. But most stood by stoically.
"Let's go!" started to echo through the crowd, which began to march towards the Inner Harbor.
"I wanted his perspective as commissioner to know if it's justifiable or not to shoot like that," Buchanan told City Paper as he walked along to catch up with the crowd. "I wanted a response from someone in authority."
The march divided several times, with one group at the intersection of Market and Lombard, while another made its way back to Fayette and President and then marched up I-83, where it blocked both the road and the exit ramp.
Still, toward the end of the evening, as the Baltimore Bloc protest was about to disperse, there were a series of tense moments when the protestors wanted to walk through the line of police on Fayette Street.
Batts approached me and I told him I was with City Paper. "The ones who write all the nice articles," he said with a bit of a smirk. "You saw how I was polite to that young man earlier, right?" he asked. "I just didn't have time to talk."
"What do you think about how the night has gone?" I asked.
"So far, people are just expressing pain," he said as a man, who appeared to be intoxicated and wasn't wearing a shirt, stormed toward Batts, who interrupted himself and stepped back. Three marshals, leaders of the Baltimore Bloc, who were wearing red Xs on their backs, ran up and grabbed the shirtless man and pulled him off as he was yelling. Batts disappeared into the sea of uniforms.
In the end, the group managed to disperse (though another group was, at the same time, blocking MLK) without incident. Batts' generally calm demeanor, shown throughout the night, seemed to infuse the police response.