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Annapolis mayor says citizen review board coming before large protest against police brutality

Ahead of a protest that brought about 1,000 people to Annapolis Tuesday, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said the city’s police chief would be announcing a citizen review board this week.

“Everyone knows this has been happening a long time,” Buckley said of racial injustice, “but I want everyone to take their phones out because the difference now is we’re filming this. Because now there’s evidence.”

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For a third day, people marched around City Dock in Annapolis on Tuesday before taking to the State House and then City Hall, where protesters demanded the appearance of Annapolis Police Chief Ed Jackson.

There had not been a demonstration this large in Annapolis to date since gatherings across the nation broke out to protest the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police, and other incidents of police brutality.

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After Saturday’s initial gathering, Kyree Stinson, one of Tuesday’s organizers, said she had people reaching out to her asking what was next.

Stinson arranged a protest on Sunday with Alderman DaJuan Gay, D-Ward 6, hoping to get 10 people; they got at least 30.

On that day, they figured they could do more.

“In Annapolis, one road getting blocked off causes major traffic. Traffic causes commotion, and talk,” said Stinson, who attends Anne Arundel Community College to study social work.

“People always reach out to their family members and say such and such road has been blocked off and said ‘There’s an accident.’ Today, it’s a protest. It will bring awareness to the situation. … It would show that there are people out here fighting for what people believe in.”

As protesters landed upon the doorsteps of the City Hall building on Duke of Gloucester, a chant took up invoking Jackson.

Gay had spoken to the crowd before the protest took off from a Safeway parking lot on Forest Drive, challenging Annapolis police to issue such a statement.

“We are not against policing at all. We just want fair policing,” Gay said.

Gay recognizes Annapolis does not make headlines as often for incidents of police brutality as its neighboring cities do, but that could and would not be the only driving force behind a protest centered in the state’s capital.

“It’s just critical that we stand in solidarity with the rest of the nation,” said Gay, who said his main hope was that the protest remained peaceful, which, as of 6:15 p.m., in its third hour, it had.

“It could be Annapolis tomorrow. Just because it happened far away doesn’t mean we don’t share the anger, pain, and frustration.”

Before the protest began, Buckley stated that there will be an announcement Thursday regarding a citizen review board.

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“Our police chief supports this movement 100%," he said. "He’s coming out with an announcement about a citizen review board on Thursday. Whatever tools we can use to get justice matters.”

Donned in a scarlet beret adorned with many pins, Marcus Strider Dent felt a change. In his 37 years volunteering with the Guardian Angels, a New York-based group that promotes unarmed crime prevention, he had never believed this much that a change in policing could happen as he did now.

“We’ve had these before. We’ve had them for different reasons. But this one here I think is going to be the game-changer, and the reason that is is because now, we have the celebrities starting to get in, so many whites joining us, other countries pitching in and saying we have to support the United States,” said Strider Dent, who does emergency response as his full-time job. “We’ve never seen this many people come out for an incident like this before. We have a pandemic going on at the same time. We’ve got a President basically off the hook.”

Strider Dent said if not for the actions of President Trump, who ordered the gassing of demonstrators as he moved for a photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. on Monday, he would not have come out to Annapolis on Tuesday.

The differences between protests in cities such as Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, where police clashed with demonstrators over the last several days, was not only the peaceful nature of the marching in Annapolis but of the police present as well. Officers mostly controlled traffic, especially as protesters closed down Forest Drive and Chinquapin Round Road on their march toward downtown. One helped fan a woman who collapsed during the march with a sign.

Anne Arundel County police officers were also present at a protest in Crofton, where more than 300 people met at the Crofton Library and marched to the community police station. The protest was described by police as a peaceful First Amendment protest. Wednesday a group called Showing Up for Racial Justice in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County is planning a demonstration, at a social distance, in front of Anne Arundel County Police headquarters to address police brutality and lay out reforms for local police.

Elon Holloway, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, attended the Annapolis protest with Elise Holloway. Both women had gone to middle school up the road from the protest, where Elon Holloway said she experienced plenty of racism and microaggressions in her youth. She said the violence at demonstrations she’d seen on social media over the last several days were not going to deter her from coming out to protest.

“It makes me want to come here even more. We’ll die for this,” Holloway said. “These are our lives. I got to fight for it, to stay alive.”

Diamond Holland, of Annapolis, brought her son and sister’s children to experience the protest.

“You don’t want them to think it’s OK for people to bully us and hurt us for no reason. It’s not right. Our kids deserve to be here as much as everyone else. I’m fed up. I don’t want my son to be out here being killed for no reason,” Holland said.

Nancy Jo Steetle, of Crownsville, wanted to celebrate her 79th birthday as part of the protest. Jo Steetle, a Quaker, said she did not worry about coronavirus because if other people could take the risk, so could she.

“I wasn’t going to spend my birthday any other way. Couldn’t live with myself. Supported by a lot of friends, which make it possible when my walking’s not the best. It’s a good way to begin year 79,” she said. “There’s a sign over there that says it. White Silence is Violence. We can’t be silent. It’s inconvenient or uncomfortable or whatever, guess what? That’s how black people have felt for 400 years.”

Long before they reached City Dock, around 250 protesters who had come out for the protest against police brutality knelt on the intersection of Chinquapin Round Road and Forest Drive in silence.

Organizers reminded the crowd, who held their firsts in the air for most of that time, that this? This was not uncomfortable.

One local business owner joined the protest. Jinny Amundson, who owns Old Fox Bookstore on Maryland Avenue, said she aims to continue to make her business a place where people feel a respite for those “heart sick and heart heavy” and where people of all races can feel supported and seen.

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“We are ready to be an ally as much as possible," she said. "We’re hoping that we continue to have more and more people out. Segregation around Annapolis is something that’s so noticeable for us, on Maryland Avenue. It’s not that far away that we have people of color living that we don’t actually interact as much as we should. It’s important for us to be at the forefront and show our support, and listen.”

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