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These activists want to make Annapolis politics more diverse. Now they’re launching a political action committee.

Two Annapolis community activists, De’Von and Octavia Brown, have formed a political action committee, Annapolis Coalition of Black Progressives PAC. The group plans to support and raise money for candidates of color to run in elections at the city and state level in Annapolis to address issues like fair public housing policies, criminal justice reform and support of black business owners, among others.
Two Annapolis community activists, De’Von and Octavia Brown, have formed a political action committee, Annapolis Coalition of Black Progressives PAC. The group plans to support and raise money for candidates of color to run in elections at the city and state level in Annapolis to address issues like fair public housing policies, criminal justice reform and support of black business owners, among others.(Courtesy Photo)

Two Annapolis activists have a vision for a more diverse political landscape in the city.

To make it happen, Octavia and De’Von Brown are launching a political action committee called the Annapolis Coalition of Black Progressives PAC. And they plan to run a candidate against current Mayor Gavin Buckley, a Democrat.

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The group’s goal is to put more people of color in positions of power at the city and state level, said Octavia Brown, who grew up in Annapolis and is now a social worker in Baltimore. Her husband De’Von Brown is a Baltimore native who ran for Baltimore City Council at age 21.

And while there are groups in the state that are already advocating for increased diversity, more financial capital is needed to help drive those efforts, he said.

“Annapolis and all across the state of Maryland, we have a ton of people that are doing the work,” said Brown, who now runs Brown Multimedia, a political consulting firm that’s developed websites and media content for the likes of Del. Shaneka Henson, D-Annapolis, and others. “But what we don’t have is a political system or organization that is making sure that we have money to elect progressive people of color.”

As for what the group is looking for in candidates, the committee does not simply want to fill seats with people of color, but with those who have the skill and commitment to shaping policy, he said. His wife pointed to Henson as an example of someone who fits that description.

Brown also mentioned John T. Chambers, the lone black mayor in Annapolis’ history, who served in the role for less than two months in 1981.

Chambers was a groundbreaking candidate for the city, but he was a conservative Republican, he said.

“Let me just be clear, it’s not just about being black or white, it’s really more so about who is the best candidate that we can support and put into office that’s going to fight for the issues that matter most to the citizens,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are the voice for the voiceless.”

In one of their first acts as a committee, the group called on Buckley Tuesday to denounce comments Annapolis Police Chief Ed Jackson made at a community meeting Monday night about the controversial policing tactic known as “stop and frisk.” This issue has resurfaced with former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg rising in the Democratic primary polls amidst a blitz in advertising. Bloomberg oversaw the controversial policy that profiled black and Hispanic New Yorkers and was eventually ruled unconstitutional.

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In response to a question from the audience at the Eastport fire station, Jackson said he approved of the tactic used by police to stop someone and pat them down so long as it is “done in compliance with the Constitution.”

“I think that that’s been mischaracterized in the media. ... I’m a big fan of stop and frisk … And that’s what I want my officers to do, to be able to use that tool,” said Jackson, who explained the 1960s Supreme Court decision that allows an officer to stop and search a person if they have reasonable suspicion to believe they are carrying a handgun for the purpose of committing a crime.

Brown disagreed with Jackson’s remarks.

“There isn’t a legal way to do stop and frisk,” De’Von Brown said. “There’s just no way around it. ... It’s just unconstitutional.”

Reached Wednesday, Buckley said the city does not tolerate profiling in its policing.

“That would never be tolerated in this city, and it is unconstitutional," he said. "We conduct it in the correct way. We don’t profile and we never will. I think that the chief tried to explain himself in the manner he would do that, and I think that his explanation was acceptable.”

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The Annapolis City Council is comprised of five white members, including Buckley, and four members of color. All but Alderman Fred Paone, R-Ward 2, are Democrats.

Alderman DaJuan Gay, D-Ward 6, replaced Henson on the council in July.

The political action committee was much needed, Gay said. “It’s an awesome opportunity to encourage young people all across our city to get involved in government to show them how the process works."

The new Annapolis PAC plans to run a candidate to challenge Buckley in 2021, who in January said he intends to run for reelection.

He has not done enough to protect the city’s black communities, Octavia Brown said.

“Where is the evidence that this has happened?” she said. “You can say these things but the people of Annapolis are long overdue when it comes to the actions actually being put in place.”

Buckley said he was glad to hear of the group’s efforts to add diversity to Annapolis’ elected officials.

“That’s what I have been trying to do to make sure that we have diverse representation, especially in executive positions in the city,” he said. “We are on the same page. I’m sure they could have a go at me. ... I’d rather it wasn’t in my term but, I’ll vote for the next African American mayor, I’m sure.”

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